• Carol A. Gerner

Smoking… It’s not a disease. It’s a crutch

With the latest tobacco tax, the brand of cigarettes I prefer went up to twenty cents shy of a ten spot. Enraged by this gouging, I chose to go back to Roll Your Own cigarettes, or RYO’s for short. Now before I go any further, I must add my consumption rate averages around one to two packs per day, and I’ve been smoking for twenty years. From the very first smoke I rolled, I started not feeling well. I would get waves of nausea, lasting upwards of an hour or more. I would also fend off random bouts of dizziness, and a general feeling of blah.

I smoke for the enjoyment, flavor, and it’s calming, soothing effect. Now I have only nausea, dizziness, extra tightness in my chest, and a general dread of smoking. I even went so far as theorizing, my beloved is poisoning me. Thoughts raced through my mind, bordering on insanity, and conspiracies. I knew she wanted me to quit, but would she actually go so far as to slip me Chantix or something in my sleep? Was I becoming diabetic? Do I have cancer? I’m going to die. I don’t want to die. Yes, these were the thoughts bouncing around inside my head. And this is the reason I not only decided to take the initiative to change my life, but to also write it out as a diary so all of you can understand what addiction feels like. It’s not a disease. It’s a crutch.

Day 0: With these bouts of feeling like crap going from near the time I wake up to going to sleep, I spend most of the day in a constant state of having to have one but afraid to because I’m tired of feeling like crap. Early afternoon, I make as though I am going to get some food and pick up a box of patches.

At 19:30, I break down and light one up while leaning against my truck. I spend several minutes fighting back the mouth watering, rigid back ralph feeling, and then flick my fag after just two drags.

Fast forward to midnight, September 22nd. I light my last one, and remind myself why I am about to do this. After only a few puffs, I snuff out my snipe, and slap a patch on my arm, then off to bed. The dreams I have are more nightmares than anything, and extremely trippy.

Day 1: I wake up soaked in sweat, feeling hungover, and gulping for air. A little too cliché I know, however this is the case. With the patch on my arm, I spend the day in a constant cold sweat. My heart pounding in my chest, sounding like a drum in my head. I deal with the constant desire for fresh air, and feeling like I’m going to explode if I sit still, even though I can’t breathe. I think several times about 911ing myself, just to get some oxygen. No, I’m not being dramatic. I’m being honest. I end up laying my head down and closing my eyes, listening to my heart pound. I check my heart rate. Resting was 93bpm. By the end of the day, I can barely stand. I’m exhausted coming home from work. The patch fell off sometime late evening. I’m not sure when, but after I get home, I find myself pacing back and forth, staring at my last pack on the bar. Not even realizing what I’m doing, I have a lighter in one hand, and a smoke in the other, still pacing. I slap my arm repeatedly where I think the patch is, until the skin stings. This is when I look down and notice no patch. So I open another and put it on. Oh. My. God. I’m a crackhead!

The head rush is intense. It’s minutes later when I look down at Chewie barking his mad ass off, and my eyes fight to look straight. I’m drunk off that patch and have to sit down. I put the cig back in the pack, empty my pockets and crawl into bed, as light as a feather.

Day 2: I slap a fresh patch on, and start my day, feeling better on almost every level. As best as I can describe it, it feels like I just got up after having the flu for several weeks. That burning sensation with each breath in my chest is a constant. Kind of feels like I have two lungs full of razor blades. My throat is sore but serviceable, and my glands are swollen. But! The jitters are almost completely gone. The driving force behind my every movement for years has become almost manageable. Yes, it is still there but I actually want to sit still and look around. And… I don’t feel like crap, for the first time in over a month. No nausea. No dizziness. No lack of O2. No manic jitters. The cough is still here, with a slight pressure in my chest, and an occasional moment of breathlessness, but nothing like before. It just feels like I’m getting over a cold.

Fast forward to bed time, I swap out patches for a fresh one. The burning sensation is something I’ve begin to look forward to. I slap the patch a few times and it’ s a step shy of an orgasm. Just before bed, my heart rate is 80 bpm. I’m figuring it’s going to take at least three weeks for my heart to slow down.

Day 3: I’m finding it difficult to explain but it now feels weird breathing through my nose. The air feels super cold, like I’m breathing frigid air. I feel the air through my entire sinuses, like this is something new to me. Around noon today I stop over my uncles house to work on his van. While I’m under it, Chewie, our lovable mutt gets loose and bolts. I react and sprint after him. I caught the dog… running… let me rephrase this. I chased down a hyper full sized dog… on foot… and didn’t die. Chewie had no idea what to do at this point, sits down, and just stares at me. I’m barely winded. Hmmmm, perhaps there is something to this whole not smoking and breathing thing.  About Midday, I just about have a panic attack. No way to calm down, I begin planning out nicotine alternatives, such as snuff. While I wait for Jessie in the car at the grocery store, I give up and walk inside. By the time, I make it to the door, I change my mind and head over to the pharmacy. A last ditch effort is to find a stronger patch. Double up, or give up. I can’t keep up. The heart pounding stress has become too much. The pharmacist at Giant Eagle on Rt. 8 is The Man. I love this dude. He got me a heavier patch, and I feel like I’m drunk. My heart immediately chills out, and every muscle in my body feels as though I’ve been turned into a boneless pile of goo. Cigarettes what? Right at bedtime my heartrate is at 84bpm

Day 4: I have a few things to mention concerning near asthmatic symptoms. Twice I notice while running around the house, doing chores, I find myself with a severe tightness in my chest. My heart pumps harder and harder until the cacophony of drums resounds inside my head. I slap my arm where the patch is, for one to scratch the skin because these patches itch terrible, and two to restick it to my arm.  Note: Who was the crackhead that thought a non-breathable plastic patch would stick to human skin while working.

I have to be now proactive in maintaining these patches stay in solid constant contact with my skin. I found myself twice today, once with a friend where I’m reaching for theirs, and second at a gas station where I’m staring at the cigarette rows behind the counter. Only after the lady asks which ones I want do I snap out of it, and pay for my drink then leave. This happens every time the patch loses its magic and starts to fall off.

Fourteen patches is two weeks worth, my ass! I go through two or three a day. And I have to stop waiting until the drums start pounding to put a new one on. When the patch kicks in, I don’t care if someone’s blowing smoke in my face or not. In fact, when the patch is doing its thing, I prefer it. I just want to sniff it a little.

I’ve noticed a few weird cravings that have started. Anything salty and sweet, and I’m on it like a fat kid on cake. Lightening bolts in each and every joint in my body have me tossing and turning until well past 4am. I quick down several mouthfuls of vodka, and go lay back down. Odd, it doesn’t burn my chest, going down.

Day 5: Last night was super rough. Fell asleep after 4am. Everything under the moon annoyed me. I had lightening bolts in every joint in my body so I couldn’t lay still. Only way to get rid of them is to move. I’ve been up for near an hour and haven’t wanted to attack anyone. My body feels a lot calmer now. I noticed just a bit ago, my patch came off during the night, and immediately I feel a slight tension in my chest. The occasional cough still exists. I come in to work, and start joking around with our mechanic, and swapping stories. I bust out laughing so hard, a red flag goes off in my head. (I should be gasping for air right now. I need to settle down) I decide to push the envelope and push on. I want to see when I will start hacking and doubling over. Nothing happens beyond a slight tightness in my chest. My nerves go on instant edge. I ignore them and continue the conversation. Now typing this out, I feel the tightness again, and shortness of breath. Mental… much?

My sense of smell is getting stronger. I can smell the smoke coming from the people behind the bar, across from work. At a rough distance of one hundred yards. Yes, it’s upwind of me. Oddly enough, my belly has begun to growl. I finished a full lunch a few hours ago, and just the smell of it is making me hungry. I jus’ wanna sniffz it a li’l. Mental note: Buy tobacco in the future and burn as an aphrodisiac incense. I feel like Homer Simpson staring at a box of doughnuts.

Fast forward to the end of the night. With a few good big boy sized stiff drinks warming my belly, I started to get that tightness, so I checked my patch and noticed it amongst the missing. Slap a fresh one on and pour me another. The biggest question I find myself constantly asking myself is… what do I do with myself and my time now? Coming into day 6 now and I feel I’m getting close. Maybe 4 days or so away from going down to the middle patches. The tightness of my chest, and manic heart pounding comes in greater and greater intervals. Lightening bolts again. I’m up pacing until 5am.

Day 6: I wake up with no patch, so I don’t know when it came off. I decide then and there to try an experiment. To see how far I can go without one. I make it to mid-day before the tightness in my chest becomes nearly unbearable at such an extent, I gasp for air. But! That’s lightyears longer than I expected. The panic is gone now. I put on a smaller patch in an effort to begin weening myself down. It takes about ten minutes for my chest to relax, and nerves to settle.

Essentially, it’s been a week without a smoke now, and yeah the weird is still hitting me, but at a much lower level. I’ve always had trippy dreams, and yes, these are magnified a bit but have become enjoyable. My hope is to settle my blood pressure, and heart down, while dropping fat. I’ve been a big boy since I was seven years old, and had my accident. Perhaps thirty three years of being a wild eyed tobacco using, alcohol drinking hot head is enough? I dunno. I have a head full of questions and not many answers. Maybe it’s time I relearn how to walk again, but this time without a crutch?

– Tim

#cigarettes #diary #stop #smoking #disease #patch #crutch

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