Saturday, May 19, 2007

Freedom!

My apologies to all for such a sudden and prolonged absence recently. I treasure your comments and have come to think of many of my regular readers as friends. Thus, it troubled me quite often to have left ConservaChick unattended all this time. You'll be glad to know that it was done for a very good reason. On March 15, 2007, I changed my life for the better. I am posting this today as a non-smoker. Heck, I'm posting today not just as a non-smoker but one who is actually 11 pounds lighter on the scales!

Why the prolonged absence from writing on ConservaChick? A cigarette smoker has certain "triggers" that set off a nasty chain of cravings and a pressing "need" for nicotine -- writing this blog was a BIG one! By the time I would turn the computer off in the evening, I had most likely smoked 15-20 cigarettes. This room was like a multi-sensory ad on the evils of smoking: the ashtray was full, with random ashes scattered on the desk, a haze of smoke hung midair in the room, and the odor of cigarettes clung to everything within floating distance. It got to be horrendous. Even as a dedicated smoker, I found it disturbing.

For those of you who have never been addicted to smoking/nicotine, let me tell you that giving it up completely and forever is one of the hardest things a long-time smoker will ever do in his/her life. (I smoked devotedly for about 23 years.) The addiction to cigarettes is so multi-faceted that a smoker trying to break the addiction will fight not only a physiological addiction that is on par with heroin addiction but a physical and emotional addiction as well. The cigarette, once a good buddy in times of stress, boredom, fatigue, and celebration becomes a little devil on your shoulder.

I began the Cooper Clayton program and the Chantix medication during a smoking cessation program at work. In the very beginning, I had determination on my side and pushed those cravings away when they were triggered by sitting in front of the computer at home; however, as the days went by, it became much harder. In the end, I realized it would be better to avoid it altogether for a while. That's what I did and it turned out to be a good strategy.

What makes this even more interesting is that a Weight Watchers program was started at work. Knowing that I would gain a minimum of 10 pounds while quitting -- most often, it was 20 pounds -- I signed on for that program in addition to the smoking cessation program. I was afraid that it would be overwhelming to do both at the same time and boy was I right! It was overwhelming for quite a while but it has turned out to be the best strategy in the long run. I've achieved two goals at the same time: (1) I lost most of the old weight from past smoking cessation attempts without putting on any new weight, and (2) I have become a non-smoker! I couldn't be happier!!

I had tried to quit several times over the course of my time as a smoker. What generally drove me back to smoking was the weight gain and the depression. It always seemed so much easier to go back to smoking than to manage the effects of being without my cigarettes. This time was different... I was ready to commit fully to becoming a non-smoker, the wonderful world of pharmaceuticals had come out with a wonderful new drug to assist in the effort, and I was consciously managing my weight downward for a change!

Pfizer, the manufacturer of Chantix, provides an online suppport program called "Get Quit." In daily emails, they provide insight into becoming a non-smoker for life along with a link to check in on their website to track your progress. Today's insight dovetails beautifully today with my return to blogging.

"There are memories in life that we cherish. Being a smoker sure isn’t one of them. When you look back now, it must be starting to seem strange that you ever did it...

Take a few moments to think of how your life has changed for the better since you quit. Then congratulate yourself. And every day, enjoy the freedom of being a nonsmoker."


Let me tell you, folks, I am enjoying the freedom! It feels good to never worry about having cigarettes handy at every moment. It feels great not to cough in the morning or wake up with stuffy sinuses. It is liberating to be able to spend ALL of my time with family and friends without excusing myself to go outside to, as I used to say, "feed the beast." Life is full of wonderful moments that I don't miss now because I'm never outside by myself smoking.

For those of you who may be smokers thinking about trying to quit (again), be advised that health insurance carriers are not covering Chantix. I paid $122 a month for the prescription at Wal-Mart's pharmacy. That seemed like a lot of money until I realized what I spent on cigarettes a month. It's a good trade-off. Honestly, at this point, I'm glad my health insurance didn't cover the cost. Every time I entertain that "just one smoke won't hurt me" devil of a thought, I remember that I've spent months and $366 trying to free myself from this addiction -- it's a powerful motivator to STAY quit this time!

I can't help but throw in one more tip for those of you who may be on the borderline of comitting to quitting: I highly recommend joining a group-supported weight loss program at the same time you join a smoking cessation program. It seemed like a lot to take on at once when I initially started all this but it has really made a huge difference for me. Look, the weight gain with smoking cessation is not a moral weakness or a figment of your imagination. A smoker's metabolism is revved up enough to burn an additional 200 calories a day. When you quit, those 200 calories have to be avoided or burned simply to maintain your current weight. Then, of course, you know you'll try to compensate for the loss of the physical motion of smoking by raising food to your mouth more often, right? So, if you're one of those smokers who can't commit to quitting because the weight gain depresses you, do both types of programs at the same time. Yes, it's hard but it's more likely to keep you on track to staying quit.

It has been a full and trying absence from ConservaChick and I'm sure I will continue to be tested; however, I feel strong enough as a non-smoker now to quickly fight the cravings and ignore the triggers that initially threatened to stop my progress toward freedom from this addiction. I'm free and ready to blog again! So, thank you all for your patience and your presence here at ConservaChick.

2 comments:

Kadnine said...

Congrats! Chantix may just be that symptom-free miracle drug that Welbutrin and Nicorette promised to be. More and more of my smoking friends are riding the Chantix express to the non-smoking section.

And welcome back.

Dawn said...

Thanks, Kadnine! Chantix has been a HUGE help this time but, don't let anyone fool you... it's certainly not symptom-free. This stuff tears your stomach and colon to shreds! Within minutes of taking it, even with food, I felt a burning sensation and nausea just about every time I took one of the 1mg pills (twice a day). It's not an easy experience but it's worth the trouble.

The best thing about the drug is that is does help you whisk away cravings more quickly and keeps the real grumpiness of withdrawl at bay rather well. It's still no miracle drug -- I knew two other people who started the Chantix program at the same time I did and both of them eventually quit taking the drug and went back to smoking as usual. It seems that some folks don't get the full benefit of it and/or they never fully commit to life as a non-smoker.

At any rate, you'll be glad to know that I haven't turned into one of those obnoxious non-smokers. You and yours can puff away and I promise not to say a word! ;-)

Speaking of which -- 7/7/07 in Buckner: JELLO WARS! I'll send you a separate email later about that. Get those weapon designs on the table now, my friend. This promises to be the battle of the century! ;-)