Week #2: Not Smoking (and why our postal service is important)

I have hit the official 2 week mark of not smoking!  YAY!!! I am still on the patch, which has given my body the opportunity to heal from inhaling smoke, as well as given me the opportunity to create new routines that don’t center around cigarette breaks.  The patch is a very useful tool to have in your “quit smoking” tool box because although you are getting nicotine, you have space and time to re-create your life in a smoke-free environment.  While cold turkey is very effective (purging your system of nicotine in 3 days), I feel like 3 days isn’t long enough to create meaningful new routines and to form new habits.  Three days, even with the patch, still had me in a place where I couldn’t figure out exactly what I should do next.  Change takes time.

I’ve been doing my fast walk/running thing every day, each day going farther into town than the day before.  I’m changing up where I go each day to keep it interesting (and because that is a smart thing to do in general), and I’m really loving it.  I am wearing my knee brace, which has helped tremendously, as typically, I can’t do anything like “jogging” without one.  My right knee is shot.  It just puts me in a better mood all day, gets out nervous energy, and I get to see different things besides my own yard, which is great, but we all get tired of seeing the same thing every day.  I’ve noticed that running makes my appetite better, which in turn, gives me more energy to be able to do more.  It’s an actual “upward spiral” instead of a “downward” one.

One huge reason that I started doing this is to stretch and exercise my lungs.  I gave myself an almost full 2 weeks before I started so that I would be healed enough to be successful, even at a very modest pace.  This is very important because 2 decades of smoking does not go away overnight.  My cells will be replacing themselves for months ahead, and some parts of my lungs (mainly alveoli), may never fully recover, but I can still make it “better than it was”.  I’ve also started back my “50 pushups” thing I used to do, and BOY AM I OUT OF SHAPE!!! I did it Saturday, and I’ve been paying for it in soreness for 2 days.  To think that I used to do 50 pushups and 100 sit ups every single day (which was a decade ago), I am seriously so sore that I couldn’t touch a pushup yesterday or today.  I mean my abs ache, my triceps ache, my entire pec muscles ache all the way across my chest, my back muscles ache… man, if you don’t use it, you damn sure lose it.

I’m hoping to be able to do some sit up/push ups/hip extenders/squats tomorrow.  I know I’m going to have to build up to being able to do those every day as well.  I typically alternate arm and leg days (I did do 100 hip/glute reps yesterday, but didn’t get sore at all, which means that I need to do a higher number of those).  I just really shredded myself on those push ups- you never know how many things you use your abs for, until they are aching, then you realize you use them when you cut vegetables, and drive your car, seriously.  I’ve also lost 3 lbs. in 3 days.  Whenever I start doing some serious cardio, that happens.  It doesn’t go on like that forever, but it definitely jump starts your metabolism.  Since I’ve spent the past 6 months doing literally nothing, I’m sure my body appreciates the jolt.

In other things that give me hope, I was inspired to try out my bead loom today.  I have only used it once, the first day I got it, and then it went into the craft room and I forgot about it while I had my months and months of depression which turned into 2 years.  It was nice to do something creative.  I am still writing snail mail and am looking forward to a couple of letters to write tomorrow- I go all out with it, all sorts of pretty embellishments.  Which reminds me, I got the John Oliver Last Week Tonight stamps.

I’m so in between, I really want to use some of them when I get them, but I also feel like I should keep them as a collectors item, because they’re only available through June 11th.  I should have gotten 2 pages of them.  They’re absolutely hilarious.  Being a snail mail person, I had to have them, and I love the things that John Oliver’s show does.  This one is to specifically support the post office, which is why I bought the last two books of stamps that I did, so I’m all in.  I don’t want our postal service to be privatized.  That would be just one more way to disadvantage people, not to mention, our postal service is part of a broader network- every country has a postal service of some sort.  That’s how anything gets anywhere.  For more about this issue, I got to listen to “How Protecting Voter Safety with Mail-in Ballots Became a Partisan Issue” today.  Please read the transcript to find out why our postal service is in danger of being eradicated.

I got these nicotine patches through the mail.  I got the second set of them through the mail during lock down.  Without the mail, I might not be able to do this life-changing thing that I’m trying to do right now.  Go buy some stamps :).


Week 1: No Smoking

I cannot tell you how many times I have quit smoking.

I’ve done it cold turkey before, once when I was 22, multiple times when I was 28, again when I turned 30.  Those first 3 days were pure hell.  Day 2 is typically the day that I lock myself in the bathroom to scream and cry.  Remember, we’re in quarantine, and my poor husband has to put up with this.  I chose to use the patch this time around because I would like to still be married when this is all over, and the patch has some advantages, namely, allowing you to change your daily habits while allowing your body to heal.  Then you step down your addiction, step by step, all while creating new life patterns.

How has it been?  Pretty great, actually!  I’ve been more productive in the past week then I think I’ve been in the past 6 months.  I have to have a lot to do with my hands whenever I quit.  Quarantine had made me into a 2 pack a day smoker.  That’s 200 minutes a day.  Sure, you can do some other things WHILE you smoke, like answer email, or scroll through news articles or social media, but there is plenty that you can’t get done with a cigarette in your mouth.  Personally, I know that the only way I am going to be successful is to stay away from smoking triggers and see the entire step down nicotine program all of the way through.  This might be my best chance.

After just a week of not smoking, I have noticed some changes.  I don’t cough as much.  I still cough and will probably have one for months while my throat and lungs heal, but it is definitely less.  I am eating better.  Cigarettes make it so that you don’t feel hungry.  They also make me feel kind of queasy sometimes.  I’ve noticed already that I am less winded doing tasks that require endurance (long walks, steps, digging in the garden); I’m looking forward to this improving more.  It’s also nice to not have my hands smell like smoke all of the time.  I used to wash my hands after every smoke break because I couldn’t even stand the second-hand smoke smell.  Now I just have to wash them all the time because of the plague, constant cooking, digging in the dirt, and other more pleasant reasons.

I have spent this week kicking ass.  My husband got me a wet stone, and I spent the first day of my non-smoking existence sharpening every knife in the house.  It’s a GREAT way to keep your hands busy, and learn a new skill if you’ve never sharpened a knife.  Then I called my mom and sharpened all of her knives as well.  I’ve been learning knife skills and French cooking techniques and terms through online lessons.  I’ve cooked more new and interesting things in the past week than I have attempted in the past year.  Together, my husband and I, have tackled all kinds of languishing organizational projects throughout the house, as well as this crazy part of the back yard that I thought we would never do.  I’ve planted out all of the seedlings that are ready and kept everything watered.  I’ve been keeping on top of things.

The most important thing for me right now is to stay busy and establish a routine.  I also keep a “To Do” list.  When I think of a project or an errand, it goes on that list.  Each day, unfinished business carries on to the next list and new things are added.  I have also committed to actually eating 3 meals a day.  I have literally never eaten 3 meals a day in my adult life, but as the past 2 years wore on into a quarantine situation, I found myself eating about 1 meal- every other day.  It was bad.  I need energy to be able to stay busy, and I simply had NO ENERGY.  My life had pretty much de-evolved into sitting on the porch with a cigarette in one hand, a cocktail in the other, and the phone in my lap. ALL DAY.  Sadness was overtaking me, and something had to be done.  I had to kick myself in my own ass.

I’m glad I’m doing this.  The past week has been more vivid, enjoyable, and generally pleasant than I could have ever believed.  I remind myself every day that nothing has to be rushed through (it’s not like I have any reason to rush right now, I’m unemployed, just like most of my friends and family are).  I can enjoy each thing for what it is.  I’ve spent so much of my life rushing from one thing to another, every second optimized, just for the “pleasure” of being able to sit down with a beer and a cigarette, and I definitely blame the “cult of busy-ness” for that.  My mind has been trained to rush EVERYTHING.  If it can’t be rushed, then it is to be ignored until there “is time”.  Well, now is the time.  I’m glad to be rid of the rush, and I’m glad to be on the path of not being a slave to stimulants that were created to help me “rush”.  Let’s see what I can do with week 2!