The last two blogs have been about addiction and I figured I would talk about my addiction to Nicotine, the one I defeated a bit over 10 years ago.
My parents were smokers and I can remember going up to the store for them every once in a while to pick up their cigarettes, imagine a 10 year old popping fifty cents on the counter, asking for “Viceroy” and the person behind the counter giving me a pack of cigarettes. I don’t think my beginnings as a smoker had anything to do with my parents, per se, but, hey, if my parents were smoking, it’s probably not that bad, huh? I think it was more a friend wanted to smoke and I tried smoking at the same time. I remember at age 14 or 15, taking my first drag, coughing and choking but that’s where it all began.
Ironically, I quit smoking when I was 17 because I was playing baseball and wanted to be on the top of my game. The next winter, I remember drinking with a few buddies, they were smoking and I asked for one. I remember later that evening buying my own pack, figuring that tomorrow is another day. I remember waking up the next day with half a pack, figuring that I can finish the half pack and not smoke again. I remember the next day buying another pack and… my addiction started.
I’m probably not going to go into much detail of my smoking but I will tell you that I tried to quit hundreds of times. I tried cold turkey and had the worst of times. I remember how slow the day went, I remember lying awake at night, I remember just needing one cigarette to get me through all the withdrawal symptoms and that one cigarette would lead to many others. I remember trying to cut down, in fact I cut down to that one cigarette a day, I had one cigarette a day for a week and then I bought a pack and boom, I went right back to the full amount. Many attempts to quit were thwarted by drinking, others were thwarted because I was irritable. I tried the gum, I tried the patches and would just remove the patch to have a cigarette! If I fell asleep with the patch, I would have weird vivid dreams.
Smoking was horrible, on those days in which I smoke too much, perhaps due to a night of partying, I would inevitably wake up coughing or my lungs hurt. I played a great deal of sports in my day and cigarette smoking just seemed to zap me of my lungs/oxygen.
As strange as it was, struggling to quit, what ended up pushing me in that direction was a health scare. I was walking at a street fair with my family and I suddenly felt dizzy. I sat down, my wife got me the closest thing to eat (a hot dog) and a soda. I still felt out of sorts but made it home. I remember a few days later at work, feeling that dizzy feeling again but this time it felt as though I was outside of my body looking at myself. One night, I had a pain in my chest and getting that feeling again- I asked my wife to bring me to the hospital. I’m not one to take an aspirin, so for me to say “hospital” was a scary thing. Everything checked out. I went to a Cardiologist, had a halter monitor, stress test, nuclear stress test, had an x-ray of my lungs… I was fine.
We walked to get ice cream one night and I felt lightheaded again. Our water heater stopped working.. my chest hurt, I felt light headed. I went across to my neighbors one day, felt light headed, walked around the block, felt anxiety, went to the store, felt light headed… “What is going on???” I figured it out one day. We were at Target and as I was walking around the store, I felt like I had to get out of there! Light Headed, Dizzy… “Uh, I think I’m having a panic attack!”. I felt so.. stupid and I wasn’t going to leave the store until I walked the entire store from back corner, to back corner, to front corner to the other front corner… I challenged the situation and was able to defeat it temporarily. The next time I went to my doctor, I explained to him what I felt was occurring and be put me on an anti-depressant anti-anxiety medication (Lexapro).
But during the process, I quit drinking, I quit caffeine and I quit smoking. I used Nicotine Lozenges but I think ultimately what was the driving force was that I though during these panic attacks that I was having a heart attack. I was scared! But that’s not where my battle with Nicotine ends. If you recall my last blog, I mentioned the Coca-Cola habit. I think I got hooked on the Nicotine Lozenges!!!! I took them way longer than I should have. During that time I heard about Chantix, it is a medicine that blocks the Nicotine receptors in your brain AND it makes you feel really good! Ultimately Chantix broke the Nicotine chain for me. You see above I mentioned quitting drinking. I actually quit drinking for 2 or 3 years during that time frame. There may have been a time in between that I had a glass of wine or an occasional shot of Goldschlager but it was far and few in between.
My biggest battle with addiction was smoking. I’ve had non-smokers ask me why I don’t just quit, like it is something you can put down like… Coca Cola 🙂 Trying to break the addiction from Nicotine is horrible, even with the many cessation products, it really is a battle. It seems like with all other addictions, you really need to be ready to take on the challenge. And it’s not just a one day challenge, it is a week, a month and up to several months you need to keep on your toes. Even years later I had little urges… sort of like a Pretzel from a Pretzel vendor in NYC 🙂 I think with everything, it is just a day at a time… and sometime you have to focus a moment at a time.
I hope this helps someone out there!
(Photo Credit to quitnet.com which I believe was the website that helped me 10+ years ago)