Friday the 13th!

Normally Fridays are a pleasant day for me as I drift peacefully toward the weekend. However, I’m now somewhat nervous about them, particularly today as it’s Friday the 13th and coincidentally my 13th smoke free day. These sort of coincidences are rather ominous. Last Friday I managed to dodge going to the pub and made up a lame excuse as to why I won’t be drinking with my long term friends. They have pretty much ostracized me since and have treated me like a dangerous non-conformist or some kind of weird freak. When asked what the **** else is there to do on a Friday night I told them I watched TV. It’s not as though I am practicing the ‘Dark Arts’ I don’t summon evil spirits or open portals to evil dimensions. But this made me realize that I really need a hobby. Not one that just fills up time but one that I actually enjoy. In the past I can list my hobbies they total two. Drinking and smoking.

Some guy at work plays that fantasy battle game Warhammer claiming it’s a serious military simulation. He regularly spends his Saturday mornings at the local Games Workshop where he can be seen painting tiny metal balrogs with a group of children, he claims Warhammer is not a hobby, it’s serious and the fantasy context does not appeal to him. The game could represent any theatre of war – it just happens to be populated by highly detailed miniature orcs with hand-painted banners. I try to give him a wide berth.

Then there’s Paul AKA ‘Mr Motivator’ at the office (every office has one), always keen to tell you about their weekend exploits doing things like rock climbing, mountain biking or naked Grizzly Bear wrestling. He’s always telling me about his satisfying weekends of fear and physical discomfort. I can’t believe anyone can enjoy getting up at 6am on a Saturday just so they can drive several hundred miles to haul themselves up a cold, wet, vertical surface. Spending hours checking ropes, nervously looking for things to grab onto, feeling the tendons in their fingers stretch to breaking point…sounds great. I made the mistake of asking him what he enjoys most about it all, he replied – “It’s all good. When you reach the top you get an awesome feeling of still being alive. And your climbing companions will share that feeling, if they are also still alive.”

Do people really do this sort of thing every weekend?

La La Land!

I know it’s Thursday but I’m not sure what number of days I have remained smoke free for, hang on, I gave up on New Years Day so this must be my 12th day! Wow, I must say I’m feeling a bit better now but I still have really bad cravings, stress, anxiety, confusion, dizzy spells and I’ve developed a few mouth ulcers or cold sores whatever they are. This could be due to the amount of Tangfastics I keep eating. I could fill a nosebag with them and happily munch away all day. They are an excellent remedy to curb my cravings, the sharp pain I get as they dissolve in my mouth and irritate my mouth ulcers takes my mind off the thought of smoking!

With all the extra time on my hands and my desire to distract myself I find myself doing ‘people’ things like engaging in conversations with people who I normally ignore, like work colleagues who share the same office as me. Instead of going for a smoke break I will get up to stretch my legs and wander over to a complete stranger who has been sitting in the office for some 5 or 6 years and introduce myself.

The current topic of conversation among these strangers who occupy the same office as me is La La Land which I thought I knew everything about being so confused and dizzy all the time, but apparently it’s a film! Someone explained to me that it has won Golden Globe awards, has received 11 Bafta nominations and is tipped for Oscars.

It’s one of those big musical numbers about the life of an actor complete with heartbreaking ballads about the struggle to make it in Tinseltown. As a Cornish database administrator  I’m not sure I can identify with those universal themes! It sounds like the sort of film I will go to any lengths to avoid! It’s bound to win everything and the wife will want to see it and even if I dodge it at the cinema it’ll be on streaming or DVD and even if I avoid those it’ll be shown on a plane! This sounds like The Artist all over again! At least when I was smoking I had an excuse to get up and leave the cinema or my own front room!

 

 

Nine days in and I buckled!

Nine days in and I gave in, not to smoking or drinking but to nicotine gum and some other fancy gadgets! I was having the weekend from hell. I declined to go down the pub as drinking goes hand in hand with smoking. There was nothing else for it, I had to go to the chemist and buy some nicotine replacement gear. I got gum, patches and two types of spray one of which you stick up your nose and wow was it expensive!

Anyway, I’m going to the stop smoking service as they will prescribe me this stuff rather than having to take out a payday loan to cover the costs. I’m pretty sure I spent what I saved last week on chewing gum, patches and spray etc and I’m using that up pretty damn quick. My morning routine now is rather than get out of bed and have a fag on the toilet, I reach for the spray which gives me a pretty instant hit then it’s some nicotine chewing gum for breakfast which I munch on in the shower. I guess that’s one great thing about giving up smoking, you can get your nicotine fix in the shower! Winning!

The weekend was tough but I made it. Having refused to go down the boozer I was left with a clear head on Saturday morning. This is quite a novelty for me and the extra time I had on my hands was unexpected. I even opted to walk to the shops for my nicotine stuff and wow my head was spinning, I thought I was going to pass out. The pharmacist reassured me that this was also a side effect of quitting and not a brain aneurysm and I didn’t need the air ambulance.

I even went shopping for boring stuff, normally the wife does all that online these days. I never realized just how much time could be spent in a supermarket when you have no intention of buying anything much. My wife asked why I took so long and only returned with a loaf of bread, some crisps and a bulk bag of tangfastics. I explained that I spent an hour in the wine aisle looking at the back of bottles in a desperate attempt to look sophisticated. I read a load of complete nonsense about woody undertones that made me feel both strangely inadequate and incredibly irritated. She looked at the family multi-pack of monster munch I had bought and laughed.

Happy sandwiches.

Well for me January is starting to look bleaker than usual as I contend with day 6 of my smoke free existence. I always find January to be a particularly difficult time of year. There’s a post Christmas and New Year celebration depression that sets in which seems to be shared by everyone except the unreasonably cheerful sandwich lady who visits us at work everyday. I’m pretty sure her unexplained chirpy outlook on life is merely a cheap gimmick to get me to buy one of her sandwiches. Maybe after buying one of her sandwiches my problems will suddenly evaporate and I will become irrationally pleasant to everyone. Anyway, I’m beginning to wonder who the hell thought that New Year Resolutions were a good idea at a time when there’s a considerable dip in peoples moods, the weather is crap coupled with a return to the dreary routine of work. It must have been some jobless clown somewhere in the southern hemisphere. Makes sense.

I have also decided that to make my quit smoking challenge a little less challenging I will be giving up drinking for January. Whenever I drink my self-control is non-existent and any sensible behavior and inhibitions go out the window. I become somewhat profane and ignorant with an ‘I don’t give a monkeys attitude’. Subsequently I find myself chain smoking like it’s my last day on earth. Paradoxically this is just going to cause me even greater stress! When asked if I was going down the pub later by a close friend who I always drink with I replied that I’m doing the ‘Dryathlon – Dry January challenge’. He called me something I can’t repeat online and accused me of putting my long-term health concerns ahead of my mates. He has a point.

This is how my life feels right now….a bleak wasteland with little to alleviate my frustrations….maybe I will try one of those ‘happy’ sandwiches, whats the worst that could happen?

 

Day 3….again!

Well it’s day 3 into my quit smoking journey and I have to say I’m feeling pretty crap. I’m no Willy Wonka, I’m not into sugar coating shit! I feel wretched, confused and anxious. People have twigged now that I’m giving up smoking (again). They didn’t notice that I had actually stopped smoking, they just noticed my incredibly bad mood, irritability and short temper.

The vivid dreams have started as well. I had an awful nightmare last night about offices and co-workers and a pile of paperwork to trawl through only to wake up and find it was actually happening! I dreamed that I walked into the office, sat at my desk where there were some old Christmas cards and an empty plate with biscuit crumbs left on it and I sighed heavily as I faced my PC. Five hours later it has become a reality coupled with acute nicotine withdrawal! The question now is, how the hell do I get through today?!?!?

I’m now concerned that things will get far worse before they get better. I’m booked in for another appointment with the quit smoking service. Hopefully they will supply me with some kind of medication, or nicotine replacement therapy or whatever really. I feel I need some kind of heavy sedative or even locking up as I’m mentally unhinged right now. I’ll do anything to take this feeling of irritability and anxiety away apart from drink alcohol because then I will just not give a shit and start smoking again.

For some reason the anxiety is worse this time round. I haven’t started feeling the really bad physical withdrawals yet, it’s the anxiety for now which is getting to me.

Correlation or causation?

So, my desire to stop smoking has had the curious effect of me wanting to write things in this blog. This is my first ever blog and I’m finding it extremely beneficial whenever I feel the need to have a smoke, to come on here and write something however trivial it may be. I haven’t actually quit yet, although I have cut down and I have set my quit date for New Years Day. I’m just wondering if anyone else experienced some noticeable behavior changes when they also either decided to or actually quit (apart from the standard ones such as pacing up and down, shouting at the wife and kids or eating incessantly).

In fact when I think about it, my behaviors and activities throughout the course of my adult life have been largely determined by whether or not I will be able to smoke. I often make excuses not to go to certain places because it’s either difficult or not permitted to smoke. I made up an excuse not to visit our sick mother-in-law when she was in hospital as the hospital is a smoke-free-zone and you have to actually walk some distance off the premises before you can smoke. That’s really shameful when I think about it as my wife needed the support. The more I think about these things the more I want to be free of this addiction.

I may have to consider filling my time up with other things which my smoking had excluded me from such as jogging or going to the gym. Is this really me saying this?!?!? I’ve never jogged in my life and at school I always bunked off P.E. choosing to slope off round the back of the bike sheds to smoke. Remaining in one place for any great length of time has also been a challenge. I excluded myself from trips to the cinema or certain more healthy activities or dinner parties or whatever because I knew I wouldn’t be able to smoke. I have even made up some really bonkers excuses as to why I can’t go on long journeys such as I can’t be in confined spaces like a train (even though I regularly use them on short journeys) or some other rubbish.

If people ever see me out jogging they might become suspicious and the game will be up. I still haven’t told anyone apart from medical professionals that I’m intending to quit. I don’t think the extra pressure will help. Someone will notice soon though. Tearing an innocent bystanders head off in a fit of nicotine withdrawal might be a giveaway.

A pleasant surprise.

Well, after much deliberation and procrastination I finally got my lazy backside off to the quit smoking adviser. I was really very apprehensive about attending the appointment as I didn’t know what to expect. I guess it was the ‘not knowing’ that was putting me off. Meeting a stranger and discussing a personal issue I was having difficulty with was kind of scary.

Far from it being a scary experience it was really very reassuring and worthwhile. The adviser I met was extremely knowledgeable with a non-judgmental bedside manner. He gave me some interesting facts about stopping smoking and probably the most interesting statistic he gave me was that quitting in isolation without any support is really very difficult. This is probably where I had been going wrong for so long. Something like four times as many people quit smoking with some kind of support or nicotine replacement therapy.

I’m never one to completely accept what people tell me, my stubbornness has probably been why I’ve left it so long to seek any help. But I’ve looked into various sources and details concerning quitting smoking and it seems he was genuine. He also suggested the medication Champix which like any drug may have side effects and he left it with me to decide whether or not I should give it a try. I liked the way he wasn’t pushy and was extremely understanding. I got the impression he may have had to give up himself in the past as it seemed like I was talking to a clone of myself at times.

So I’ve got my quit smoking date, I’ve made another appointment to see the quit smoking guy on Friday where I may decide to start the quit smoking medication or nicotine replacement therapy, and I have actually cut down anyway without too many bad side effects. I just feel a bit edgy as New Years Day is fast approaching. Needless to say Christmas involved a steady flow of alcohol and celebrations and ‘socializing’ where I was probably one of the least sociable on account of having to nip out for a fag every other hour or so. Hopefully next Christmas will be different. In fact my whole life will be.