by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
A few days into quitting smoking, I had a detailed dream in which I gave in and smoked a much-desired menthol cigarette. I could feel the smoke roll into my lungs as it crept down through the twisted tubes inside me. I felt the smoke as I exhaled slowly through my nose and then my mouth. I awoke in the morning truly thinking I had given in, and it took a moment to gather my senses.
I've been smoke-free for 11 days now. I hesitate to say that I've "quit," because I still don't feel like I've beaten tobacco, but I am trying to own the identity of a non-smoker in my mind. Although I don't feel like I'm out of the woods yet, I've come a long fucking way.
I was the one who asked if we got smoke breaks at the initial smoking cessation meeting at Gay City, the lover of cigarettes, the guy who thought about cigarettes as much as the average man thinks about sex, and I've been free of my leafy mistress for 11 days now.
This week's meeting was pretty laid-back. The staff of Gay City brought in two acupuncturists who offered their services to us for free. I had never done acupuncture before, and it didn't seem all that effective for me, but it was nonetheless very much appreciated.
I was given needles in one ear and small gold balls in the other, which I could press on to activate pressure points. The needles were fine, whether they worked or not I don't really know. But the pressure point balls were nothing but an uncomfortable nuisance. It just seemed like more trouble than it was worth for me, but that's just my experience.
We all shared our stories of living as non-smokers for a week. Some of us gave in and smoked, but for reasons that surprised even me. It seemed that a lot of people tried cigarettes just to see how they would feel again, and weren't impressed, resolving again to not smoke.
Whether it's common for our attrition rate to be as low as it is at this point I don't know, but I'm pleasantly surprised at the success of the group, and although my fear of letting the group down is not a huge deterrent for my smoking, it's still a noticeable factor.
The week in general was full of fluctuation in regards to my desire for tobacco. Some days were very difficult; others were a breeze. I'm finding that my family has really been my greatest asset; I've called my mother every day since I began the actual quitting process. I had an impromptu forty-minute conference call one night last week with my sister Lara, her husband Malcolm, and my two nieces Bess and Mae. Then my girlfriend Katie, whom I live with, has been offering me uncompromising support every day.
These are not only the people who have been helping me cease my tobacco use; these were the people I quit for, because quitting for myself simply wasn't good enough.
Last week's meeting was primarily about rewards and what we could do for ourselves to celebrate our new non-smoking identities, and we broke those rewards down into categories like financial, time, etc. Well, I've rewarded myself in an all-encompassing way. My girlfriend and I adopted a stubby-tailed little kitten. We named him "Osito" this morning, which is Spanish for "little bear."
With Osito, I not only have another reason to quit, but an ever-present representation of what I've gained from quitting.
All things considered, things have gotten a lot easier than they were two to three days into quitting, but it can still be very overwhelming. Staring at the cigarettes, which are almost always kept near the check out-line of virtually any store, is worse than waterboarding.
My concept of what smoking really is has begun changing significantly, and much quicker than I expected. I am beginning to see how gross cigarettes actually are. Smokers I know really are beginning to reek, but these realizations don't make my desire to smoke significantly less. I suppose it's just a small step in the process of becoming a self-actualized non-smoker.
This week was our final meeting, and I feel more or less prepared to journey out into the world as a non-smoker, but I have to say I wish we could keep meeting. We've set up a Facebook page that we can use for as long as we'd like. It will certainly be helpful, but the shining and smiling faces of coordinators Lark, Dan, and Ryan, and everyone in the group will be missed.
Next week we'll have our rewards dinner, where we'll get together as a group to celebrate, and I'll be doing a wrap-up for my column. Until then, the struggle continues.
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