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Closet Fascination

A blog about a journey, smoking, not smoking, vaping and everything in between

Insanity 2.0?

They say doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. If so, I’m definitely crazy.

Went to a gathering last night. I was the designated driver. Avoided smoking cigars (Backwoods) the first time people when out for them but could not turn down a few puffs off a large Cohibas cigar. It was the first full sized cigar that has tasted delicious to me. Didn’t inhale. Didn’t feel anything, not unlike the puff I took off my co-worker’s cigarette. Except the cigarette tasted gross and the cigar tasted delicious. 

If I had felt fine today, I probably wouldn’t be rethinking (cancelling) my plan to smoke in March if I did. 

So today I woke up and I felt like I had been hit by a bus. I’ve been emotional all day, weepy and by the way I’m feeling I could swear that must have been drinking last night. Like drinking heavily when I had nothing. It feels very similar to the first three weeks after I quit vaping regularly. I have no urges or environmental cues to vape or smoke right now so I don’t crave it but this feeling is what led me to smoke and vape regularly and it isn’t good. I now remember why I can’t occasionally smoke. I’m actually considering getting my vaping stuff ready with some 0 mg juice to bring with me so if I do feel like I ‘need’ to smoke, I can do that because I don’t even get a buzz or anything from smoking anymore. Just shitty rebound anxiety/depression. Not worth it. And the lack pleasure while actually smoking is decreasing my drive the actually do it. Here is ‘The plan: 2.0’. I’m allowed to smoke if I feel like it but I won’t feel like it. If I feel like it, vape 0 mg first before actually smoking or vaping nicotine.

It is starting to be like my intolerances to a few foods. Like strawberries. I love strawberries but I can’t eat them anymore. Took me a bit to link the severe GI cramping I had to strawberries but once in did, I felt really sad I couldn’t have them anymore so I tried eating them again and boom cramping just like usual. It is like a lactose intolerant person eating lots of ice cream without taken a Lactase. Nicotine and tobacco in general are my kryptonites. It is getting easier which I am so grateful for. 

Hopefully I bounce back from this quickly.

Is Nicotine addictive? Short answer: Yes Long Answer: It is complicated

By Alyssa Strong (LoveVapePlus.com) “If policy makers reject the scientific truth about nicotine and make e-cigarettes more scarce, then the likely result is that more Americans will die from smoking.” – Forbes When you think of nicotine, tobacco cigarettes are most likely the first thing that come to mind. This is where the stigma […]

via Vaping: Can You Develop a Nicotine Addiction? —

So I want to comment on this article as nicotine addiction is something that I have first hand experience with. I mostly agree with this article, but I think we should be cautious in understating the addictiveness of nicotine.

Now, for the main factor: nicotine found in traditional cigarettes. “It’s the addictive chemical used in cigarettes to keep a smoker buying!” Well, actually, did you know this is actually not a fact? Due to the fact that nicotine, by itself, has been found to not be addictive, there is no real evidence to show that nicotine is the primary or even the runner-up for addictive chemicals in cigarettes. You can find over 4000 chemicals within a traditional cigarette. It is pretty easy to see that with such a large amount of chemicals being used, there is most likely more than one at fault for the issue behind smoking cigarettes. Whether it is one chemical or the combination of the chemicals together, we do not know at this time. We do know, however, that nicotine solely is not the issue.

We are blaming a very crucial health concern on a stimulant, just like caffeine, that plays no role in the matter. This is due to many issues, but mostly it is from a lack of study and media. You see an ad on television or elsewhere telling you nicotine is addictive and that is generally what you are going to agree with.

I can agree that it is not only nicotine that makes cigarettes addictive. There are in fact studies that show that nicotine on its own isn’t as addictive as the combination of chemicals present in cigarette smoke and that smokers could be dependent not only on the nicotine but on the cocktail of chemicals. This explains why many smokers switch back to cigarettes saying they are not the same.

Is nicotine addictive? I think (and this is anecdotal, an opinion based on my personal experience and what I have read) that nicotine on its own is less addictive than when it is obtained through smoking tobacco. I also think that nicotine dependence has more to do with delivery method and spikes in blood nicotine levels rather than the drug itself. The addiction that can develop with vaping nicotine has as much to do with the drug as it does with forming habits and psychological cues to use. This Forbes article referenced in the above article has a good quote:

Many e-cigarettes deliver less nicotine per puff and generally produce lower blood nicotine levels (and, thus, brain levels) than cigarettes do. However, with access to increasingly sophisticated devices and more experience as a vaper, the user can attain a blood level of nicotine that is comparable to that produced by smoking. Still, it takes longer for vaped nicotine to reach its peak level than for tobacco-burned nicotine.

These two variables – how high the level of nicotine is in the bloodstream and how fast that level is achieved — are important in determining the addictiveness of any abused drug. As expected, Foulds’s team found that subjects who used weak “ciga-likes” (first generation e-cigarettes that physically resemble actual cigarettes) had among the lowest scores on a test of “dependency,” or addiction. Also, the length of time as a vaper was positively correlated with the strength of dependence. As Foulds suggests, “we might actually need e-cigarettes that are better at delivering nicotine because that’s what’s more likely to help people quit.”

So as the devices get better at delivering nicotine, I think we will see higher dependence. I used a sub-ohm tank which is fairly good at delivering nicotine. In fact, per puff, I noticed no real difference in ‘drug hit’ vs a conventional cigarette when using higher nicotine juices such as 9 mg and 12 mg. Granted, most people that sub-ohm vape don’t end up going that high, but I can tell you if you are vaping that regularly you probably will become dependent.

That said, do I think nicotine is the problem? No. It has been shown in countless studies to be fairly safe to use. I think that is what should be focused on. Nicotine, a stimulant like caffeine, is safe use. Nicotine, like caffeine, can also result in dependence. People need to stop worrying about that though and focus on the fact that these devices are being demonized for being ‘less safe’ for reasons outside of the addictiveness of nicotine. I think vaping is the best harm-reduction for people looking to quit smoking but who are maybe unwilling to go nicotine-free. I’d probably still be using nicotine if I had a job that could accommodate my fairly heavy need to vape. Vaping is not allowed indoors where I live. It is treated like smoking. Therefore, I spent most of my work days in nicotine withdrawal, a fog of nervous anxiety that was instantly relieved the moment I got into my car at lunch and at the end of my work day and vaped. I’m glad I quit and for me the negatives outweighed the positives. I continued to vape nicotine free for a bit, but for me, it really isn’t the same.

That said, vaping has ruined cigarette smoking for me. Part of me wants it but when I take a puff, I find it totally disappointing. Do I regret my 9 month stint as a total nicotine fiend? Nope. Not one bit. Do I want to go back? Nope. I actually really enjoy being off nicotine.

Happy New Year! 

I’ve been thinking about posting for awhile but just couldn’t tear myself away from my sewing long enough to write anything. 

Since I posted The Reboot, I failed exactly once by taking one drag (yes, a single drag) off my co-worker’s cigarette. It was anti-climatic and made me question if I want to smoke at all in March.

But my desire to smoke decreased so much after saying I would periodically allow myself to smoke vs telling myself I couldn’t smoke that I’m pretty sure my desire come more from doing something I’ve told myself I can’t do versus from the action itself. I guess we’ll see where I’m at in March. If I feel like it, I have permission; if I don’t feel like it, I won’t. 

I’ve been mostly keeping busy with sewing. Made a couple of baby quilts and placemats over Christmas. 

I only have one resolution: put stuff away. 

Now to put myself to bed. 

The Reboot

I’m currently watching the U.S. election results pour in and it has reminded me that nothing in life is guaranteed. Polls are often wrong. I mean, they were wrong about how close this race is. No clear winner yet. But being the introspective person that I am, I’ve started thinking about where I’m going from here, since I find it more comforting than imagining Donald Trump as president. 

Starting Monday, I’m going to add back the following: 

1) Up the exercise. In addition to walking the dog, I’m going to add three higher intensity exercise days of at least 30 minutes

2) Slow down when I’m eating and stop when I’m full.

3) If the urge to smoke arises again before March, puff on the vaporizer (nicotine free). 

I didn’t notice any sort of ‘withdrawal’ from my slight slip yesterday. All it confirmed in my mind is I don’t want to smoke. So you might ask why the weird permission to smoke every 3 months plan, I proposed yesterday? My rationalization is that my desire to smoke has less to actually smoking and more to do with the fact that I told myself I couldn’t. Giving myself a full-time free pass led to very habitual use. Plus, I know I don’t want that now. That killed the part of me that thought regular smoking might be good. To be clear, 3 months is the minimum. If I have no desire, I’m not going to smoke for the sake of smoking.

So here is to my reboot. May the odds be ever in my favor. 

201 days with no incidents…until today

I guess my counter gets reset today. I knew this was coming and maybe I wanted it to at least on some level. 

Relapse. A tiny one, but a relapse nonetheless. 

I had some old stale cigars. I smoked half of one, inhaling only once. You don’t have to inhale to absorb the nicotine, but it tasted so disgusting, that I put it out before I would have normally. I was expecting a more noticeable effect, but I guess nicotine tolerance doesn’t disappear that quickly. 

The good: it took care of my desire to smoke, extinguished it with the disgustingness of the flavour. I felt more at peace than I have in days like it was exactly what I needed. I’m guessing that is partially from the nicotine though too. This was the feeling I liked about smoking/using nicotine but that I feel is lost in regular use. I’ve been abstainant for long enough that my body hasn’t demanded more yet, although in the past, that normally came the next day. Perhaps it won’t come at all. My mindset is different now though. In the past, there was always a small part of me that wanted to smoke regularly. Now, I know that I for sure, deep down don’t want that. So think the likelihood of this starting something is low. 

The bad: I’m not sure if there is a bad. I mean, I don’t feel bad about giving into my desire. Maybe I should? The only bad I see is a potential false sense of confidence for the future. My plan is to keep use very, very occasional. Previously, prior to my 9 month regular use stint, I was an opportunist. The problem with that is if the opportunity pops up too often, it would be easy to slip into regular use. I don’t think I’d end up smoking, I could see it escalating to the point of me vaping regularly. It might be good to set some guidelines, like three months at least between use, not more than one session (one pipe, one cigarillo, one cigarette, one vape session) and no consecutive days of use. Kind of like people have moderate drinking guidelines, but they would be my super moderate smoking/vaping nicotine guidelines.

Is it stupid to think that I could moderate after failing so fantasticly in the past? Perhaps. Abstaining indefinitely, I don’t think will work long term. For me it sets up my fetish, making me want it even more. My blog is good evidence of that. I get to the point where I’m psychologically itching for it. I think 3 months is a good waiting time, but if I don’t fancy it, I’ll go longer.

I want moderation in all areas of my life. I’m tired of living in the extremes. I’m almost there with exercise, although I need to add a bit more back. Food I struggle with, but it is getting easier, I just have to pay more attention to bring full, especially when I eat out. Also, eating regularly rather than letting myself get ravenously hungry. Drinking enough water throughout the day, this I’m still bad with.

If anything, the free pass every three months might remove the taboo enough that I don’t actually feel the drive to smoke/ use nicotine as much. Here is hoping. For now I will enjoy the peace. 

The Nature of Beast: The Danger of Letting Things Slide

 I was doing so well, but alas I have a cycle to repeat. Or so it seems… This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten cravings nor will it be my last. I find my cravings are worse when I’ve let other things slide in my life. I stopped tracking food, mostly because I felt like I didn’t need to anymore. But it turns out, for someone like me, it is the recipe for backsliding into old habits. Mindless eating habits. Eating to the point of overfull. Ironically, overfull triggers a craving for nicotine to help me disgest. 

I stopped exercising (other than walking my dog). This was a subtle backslide, but there nonetheless. 

I could waste time beating myself up over it or use the backslide as a way to rationalize smoking or even vaping nicotine again. But the truth is, if I were taking better care of myself my cravings wouldn’t be as strong. 

That said, there is no denying the strongly sexual nature of these cravings. As I abstain for longer, my fetish cravings grow stronger. I think that while a large part of my attraction is to that of the image of the smoker, my smoking fetish is more about giving in to a darker side. I used to think it was partially tied to addiction, which really creeped me out. But I found nothing sexy, at least long term, about being addicted to nicotine, nor do I find it attractive in others. When I was deepest into my addiction, smoking and vaping were actually the least attractive to me fetish wise. But now that I’ve put them on the “will not do” list, they’ve become infinitely more attractive. The attraction isn’t necessarily about smoking, although that is how it mostly plays out sexually for me. The attraction is about self-denial, then giving into pleasure whatever that pleasure may be. It is a cycle that plays out with both food and exercise in my life as well. It is all connected. Giving in always feels good at first, but then becomes tedious whether it be for good or for smoking.
How to find a satisfying balance? I feel like finding balance is like the quest for the holy grail or the Philosopher’s Stone. I guess the only way is to keep working at it. 

Natural Remedies for Anxiety

I had to make a bunch of phone calls today. I hate making phone calls. This is where my social anxiety peaks. I was already feeling anxious about my Dad’s situation, but phone calls make it worse.

The following captures the pain accurately: 

Source: http://sociallyawkwardmisfit.com/post/83147191941/sociallyawkwardmisfit-com 

So I was feeling pretty anxious. Thoughts of cigarette smoking danced through my head. Instead, I went fabric shopping. Didn’t find much. Then I went tea shopping and bought a new tea as well as some of my regular varieties. Realized that, in my anxiety, I had forgotten to eat. Picked up some lunch at a local place. Still feeling pretty anxious. Thoughts of smoking return. But I know I really don’t want that. Stopped at the grocery store to pick up some herbal tea, something that helps me relax. Found some and on my way through to the tea, I went through the natural supplements aisle and noticed a supplement called L-theanine with a claim to be stress relieving.

Naturally, I was skeptical. I had never heard of it. A quick Google search, and I discovered it is an amino acid derived from green and black tea. Ok, but is actually effective. I then looked for actual research via Google scholar and apparently L-theanine is a well studied amino acid with anti-anxiety effects. I figured what the heck, the FDA approved it considering it to be not harmful nor habit forming. Worse case nothing happens or I experience the placebo effect. Best case, it is effective. So I pay the $13.99 for 30 125 mg chewable tablets. Cheaper than a bottle of e-juice or a pack of cigarettes and healthier too.  

I got home, chewed a tablet and made myself a cup of herbal tea. I wasn’t expecting to feel anything, but after about 20 minutes my anxiety seemed to dissolve. Not the rapid relief of nicotine, but three hours later, I still don’t feel anxious. It seemed to clear my mind. I suspect it would enhance meditation. Now it isn’t supposed to make you drowsy, but I suspect because it relaxed me more than I’ve been able to relax in the past four or five days, the cumulative sleep debt of the past few days was suddenly apparent and I had a nap. I plan on taking another tablet before bed and hopefully I have a better sleep than I’ve had in the past few days. 

I found another blog post that has done a great round up of primary research on L-theanine.

This amino acid might explain why I like the way tea makes me feel vs coffee. Both have caffeine, but I always feel more anxious after a cup of coffee. 

Hopefully things get better with my dad soon. I hope… 

How Stigma Around Mental Illness Affects Supporters 

I’ve wanted to write about this for awhile. I considered posting on my Facebook about this on October 10th, because it was World Mental Health Day, but my own anxiety around rejection and caring what people think stopped me. What will people think? Will they think I’m selfish for my stance because I’m not the one that directly suffers? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that what I was feeling was ‘The Stigma’. The stigma of mental illness is something that the media often is ranting about fighting, but the truth is, it is still there and it is still pretty strong. 

What is stigma? The dictionary defines it as: 

a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

I’m not sure I feel disgraced, but perhaps shameful like there is something wrong with me. This stigma doesn’t just apply to my own mental health ,which I haven’t held an ‘official’ diagnosis of illness since my teens, although it could be that I’m undiagnosed ‘something’. But it applies most recently to my father’s mental health. I consider myself one of his supporters as I am still in his life, unlike my three older sisters, who have never had that great of a relationship with him because of how abusive he was towards their mother mostly during their childhood. I get it, I mean right now it is hard enough for me to be here for my dad and he was there for me as a child. He was a good caregiver mostly in spite of his mental illness.

My dad isn’t doing well right now. This is where I struggle with ‘the stigma’. To use an analogy, if my dad’s mental illness was cancer, doctor’s would describe it as “terminal stage cancer that is unresponsive to chemotherapy and radiation”. But my dad’s mental illness isn’t cancer. He isn’t dying although sometimes when he is in certain moods I feel like the dad I grew up with is dead. Like a cancer unresponsive to cancer treatment, his illness isn’t responding to medications anymore or at least medication isn’t managing his illness like it did in the past. Hospitalized on and off for the past 12 to 14 years, the doctors have tried everything including electroshock therapy to try to find something that works. Almost 70 now, my dad will no longer go willingly to hospital, in spite of the fact that his manic episodes are worse than ever. So to get him to see the doctor we usually end up having to get him court ordered to see a doctor.I get why he refuses, doctors really haven’t been much help for him in the past and the combo of drugs, while much less effective than in the past, is more effective than no drugs.

Trying to put myself in his shoes, I feel terrible about doing that. I mean if he was dying of cancer and chose not to get cancer treatments anymore and just wanted to live out the rest of his life in peace, I wouldn’t have an issue. I’d be having a difficult time dealing with him dying but I would respect his wishes. 

The difference: in a mania my dad tends to drink excessively and then endangers others by getting into his car and driving.He takes out massive loans to buy vehicles that he can’t afford to pay off. During a depression, he barely takes care of himself. 

My step-mom couldn’t live with him anymore. He was destroying their house while manic and still blames her for how his life has turned out. In his defense, she tends to escalate during conflict but she means well. His last visit to the hospital, the doctors claimed his medication levels were OK and that it was ‘marital discord’ driving the manic behavior.If we were to plug this into the cancer analogy, it would be like the doctor saying: it is your fault he has cancer. 

By the hospital’s recommendation, we found him a place to live on his own. The place happens to be an independent living apartment building for people that are 55 plus. Not a nursing home or supported living facility, an independent living apartment. 

He has been rapid cycling every 2-3 weeks since he left the hospital alternating between very depressed and manic/mixed manic. He is drinking heavily during his manic phases. Right now, he is angry at us because he feels like we decided for him where he would move. I can’t deny that we pushed for it, I mean he has gotten himself kicked out of the transition housing and basically had nowhere to live. 

Back to stigma, here is where the stigma comes in. If my dad had terminal cancer, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to tell someone. They would sympathize. But people get judgemental when it is mental illness or if not judgemental really awkward, having no idea what to say. 

I hesitate to tell people my dad is Bipolar. I feel like it is his story to tell. At the same time by not sharing, I both miss out on support that I need and also perpetuate the stigma and the idea that having a mental illness is less normal than having cancer. 

Bipolar is a difficult mental illness. Right now, my dad has come down from the high. He speaks to me rationally and there is no way that I could activate the personal directive I came down here to activate, even if I wanted to. I want to hold off on activating it as I know it will strain our relationship. If I had come down last week, it would have been a different story. I’m not even sure they would admit him to the hospital right now. I’m not even sure the hospital is the right place for him right now. I mean, he isn’t depressed enough. Not suicidal, thank goodness. If only psychiatrists were more plentiful, I wouldn’t be talking about getting him admitted to the hospital to see one. Later, when he wakes up from his nap, we are going to call his mental health outreach nurse. She is the key to seeing the psychiatrist. 

I’m done ranting for now. I am really not sure what I’m supposed to do? I mean, he is fine now, but two or three weeks from now when he has cycled into his belligerent ‘I do what I want’ mood will I be able to say the same thing? 

I feel like an asshole saying that I’m having a hard time with this. I mean whatever I’m feeling can’t compare to actually living his experience. But I am. It is hard to watch your parent struggle. I get through this like I always do…

Watch “What It’s Like to Have ‘High-Functioning’ Anxiety” on YouTube

My cousin posted this on my Facebook. My reaction was: this explains my life. 

I noticed that my thoughts of smoking have increased recently. I’m dealing with some stressful stuff. My dad is currently in a bad manic state. He is drinking and driving and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t worry. To be honest, it has been hard keeping up appearances that everything is OK. 

I noticed my cravings to smoke have increased, but it is really that my anxiety is sky high. I know I don’t want to smoke, that it is just my mind looking for something to decrease the anxiety. 

I’m doing my best to cope, but I’m looking into going to talk to my doctor and a counsellor, just to have someone outside the situation to talk to. 

I haven’t been on meds since I was a teen, but maybe it is something to consider.

Without further ado: 

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