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Closet Fascination

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

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nicotine

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.

Day 2: More Tired, More Cravings, More Difficult but not impossible

The morning was the worse, followed by lunchtime and after-work. These are three of my key vaping moments that occur throughout my day. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the morning craving. I think getting up in the morning just sucks period and I’ve always loved the instant awake provided by jolting the system with nicotine. Unfortunately, I’ve never been successful only having a morning cigarette or vape except for maybe when I first started.

I used nicotine free vaping to help me though all the cravings and it really helped. I know that it is just the placebo effect, but that effect is pretty powerful. I think the action of vaping mimic deep breathing so that probably assists with calming the craving.

Today I didn’t feel good like yesterday. In fact, my moods have been all over the place. Ranging from blah, to mildly irritable, to empty and right now mostly empty. I see people smoking and think, “I want one,” despite the fact that literally not 48 hours ago I was convinced I was done with smoking. And I am…but that is the power of this drug. I don’t really want a cigarette, I want the emptiness to go away. My addict brain is totally trying to rationalize using nicotine right now even though not 48 hours ago, nicotine was actually making me feel pretty crummy.

The empty feeling is the most dangerous. I think this is why smokers often gain weight when quitting. I could eat everything in sight right now. I’m limiting myself to things like vegetables, lest I want to gain a bunch of weight.

All and all, far less severe than the withdrawal symptoms I was experiencing when I closet smoked, the symptoms that led me to vaping. And the cravings are getting less intense.

I might have to exercise a bit more over the next few days to boost those feel good neurotransmitters because I think my swim yesterday is what helped quash my craving the best.

Day 2 isn’t over yet, but I know I can do this. Addict brain cannot win this time or rather I am more familiar with her moves now that I can do a better job countering them.

A reminder to myself

So I’m going on 20 hours without nicotine and I have to say I feel really good. When I got up at 5:30 am, the first thing I wanted to do is vape some nicotine so I could feel good again.  But I told myself not now, that I wasn’t going to vape first thing in the morning anymore. That I was going to wait until right before work in the morning.

I went swimming, like I often do in the morning. After my swim, I didn’t feel like vaping so I didn’t.

Went out for lunch like usual. Didn’t really feel like vaping so I didn’t. After work, I had the slightest automatic urge to vape in my car. Without the driver of physical withdrawal, it was easy to ignore.

Last time I tried quitting, I was sick so it was fairly easy because I didn’t feel like inhaling crap into my lungs. As soon as I was better, since I hadn’t fully committed to quit, relapse happened almost automatically.

I’m writing this post to remind myself that despite the fatigue I have right now from not being  stimulated, I still feel better today than I did yesterday. On the first day. My brain probably hasn’t even had a chance to start changing the levels of neurotransmitters. Perhaps it is easier this time because I was using so little nicotine. Regardless, I’m glad I got over the psychological humps I did this morning. It has given me the confidence that I can do this.

I think what got me through it was thinking to myself, “I’m not going to vape right now, I choose not to.” Planning a future vape time and then doing the same thing at that time. I carried my half full tank of 3 mg Bowden’s Mate around just in case. Tonight, I’m dumping it and will only carry tanks with 0 mg juice. I can do this.

12 hours Clean

So far the hardest craving to beat was the one when I first woke up. I haven’t craved nicotine since.

This might be easier than I thought it was going to be. I’m more alert, less tired and less anxious than I thought I would be. I was going to gradually reduce, but the game plan has changed. I’m going cold turkey.

Will keep you updated!

Almost Ready

Today, I purchased a couple of more nicotine free juices. Tomorrow, I start the process of weaning myself off nicotine. What changed since my last post? Not much really, but I feel like I’m ready to give nicotine up. Part of it was realizing that could still vape and that vaping nicotine free might actually be the best of both worlds. I find vaping 0 mg juice actually soothes my psychological cravings. So once I go through the temporary uncomfortableness of getting off nicotine, I should be able to just use vaping to my psychological cravings. In theory at least.

What is different this time from last? Last time, I was unsure about smoking. You might wonder what this has to do with vaping. Last time, I wasn’t sure if I was done with smoking. The cigarette I smoked, plus the few puffs off my friends solidified never wanting to smoke another cigarette again. I know that once I go  nicotine-free any dabbling with smoking will likely lead to a nicotine vaping relapse. Hopefully I can recall the discomfort of quitting and use that to stay quit.

My main motivation for quitting again is sleep quality. It was fine when I first started up again, but has steadily declined. Any benefit of nicotine during the day is not worth sacrificing sleep at night. I’m pretty sure lack of sufficient sleep is probably worse for me that the small amount of nicotine I’m consuming.

Anyhow, I will keep you updated as I progress. Already, I’ve consumed less over the past two days than I was last week.

On being a nicotine junkie

I’m a nicotine junkie. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it weren’t so taboo. People can be coffee junkies as it is socially acceptable, but expressing your love for how awesome you feel when you have nicotine coursing through your veins is definitely taboo. Unless you are talking about how you are quitting most people don’t want to hear about it.

Turns out the problem really isn’t nicotine. Yes, nicotine is addictive. Very addictive. But nicotine is just what keeps people using a harmful product. More and more studies are showing that while nicotine is a very addictive substance, it’s negative effects on the body are few. Nicotine is not a carcinogen, nor is it responsible for the cardiovascular effects attributed to smoking. Inhaling a combustible product has more to do with the harmful effects of smoking Source. Using nicotine is almost as safe as using caffeine, albeit, way more taboo because of the way it is typically used (smoking) and how addictive it is.

I’ve never had a problem with any other substance. I like drinking, have binged on alcohol in the past, but have no problems going without it for long periods of time or maintaining moderation. I don’t crave alcohol. If my doctor told me that I had to stop drinking, I could. I’d be sad, but only because I enjoy wine, beers and spirits for their flavours, not because I’d never experience alcohol intoxication ever again.

I’m a raging nicotine addict. It isn’t a physical addiction because in the 14 years since I inhaled my first puff, I’ve spent more time and energy not smoking than most people quitting smoking for the first time. It is all psychological. I think I’ve been psychologically addicted since I inhaled my first puff. Nothing has made my body and mind feel as nice as when I have nicotine in it. Now all the quitting rhetoric doesn’t apply to me. Why you ask? Because they say that you only feel better when you smoke because you are relieving withdrawal and that eventually your body gets used to not having nicotine in it and you’ll feel fine. I do feel “fine” when I don’t smoke. But I know I would feel better with some nicotine in my bloodstream. But that is just my addict brain talking. Or is it?

I’m kind of done with conventional smoking at the moment. I’ve reached a crossroads in my long-term experimentation where my body finally has started to protest my occasional dabbling with smoking. It tells me, don’t stop. Do this all the time and when I tell it no, it protests. And I don’t want to smoke cigarettes full time for a variety of reasons.

I’m considering vaping. It probably won’t do it for me fetish wise(then again who knows?), but if I’m completely honest with myself my attraction to smoking is in large part because I like how nicotine makes me feel. I think the reason why I’ve been hesitant to try vaping is that it requires me to admit to myself that I love nicotine and am unwilling to live without it in my life. I’ve told myself various lies to justify my use but when it comes down to it, I love the way nicotine makes me feel and I continue to use tobacco products not just for the nicotine but for the feeling of smoking. I also love the way it feels to inhale smoke into my lungs.

I still like pipe smoking for the flavour and the different buzz I get from it. But I always come back to cigarettes. I love the intensity that isn’t present with cigars or pipes. The pipe tobacco cigarettes really cemented this for me.

Enter vaping. With the new mods and customization options people have figured out how to maximize the experience to come pretty close to what one’s experience smoking is. I have a lot of research to do before I take the plunge. And I have to be psychologically ok with the likely possibility that once I vape if I enjoy it, I’ll likely take my nicotine junkiehood to a whole new level like none I’ve ever experienced.

I know you are probably thinking, “but you don’t even smoke that much, how could you consider yourself a junkie?” It comes down to how I smoke and my thoughts around smoking. I work with addicts of various types and as I learned more about addiction and listened to their stories I realized I have the same relationship with my drug of choice. The main difference is that buying a pack of cigarettes doesn’t make me a criminal. Another big difference is that nicotine doesn’t render someone completely incapable of doing work.

You might be asking, “Why bother, you have proven that you can live without it so why would you start something you’ll probably get addicted to?” Because I’m at a point right now where I want to continue to smoke but I don’t want to start smoking regularly. Fucked up, I know. I see vaping as a way of using nicotine in a less risky way. I actually don’t have a problem with using nicotine regularly, if/when that happens. So I’ll be starting my research and will report back here with my findings.

The Hunger

It has been three days since I last smoked. Last night, was the first time I didn’t feel hungry. During that time and also the three consecutive days I smoked prior, I noticed something that I’m sure I previously noticed, but never really clicked until now.  What I noticed was a hunger. This hunger was so similar to physical hunger, but I would eat and still feel hungry.  I first noticed this on the second day.  I periodically would feel nauseous, but it was worse as the day went on. Food seemed to partially satisfy, but never fully. I knew through the portions I was eating that I shouldn’t be hungry.

Dinner came and I was ravenous. I ate a delicious meal, shared a bottle of wine with friends and I felt pretty amazing.  But the hunger returned. It was suggested that we have a smoke after dinner. That sounded like a great idea. I lit up, inhaled. Satisfaction.  By the time I finished the cigarette, I felt full. Physical hunger for nicotine satisfied.  It happened again the next day. By lunch, I felt nauseous again. I ate. Felt mostly satisfied.  My co-worker I was carpooling with suggested we smoke after lunch.  I had a couple of pipe tobacco cigarettes left. We pulled over and indulged ourselves. Nausea gone.  Satisfied again.  To think that something that once caused me to be nauseous, would now relieve nausea.

What was most interesting, is that in the past my cravings have been mostly psychological. This was the first time I felt a physical craving without an associated psychological craving. I find it amazing how quickly my body adapted to having nicotine in it. At some point in my life that would have terrified me. I can only imagine that physical discomfort/ psychological discomfort increases the longer you smoke for.  The experience reminded me that in order to remain an occasional smoker, one must only smoke occasionally. I also got a small sense of what quitting smoking must be like. All that remains is the psychological cravings I always have.  Those do not cause nearly as much discomfort as they did in the past. One thing that I did in the past that increased the discomfort of psychological cravings was obsess over them and judge myself for having these cravings. The obsession just caused the desire to be worse. I started using mindfulness to deal with cravings before actually knowing what mindfulness is. If you are trying to quit smoking I highly recommend this technique. You can read about it here.

As I write this, I feel hungry again. But alas, this time, only for food. Until next time.

Addiction as Self-Medication

One might reasonably posit that you have a well-established addiction to the Drama of worrying about addiction.
– Vesperae

This quote, a reply to my last post, actually got me thinking of something I have suspected about myself for a long time. I’m not sure I’ll do a good job explaining it, but she is pretty well spot on as far as her assessment goes. Despite my long standing fear of drugs (of any sort) and becoming addicted to them, I somehow usually end up “addicted” to less socially taboo things. I self medicate with food often. If my partner would let me, I would probably be a sex addict. I was reading something on Binge eating- and while I do not binge eat, what I have been doing with smoking is very similar. I found something that said that binge eaters obtain pleasure and stimulation from the rush of planning their binges. I’m sure they don’t get sexual pleasure, but pleasure is pleasure. I get a lot of pleasure from just planning the smoking. Almost more pleasure than I actually get from smoking. But really the planning is a build up of tension from which I get an awesome release when I smoke.

I’ve been self-medicating for years whether it be addiction to TV, internet, running. You name it, I’ve probably done it compulsively. Eventually, I get bored with or decide I want to start something new and start the cycle all over again with something else. Or eventually- my addiction does not provide the same rush it used to, so I have to switch to something else. I guess it is akin to when a drug addict builds tolerance to a drug and has to increase dosage. Well as a psychological addict of things I have to keep things novel or the rush is not there.

The question is: What am I trying to escape? I don’t feel depressed at least I do not think I am. I mean, I feel blah a lot of the time, but nothing like the black holes of my teenage years. One of my more recent theories was of being a potentially undiagnosed case of ADHD… Addictions are something that people with ADHD commonly use to escape their own minds. But it could be something else too… I’ve been living like this for as long as I can remember though. I’m not even sure how I would cope without the constant simulation of something- whether it running, thinking about smoking (since I do that far more than I actually smoke), becoming addicted to certain TV shows or books. I think in a lot of ways, I am trying to escape my own mind because I fear that if I stop doing anything for long enough, I will not like what I see.

I think part of the reason I reacted so strongly to the difference between nicotine-stimulated-me and the absence-of is that I’m not used to feeling that good. I could concentrate (which for me is variable- depending on how much I like the subject) and it doesn’t matter how much I want to concentrate sometimes, I just can’t. Other than that, I just felt good, like I do sometimes, but not all the time.

I have a pretty constant mood though, unlike in my teen years where my moods were so variable. But sometimes I wonder if this is what “normal” feels like sometimes. Maybe it is, but if so, than normal really is not that awesome… it is kind of well- blah. Kind of a heavy post, but sometimes life is like that.

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