10 Thoughts on Being Six Months Smoke-free

Today, dear readers, marks six months since I embarked on my most successful attempt to quit smoking since I started just about 15 years ago. I’m proud of myself and the people close to me are too but I won’t pretend it has been an easy or pleasant experience. It was very hard and I learned a lot about myself in the process. Here are my feelings on being smoke-free so far:

Every was right, cigarettes smell horrible. I never noticed very much before. I mean I knew I smelled bad right after I smoked but I didn’t think I did all day. When I first quit, when my sense of smell began to return to normal, the smell of cigarettes triggered cravings. Slowly the smell began to revolt me. I get why people do everything they can to keep smokers far away and out of smelling range.

There can be a social life outside of “The Smoking Area”. It might sound weird but my biggest road block to quitting was my fear of being alone. The smoking area of any workplace is where all the fun happens. It’s where people let loose and say all the things they can’t inside in front of the boring nonsmokers. It was hard giving that up but I actually enjoy the quiet time away from the loud mouths now.

I have so much more free time! When I quit I knew I needed to find something to do with all the time I used to fill up with cigarettes. Boredom is a chance for the addiction to wear you down so you have to avoid it at all costs. I started learning Spanish and putting more time into writing. More to be proud of :)

I can buy so many things now! I can now justify almost any purchase to myself and my girlfriend by simply saying “Well, I did quit smoking, so not only do I deserve this but I can probably afford it too.” I try to be careful so I don’t end up substituting a shopping addiction for the smoking but it is nice to have things to show for my money now.

My anxiety over the adverse health effects of smoking is at an all-time high. When I did smoke I didn’t worry about cancer much. My mind always pushed my worries away. My addiction made me think it wasn’t going to happen to me. Since I’ve cut my dependence on nicotine I realize I will probably pay a price for 15 years of smoking eventually and it scares the shit out of me.

Human emotions are not easy to work through. Before, when I got angry, sad, frustrated, lonely, or felt any unpleasant emotion, I could just have a cigarette (or two) and everything would be better. Now I have to actually deal with my feelings and find a way to work through them. I have to say of al the struggles I have gotten through since I quit this is what I am most proud of. I can face my feelings now without nicotine.

Nicotine affects you physically, and quitting can have unexpected results. My body was used to a regular dose of nicotine and other chemicals almost every day for most of my adult life. When I cut that supply my body felt it. I was very tired for the first week or two. I developed a cough and a runny nose. The returning circulation left my hands and feet feeling tingly and numb for days. Most of that has passed by now and I feel much better now than I used to.

Anyone can quit. I am fighting the urge to become one of those ex-smokers who lectures people who have chosen not to quit at this time. I hear smokers saying “I just can’t quit right now.” or “I have tried before and it’s too hard.” I get it. I probably tried at least six or nine times before this one. The only thing that was different this time was I knew all the reasons I thought I couldn’t do it was adjust my addiction lying to me.  Evey step of the way I told myself I could do this and I did. That was it.

I don’t regret quitting at all. I did for a long stretch of the past six months, though, I’m not going to lie. I missed it a lot. I didn’t like all the changes I had to make. I didn’t like feeling grouchy and uncomfortable. I didn’t like not have my friend and security blanket. I didn’t like not having a way to escape things that were making me uncomfortable. Now though, now I know it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I have a long way to go still. I am still tempted every so often. If I become too emotionally distressed or if I am outside enjoying some nice weather, the thought that a cigarette would be really good occurs to me. In those moments, I remember the feeling a good cigarette gave me. Instant relaxation. I am able to push the craving away easily but I think it will be a long while before those thoughts stop coming to me at all.

I did this and you can too.

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If We Were Having Coffee // Hello Spring!

Hello dear readers and thank you again for stopping by for a chat and a cup of fresh, hot coffee. It is the first day of Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere and I hope that wherever you are you can feel it in the air.

Here in colorful Colorado, we are looking at highs in the 50s for today but the week is going to be a bit of a rollercoaster they say. We’ll have temps in the 70s for a couple of days and then possibly some snow. That is how Spring is for us, one minute warm and beautiful, the next wet heavy snows that clog up the commute and melt by the next morning.

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If we were having coffee I would tell you that I am feeling my age and slowly recovering from a night out with friends. The other queer couple I mentioned last week invited us out to see a play one of them was staring in. It was a hilarious story titled An Evening with Mr. Johnson, in which a man argues with his penis (played by another actor) about the life choices that have been made by the appendage and have had detrimental effects on the man’s love life. It was really good!

Afterward, there were drinks and we all got a little carried away. That means this morning I feel tired and I am thanking my lucky stars the headache and the queasy stomach are already feeling better. The coffee is helping!

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If we were having coffee I would tell you that this week was a busy one and this next week will be too. They have been hiring more and more people trying to address the driver shortage which means I have to train more and more. I was able to get overtime out of it and I expect I will again by Friday, which will help make up for the money I won’t be making when I choose to take the entirety of Spring Break off.

I am going to try to set up a to-do list and a schedule for that week so that I do not get distracted. The goal is to go through my notes and set up themes and pull together ideas for my Zine. I have post-its, pocket notebooks, and legal pads of notes to sift through and I imagine 90% of it will be useless but maybe I can, at least, narrow the focus and get an idea of the direction I want to head.

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If we were having coffee I would tell you that am very disappointed to have fallen behind on my reading goals this month. It happened for many reasons, the chief of which is that I have just been very busy. I am working more, trying to keep up with my posts here, and making better efforts to be more sociable online, not to mention learning a bit of a math, coding, and Spanish every day. Reading had to be put on the back burner for awhile but I am hoping to find a good half hour in another part of the day to get it done again.

The second reason I have slowed down is because I do not like the current book I am reading. Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein, has proven to be one of my least favorite books ever and I am only just over halfway through. I honestly don’t understand the appeal at all. It is just pages and pages of a privileged man whining about something that turned out to be entirely his own fault.I am reading the monster’s account now and it is only slightly better

Some people say you should not finish books that you do not like and part of me really wants to heed that advice but the other half says that this is a classic and it must be so for a reason so I have to finish it and gain what knowledge I can from the damned thing.

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If we were having coffee I would tell you that staying a non-smoker this week was very hard. Now that the weather is nicer and I am hanging out with friends again I miss the outdoor conversations that were made easier with alcohol and cigarettes. The two go together so well and I am almost sad to have one and not the other.

Cigarettes meant finding new friends and bonding wherever you were. Cigarettes meant not being left behind when other smokers take their breaks. Cigarettes also meant not feeling bad that your friends either have to apologize for leaving you behind, or suffer the beginnings of withdrawal to stay with you because you cannot trust yourself to be out there without asking for just one drag, and then another, and another, until you’ve smoked one and might as well buy a pack…

Today I am 116 days smoke-free.

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If we were having coffee I would tell you that I hate to rush off but I want to get out of doors and enjoy a little sunshine while I can. I really hope you had a wonderful week and I hope you will tell me all about it in the comments. So go, witness the beginning of spring and enjoy the rest of the weekend while you can, Monday starts very soon.

See you next week :)

If We Were Having Coffee // 100 Days Smoke-Free and Two Years of Blogging

Hello dear readers, thank you for stopping by to chit-chat with me today. This week has been a weird one, strange weather and weird tensions all around. My mood was all over the place and I found myself acting at times very unlike myself. I am choosing to chalk it all up to the very confusing time in the season. The days have been very spring like and I long to get outdoors and away from all my obligations and commitments.

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If we were having coffee I would tell you that this week I will finally hit 100 days smoke-free. I swear it feels like it has been at least 3 times as long as that and every day I struggle to stick with it. I admit it, I miss being a smoker. The intense cravings have pretty much stopped but every so often I want to head back to the smoking area where we all used to hang out and smoke all afternoon, one cigarette after another.

It’s all the good weather we have been having that is bringing all of these urges back again. When it was cold and snowy I didn’t want to go outside at all and it helped keep me from slipping up and smoking. Now the weather is beautiful and not only am I missing the smoking area at work but also the beer and cigarette I used to have on my own deck in the evenings and I am dreading the patios of the bars me and my friends will begin to frequent closer to summer. All of the things have been a big part of my social life for almost my entire adult life.

What do I do now?

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If we were having coffee I would tell you that  I am completely obsessed with the movie The Witch. I wrote a review of it yesterday but the more I think about this film and the more I hear from the writer Robert Eggers the more I like it. It’s not just that it’s a good horror film but it has inspired a curiosity in me regarding the time period, it’s folklore, and how witches and womanhood related to each other. I’ll probably be trying to write something about all of that here soon.

Speaking of movies, I’m going to be attending another one of the Alamo Drafthouses awesome dinner events. This Tuesday I’ll be seeing the amazing Interview with a Vampire and dining on alligator-chicken gumbo, barbecue shrimp, crawfish, and bread pudding with bourbon cream sauce. Yum!

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If we were having coffee I would tell you that this month marked my two-year blogging anniversary. I can’t say that when I got the notification from WordPress that I was super excited and proud of myself. I know that it is a pretty big deal, it shows that I can stick with something, work at it everyday-ish, and get better at it all the time. I have found people who think I’m actually doing a pretty good job here and who think what I have to say is maybe even a little interesting. That’s huge, and still, I wasn’t all that proud of myself.

I think it is because the future of this blog, and my writing in general, is a little murky. I don’t mean that I am going anywhere. I very much enjoy writing here and I love, love, love the WordPress community. It’s just that, I don’t feel very accomplished. I don’t feel like I am doing as well as others I follow and read. I have a bit of blog envy I suppose and it is making me want to find a way to stand out more. Except, I have no idea how to do that.

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If we were having coffee I would tell you that I as much as I hate to cut this visit short, I really have to get going. I have a bunch of cleaning to do and errands to run. I swear, Sundays shouldn’t even count as part of the weekend, all you do is spend the day preparing to go back to work on Monday. What kind of day off is that?

Anyway, I really hope you are doing well. Please, drop a note in the comments and let me know what you’ve been up to.

Thanks again for stopping by :)

Featured image via Aqua Mechanical

A Fragile Freedom From Nicotine

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Tomorrow will mark two weeks exactly that I have been free from cigarettes. I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been the easiest thing. The only reason I was able to quit was because I got so sick and couldn’t smoke. Luckily I had enough will power to not smoke after I felt better but even that was mostly due to fear of setting off another coughing fit.

Now I am feeling much better and I find it easier everyday not to smoke. All my coworkers do and in the past that has been the hardest part about trying to quit. At work I am alone a lot because everyone is outside smoking and laughing and having wonderful conversation. In the past I would sit by myself and feel bitter that I was not only hurting from nicotine withdrawal, but also all alone. Being lonely like that for 8 to 12 hours a day can be so hard. I feel like non-smokers will never understand how hard it is to go from having a close group of smoker friends, to being alone and watching them continue to have fun without you everyday.

Thankfully, this time has been different and a little easier. So far I have been ok with being by myself while everyone goes out to smoke. I think this is actually due to my mood turning much more serious and me moving towards being more introverted. That is all due to the weather turning cold and drab. I hate the winters so much and I find it easier to be by myself while my moods are fragile and quickly turn irritable and angry. So, I’m not much in the mood for socializing the way I am when the weather is sunnier and warm. So being inside and writing or listening to music while the others leave to go freeze and poison themselves is fine by me at the moment.

But the feeling of boredom still crops up here and there. In the past I gave in to the craving because of those feelings of boredom and afterwards I would feel low and guilty for having poisoned my body further because I was bored. I felt pathetic.

In my defense though, being bored is a hard emotion to deal with when you have no idea how to deal with it. Boredom, to me, feels a lot like loneliness, and loneliness can hurt like a physical pain. I read somewhere once that boredom is the desire for desires and nicotine numbs the desire and the pain of not being fulfilled. Nicotine gives you something to do and when you have something to do you feel ok. Now, thanks to this blog, I finally have something to do that makes me feel almost as good as nicotine. I say almost because I still have cravings, even when I’m writing.

The cravings are manageable now though. I just tell myself “I know you want to smoke, but I’m sorry but you just can’t”. Saying that makes it ok to want to smoke, but, like a store clerk who has to refuse a customer a discount or a return, my hands are tied. I tell myself there is nothing I can do about the fact that I can’t smoke because the decision came from higher up. I shrug and say I’m sorry but I don’t make the rules.

So at just about two weeks smoke free I have learned that the best way to quit is to start by catching a nasty cold. Preferably cold that comes with a harsh and sometimes violent cough. That way every time you even try to smoke your body will automatically let you know that you are stupid because you will be in incredible pain.

After that you have to have a good bout of cold weather that makes you feel generally in a grouchy and makes you not want to be around other people. Then you have to find something to do that makes you feel good in place of nicotine. And finally after all of that you have to take to yourself like you are a child and just act as if, sadly, smoking is just not an option.

That is the Lisa plan to get you nicotine free in two weeks!

It’s Monday People, You Know What That Means!

It’s Monday and that means, like so many of you, I am back at work. I have been trying my best not to complain about Mondays anymore. I realized it was a waste to start the week so negatively. I hear so many of my coworkers saying the day sucks simply because it is the first day of the work week. I used to do that too, until I realized that Monday isn’t the shitty day we all think it is. Monday is a fresh start! So this week, don’t complain. This week start fresh and go out and hustle hard!

I have another long week ahead of me but I will do my best to stay positive. Yeah this job isn’t my dream job, and yeah this job can sometimes be both boring and frustrating, but I should make the most of it and learn what I can. I also can’t let anything at this job get to me. All I can do is my best, after that I have to just move on. I also have to stop stressing myself so much over my job too, especially when I’m not seeing any benefit for all my stress.

So, I will not work above my pay grade or for free. This week I expect to get some overtime because I am no longer helping fix people’s problems without getting paid for it. I feel like when I don’t timecard things because it seems like a nice thing to do I am not valuing my own time. And if I can’t work on my side projects because someone needs help then I for damn sure better be getting paid!

I also won’t be fixing problems that aren’t my job to fix. My boss gets paid the big bucks to fix big problems. I don’t get paid what he does so I shouldn’t be working as if I do. I also shouldn’t take on more responsibility than I am paid to. When I do that I am allowing my boss to take it easy while at the same time making a substantial amount more than me. This is not fair to me! So not I will pull back a little and just do MY job and then focus on me.

Outside of work I am going to be generating some ideas for larger art projects to work on. I have been sticking to working in an art journal daily, although it is very basic and plain, at least it’s something. Now I think I’m ready for something bigger, something I could spend a couple of weekends on. As soon as I get started expect some pictures and blog posts on my progress!

And now for my big news, this week I am going to try, yet again, to quit smoking! I have tried many, many, times in the past but nicotine has a strong hold on me. This time around I think I have a quitting buddy though. One of friends who also works with me is quitting too so hopefully we can encourage each other and hold each other accountable. I hope you all will hold me accountable too and I promise to update you on my progress.

So yeah it’s Monday, and the work week has begun. Is going to be rough but we can do it! Just relax and remember to breathe and be awesome :)