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Closet Fascination

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

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addiction

150 days…already?

To be honest, I feel like I quit vaping nicotine, recently. 150 days it turns out is 4 months and 28 days so almost 5 months. 5 months is almost half a year. What? Where did the time go?

Thoughts of using again pop into my head periodically, but quickly dissipate. I think I will deal with those types of thoughts for the rest of my life. Or at least as long as I find smoking sexually attractive. I have enough other ways to deal with anxiety that my anxiety no longer triggers cravings for nicotine.

Also- I think this is the longest I’ve gone sans tobacco in a very long time. I guess only time will tell. The hardest social situation smoking wise I will have to face is still 5 months away. The conference I attend every year for work. If my work friend isn’t smoking, it will be easy. We will not smoke/vape together. I likely will bring my vaping gear, load up with nicotine-free juice and vape. Of all things, I think it will make a difference being able to ‘join in’ without actually ‘joining in’.

I have another goal for that conference. I normally get entirely too drunk. Then I spend the next day too hungover and I don’t enjoy the conference speakers. My goal for next year is to not exceed three drinks over the course of each evening. So a total of 6 drinks total… I think is is reasonable, it will just take some planning. My downfall last year was free wine at dinner and buying $10 worth of twonie bar tickets. So no drinks at dinner and I am going to only bring enough money to buy two drinks. Reasoning: you normally win or get drinks from co-workers over the course of the evening. Three drinks is my upper limit recently without feeling shitty the next day. My tolerance has way decreased since I’ve started moderating. Not to mention, I feel better the next day.

Just some random things I’ve been thinking about. Because most days I don’t have cravings anymore. Most days are exactly like before I started using nicotine regularly. But special events have always been when I’ve engaged in smoking and/or excessive drinking and this conference is literally where I started my pattern of more frequent, than everyday smoking. I teach relapse prevention and I teach my students to have a plan to prevent relapse. So I’m working on the plan… it isn’t perfect yet, but I guess I have 5 more months to perfect it. 

Day 30: Vaping is the Future

In the Poisonous Vaping Debate, Are Anti-Smoking Groups the New Big Tobacco? – http://wp.me/p4uyBp-HJ

Great article on the Vaping Debate. I’ll admit, I was scared to try vaping because of the ambiguity presented in the media but I’m glad I did. It literally changed my life and allowed me to work through many of my issues with smoking.

Vaping is what makes me confident that I don’t have to go back to using nicotine if I don’t want to. It gives me a way to ‘smoke’ without being addicted. To be honest, I haven’t vaped since Sunday morning. It is nice not needing to vape.

I’ve been thinking of where I might go from here. I find blogging therapeutic and I don’t feel like I want to start a new blog. I mean I’ve tried in the past and always come back to this one. All the weird fetishy stuff might discourage some from reading but to be honest it is where I’ve come from and part of who I am.

So I don’t think I’ll be posting every day from now on but on topics that are of interest to me, smoking related or otherwise. I already have some ideas for posts.

Excited for what the future brings. I started day one of my next challenge: get back into shape. Did a 15 minute run and I’m soooo slow. I guess that is what I get for my slacking.  Until next time…

Day 24: A New Hope

While today had some ups and  downs, on the whole I felt the most stable and happy that I have felt in a few days. Perhaps it is the weight of having phoned my father is off my shoulders. Perhaps it is the vitamins recommended for PMS that I’ve started taking.

Cravings were back today as well as relapse fantasies. These don’t necessarily mean anything as I’ve had these sorts of fantasies since I was very young. Only they were just fantasies before, not relapse fantasies. As bad as it sounds, it is comforting they are back as they are part of my “non-nicotine” normal. They have changed in a way too. In the past, I felt compelled to act on the fantasies. Buy cigarettes. Smoke. I actually had the same fantasies when I was vaping. Fantasies where I smoke instead of vape. Never once did I have the urge to act on them. I think what I’ve realized is that those fantasies are sexual and have nothing to do with wanting or even needing to smoke.

I sometimes will start thinking of where this fetish might have come from. Today I noticed that my mom talks about smoking more than most people. Today it came up twice in a conversation that I was having with her. The first story she told me was about an 80 year old woman at the senior’s centre and how to look at her you’d never suspect she smokes. I said ‘You can’t really tell who smokes or not by their look. Lots of people smoke that you’d find surprising.’ Next, she started telling me a story about how the 50 year old man that she used to work for started smoking. Apparently he was 12, had a train ticket for the smoking car on the train. Was scared they would kick him out if he wasn’t smoking so he bought a pack and started right then and there.

I only find it suspicious because most people don’t just talk about these things. I love hearing how people started, but I always feel creepy asking. Anyhow, I’m not suggesting my mom has a smoking fetish, but more that she is fascinated by people that smoke. I mean, she used to smoke, quit when I was three. I’m probably just ultra sensitive to this topic and it is nothing.

Anyhow, here is to a good day and hopefully another good one tomorrow.

Day 23: Mostly Down Still

I was down again today. My husband threatened to spike my drink with nicotine today. He was just joking, but he says it is hard for him to see me sad. I told him I needed to give this at least 3 more weeks and if my mood still hasn’t corrected itself, I would see at doctor about it.

I got the courage to phone my Dad tonight. He is Bipolar and was hospitalized again. He still sounded pretty manic to me on the phone. Increasingly, as he has gotten older, he lacks insight into how he is doing. Actually, he has great insight into his illness when he is depressed but when he is manic he thinks he can do it all. It is hard for me to listen to his plans because there is no way he can do the things that he thinks he can do at his age. That is all I did today: listen to him rant and tell me about all of his plans. If his plans didn’t involve purchasing expensive vehicles or spending all his money when he retired, it might not be so bad. Regardless, he was happy to hear from me and I felt better having talked to him.

Anyhow, I still didn’t have any cravings today despite feeling down. The closest thing were thoughts considering going back to vaping. These were passing and not the same as the obsessive thoughts/cravings that used to appear.

Until tomorrow…

Day 22: Not Myself

Today started OK but as it went on, my mood dipped down and then down again. My husband, who doesn’t like talking about emotions or what not, confronted me about it on our drive home.

He said, “What is up with you? You aren’t your normal bubbly happy self?”

I got defensive and insisted there was nothing wrong. I mean there is nothing wrong. Or at least there shouldn’t be.

He asked me, “Is this about your Dad?”

I figure it might be. I actually feel like a shit human being for how I am dealing with my father’s situation right now. It feels like that is part of it. I really don’t want to get into that situation on here.

The thing is, as selfish as it is, I feel barely capable of taking care of myself right now. I think I’m mildly depressed. I don’t have dark thoughts like I did in my teens, but I feel blah, like I’m only doing things because I know I should. Today, I oscillated between this blah feeling and weepy.

The positive in all this: no cravings? Or at least I’m taking it as a positive. The alternative is that I’m more depressed than I think I am and no cravings means I’ve lost total interest in something I used to enjoy.

Until tomorrow…

Day 20: No Craving Day!

They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. I’d say depending on the habit sometimes it takes longer. That said: today I have had zero cravings. I was even in the company of smokers and not once did I long for a cigarette. Nor did I long to vape nicotine laced vapor into my lungs.

It has been a long time since I’ve felt this way. No seriously. I remember longing to smoke from a very young age. A feeling that would often present itself when I was around smokers. The only smoker that couldn’t conjure this feeling in me was my father.

I don’t need to smoke to feel happy.

I don’t need to use nicotine to feel happy.

I can handle my ups and downs without nicotine.

I no longer feel like a non-smoker trapped in a smoker’s body. I am a smoker. I am a vaper. I am a nicotine fiend. I think I will always be all of these things, but I’ve realized I don’t have to be doing any of them actively to have a satisfying fulfilled life.

I found a draft called “Reasons to Quit” dated to May 2009. I never posted it, I think because I wasn’t ready to be done. Funny, I look back at my reasons to quit and they were good but I could tell I wasn’t convinced. Even though I knew they were true I hadn’t really experienced enough to not want to regular smoke, even though I knew that my reason was rational. I mean I had smoked 4 cigarettes over three days and felt one physical craving and decided to quit. Reading what I wrote and published, my ‘quit’ actually was a lesser version of what I just put myself through recently. My body is apparently sensitive enough to feel the hooks of addiction very quickly.

This time I’m armed with months of nicotine use experience to draw on and the fact that vaping actually has ruined smoking cigarettes for me.

In  my old post I was pretty dramatic, wanting to have a funeral for the cigarettes, for their loss from my life. I no longer feel that sense of loss, like I’m giving up a best friend. I feel now like I got to have my good times, I had some bad times and just like growing out of something I feel as though I’ve grown out of it.

Lastly, in my 7 year old entry, I wrote about what I will miss about smoking:

1) The feeling of inhaling, exhaling- breathing fire, blowing the smoke into beautiful plumes.

2) Instant turn-on.

3) The good effects of nicotine… because let’s face it, the drug is not all bad.

I’ll be honest, these are all the things that brought me back again and again. This time, I think nicotine vaping has armed me with a solution, at least for the first two. By the end, number 2 wasn’t happening anymore anyways which is exactly what I predicted. But vaping gives me the feelings of 1) without the fire, which is okay because I’ve grown to like it better. And 9 months of using nicotine, had me build tolerance to the point of the good effects of nicotine becoming mundane to me. So while my brain sometimes tries to trick me by whispering, “But it will be good again, now that you’ve stopped using for a time.” I counter it with, yes but it isn’t worth it.

As it becomes easier and easier to live life nicotine free, I’m going to start working on my other goals.

I’m just 10 days shy of 30 days. If you are just starting, it gets easier- just take those first few  days, 1 hour at a time, one day at a time. While the cravings seem practically unbearable at first, you’ll know you getting to the right place when you start to feel calm without smoking or using. After that, it becomes much easier and it literally is all in your head.

Day 15: Getting the hang of this

I suppose there will be good days and bad days. Today, was a good day. I’ve discovered I really like vaping while I drive. It is my only habituated situational cue that hasn’t dissipated. I don’t get a craving so much as a light urge that I could ignore, but I figure no reason to deprive myself of the nicotine-free vapor. It scratches that behavioural and sometimes psychological itch I have.

I suspect it will would be harder to quit if:
1. I had started smoking regularly younger as I think the habits would be even more engrained.

2. If I hadn’t gradually reduced my nicotine consumption and done cold turkey straight from 6 or 9 mg. When I first switched to 3 mg, I felt weird but I got used to it.

I honestly think that with proper motivation, vaping is an excellent way to quit. For me, it was an excellent way to try on “what regular smoking might feel like” without actually smoking.

I’m still trying to work out some of my fetishy feelings around smoking. I’ve come to accept that they will always be there, in one way or another. I’ve just learned that I don’t need to engage in using nicotine every day to satisfy it.

I still wonder if I’ll be able to have an occasional pipe or cigar like I did before. I’m not even close to willing to try at this point but I suspect I’ll figure that I can one day and do it. Pipe smoking has never had that habitual draw for me but I suspect I should be prepare for rebound cravings should I go there. I also find, as long as I don’t inhale, I’m good. Right now this last paragraph currently reads like pure addict rationalization but I can’t help but wonder.

Anyhow those are my day 15 thoughts. If you are reading this and just beginning your quit, I can tell you the first few days are the worst. It gets better, so keep at it!

Day 14: Reflections on Personality Type, Triggers and the need for Moderation (In all areas of my life)

Today, I’ve been feeling kind of down and a bit anxious. I know exactly why too. Two reasons: family issues with my Dad (I don’t want to get into that) and lately, I’ve been noticing that when I overdo it with alcohol, even just a little, it takes a couple of days for my mood to go back to normal. Luckily, I don’t have a problem not drinking. One of my future goals is to stop binge drinking though. That combined with binge eating. I’m great at doing things to excess. I mean, when I ran consistently, I wasn’t just running. I was training for half-marathons and eventually a marathon. I need to learn moderation because I tend to have all or nothing thinking leading to eventually not enjoying the activity.

Anxiety, it turns out, is a huge smoking/vaping nicotine trigger for me. It makes sense considering withdrawal feels the same as anxiety. Which is interesting because I used to get really anxious about smoking, which probably make the subsequent release of giving in that much more powerful. I’ve had a few cravings today for nicotine, but also for my other unhealthy self-soothing mechanism, binge eating sweets. I’m breathing deeply, drinking water and surfing these urges.
When I was doing all my reading on Saturday, I found this blog post about how personality type is often connected to addictions.
Contrary to popular culture, there is no such thing as an addictive personality. There are however personality traits that make certain people more vulnerable to addiction.
According to the article, these are:

(1) an impulsive or risk-taking personality style

(2) an anxious, oversensitive personality style

or a combination of the two:

(3) an impulsive or risk-taking style combined with oversensitivity

When I read that, I thought, well I’m definitely (2) and more than likely a bit of (3). I remember mostly suppressing these my impulsive risk-taking by writing about it. I had the urges to smoke, use drugs and even drink when I was a teen but I guess my mom did a good job teaching me to say no to drugs. But that didn’t change the wanting.
I felt anxious off and on throughout the day. I felt the most anxious after I got a text message about my Dad and was immediately filled with anxiety and dread. It was the first time in a good number of days that I felt what I thought was a true craving, but my body doesn’t need nicotine so I saw the craving for what it really was: a desire to get rid of the anxiety. Once I picked up my husband from the train, my anxiety started to disappear and I feel fine again. I’m going to have good days and bad days but overwhelmingly my thought was: “CF you haven’t abstained nicotine for 14 days to throw it all away on  a little bit of anxiety. “
So I didn’t and I keep on keeping on…

Day 12: Lazy Saturday, reading about addiction

Today I slept in until about 7:30 am which is late for me. Lazed in bed until about 8. It was nice to not feel the urgent desire to get out of bed to use nicotine, something that was present almost from the start of regularly vaping. Before I started vaping, it starting to emerge with smoking but I was so closeted that I often had to wait regardless.

The fatigue is mostly gone and mostly I just feel really amazed at how good I feel and how absent cravings are. I mean I started vaping to silent the cravings, but in the true nature of addiction what I ended up with was more constant, more urgent cravings. I still maintain that I needed to go through this in order to get where I am today. If you see addiction as a learning disorder, I already had learned the unhealthy pathways, I just managed to suppress them for a long time. The truth is, despite the fact that smoking is unhealthy, virtually unaccepted in today’s society, from my first experience smoking I wanted to do it again and I recognized that I would probably get addicted. The fear kept me away for awhile but honestly- looking back at everything I have written, I have just been saying no to myself for many years.

I read this article this morning by Marc Lewis: Relapse as Defiance: Just Say Yes  and it basically explained to me the cycle I was in. It talks about a phenomenon called ego fatigue or depletion. Ego fatigue is the loss of self-control that occurs when one is constantly trying to stop an impulse.

This example given in the article describes it perfectly and also what can be done about it:

So there you are, craving to get high “one more time,” and saying to yourself over and over again: No, don’t do it! Then ego fatigue creeps up on you…some part of your cognitive hardware gets tired and gives up the battle. The impulse takes over. Each of the five biographical chapters in my book shows exactly how that plays out in the life of someone addicted to something. But here’s the double whammy, the Catch-22: Psychologists have shown clearly that suppression (just saying No) makes ego fatigue worse. Suppressing the impulse gives it more power. The only way to stay on top of ego fatigue is to reinterpret or reframe the situation: “that’s no fun, that’s not what I want.”

In the process of saying no to myself, over and over and over again, I was wearing myself down. I would give in, feel relief for awhile but then would find myself fantasizing about smoking again, dreaming about regular smoking, as if it were the thing I wanted most. My rational brain would scoff and called the idea ridiculous, but the reward centers of my brain had already learned the pleasure that could be obtained from the action. In essence, despite not having a history of regular use, I was an addict.

The last sentence of the quote says something very important, something I think is key to people recovering from any addiction.

Suppressing the impulse gives it more power. The only way to stay on top of ego fatigue is to reinterpret or reframe the situation: “that’s no fun, that’s not what I want.”

This is a key difference between quitting vaping now and every other time that I have decided not to take up regular smoking (which is really all I was doing before since I had no intention of stopping my occasional use). Through vaping, I realized that I really didn’t want to smoke. I like the idea of smoking, I love the visual and perhaps the feeling of inhaling shit into my lungs, but actual cigarette smoking no longer does it for me. I still like to watch others do it (visual) but I no longer desire to join them. That was the impulse that I suppressed over and over and over again for so many years, probably from my young teen days. I really wanted, more than anything to join in with the people smoking. Smoking has been reframed as something that I don’t really want. 

Next obstacle- nicotine and my love for its affect on my brain. While I still have positive memories of many experiences involving vaping, smoking and nicotine- my recent experience with my own regular use had me come to conclusion that I don’t like using nicotine all the time. The last 12 days ( okay maybe not all 12 of them, but certainly the more recent half of them) have solidified that I prefer not using nicotine all the time. Therefore, nicotine has been reframed as something I don’t want to use all the time.  I think I said numerous times on this blog that I didn’t want to become a regular user, but that was more a fear. The desire was there and I was as much trying to convince myself as I was my readers that I didn’t want it, hence ego fatigue and a constant cycle of intermittent use.

I think the main obstacle I’m still not over is the idea that I can use occasionally, although I think I’m much less convinced that I can do this now than I ever have been in the past. The thing is: I don’t have any compulsion to smoke pipes (despite the nicotine). I enjoy it and leave it alone for many months at a time. This will probably be my downfall at some point.

My other obstacle is fetishy desires connected to using nicotine. Vaping satisfies most of tactile/visual aspects of smoking that I liked. I mean some aspects are absence, but after nine months I got use to that and I came to appreciate vaping for what it is. I’m hoping that there is enough connection between vaping and my sexual desires that I will no longer desire smoking at all. Only time will tell with that one.

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