A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day 4 On Chantix

I started taking the Chantix (the smoking cessation aid) on Monday. As I said before you’re allowed to smoke for one week before quitting. I have four more days to smoke. My quit date is Monday September 3rd. Today I increase the dosage of the drug so that I get twice as much of it in my system. On Monday I double it again. So far, I don’t notice any major change. Chantix has an online individual support program that you are supposed to check into at least once a day. The first assignment was to keep a 24 hour smoking log. For each cigarette you put down the time, place, who you’re with and how you’re feeling. I’ve been keeping track since the first day and I’m finding 1) that I smoke most when I’m alone in my living room and 2) that I am often anxious just before and even during the time I smoke. It doesn’t really relax me, it just feeds me another dose of nicotine. I’m chained to an addictive pattern and I don’t like it.

I’ve found three places for online support that have been helping me to prepare to quit. The first place I went to was a message board (quit-smoking-support.woofmang.com/). I introduced myself and got a bunch of encouraging responses. There are people out there who have been smoke free for years but they still offer support to others online. I find that inspiring. I went to their links page and found another interesting site: www.quitsmokingjournals.com. Here each person has their own individual journal. I started mine the other day and have already gotten many responses once again. I’m also trying to do a lot of reading at these sites and posting my own encouraging words. There’s a sense of balance in this, a sense of give and take support which I find comforting. The last place I went to I found out from someone on the first message board. It’s a program sponsored by the American Lung Association and it’s called Freedom From Smoking Online (www.ffsonline.org/). Here they take you through many lessons and strongly encourage you to use their message boards. Ideally you start the program three weeks before your quit date so that you have enough time to prepare to quit. I’m doing it in one week because I only found out about it after I started taking the Chantix.

And I wondered, did I rush into this too quickly? I’ve felt nervous about quitting these past couple of weeks but I find that I really do want to give this a try. I’m almost excited about quitting on Monday. If I don’t succeed, I’ll just pick myself up and try again. But at least I’ve begun the process of committing to the idea of stopping smoking for good. It’s taken me a while to get here but now I’m starting to feel ready.

I smoked my first cigarette when I was twelve. I had a crush on a boy in my class and he smoked and so with a friend I tried it. I don’t remember the first time but I do remember how nervous and almost ashamed I was to go into a store to buy a pack. I mainly smoked with my friend in my room. My mother rarely came up to my room on the third floor. Instead she would yell “KATY!!!” to get my attention for dinner or a phone call. And my door was made of thick wood so as long as I kept my door shut the smell of cigarette smoke wouldn’t float down the stairwell. Occasionally my mother would ask “Have you been smoking?” but I would always deny it and she never pursued it. So, I got away with it. I can’t remember how often I smoked but I do remember trying not to and going through withdrawal and fishing through garbage to find a butt to smoke which was thoroughly gross. But I did do it. And I remember the rush I would feel when I smoked a cigarette after not having smoked for a while. Nicotine at work in my bloodstream. Most of my friends didn’t smoke. I mostly smoked alone or with the one friend who I first tried it with. My first boyfriend’s mother was obese and she was an alcoholic and she smoked, so he didn’t like any of that and I stopped smoking. It wasn’t because he asked me to, I just adapted myself to him. I could sympathize with why he didn’t like alcohol (or drugs) and smoking. He began spending more and more time with me and my family during high school and in college and less and less time with his mother. And so for about five years I was mostly smoke free.

As I got closer to my boyfriend, I became more distant from my two best friends (one of whom smoked cigarettes and the other of whom off and on smoked pot). All through college I was basically straight. My boyfriend and I would go out to eat and get a bit drunk on wine sometimes but we were never excessive about it and we didn’t go to parties or socialize. We did our work for school and we spent time together.

Then, just after the end of college in 1985, we decided to split up. I don’t remember it being traumatic. We stayed friends till I left N.Y.C. in 1989. But gradually I started smoking again. By the time I moved away from the City I was probably smoking maybe 10 cigarettes a day. It was a relief to be able to smoke freely (before that I had always hidden my smoking from my family).
I was 27 years old (a voice hearer for maybe two years) and about to begin a traumatic relationship with a cigarette smoking, pot smoking, alcoholic, abusive young man. As I adapted to my first boyfriend by being a straight A/B student, I adapted to this boyfriend by smoking more, drinking more, smoking pot, taking acid. I even snorted some cocaine with him once or twice. I changed. I got really, really lost and as the years past, I became more and more submissive. I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day and became a pot head but I stayed away from alcohol and Brendan kept me (and himself) away from acid and cocaine. My only addiction then as now was cigarettes and I was grateful for that as I watched the horrible effect of alcohol addiction on Brendan.

I tried to quit smoking while I was with Brendan but repeatedly failed and I tried to quit smoking after I left Brendan. That lasted for five months and then I stupidly picked up a cigarette again and fell right back into a pack a day addiction. The last time I tried to quit was in the beginning of my psychosis. The voices ordered me to quit smoking during the most traumatic time in my life and, of course, I couldn’t do it. If anything the torment I went through trying to stop reinforced the addiction afterwards. That was eight years ago. Then the voices said I would have to stop by the time I turned 48. I am 45 and I know it’s time to stop. I don’t want to scare myself into it which is the tactic for some of the online support sites. I know smoking is very bad for my health (for anyone’s health) and just as I want to recover from schizophrenia, so do I want to recover from the effects of smoking for all these years.

I just got back from seeing my therapist. I told her that I am going to quit smoking on Monday and then went into what I’ve been doing online to reinforce that decision. She seemed impressed with my resolve to do this. I’m still nervous about it but I’m working my way up to doing it. I’ve made a lot of poor choices in my lifetime and smoking cigarettes is one of them. It’s shocking to me that I first started when I was only 12 years old. That’s 33 years ago. I have to be patient with myself as I try to do this and not get discouraged if I can’t do it on the first try.

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