Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hello, my name is Amy, and I'm a recovering addict....

I am addicted to many things.

Sparkle Skirts.
Diet Coke.

I am a recovering addict from one thing - smoking.

I can't remember how old I was the first time I picked up a cigarette, but I know that my grandmother (Rusty) was still living in the river house (on the Suwanee), and I would hang out with Tanya and Tasha during the summers I stayed at the river with my grandma. So, I'll say 6th or 7th grade. I remember stealing a pack of Doral Lights from my grandma's carton (she kept them in the freezer so they wouldn't go stale) once. If she noticed it was missing, or if she noticed that I smelled like smoke, she never said anything.

In 7th grade, I remember asking an 8th grader (she was a "bad girl") to buy me a pack of cigarettes and I gave her $10. She never bought my cigarettes and she kept my money.  (Ironically, we stayed friends until I moved in 10th grade).

In high school, I don't think I ever really smoked at all. I would puff if someone had one, but I was a soprano in my Chorus class, doing competitions and stuff, and sang really well (brag, brag).  I knew that smoking would screw up my voice.

However, by the end of my senior year, I was back to smoking, and by my first semester of college I was doing half-a-pack a day.

I smoked in my room one night (at home), and my mom smelled it, and the look on her face when she realized that I was smoking broke my heart. All she said was, "Don't smoke in the house" and left my room.  This should have been enough to make me stop, but by this time I was addicted.

I met my husband and he didn't smoke. Never did smoke. He can officially call himself a non-smoker because of that. And because of that, he never understood what it was like to be addicted. He hid my cigarettes one day. He just wanted to see what would happen. He saw what happened (I got crazy), and he never did that again. He didn't approve of my smoking, but he never did it again.

When I got pregnant, I quit. It's what you are supposed to do. I went cold turkey and stayed smoke free throughout the entire pregnancy, up until maybe 6 months after she was born. I was back at college, stress was killing me and after a particularly hard test, a classmate asked if I wanted a cigarette. That was all it took, and I was back to that half a pack a day life.

Around 2002 or 2003, I quit again (more because other people wanted me to than because *I* wanted to), this time 'weaning' myself off. I had a plan - week 1 would be 10 total cigarettes per day. Week 2 would be 9 per day, and so on and so forth. It was extremely hard to do, and I was miserable, but I know it needed to be done.

I did my research this time, and this is when I learned that quitting nicotine is HARDER than quitting heroin. HEROIN, seriously!  I found out ways to deal with the withdrawal that comes at day you finally quit.  For 3 or 4 days after you quit, you go through withdrawals like when you quit drinking or doing drugs.  One tip was to mix Cream of Tartar into some OJ and drink it. Something in the acid helps flush your system faster.  Sounded weird, but I did it anyway. I was ready to be done with this for good.

And I was, until there was some family drama in my life that need not be mentioned.  But it was enough to send me right back to Walgreen's for a pack of cigarettes. I bought the nastiest, cheapest pack I could find, thinking that I'm gonna down this pack and then I'll be fine.


Shocker, right?

So, for another 2 years, I was a smoker. This, combined with my weight issues, was making me miserable. Now I'm fat, I'm tired, I can't breathe, my teeth are yellowing and I'm just generally as unhealthy as I've ever been.

In 2006, we took a trip to see family in South Carolina, and decided to take a day to go to Chimney Rock, North Carolina, then drive the southern part of the Blue Ridge Parkway and go home that way. CR is beautiful, with lots of places to walk and hike. Lots of stairs. Beautiful waterfalls.

We hiked DOWN a mile-long trail to the base of the waterfall that was used in Last of the Mohicans and by the time we got to the bottom of the waterfall, we'd already stopped a handful of times. Because of me. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't keep up. I was tired. I was miserable, and couldn't enjoy myself because of my misery. I had planned on taking the stairs all the way to the top of Chimney Rock, but there was no way in hell my lungs would be able to handle that, so we had to take the elevator.

That fall and winter, that trip kept making me feel like crap and I decided that it was time to quit. Again. For good.

I asked my doctor to prescribe Zyban/Wellbutrin to help me quit smoking. This is an antidepressant that has a side effect of helping people quit smoking. I took it for a week before I was ready to quit (so that it could build up in my system). I planned out how many cigarettes I needed to have so that I could have my last cigarette on Friday night (I wanted to ride out as much Withdrawal during the weekend).

I lit up as soon as I got off of work on Friday afternoon and when I flicked my cigarette out the window, that was it. It was my last cigarette. I was calm. The weekend was not as horrible as it was last time. Partly because of the drugs, I'm sure, but mostly because this time I was READY to quit. You have to be in a mindset to quit, and this time I was there.

So, today makes it 6 years. I didn't intentionally quit on Groundhog's Day, but it's nice to have a 'holiday' attached to my quit.

Do I miss smoking? Sometimes. I miss having the window open. Yeah, I know I can still do that, but it's different. I miss taking time for ME and going outside. I can still do that too, but it's different. I miss the smell sometimes. When someone walks by and I get a whiff, 99% of the time, I don't like the smell, but every once in a while, that 1%, it smells SO good and I just want a single puff.

But I don't take one. Because I'm a recovering addict.

Just as recovering alcoholics can't have ONE drink, or recovering drug addicts can't have ONE hit, I can't have ONE puff.

I can have a longer life, a healthier life and a family of non-smokers. I like that option much better.

Another great side-effect?  I inspired one of my hubby's best buddies to quit. He quit on Groundhog's Day the year after I did. So today is HIS 5th Anniversary of his quit. Way to go, sweetie!!