Tentative

This past Tuesday I made it through an evening at work without smoking a single cigarette. So, naturally, I immediately went out and celebrated by buying a pack of Camels and lighting one up.

Baby steps, we’re taking here.

It’s been a week of recognizing triggers. The Chantix has done a surprisingly fine job of cutting the physical craving for cigarettes. But those moments when I really want a cigarette haven’t gone away. So I’ve been analyzing them. Like when I’m driving, something I’m doing a lot more of lately. Not many things beat the moment I strap on the seat belt and reach onto my dashboard for the Bic and the Turkish Silvers. Or when I spot over the horizon the little house with the cross painted on the fence that marks the point where, if I light up as I drive by, I can finish a cigarette off just as I’m pulling in to my driveway, fling the butt out the window, and mash the button on my garage door opener, all executed in one fluid and familiar motion. Each moment is so perfectly timed and comfortably routine. There are myriad trigger moments, numbered well up into the double digits, spread like shards of glass upon the roadway of my day. I have a list, so I’m not being hyperbolic.

I spent the week reminding myself that I will live through each and every moment either as a smoker or a nonsmoker. The latter option is gaining ground.

The most disturbing (re)discovery I’ve made about myself this week is a rather avaricious unwillingness to share my successes with those around me who would benefit the most from any positive change in my behavior and rejoice the loudest. It happened Tuesday night. As I walked to my car, having skipped the smokers meeting for the first time in two and a half years and actually leaving with the crowd, I reached for my Blackberry to call my wife and give here the good news. But I hesitated, thought too much about it, and didn’t. I’ve spent many futile years trying to persuade her to lower her expectations of me. She refuses to do so. So, I reasoned, if I dared to share this bit of triumphant news, she might get the mistaken impression that I’d somehow kicked the habit for good this time. Tooting my own horn usually summons the hounds of hell to drag me back to the dregs of depression and failure. I’ve lived my life making others proud of me by acting instead of being. And maintaining a modicum of success over the long haul hasn’t ever really been my style. Doing so, and for the right reasons, only leads to greater success if you’re not careful . . .

But these are baby steps, right? Remember those? Each one a teetering and tentative smile-bringer, a harbinger of hope worthy of much feting and photography. Scrapbooked moments we look back on and remember as the genesis of something greater.

So I’m gonna let it all hang out for a moment. Wear my successes on my bloggy little sleeve for a bit and see how they glisten. Since the day I almost died . . .

  • I’ve quit drinking sugared pop. I’m hanging with Mountain Dew’s unsweetened little brother now.
  • I’m taking my medication regularly. Yet another thing that I’m making room for in my daily madness.
  • My average glucose has dropped from a deadly 250+ to a more respectable 120.
  • My doctor actually smiled at me the other day . . .

This has happened before. A different doctor, who eventually told me not to come back until I got serious about my life, told me not to get discouraged because things were going well for a change. He knew me better than I knew myself back then. I guess I’m getting serious now . . .

[photo credit]

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22 thoughts on “Tentative

  1. Impressive Brian!
    I think everything in moderation is the key. I don’t really like sugary stuff much (like soda), and cigarettes don’t do much for me, but man, I had to cut back on the coffee.

  2. Keep up the great work! My wife finally stopped smoking after a (large) number of attempts. The final time, she quit cold turkey, with a full pack of Marlboro Light 100s in the freezer (she said it kept them fresher). That same pack is still in there as a reminder that she stopped smoking not because she was out or anything else, but because she chose to do so. She’s closing in on 3 years sans cigs and I couldn’t be prouder.

    I never smoked, but I’ve been with enough others to empathize and understand just how difficult it is to try to stop. And I also understand just how unfairly society has become since villainizing tobacco is now in vogue. (Heaven forbid that we likewise even look crossways at Budweiser, though! I suspect that booze is many times more of a public safety issue than smoking ever was.)

    Anyway, ya do hafta celebrate the little victories. I was a fairly heavy soda drinker. I swore them off in Feb. ’04 and other than a few desperate sips when I’ve been away from any other option and needed to take a pill, I haven’t slipped since. I drink lots of iced tea and usually a cup or two of (decaf) coffee each day. But I also drink lots & lots of (very cold) water.

  3. I’ve never been a smoker so I don’t have to fight that. I am, however, a diabetic. I got very serious about my meds and eating right and did quite well. However, I have no health insurance so I haven’t been back to the doctor for a prescription and I’m out of meds. I did stop eating meat. I stopped eating eggs. I’m trying hard to eat right and I mostly do. If anything, I screw up when I don’t eat anything at all then I have to eat whatever finds its way into my mouth first. Thankfully, I don’t have junk food in the house.

    Much luck! I know you can do it if you really stick with it.

  4. Really solid writing. I love this paragraph: “It’s been a week of recognizing triggers … so I’m not being hyperbolic.” It reads so well.

    Oh, those habits. They surround us like invisible wraths, directing us like marionettes until we’re blind to our choices. The strings are all around us, but they’re so normal, ubiquitous, we ignore them.

    Luckily we come equipped with a big pair of scissors and we can do what you’re doing. Be free Pinnochio!

    M

  5. I’m so happy for you, Brian. But how well I know about shouting things from the rooftops only to have the hounds of hell come rushing in to put me in my place again! I hope it doesn’t happen to you.

    Please do keep the sugar down, though. Diabetes is a killer, even more certainly than cigarettes.

    Peace – D

  6. Congrats, friend.

    And I love this:

    “I’ve lived my life making others proud of me by acting instead of being. And maintaining a modicum of success over the long haul hasn’t ever really been my style. Doing so, and for the right reasons, only leads to greater success if you’re not careful . . .”

  7. Good job! I don’t know what it must be like to have to quit something. I smoked and drank casually in college but I just could not get addicted. The closest I came was when I was mixing SoCo with OJ and soon enough, there was little to no OJ in the glass anymore. These days, I could give or take. Though there are brief moments when I smell the remnants of someone’s clove, just recently extinguished, and I am reminiscent. But not enough to begin again.

    Baby steps; you’re doing great!

  8. Man, that is a long hard road to take, quitting smoking – do whatever you have to do to get to the end of it, even if that means hugging your victories close to you for the time being.

    I think it’s a good call to keep a list of triggers and examine the whys of what make them triggers. Hopefully it will make you more conscious of what you’re feeling and doing at those points. (I’m like this with eating in front of the TV – its completely mindless, therefore a serious No No for me – it’s when I pack on the pounds the most)

    I recently discovered Izze sodas – they’re fruit juice and sparkling water, no added sugar or weird chemicals, and they’re GOOOD! I’m a big fan of seltzer too, instead of soda.

    Stay the course my brother, we need you in this world!

  9. Keep it up! Keep it up! it’s worth it.

    When I quit about 20 years ago- they told me that the more you gained the more likely it was to stay off…so I GAINED…HEHEHE

    be careful of that.

    replace old habits with new routines.

  10. Okay, wordpress ate my last comment, so I’ll give it another shot.

    I have huge respect for you and what you are accomplishing over there. Baby steps are a good way to go. Probably the best way to go, because damn, my doctor never smiles at me.

    I can understand wanting to hold those little victories close for a while, especially while you’re still getting your sea legs (so to speak). For me? If I get to overly confident and start sharing all my small successes, it immediately triggers something inside, and the next thing I know Im sabotaging myself eight ways to Sunday.

    So you do whatever you need to do to kick your habit once and for all. For what it’s worth, Im impressed as hell.

  11. Brian, I totally understand not sharing your success in this area with your wife. I’ve done the same thing with my husband. I feel like I let him down every time I attempt to quit and don’t make it. Easier to just not tell him sometimes.

    Keep it up, you’re doing great! And I’m really glad to hear about your blood sugar level and that you’re taking your medication.

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