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Closet Fascination

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

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mindfulness

Waking Up By Sam Harris- A Book Report

This is the first book that I have finished reading in a long time. I’ll probably read it again before I fully grasp the impact it will have on my life because for me it was one of those life changing books; not because it taught me something I didn’t already know, but because it articulated so eloquently something I’ve deeply believed for a long time.

I’ve written about religion on my blog before and my views on spirituality. I’m agnostic when it comes to belief in God in that I don’t really think we will ever be able to prove God’s existence. I also don’t think it really matters if we do. I have a certain amount of awe about our world and how much we still don’t know about it, but to simply explain natural phenomena that we can’t explain (yet) by saying that is ‘proof of God’ isn’t good enough for me. Perhaps that makes me a full out atheist. I don’t like labels.

I’ve always considered myself spiritual, but never really been able to articulate what that means to people. In my post on spirituality, I sum up a lot of my views, but there was still something about being spiritual that was could not be explained by living my values or even just being with nature.

Enter: Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion By Sam Harris. I think I first read about this book about two years ago. I follow a website called Brain Pickings on Facebook and they had written an article about the book and it seemed interesting, but much like unacknowledged or unobserved thoughts that come and go into our minds, I never gave the book a second thought. What rekindled interest? Oddly, it was this post on Dilbert writer’s Scott Adams’ blog entitled, Sam Harris Induces Cognitive Dissonance in Ben Affleck. The video for that is here.  This got me interested in him in general, so I went to his website and promptly started to devour the podcasts. Many of these were a useful, intellectual analysis of what is going on right now in America, unlike what is currently being posted by my friends on Facebook. It is critical of both sides and I appreciate that. Wanting more, like the obsessive fiend I can be, I bought Waking up on Thursday and have since read it cover to cover.

For me, this book explained to me something I have, albeit only briefly, experienced but could never put to words what it was.

These two paragraphs from the book sum it up:

We seem to do little more than lurch between wanting and not wanting. Thus, the question naturally arises: Is there more to life than this? Might it be possible to feel much better (in every sense of better) than one tends to feel? Is it possible to find lasting fulfillment despite the inevitability of change?

Spiritual life begins with a suspicion that the answer to such questions could well be “yes.” And a true spiritual practitioner is someone who has discovered that it is possible to be at ease in the world for no reason, if only for a few moments at a time, and that such ease is synonymous with transcending the apparent boundaries of the self. Those who have never tasted such peace of mind might view these assertions as highly suspect. Nevertheless, it is a fact that a condition of selfless well-being is there to be glimpsed in each moment.

I think I’ve had a few of these moments through out my life. They were fleeting and Waking Up  assured me that this is completely normal. The missing link in my description of spirituality is self-transcendence or going beyond the self.

Typically, these moments have been when standing a top a tall mountain or skiing down a steep slope. More recently, when I ran the marathon in 2014, there were moments where I felt a oneness with the world and joyful beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before. My first marathon was such as awesome experience that I hesitate to run another for fear that I will be let down should I not have that feeling again.

The book takes your through five main topics: Spirituality, Consciousness, Self or rather the illusion of self, meditation as a tool for transcending self and finally a catch all chapter called Gurus, Death, Drugs and Other Puzzles. I found the first four chapters to be really strong so the last chapter seemed as if it were a grab bag of interesting topics (I’m glad they were there) but that didn’t have enough substance to be discussed in their own dedicated chapter.

There are some interesting exercises and really I think the book is meant as a ‘here is what spiritually might look like without religion’ rather than exactly how to access it yourself. The exercises are an interesting starting point but left me wanting to learn more. I think this is probably the point. I don’t think Sam Harris fancies himself an expert on any individual’s awakening. He is simply describing what worked for him and how one might go about being spiritual without religion.

A few quotes from the end of the book really hit home for me and in a way summarize the feel and intention of the book:

First:

It is within our capacity to recognize the nature of our thoughts, to awaken from the dream of being merely ourselves and, in this way, to become better able to contribute to the well-being of others. Spirituality begins with a reverence for the ordinary that can lead us to insights and experience that are anything but ordinary.

And then:

We are always and everywhere in the presence of reality. Indeed, the human mind is the most complex  and subtle expression of reality we have thus far encountered. This should grant profundity to the humble project of noticing what it is like to be you in the present. However numerous your faults, something in you at this moment is pristine- and only you can recognize it.

Open your eyes and see.

And so I will continue to try…

To meditate…

To eat mindfully…

To exercise…

To be present in nature…

Because all of these things, lead my existence to be better. Happier. Even so, sometimes it can be a struggle to do them because of another hedonistic desire pulling me in another direction. I’ve noticed everything actually worth doing in my life requires some effort, some level of what could be called discomfort to reach the pleasantness. I think I need to commit more intentionally to my meditation practice as I think this would help me shift my perspective to be more present focus and thus better able to appreciate tasks I currently think of as arduous or boring.

How to deal with having a smoking fetish (in my non-expert opinion)

I’ve been thinking a lot about this given where I am today vs where I was when I started this blog. I used to be super ashamed of my fetish like it was something super freakish that I needed to suppress. But this instinct to suppress it, only made it stronger. Now I simply see it as something that developed during my formative years, likely in response to the anti-smoking propaganda that was very prevalent in the 90’s when I was growing up. My fascination started young, pre-internet and completely disconnected from pornography.

I recently read this article: Are Sexual Tastes Immutable? which describe a bit about how sexual tastes are acquired and whether or not they can be changed once they have been acquired. From this article asserts that:

Indeed, most of us have a good bit of indirect say over our sexual tastes (as contrasted with our sexual orientation). Brains are plastic. The truth is we are always training our brains—with or without our conscious participation. We can choose to avoid, pursue, and cease pursuit of, stimuli that condition our sexual tastes in particular directions.

On the many smoking fetish forums I’ve participated in, most people feel as though:

  1. Their sexual fetish for smoking developed young, often pre-internet exposure or even pre-pornography exposure.
  2. They feel as though it is something that they have always had or always will have.

This makes sense because the younger someone develops these sexual tastes, the more likely it will seem that they are innate and unchangeable.

My fetish has changed over time, but it certainly does feel as though it is here to stay. That said, I think if I had really wanted to rid myself of, I’ve been going about it completely the wrong way for many, many years.

That said, it isn’t too late if I want to change. The article quotes neuroplasticity expert Norman Doidge’s The Brain that Changes Itself:

Their treatment for sexual tastes acquired later in life was far simpler than that for patients who, in their critical periods [of development], acquired a preference for problematic sexual types. Yet even some of these men were able, like A., to change their [preferred] sexual type, because the same laws of neuroplasticity that allow us to acquire problematic tastes also allow us, in intensive treatment, to acquire newer, healthier ones and in some cases even to lose our older, troubling ones. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it brain, even where sexual desire and love are concerned.

The article mentions, that if one is going to try to rid himself or herself of an unwanted sexual taste, they should avoid their stimulus. For example, in my case, a stimulus I could avoid is watching YouTube videos featuring women smoking. I’ve never watched smoking pornography, although when I was confessing my fetish to my partner I referred to it as ‘smoking pornography’ as for a person with a smoking fetish, no sex need be depicted for it to be an arousing image.

So what is my advice to you if you have a smoking fetish and it bugs you:

  1. Figure out where your fetish might have started. I found the more I explored the roots of my fetish, the less powerful it seemed to be.
  2. Avoid masturbation to smoking stimuli. This only reinforces the fetish.
  3. Avoid visiting website promoting smoking. Pro-smoking websites only reinforce the alluring parts of smoking.
  4. Start seeing smoking as a normal thing to do. The more I saw smoking as simply something people did rather than what I had built it up in my head to be (the ultimate ‘bad girl’ action, ‘the worst thing I could do to myself’. As I started to see smoking as ‘just smoking’, I found it less arousing.
  5. If all else fails, seek professional help.

If you have a smoking fetish, it doesn’t bother you but you are having trouble being aroused by your non-smoking partner:

  1. If they don’t smoke, don’t try to get them to smoke.
  2. Eliminate consumption of smoking media (videos, stories, forum posts etc.) This will increase your attraction to your real life partner.
  3. Incorporate non-nicotine vaping as a way to ‘play with the fetish’ in a non-addictive, less harmful way.If that doesn’t do it, see 2.
  4. Read step 1 again. Seriously, don’t do it. If it is that important to you that your partner smoke, find a smoker to be with.

If you are a non-smoker with a smoking fetish thinking about trying smoking because of your fetish:

  1. Experiment with non-nicotine vaping. I actually got a huge kick out of chucking giant clouds with my sub-ohm device. I suggest not going the route of nicotine as there really isn’t any need to add a nicotine addiction that you don’t already have. If I get the urge to smoke again, I have my device ready with my favourite juice precisely for this purpose.
  2. Get real with why you want to try smoking. For most people with a fetish, it starts as a curiosity about how smoking feels. For other people, it is an escalation of sorts. When pictures and videos don’t do it for them anymore, actually smoking ups the ante. So is it curiosity or a desire to escalate the intensity of the experience? Either way, proceed with caution. You basically have no idea how your body will react to nicotine and it can be a powerful reinforcer.
  3. If you do decide to try it, be okay with the possibility of becoming addicted. I know that sounds super ominous, but some people have a pretty intensely positive reaction to smoking. I know I did.

Where am I at? I am thinking about reducing my reliance on smoking fantasy when I masturbate. This sounds a bit daunting as I cannot recall a time in my adult life where I haven’t masturbated to smoking fantasy. No seriously. I’ve never been a huge picture or video watcher (although I have done it). I was much more into smoking erotica. Currently, watch some videos and mostly rely on my ‘what if I had started then…” fantasies which are pretty mundane but do the trick. Interestingly, my fantasies have changed since my 9 month vaping stint. Pre and during vaping my fantasies were always about future me starting to smoke. Since quitting, I know I don’t want to smoke in the present or future (and have to endure quitting again). The thought simply doesn’t arouse me anymore. This is a big change and I think that if that can change other things about my sexual tastes can change.

One thing that I have started doing that seems to be helping is incorporating mindfulness into my masturbation. What does this mean? Instead of using a fantasy to bring on arousal, I simply focus on all of the sensations that I am feeling while I masturbate or even on my breathing. Just like with mindful meditation, when I find my mind wandering or drumming up my regular fantasies, I just gently bring my attention back to my breathing or to the sensations that I am feeling. It typically takes longer to ‘complete’ than with fantasies but I’m finding that I am more satisfied. I think I could write a whole post just on this. For me, this seems more sensible than avoiding masturbation entirely (as I do not compulsively masturbate) and I think it will help on some level with retraining my brain.

Next Frontier: Better Budgeting

I’ve never been good with money. So my next goal, since I’m enjoying this change one thing per month thing, is to get my budget under control. 

The money thing is almost harder for me than food, but I feel like if I can do the food thing, I can do the money thing. Areas I think I can be better: (ironically) my food budget. When I read about people feeding their family of four on $250 dollars a month, I am in awe. I think I spend at least that right now for two of us. 

Now to do some research…

The Frenemy

I haven’t posted in a bit, mostly because largely things have been going well. Changing how I eat has helped me with managing my moods and despite my normal ups and downs I’m taking them in stride. I’m not sure I’m any less moody, but my perception is different and I think it has to do with being mindful. When you are paying attention, to the present moment without judgement, it allows you to step back and actually determine what you need. So instead of getting worried, upset, frustrated or angry over feeling a certain way, you step back, notice that you are feeling that way and for me that seems to lead to the question: what do I need?

For example, I went on a camping trip with my husband and some of our friends. I went ‘hunting’ one day with my husband which essentially involves a lot of driving around. Not necessarily my cup of tea but it was important to my husband so I tagged along. At one point during the drive, he said to me, “You are bored, aren’t you?”  I said, “Yes, I’m getting a little stiff just sitting in the car, could we stop to walk around outside for a bit?” He said yes and that broke the drive up for me, allowing us both to enjoy our time together more. I wasn’t exactly bored, but I needed to move around. Paying attention to that moment allowed me to identify my need and vocalize it so that I could get it met. Both my husband and I had a great camping trip I think because we were just living in the moment, experiencing the present as best we could.

Which brings me to the title of this post. One of the people on this trip, I consider my frenemy. Why frenemy? Because she is in my circle of friends but I don’t consider her my friend anymore. We might have been at one point, but somewhere along the way she started treating me really coldly, prickly for no apparent reason. I’ve thought about calling her out on it or at least to ask her why but I couldn’t tell if I was imagining it or not. I mentioned it to my husband at first, and he brushed it off and said it wasn’t me, it was her but I couldn’t help but take it personally for a bit. But he was right. It is just her and there is something about me that she can’t stand. She goes out of her way to ‘correct’ me even when it is something so minor or not even wrong. It is like she is looking for something to pick apart in what I am saying. Like I had a bite of my husband’s PopTart and I commented that it tasted like something that would quickly raise your blood sugar if it was low. She then ‘corrected me’ and said that it probably wouldn’t act that fast and besides a diabetic trying to ‘balance out’ their bad diet through alternating sugary foods and insulin is a sure way to a heart attack.

Anyhow, as the weekend drew on, she became more and more grumpy (in general, not always directed at me) because she was cold or ‘felt like she was wasting her weekend’. Oh and she hates my dog too. Sees it as a giant pest even though it mostly stays out of her way. So the saturday night, she barely said a word all night and cast glares at my dog. I basically just ignore all of this passive-aggressive behaviour and try to not let it affect me. I started doing this awhile ago knowing that I would have to see her at group gathering where everyone is invited. I honestly think it upsets her more that her snide, passive-aggressive comments seem to have no effect on me. What I didn’t know, is that my husband was noticing this too. But I think it was the first time that it has bugged him. His solution was an easy one: I don’t need to be around a negative person like that. So on the Sunday night, he told me he wanted to make a campfire at our camp instead of going over to them camp. I thought this was weird and I couldn’t get it out of him that night as to why. At the same time, it is not like I was really going to miss hanging out with my Frenemy. The next day, he told me that it was because of her that he didn’t want to go over to their campfire.

I have a feeling we’ll be doing less with the Frenemy and her husband. Which sucks, because her husband is a pretty laid back and friendly guy but is also good because I find her hard to be around. I think my husband is fed up with her selfish, insecure and passive-aggressive ways. For the most part, I don’t have to deal with her because she seems to avoid coming to anything that I am invited to. I think she only decided to go camping because she thought I was only going to be there for part of the weekend but then my plans changed and I ended being there for the whole weekend. Our other  friend’s wife doesn’t come to most things that the Frenemy is invited to because of how the Frenemy treats her. But when she does, she just kills the Frenemy with kindness.

So far what I’ve learned about how to deal with toxic people from my Frenemy:

  1. Avoid spending time with them if possible.
  2. Greet their passive-aggressiveness either assertively or with kindness. Remember, more than likely their lashing out at you is not a personal attack. I happen to think my frenemy is jealous of me.
  3. See one. Really if at all possible ditch all the toxic people from your life

I had a great weekend camping. I didn’t let my Frenemy get in the way of a good time. Which brings me back to the start of this post. I think aside from what she thinks of me, my Frenemy didn’t enjoy herself because once she was ‘done with’ enjoying the camp fire or camping in general, she became very future oriented. Thinking: look at all the stuff I could be getting done instead of enjoying the moment. 

     

     

    Day 32 (of healthy eating): Keeping on Keeping On

    3 months and 8 days nicotine and tobacco free. 

    32 days into eating mindfully and working out again.

    9 pounds down. I hit 164 pounds today… Apparently, without really reducing what I’m eating, just changing what and eliminating binge eating, I’ve managed to lose about 2 pounds per week. 

    Was it hard? Surprisingly, after the first couple of weeks, my cravings for sugary and starchy treats has gone way down. I even made dessert for my husband and ate some but not the whole tray like I might have in the past. I think binge eating and eating too much sugar leads to the highs and crashes and then subsequent cravings not unlike drugs. I think reducing my blood sugar spikes as well as eating frequently and at proper times has also been key. I never get so hungry that I will eat anything in sight. 

    Not having these swings due to sugar helps with nicotine cravings (the rare times I have them.) Although my cravings are psychological, they are always in response to very real feelings of anxiety. 

    How do I deal with the anxiety? Self-talk, talking myself out of worrying. Deep breathing. Exercise. Distracting myself. 

    I honestly thought this might be harder when I first started. Giving up nicotine was worse in some ways because after the first three weeks, once it was completely gone from my system, I felt raw. Like everything felt more intense, especially negative feelings. My natural calm wasn’t there. Giving up unhealthy eating habits started hard, but got easier very quickly. I’m still a little in awe as I’ve always had trouble losing weight and this time it has been so easy.

    So I’m going to keep on keeping on because it works.

    Learning Moderation

    Moderation is hard for me. I’ve blogged about this before, but it is on my mind again as I try to figure out moderation when it comes to food. With nicotine and smoking, in some ways, it was easier. I can say: I can’t control my use therefore I won’t use and never use nicotine again and I won’t die. I don’t need it to survive. Due to how I metabolize nicotine, moderation is never going to be an option and I’m OK with that. 

    Drinking was, again, easier. I enjoy drinking more now that I enjoy drinks in moderation. They are a special treat, I have one or two -choosing only the best beer, wine or spirit to embibe and I savor it. Drinking in moderation, you don’t suffer the consequences of binge drinking- the hangover, GI distress and increased anxiety. If moderation didn’t work for me with drinking, I could simply quit entirely. You don’t need alcohol to live. 

    Food is harder. I can’t stop eating entirely (nor would I want to) because you need to eat to survive. So far, I’ve been fighting my urge to over-control my eating and find moderation. I’m getting better at balancing macro nutrients in my meals without thinking about it too much. I’m going to keep journalling my eating until this is second nature. But to encourage moderation and an attitude of ‘no food is off-limits’ if I want something that isn’t as good for me, I eat it. Within reason of course. The within reason is what I was having trouble with before. My attitude before was, ‘No food is off-limits and I eat as much as I want.’ 

    Today, for example, I packed a half decent healthy lunch, but not enough food. I was starving hungry and my husband really wanted McDonald’s.So I ate McDonald’s and didn’t feel guilty about it.

    With both food and exercise, I’m slowly learning to moderate. It is hard because I have to resist my urge to over-control, over-try and the urge I have to push myself to the limit.

    What is undeniable is I’m happier when I’m eating better. I’m happier when I’m exercising regularly. My moods are more stable. So those are things I’m going to keep doing. Mindful eating, exercise and meditation. As Oscar Wilde would say: Everything in moderation, including moderation. For me that means moderate, but don’t over control. 

    Healthy Eating Update: Day 12

    So it has been 12 days since I started paying attention to what I eat. I wouldn’t call it ‘a diet’ because I’ve even gone out to eat, although less than I might have previously (three times in 12 days). Paying attention is the correct term. You might even call it mindful eating.What I’m paying attention to is my macro nutrients: carbs, fats and protein and making sure I’m getting enough of each especially timed appropriately with exercise.

    The first few days, I was really hungry because I was following the meal plans from the book, which are based on a 135 pound woman. Not enough food, unless I was trying to starve myself. So I went back to the book, looked up the recommended protein/carb/fat ratios and calculated what I should be eating. Much better. Then I simply tried to eat within those ratios, stopping when I was full, something I’m getting better at, but still struggle with. Also, I cut out artificial sugar and tried to limit added sugar. I stick to this for the most part, but I like a touch of sweetness in my tea and coffee in the morning, so I let myself have that. I am more mindful of how much, and I noticed since reducing the amount of refined sugar I’m eating, I don’t need as much.

    The results so far: 

    1. I’ve lost weight. The day before I started this my starting weight was 172.5 lbs. Today, 12 days later, I’m down to 168.4. that is a total loss of 4.1 pounds in about two weeks. My goal was a pound a week, but I’ll take it. I also don’t want to lose too quickly, but I suspect my natural set point or one that my body liked for years is 160 lbs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I lost quickly until then. To be honest, that is my goal weight. Actually, my goal is to have my pants not be tight anymore and I’m probably about 2 lbs away from that.
    2. Even though my pants aren’t looser yet, I feel better. No more guilt after over eating. No more gross over full feeling. 
    3. It has forced me to use other methods to deal with my anxiety. I’ve sewed a lot this past week (sewing is like a total mindfulness activity for me, it requires full attention and focus), exercised (30 minutes most days, starting to run again and making sure I recover),  and meditated. I’ve also channeled the nervous energy into meal planning. 

    I couldn’t be happier that this is working out. Until next time! 

    Blogging Vacation: What is next?

    So after posting every day for a month, I guess I just needed a blogging vacation. I’m on actual vacation now and in the process of making changes with how I eat which was really the next place to go for me and my unhealthy coping skills.

    Food has been my ‘drug’ since I was young. I think my unhealthy relationship with food stemmed from or was passed on to me from my mother. I learned it from her. From a young age, I remember my mom was never happy with her body. Continuous crash diets over the years have resulted in her being rather obese. Which makes sense since these diets typically have low caloric intake and your metabolism slows when it feels like it is starving. My mom is also not very active, something that is different from me. Nevertheless, I think part of my staying active has been out of fear of becoming obese like my mom. In not wanting to be obsessed with food like my mom was, I chose to focus on exercise and eat whatever and as much as I wanted. But you  can’t out train a bad diet… and I think my lack of proper fueling has held me back in some respects with my exercise. That and I developed the exact same pattern with exercise that my mom had with food. Exercise, be awesome for a while and see some positive effects. (In this part of the cycle, my mom would be eating really well, and lose some weight). Plateau and or get injured. (Plateau on weight loss). Quit or reduce exercising (Binge eat). Gain weight and lose fitness gains. (Gain weight). Become depressed at the backslide. Repeat cycle (Both her and I).

    But CF all you’ve talked about is exercise. How is food your drug? Well I told you before that when I exercise, I don’t really change my eating. This is pretty much true. I also have my periods of time where I try to eat healthy and then binge but mostly my pattern is one of overeating all the time. I think it is one of the ways I use to battle anxiety. Because anxiety physically feels like hunger to me. Exercise helps mitigate this a little, but if I’m in the Fuck exercise part of the cycle, I gain weight. Unfortunately, I gain weight pretty easily. I’m currently at my peak adult weight of 172 lbs. I carry it well despite my short 5’6” frame. I’ve never been a tiny person, so anything less than about 140, I start looking a bit skeletal. My set point (which I’d like to get back to) for a long time was around 160, plus or minus 5 pounds. But how to do it?

    1. Change my relationship with food and exercise.
    2. Stick with the changes that I make long term.

    I’ve lost a lot of weight before. The last time I got to this weight, I lost 22 pounds in a year using Jenny Craig. I would say it was a rather unhealthy way to lose weight and because of the caloric deficiency I never had enough energy to exercise. It is really the only ‘diet’ I’ve ever been on. Plus, once you stop eating their food which nicely regulates things for you, you have to figure out how to eat healthy yourself and I found that to be very difficult.

    How I currently view food:

    • Coping mechanism:I eat my feelingsgiphy
    • Best thing in the world
    • Delicious
    • Once I start, I can’t stop

    How I would like to view food:

    • A  delicious way to fuel my body
    • Not how I deal with my feelings
    • I’d like to be able to eat like other people

    How I view exercise:

    • A means to change my body so that I am happy with it
    • A healthy form of anxiety relief
    • Something I like doing despite it not changing my body

    How I want to view exercise:

    • A means to change my body so that I am happy with it
    • A healthy form of anxiety relief
    • Something I like doing despite it not changing my body

    I just recently finished a book called ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life. Long title but great book. It teaches you how to work with your menstrual cycle rather than against and explains a lot about how female physiology is different from men. The food part is interesting because it has you eat for your body type and is all about timing foods to when you will need the nutrients. That is probably the hardest part about the eating plans. My goal is to follow it for a month and see how I feel. It is supposed to help with mood regulation and basically just looks like ‘clean eating’ so no processed foods or artificial sugars. Beyond that, it isn’t really restrictive. There is no calorie counting and it is more about what and when you eat than how much. Day 1 went well. It is Day 2 today and I am feeling a bit hungrier than yesterday. My snack time is coming soon though.

    I don’t think I will be posting every day, but I’ll update now and again.

    I have had a few cravings to smoke recently, but they pass quickly. My current mantra that helps me resist these cravings is, “I may feel like I need or want to smoke, but the fact is I don’t need to.Feelings aren’t facts.” Inspired by none other than John Oliver’s newest video:

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNdkrtfZP8I&w=854&h=480

     

    Day 16: Emotional Rollercoster

    I was up and down all day today, not to mention emotional as fuck. There are some big wildfires happening about 4 hours north of where I live and every time I heard news on it, I would tear up even though I don’t even know anyone who lives there. It was like my empathy was on overdrive. I mean, while I know nothing first hand, I could put myself in their shoes and I felt devastated for them.

    Today, I had some full on fantasies where I could actually feel the nicotine hit my brain. I came close to rationalizing relapse. Thoughts like, “I love smoking” went through my head. But I talked back to these thoughts. Because I remembered back to the last cigarette I smoked and reminded myself that I went back to vaping right away because I liked it better. When my addict brain tried to retort with, just think of the buzz you’d have if you vaped right now, I reminded myself of how much I wanted to not feel the rollercoaster of withdrawal anymore and of all of the other things I like about not using nicotine all the time.

    I find I start rationalizing relapse when I’m experiencing negative emotions. It is funny because I remember that, other than for anxiety, vaping nicotine in response to negative emotions usually didn’t do anything. Or would provide a brief distraction or maybe relief (brief as in 1-2 minutes) and then I would be right back where I was before. I vaped a lot more nicotine-free juice today than I have in any other day since I quit. Vaping definitely helps substitute the feeling and if I concentrate really hard, I feel like I can almost recreate the relaxation using deep breathing and mindfulness. I know that probably sounds crazy, but it is working for me so I don’t question it. Until next time…

     

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