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Closet Fascination

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

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quitting nicotine

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.

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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… 

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. 

Challenge Day 22: Playful Interests

Today’s question: What interests or hobbies feel playful?

I feel like this is a trick question. My answer: all of them? Most of my hobbies could have been considered work at one time, but to be honest even my job feels ‘playful’ at times.

Maybe that just means that I find the joy in everyday living. I guess that is a good thing. To be honest, as long as I’m feeling happy I can usually find the fun in most things.

I recently did a paint party- one of those things where you get together with a bunch of people and paint a picture under the guidance of someone that actually knows how to paint. I had a lot of fun and think I was pretty good for my first time. I think painting is something that I would love to learn how to do. Now that Bob Ross is on Netflix, perhaps it will be the next thing that I teach myself how to do.

What I noticed is all of my hobbies and interests engage my mind. All of them involve me actively doing something or learning something.

As I was walking the dog today, I realized that I had lost track of how long it has been since I’ve quit. Did a quick count and it has been 64 days or 2 months and 3 days. To be honest, I haven’t had a ton of cravings lately (although I am sick right now) and have felt pretty stable mood wise. I can’t say I miss the nicotine rollercoaster, as much as I might have once loved the rush. My mindset feels completely different this time.

We were talking about this in class today. Change is all about your mindset. Perhaps even this question is actually about mindset. All of my hobbies could be considered work, but I see them as play, so they are. Instead of seeing quitting as a part of me dying or the loss of something I love or desire, I see quitting as the path to inner peace. That is what is different this time. That difference has made all the difference. Now to channel a mindshift in how I think about food.

Meditation: Connecting with Your Inner Child

Challenge Day 6: Things that Delight Me

Today’s prompt: Name 10 things that delight you:

1. My dog
2. Eating tasty food
3. Watching stuff grow in my garden.
4. Mastering a difficult skill
5. Solving a difficult problem
6. Reading for pleasure
7. Drinking tea
8. A dram of quality scotch, nice glass of wine or a nice beer
9. The Aha look on somebody’s face when they master a difficult skill or solve a difficult problem.
10. The feeling of fresh sheets
11. The smell after it rains…
12. Watching the Aurora Borealis
13. Taking a nap in a sun ray…

I could go on. I know it said 10 things, but I think I often take time to appreciate these small things. At least I do when I am feeling good like I do now. Something that I could use to remind myself to do more often when I’m not feeling 100%. Tomorrow, it will be 50 days off nicotine. They say it takes about 6-8 weeks for the brain to revert back to ‘non-smoker’ status or at least for one to feel completely normal without using. I feel that is my experience. I’m no longer super moody, weeping at the drop of a hat or volatile. It is a week plus one day until my period and my PMS is actually feeling less severe than usual. It could be that I have made a bunch of lifestyle changes in addition to quitting nicotine as well. I think the increase in exercise has been the best thing for me.

Regardless of the reason, I feel better and that was my whole goal with quitting.

I still get ‘fetish cravings’ but these are still being nicely addressed with vaping. I maybe vape once or twice a week.

All and all, life is good. Until tomorrow…

Meditation for today: The Cocoon

How I’m doing…

Overall, I’m doing fine. While things aren’t always easy, my moods are more stable and more predictable than when I first quit. My cravings are super predictable as well. The weeks following my period when my estrogen levels go up, I’m happier than the period of time before my period when my levels are low, but I’m also more anxious. The anxiety triggers cravings. But because my body is setting up to ovulate as well, my libido is super charged  and I get more ‘fetish cravings’. It is actually a wonder that I get through these periods without relapsing. Vaping has helped immensely though.

Following ovulation, as my progesterone levels rise, the anxiety goes down but I am less happy almost borderline depressed. As long as I can remember, I’ve cycled like this. I’m going to mood track for another month and see what kind of data I can collect. Then I’m going to see my doctor about options since I’m not actively wanting to get pregnant, perhaps a hormonal birth control might even me out. Or an antidepressant during my PMS phase, that was something that was found to be very effective with a women with premenstrual dysphoria. It is all worth looking into at the very least.

Anyhow it has been 41 days now. I’m proud of myself, even though it has gotten easier. Things aren’t really easy all the time, but I want  to stay quit so that desire gets me through the cravings.

Until next time…

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