6 Months

I have now been six months free from nicotine, tobacco, and generally inhaling anything except sweet baby atmospheric mix and whatever hound scent is made of.  This is just a quick update post for those who may be following along (or folks who want to see pics of dogs).

Like the last post, I’m not writing this for slaps on the back or encouragement, it is for other people who might be quitting or thinking about quitting and want to know first-hand accounts of what others experience.


I detailed what happened in the first six weeks already in an earlier post.  Revisit if you want a refresher on my personal hell.  The previous 4.5 months has been decidedly better…mostly.  Plus, I’ve saved around 600$ which is almost a case a delicious scotch!

Bottom line, I feel great.  I can breath so much better that it has spurred me to exercise.   I gained a few pounds while quitting, which is to be expected, but I found it very easy to lose that weight since suddenly I could walk up hills without breathing hard.  Also, now that I don’t smoke, I seem to give a fuck about my body again.  That’s kind of nice.


While I still like the smell of cigarette smoke, especially my old brand, I don’t feel the tug to smoke when I smell it.  When the aroma hits my nose I think “cigarettes, I remember those.”
I don’t get physical cravings to smoke and I no longer feel a hungry beast needing to be fed inside me. One thing that is interesting is that the little devil and his little voice still live in my head and come out at predictable, and sometimes unpredictable, times.
When we went on vacation in August it entailed a ten hour drive.  The drive was fine without smokes–which kind of surprised me, but once we got to the vacation house the little devil was like “Hooray.  We have arrived.  Time for a smoke!”  and I found myself patting my pocket absently, then I caught myself and started smiling.  This voice has no teeth anymore.  No power at all.

Also, I find myself really enjoying some of the little aspects of not being a smoker.  This little dude hangs out in my office a few times a week.  He wasn’t even born when I quit smoking.  He’s fond of grabbing onto my fingers.  I still sometimes reflexively worry that my hands smell like smoke, then I realize they don’t.   That simple thing brings a pretty stupid amount of pride.  Smokers will understand what I’m talking about.

064 - Copy

I’ve talked to many others who have quit after smoking more than a decade and the pattern seems to hold true. That voice never really goes away, but instead slinks into a corner.  One of the unpredictable times it came out was when I had a terrific sales day in the woodshop.  The sales were piling up and Mindy and I were celebrating.  The little voice peeped out and was like “Hooray. Let’s smoke.”  My response is always to laugh and ignore…sometime I tell it to eat a bag of dicks, depending on my mood.  I never feel an actual craving to smoke.  It’s just like an odd subconscious tug.  Sort of like when you try to put your seatbelt on after it’s already on and you think “why would I do that?”.


Seriously, your analogies suck lately.

The ‘mostly’ part I mentioned earlier came in the form of a terrible cold that tore me down and laid my soul open for people to poke at with sticks.  Seriously, that’s what it felt like.  Bender took full advantage and had his soul pokin’ stick handy.  It was no good.  I wondered a little about the severity.  It was around five months, maybe a little less, after quitting.  Then, a few weeks ago I had to see a doctor for something else and I mentioned it to him.  He just chuckled and said that it is VERY common to get hit with something really shitty a few months after quitting.  He didn’t have any hard and fast answers and admitted that it was just observational data, but the first cold and flu season for someone who has quit that year typically leaves a few bruises.  You have been warned. The sort of awesome thing is that, as a non-smoker, your recuperation time from the sickness is way better than it would be otherwise.  Your lungs are actually regaining the ability to expel things rather than just wallow in their own tarry filth.


Like all things, that illness came and went and I got better.  Like a true saiyan I believe I got stronger because of it and I expect my hair to burst into yellow flames any day now.  Any damn day now. But I digress.


The other point I want to clarify is that after six months I am not angry with people who choose to smoke.  I don’t understand why some people get that way.  An ex-smoker understands perfectly why those people are smoking.   I have friends that smoke, they are not jackasses about it but I have told them they don’t need to alter their behavior on my account.  If others want to smoke, knock yourselves out.  I understand the attraction, trust me.  If you’re one of those folks who quits and now rails against anyone who smokes and also fights to make the entire world ‘smoke free’…lighten up….maybe have a smoke…you’re clearly not over them.



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The Loveliest Smile Indeed

This time of year I get asked about the leaves changing color pretty frequently.  Sometimes by adults, sometimes by kids, even sometimes by hippies.  Pretty much always after asking me, and before giving me time to answer, they hit me with their own answer.  Sometimes it’s correct (hooray!) but usually it’s only partially correct.  In the case of the hippies, no, that’s not Gaia’s inner skin or the tree’s aura peeking out—we’ll just clear that up right now.

**All the pics in this post are fairly huge.  Click to see some of the colors close up. Steal pics if you want, but credit where due, please**

Sassafras: good for root beer and illustrating what a micro climate is.

Sassafras: good for root beer and illustrating what a micro climate is.

So, we’ve all heard that the colors we see in the fall are always there, hiding under the chlorophyll, and as the green chlorophyll breaks down the other colors show through. This is the partial truth I was talking about, but the devil is in the details.


The yellows and oranges come from a class of pigments called carotenoids, (root word of carrot, get it?  Words are fun!) and they are underneath the chlorophyll.  However, they begin breaking down at the same time as the greens, they’re just more stable so they do it slower in a “good color” year.

I don't like sugar maples, but damn it they can put on a show sometimes.

I don’t like sugar maples, but damn it they can put on a show sometimes.

Fun Facts: Some of the yellow in leaves comes from a type of Carotenoid called ‘Lutein’.  You might be going “where have I heard that word before…?”–it’s from eggs!  The same pigment that makes egg yolks yellow colored is present in leaves (not just trees, leafy edible greens too!).
Also, some of the orange color is beta-carotene, which is what makes carrots orange.  The underlying chemistry of our world is highly interconnected, check it out sometime.

Not too shabby

So, we’ve covered what causes the oranges and yellows, but why, in some years, do the leaves not fully turn yellow and instead just fall off?
Typically, this is due to climate and overall stress on the tree.
Leaves attach to a tree with their petiole.  At the base of that petiole there are two layers of cells right where it attaches to the twig.  That area is called the abscission zone. The top layer is composed of weak walled cells and the bottom layer is made of special cells that can expand.  In response to the waning sunlight, that bottom layer expands, breaking the weak top layer and popping off the leaf.  In wet years, this layer expands slowly and the tree holds the leaf longer, allowing the chlorophyll to break down slowly and show lots of yellows and oranges.  In dry seasons the pigments all break down quickly, leaving a brown leaf that is clipped off by a fast forming abscission zone.  I like to imagine this like walking from your car into your office…on a nice day you will walk slowly and enjoy yourself, on a crappy day you just want to get from your car to the building!

That analogy was as weak as the top layer of an abscission zone.

That analogy was as weak as the top layer of an abscission zone.

The reds and purples are different and have some biological mysteries going on. Whereas the other colors really are there hiding under the leaf, the reds and purples are created inside the leaf and are highly dependent on the immediate climate. The group of pigments that are responsible for these colors are called anthocyanins.

This Viburnum rufidulum is crushing it!

This Viburnum rufidulum is crushing it!

We all know that the leaf is like a solar cell for the tree, right?  They gather sunlight and use it to power the various processes needed to allow the tree to not only live, but also grow.  Well, as the days begin getting shorter, the leaves start making anthocyanins.  I won’t get into exactly why they start making more of these as this is a debated topic among professionals and nobody wants to see botanists fight — Latin gets thrown around, the puns are terrible, it’s a whole scene, man.
Anyway, if the day is bright and sunny those little solar panels are cranking out the sugars in the form of anthocyanins.  As the temperature decreases, the activity inside the cell slows, so if you have a warm sunny day that gets chilly as soon as the sun sets, all those anthocyanins concentrate in the leaf and you get a stunning display of deep reds.

Rhus copallina strutting its stuff.

Rhus copallina strutting its stuff.

Hooray for learning!

Now that that’s all cleared up, I want to cover one other little thing that tends to grind my gears.
Every year I hear one of two things:
1: This is a terrible year for fall color
2: I have never seen the trees so beautiful.

I like number two, but number one just doesn’t happen around Missouri. Ever. Pretty much every year is pretty in the fall, we have no terrible years.  Take this year for example.  It’s rained at my house only one time in the past six weeks. Seriously, I keep notes. We usually have a dry fall, but this is a little more dry than normal.  So, because of the reasons stated above, the elms, sugar maples, sycamores, and hickories are less than stunning. Bummer.  But the dogwoods are having a phenomenal year!  The Virginia Creeper is really putting on a show too. Even the Paw-Paw groves are a bright limey yellow (probably because they like wetter spots).  And the main push of canopy trees turning red, like the red maples, red oaks, and ash hasn’t even started yet.



The point is, most of us live in a place where many different trees exist and all those trees lose leaves and change color at different times and different intensities. Take a touch of optimism from those weird hippies who think fall color comes from where rainbows touch down.  Don’t let some brown hickories spoil the beauty of a magenta dogwood.

Go home baby oak leaves, you're drunk.

Go home baby oak leaves, you’re drunk.


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The 5 Samoans

Hi Everybody!

Everyone is starting fitness trends so I decided to make one up too!

I’ve seen dozens of various workout programs recently. Many of them try to sound mysterious by being named after some far off land.  Also, including a prime number is key. Just trust me. Anyway, for those following a trendy workout program please continue to eat your breakfast of fruit and drink your whey protein because that fruit plate, while pretty, isn’t cutting it for protein.  Seriously, just eat lots of beans and fish.  Unless you’re a professional bodybuilder you don’t need whey protein isolates.  They’re the same thing as when a casual lap swimmer shaves his whole body or someone cycling to work puts on a Lance Armstrong body suit.  Dude, chill, just eat right.  But…I digress.

The point is, up until recently (before the introduction of junk food from…uhh…places), the Samoan people were powerhouses of fitness.  Just naturally.  I assume. I truly don’t know.  I’m literally making this all up.  It’s based on the fact that both The Rock and his father are massive dudes.  That’s it.  I have no other evidence, nor do I need it.


The Elder Rock

The Younger Rock










So anyway, I have decided that if you want to look like the The Rock, you need to do these 5 exercises.

I call them The 5 Samoans!!
To be clear, like every other fitness workout in the past decade, this is all taken from basic knowledge of pretty much any workout.  And just like every other, if this is all you do and don’t switch stuff up you will not get any real long term results.  Also, it’s probably going to be hard and suck.  Especially at first. Hooray!!  Extra bonus, doing this stuff could probably hurt you.  Maybe an arm could fall off.  Dogs could lick you to death. Black holes could form in your dining room and destroy the universe.  This shit could really happen. I am not kidding.  You have been warned.  Do three sets of all these exercises because 3 is a prime number and Optimus Prime was pretty strong.   It’s solid logic, shut up.


Samoan The First:
Do push-ups really really slow, and keep your bicep/tricep pinned against your body as you go down and up. This makes your boobs twitch and hurt a little. That’s good.  If you are doing sets of more than 12, you are going too fast.  Shoot for failure at ten because that’s a nice number.  Much more than that and you are going to be working on stamina instead of becoming a big Samoan and rescuing franchise movies like GI JOE.


Samoan The Second:
Plank!  This shit is terrible and detailed in an earlier blog post .  Go back to your push up pose, but rest on your forearms.  Keep your body straight. Hold.
Just hold there for like a minute.
Eventually, work up to 2 minutes if you haven’t destroyed space-time.

Samoan The Third:
Wall sit!  Same basic thing as the Plank except instead of being timed just do this until you fail. Get into a sitting position with your back against a wall, except you have no chair.  Just hold there. Don’t poop. Don’t slide down.  Just hold there.  Much like the plank, it starts out stupid easy. Then your world melts and you wonder who lit your legs on fire and you want to die.
That means it’s working.

Samoan The Fourth:
Body Squats!!  Just squat down reeeeeeeaaaaaaaallllly slow until your butt almost hits the ground. It’s important to do this slowly.  You are forcing your muscles to work harder by doing it slowly.  I think. I don’t know. It hurts more when you go slow, I know that for sure.

Samoan The Fifth:
This is perhaps the most important one because I don’t see it on other workout regimens. Clearly, this is the Samoan secret!



Wikipedia told me that coconuts were the most eaten food on that island nation, so it instantly becomes the cornerstone of this workout!
Don’t work out with them, just eat them.  I guess you could work out with them before you eat them?  I’ll save that for The 5 Samoans Revised.  It’ll be out soon enough.
Anyway, coconuts are versatile!  You can eat them.  Make them into soap.  Use the shell to imitate horses.  It’s great!

That’s it folks.  Just follow that totally made up workout and something will happen!  It’ll probably change your life…I guess. Honestly, how the hell would I know?  I’m not in that great of shape myself, and even if I was it probably would be because of something more complicated than this….like genetics and a totally different lifestyle than someone that is out of shape.  Alternately, I could have a killer body but cholesterol so high it’s building up on my teeth.
Point is, quit looking for easy answers, unless these easy answers are the ones for you!  If they are, Hooray!!!!  I’m going to pour another scotch.


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The Plank

After kicking smokes to the curb almost six months ago (5 months and 14 days….uhh…roughly), I’ve been trying to get into shape.  Actually, I think it has more to do with getting a bunch of new tattoos and wanting to do them justice by making my body less Andy Dwyer and more Starlord…but that’s a vanity issue that I’ll choose to ignore.

You're doing it wrong.

You’re doing it wrong, but I like your style.

Anyway, I prefer what are called body weight exercises.  I figure I have the mass, I may as well use it.  I had heard of something called The Plank from various Facebook posts as well as fitness sites. After a few weeks, I realized they didn’t mean ‘Planking’, but it was actually some kind of exercise thingy.


Not planking!

Basically, you get into push up position, but rest on your forearms instead of your palms.  Line up your arms straight with your shoulders, and then just hold it.  That’s it.  It’s meant to strengthen your core and be good for your abs.

Now, I like abs.  I used to have some and I wouldn’t mind having them again. I can’t really do sit ups because if I find a couch that my feet fit under, the whole damn thing will lift up every time to try to do a sit up.  It’s awkward.

So, I looked into this plank exercise. Seems like most people were doing a minute or two of planking at a time, seemed a little heavy in the ‘speedwalking’crowd so I opted for the high end because I’m a beefcake!  Sure, I’ll chill there for two minutes.  What the hell?  I downloaded a free stopwatch app and set it for 120 seconds.

Below is my account of the time in 5 second increments (mostly).

0-5: This is supposed to be hard?

5-10: Seriously, is this yoga? I’m not looking for tone here.

10-15: “Hey, Bender, I’m doing yoga like you!” (he does multiple sun salutations every morning with much zeal).

15-20: My elbows hurt.  Should I be doing this on carpet?

20-25: We don’t have any carpet…hmmm…these are stupid anyway.  Maybe I’ll just do weighted crunches or something. I’ll finish the two minutes though, just to laugh at people that say how hard it is.

25-30: Hey…..my abs are starting to tingle.

30-35: My shoulders are starting to ache a little, too.

35-40: There might be something to this. I wish I had set the time for 3 minutes or put some weight on my back or something.  Maximize this yoga thing!

40-45: Man, this is really starting to burn.  “Get away Bender, this shit just got real”.

45-50: Damn, maybe I shouldn’t have done push ups before this. “Seriously, Bender, get out of my face”.

50-55: I bet I have a full six pack after this!  Ooooh…feel the burn!  I wonder if I can set a time limit record?  Tell all those speedwalkers I did ten minutes!

55-60:  Hmm….time seems to be slowing down on that stopwatch

60-65: Shit, this really hurts.  I’m only halfway through?  Wait, how did three drops of sweat just fall off my head in under a second?  That’s not possible.

65-70: Okay, I think the stopwatch app is broken.  It definitely slowed down.

70-75:  Sweet Jesus, my abs hurt!  Can I just rest my head on the ground for a second?  No..no.  I can do this.  Little scrawny people do this. C’mon!


80-85: “Bender, save yourself!  I’m caught in some kind of time dilation!  Seconds are taking minutes to go by!  A mini black hole must have formed in the dining room.  Quit licking my face!”  Wait…he’s moving at normal speed?  Oh no, he’s stuck in the dilation too!! I wonder how long it’s really been?  Hours?  Days?  What if it’s been days?!  I don’t even think I can move.  I can’t feel my shoulders!  I’M GOING TO DIE LIKE THIS!

85-90: Only one thing can save me.  “Fry!!!!”

90-92:  Fry jumps off the couch and walks straight into me. Knocking his chest into my shoulder and causing me to collapse.  While I lie there, writhing in stomach cramping agony, both dogs begin licking my face.  The fire in my shoulders is too great to push them away.

92-95: Mindy’s going to get home and find me dead on the living room floor, licked to death.  I bet my abs look great though!

95-110:  I wait for death to take me.  Fry farts twice.  Time begins to slow again.  I welcome death.

110-120:  Apparently I have thwarted whatever space-time shenanigans were taking place. I breathe a sigh of relief while gently rubbing my aching abs.  That was close.

To sum up:

Do not try The Plank.  It causes mini black holes to form and time to slow.  The Plank will destroy our world.  It is evil.


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It’s Not The Heat…..

It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity.

Seriously, this is going to be a bit of a rant, you’ve been warned.  Bender helps explain it though.  This softens the blow, perhaps?

It’s the end of July in St Louis…..it’s hot.  With the exception of that weird Wyoming snow storm, it’s hot in most places in this country….because it’s the end of July.  This is a surprise to no one.

Remember to drink lots of water

Remember to drink lots of water

At least around here it’s actually been a very mild summer.  only a handful of days above 95 so far.  We didn’t even turn our AC on until July.  That’s nothing!  C’mon people.

Take a break in the shade

Take a break in the shade

Folks run around acting like some heat and humidity kills you the second you step out in it.  I know people that work inside all day but on hot days they still bounce around talking about how they need to stay hydrated because it’s ‘a hot one’.  All the while my shirt and shorts are totally soaked through, I’m chugging water but know it will be another 7 hours before I feel the urge to use the bathroom.  I’m as hydrated as I can get, but my body says “we’re not letting any of this go! My Precious!”.

Jump in a creek if you can find one

Jump in a creek if you can find one

And yes, the heat can be dangerous, no doubt about it.  It’s like a hurricane though….you get ample warning.  It will not come as a surprise.  (The elderly are given a pass in this rant because I understand they can get some signals crossed and not realize how hot they are.  Check on them when it’s hot, that’s real.)  If you’re out working in the sun, or even in the shade, and you get a little hit of dizziness, that’s a sign. You were just warned.  Take a break.  Keep working and maybe your stomach does a tumble…like a weird flip-flop.  That’s another sign. You have been warned twice.  Take a break, dummy.  Then you vomit.  Your body now hates you.  You are being stupid. Get out of the heat and go cool down.  Maybe don’t choose a day with a heat index of 110 to play your beer’lympics competition.  It’s not rocket science, people, it’s common sense.  Bitching about it won’t change a damn thing.

Don't be stupid

Don’t be stupid

Remember, it’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity that gets ya.


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On Colorful Skin

I have never hid my love of tattoos.  I think they’re great and, even if you get a few when you’re young, they represent who you were at that time (drunk and stupid?).



Tattoos are an outstanding way to tell a story on your body.  Each of mine represent something very special to me and I am happy to talk about them if anyone asks. Have you seen people look at a photo and kind of drift off for a bit with a slight upturn in the corner of their mouth? This happens pretty frequently.  Honestly, you sort of forget they are there, then you notice and remember.

I got my first tattoo at 17, then another at 18, then another at 20.  At this point, I think my mother quit caring.  One of my family members (who is tattooed) had previously told me that more than two and you are a ‘circus freak’. So I got three and stopped. Ha! To be honest, I got a little lucky.  When I was young I never got drunk and got a tattoo(a good artist won’t generally tattoo you then anyway and I think it’s illegal, at least in the US).  The point is I didn’t go into them on impulse.

I stopped getting tattoos because real life started and I needed to pinch every penny. For the past decade my wife and I have been talking about how we needed to get more and blah blah blah, but we never actually did.  Finally, just a few months ago, we decided to jump back in.  We had some extra cash and we have a great many tattoos that we have been thinking about for a long time.

Can you believe that isn't real?

Can you believe that isn’t real?

Let’s talk about the cost for a second, as this is frequently cited as a reason not to get them.  Yes, they can be expensive.  In tattoos, bargain shopping is not advised.  Most shops are around 100 bucks per hour of actual tattoo time.  Sure, some are more and some are less, but I’ve checked this with places all over the country and 100 seems to be average.  A very talented artist around me charges 150 an hour and he is worth every penny.  I hope one day to have one of his masterpieces on my skin.  The point is, dropping 100-1,000 dollars is a fair bit of cash. Indexed over the life of the tattoo it comes out to pennies, but the upfront costs are real.  Start squirreling away some money now.  Use little tricks if you have to….Hey look, I didn’t throw a sno-cone at a poodle today….5 bucks in the tattoo jar!

The second most common thing I hear is “I don’t think I like anything enough to have it tattooed on me”.  Seriously?  If you’re dead serious, then I am sad for you.  A small flower that you love?…..The name Elwood across your knuckles?….A simple star?…Okay, so let’s operate on the fact that you’re not the most depressing person on the planet and you can derive joy from something for more than 5 minutes…..I think it’s confidence that’s missing in this scenario.  You do like something enough to get it tattooed on you, but you are afraid others will think its silly. “Man, I would love to have a tri-force tattoo…I have such amazing memories of playing that game for hours as a kid.  That would be dumb though.”  My response would be, naturally, WTF?  Go get a tri-force tattoo. I’ll sit behind you and hum the theme music and make sword slashy noises and that chime from when a secret is found the Entire. Fucking. Time.

This little thing would cost around 150 bucks i would bet.

This little thing would cost around 150 bucks I would bet.

Okay, so now you have rewarded yourself enough times for not slapping your friend for saying vaccinations cause climate change, you picked a design that makes you happy and has meaning to you….now where do you go?  Sorry, this part’s on you.  If you live around St Louis I emphatically recommend The Washington Tattoo Collective, but anywhere else…….Just do some research, talk to others, maybe don’t go to some seedy death metal shop, or maybe do…hell if I know, you’re an adult.  Decide for yourself.

“Will it hurt?”
Well, yes…a little, but not for long.

I will tell you this:  When I look at any of my tattoos, I smile. Sure, my earlier ones are of lower quality than what I am getting now at The Washington Tattoo Collective, but I don’t love them less.  They still look fine. I see them and think of what I was doing then, who I was hanging out with, even the tattoo artist who was the size of Andre the Giant but had such a soft voice.

Anybody want a tattoo?

Anybody want a tattoo?

You are walking around with a blank canvas.  I’m not saying you need full sleeves, but get a little something to remember someone or something by. I’ve noticed recently that it’s becoming common now for sisters or mother/daughters to get matching, or in some way related, tattoos. When you look at that tattoo, you will think of them for the rest of your life.  Most people should probably think of their siblings more often, so this is money well spent.

Put something on your canvas.  I think you’ll be very happy with the results.

Why the hell not?!?

Why the hell not?!?


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On Quitting

I have now gone about 6 weeks without a cigarette (or any nicotine of any kind) willfully entering my bloodstream.  I smoked cigs for about 16 years or so.  Until I finally quit last month, I hadn’t gone an entire day without a cigarette in this century.  (Right about now non-smokers are like “what?” but it’s true.  Smokers smoke.  Even if they have a sore throat or the flu.  Sometimes even in their sleep.)

A few weeks ago I went to buy some chickens from a dude I didn’t know.  He was a constant smoker.  He smelled so strongly of that sweet sweet smell that I waited for the craving to hit.  I waited for that voice in my head to say “he’s nice, he’ll totally bum you one. What’s one? C’mon!”
That little voice is a total fucker and he has gotten me into plenty of trouble over the years, but this time he never came.  I took my new chickens and went home.  My detox symptoms were gone.  All of the ones that I had noticed during the single worst month of my life….it had finally ended.
004 - Copy (6)
Now, I am not writing this for a bunch of glad handing.  I told you all that stuff so you could understand the context of the rest of what I will say. This post is for other people who might be thinking about quitting or who have just quit a day or two ago and are searching for answers the way I was.  Knowing what is coming is important. GI Joe taught me preparation is key, even mentally, and quitting is far more than having a craving every now and again.

First, how I quit:
Everyone is different and I am no exception.  I don’t like chewing gum.  I hate the entire idea of a film of plastic leaching chemicals into my skin.  I really don’t like pills.  So, I decided to wean myself off.  I started by switching to only smoking half cigarettes.  I would pinch the cherry off and save the rest of the smoke for later.  That last part is important because it would be easy to throw the rest away, but then you don’t have to own up to cheating.  If you smoke more than half…whatever you have left is all that remains the next time you smoke.  Your whole pack of smokes smells like total shit.  Plus, it starts saving you money right off the bat which serves as a nice positive reinforcement.  Extra money for coke and hookers!

I continued down this path until I switched to only taking 4 puffs off the cigarette at one time.  For me, taking four puffs and pinching the remaining cherry off means one cigarrette will last me three smoking ‘sessions’, if that makes sense.  This may seem overly complicated or rigid or something but I tend to obsess on method in things just like this so it worked well for me.  And as I said, all along the way you are saving money, which is a nice incentive (remember the blow!).  My wife and I were just joking about how often I have said “I can pay for that with cigarette money!” in the last month. I have spent that money at least four times and I’m quite happy with that.

Eventually I was down to only one cigarette a day, spread out over three ‘sessions’.  It took me about two months to get to that point from my normal 15 a day habit. I figured it would be pretty easy to just stop from that point.

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The night I took my last puff I thought I knew what I was in for.  I had read all the stuff on WebMD and all the other sites about withdrawal symptoms…blah blah blah. While those sites weren’t wrong, they kind of glossed over a few things.

The first day with no nicotine was bad news bears. I was jittery.  I just felt ‘hollow’ or like I was in a long tunnel…I don’t honestly know how to explain that one, and I was dizzy/nauseous all day. But then I went to sleep and expected to sleep poorly (which is what happened) and then I woke up in the morning.
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I had gone an entire day without a smoke!!  I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.  The previous day had sucked, but I could handle that.  As I lay there in bed, still tired from not sleeping all that well, I felt like I could take on the world!  Then I got out of bed and began day two.

Day two is important, but I am going to lump it in with day three because they may as well be the same day.  I hope to remember those two days for the rest of my life.  Even trying to describe them right now is almost impossible.  They were absolute hell.  I wanted nicotine but I wouldn’t feed that particular beast so my body demanded food or booze instead.  Well, I was so dizzy most of the time that I didn’t want to eat anything.  Booze!  Glorious Booze!  Teacher, Mother, Secret lover.  You can save me!

That’s a slippery road, for obvious reasons.  Now, I’m not one to get drunk and stop caring about quitting and then smoke again.  That’s not my style.  I’m more of a get drunk and fall out of a tree kind of dude.  A little booze can seriously help take the edge off the cravings, just realize that you’re playing with fire and you’ll be fine.  Besides, a dance with the devil every now and again has to be a good thing, right?
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The worst part about those two days was the depression.  I’m not, nor have I ever been, a depressed person.  My flavor of psychological disorder is anxiety and it never overlapped into it’s close cousin of depression.  Sure, I thought I got depressed in the winter but as I quickly realized, that was just sadness.  What I felt in those two days was a “why should I give a fuck about anything’, ‘Maybe jump off this deck’ sort of depression.  I am not kidding at all.  It was a very dark place.  I was waiting for it to improve on day three but it didn’t. Fuck.
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On day four, things began looking up, just a little. Because I have problems with anxiety, I am very aware in changes in my body and, as I said, I had looked up what sorts of withdrawal symptoms I could expect.
They claimed I might experience some discomfort in my lungs, like having a cold.  That doesn’t sound so bad.  Yeah….my lungs ached…all the time…for two weeks.  I never coughed a bunch or anything, just aching so much it hurt to walk or lean certain ways into a chair, or lay down to sleep….you know, life.  Life made my lungs hurt.

As long as we’re talking about discomfort…my hands and feet itched like I had chiggers all over them for a little more than a week.  Not like “oh, my skin feels dry”…more like “ANTS, ANTS MUST BE CRAWLING ALL OVER ME!” No worries though, this is normal (and kind of cool).  It’s the circulation improving in your extremities.  Literally, your own blood is making your skin itch as it creeps into places it couldn’t easily get into before.  Like a sponge finally tasting water.  I like it.

One of the other symptoms mentioned was insomnia and ‘slight sleep disturbance’.  Fuck that description.  I was getting around 2-3 hours a night. Why?  Because I had the worst heartburn imaginable anytime I would lay down.  The kind of heartburn that, when coupled with that serious lung ache, makes you pay special attention to your left arm…”do I feel any stabbing pains?”.
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The insomnia and the heartburn lasted the longest, by far, of any of the symptoms.  A solid 4 weeks.  I finally realized just a few days ago that I was back to my normal sleeping patterns, that was nice.

Oh, and several times in the last few weeks, my skin decided to just swell up like a balloon.  Couldn’t fit my wedding ring on, my face was puffy, just weird shit.

Basically, I am describing chaos inside your body.  Without any nicotine, the brain just pulls whatever string it feels like to try to make you smoke again.  So, if you’re trying this or are thinking about trying it, whatever weird shit you experience in that first month is normal.

Did your fingers fall off?  That’s normal.  Just put them in a bag and put them in the fridge.  Worry about it later.  Stay the course.  If your body is still in chaos after a month, you should go see a doctor because something else might be going on.

For instance: Did you quit smoking but start freebasing cocaine?  That’ll produce some weird results, better to wait to start something like that until you’ve established a baseline.
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One final weird thing that some may be able to relate to…for at least two weeks my internal mood would constantly flip from anger, to sadness, to elation.  These moods would change every few minutes.  It felt like my brain was trying to find the mood that would cause me to ingest nicotine, or it was just being a fucker.  I really can’t tell.  That guy’s a dick sometimes. That whole thing was weird as hell though. I suggest loud music or loud television and absolutely no quiet and introverted reflection because ‘Thar Be Dragons, Son’.

Now, I certainly don’t want to talk anybody out of quitting.  It was well worth it.  I am just trying to tell you what to expect because knowing that stuff would help me.  Quit if you want to, I don’t much care.  My time with cigarettes was done, perhaps yours is too.  If not, keep smoking, I’m not here to judge anybody.  And frankly, when done right, it really does look cool (watch Don Draper do it).  I just didn’t want to smoke anymore.

I will tell you that after a few short weeks, even in the grip of withdrawals, I could feel my health improving.  I was lifting some logs that will be firewood for this winter and I stopped to catch my breath only to realize that I hadn’t lost it in the first place! (cue emotional roller coaster starting with happiness and turning into anger for not doing it sooner, then into thoughts of perhaps needing to poop).
Seriously, it was a weird time.

Best of luck.

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