12 March 2011

1 year later, and still smoke free

I got a letter from the NYC Dept of Health, letting me know that one year ago, I had called 311. That means that it's been one year since I quit smoking.

I remember that night well. Puppy and I were chatting, and I noticed that I was down to three packs of cigarettes. That would mean that I'd have another nine day's worth of smokes left in my stash. I went to the box that the cigarettes came in (I generally sent away for them, because I could buy cartons, rather than one pack at a time). It wasn't until that moment that I noticed that there was a note in the bottom of the box. "Due to Obama's [something or other law], we can't ship cigarettes anymore. Sorry guys!" (Or something like that.)

My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach, as I realised that a habit that used to cost me $4.50 a pack (including shipping) was about to jump to $12+ per pack. And a pack lasts me 3 days. $12 for 3 days is more than I spend on groceries. In a blind panic, I looked at Puppy, and said, "I have to quit. There's absolutely no choice anymore." I called 311 that night to ask about getting nic patches for free (they provided the first two weeks for free, then you're supposed to use the money you'd save from not smoking to buy your next round).

It went horribly. I was shaking all the time, dehydrated, and had the most awful, violent, upsetting nightmares. Anyone who knows me knows that I won't even watch films that are violent, because they upset me. Having things more graphic and brutal than that invade my brain was horrible. What was worse is that every time I'd pass by a smoker, the cravings would get stronger, and more severe. I took that mess for about a week, and stopped. It was getting too physically painful to function. Fortunately, a friend had a batch of Chantix that he was done with, and let me have. Why couldn't I go get my own? While NYC does provide Chantix, and ever major insurance and health care plan covers it, I had none at all. That'd mean I'd need to spend hundreds of dollars out of pocket for a doctor's visit, then hundreds of dollars on the pill. I don't know how that's supposed to be a choice.

So here I am. The reason I'm quitting smoking is because I can't afford it anymore. The best option (Chantix) is restricted to those folks who have the access to a doctor, and a health care plan. The worst option (nicotine patches, which do not work) are available freely. The garbage wasn't working, so I went for the Chantix.

What really helped, however, was this book called The Easy Way to Quit Smoking. I'd been off of cigarettes for a couple of weeks by that point, so I couldn't follow his advice of continuing to smoke while reading the book, and seeing that I could break the addiction. Whatever, that's fine. I was at least on the Chantix which deadened the effect of what little cigarette smoke I was inhaling from being outside, etc. WIth the combination of the two, I managed to get from going through even worse withdrawal symptoms (of quitting the patch, no less) into having my body be back at a reasonable equilibrium.

This is also when I realised that were I ever to rely on hormonal birth control I'd be pregnant many times over. I'd keep forgetting to take the pill. I tried alarms, I tried notes to myself, I tried carrying the pill in my bag. No dice. I was supposed to take it twice a day, then taper off to once a day, then taper off to none eventually. I started taking it once a day, because that's about what I could remember, and reading my book. I read the book in bites, rather than all at once, because my schedule still existed, and I still had a life.

Funny thing is that I never got to the end of the book, but I did manage to break the spell that cigarettes had over me. I don't care for the smell so much, but it doesn't grate on me like it did when I was on the gods-awful patch.

Has anyone out there actually used a patch successfully?

As I sit here in bed, hacking up a lung (bad flu or something), I'm kind of at peace to know that it's a horrible virus inside me that's causing it, and not my own actions. I don't know why, but that gives me some level of comfort for some reason.

Here's to one year, and hopefully many more, of being free of my addiction.