So yeah, I quit smoking…

Needed a little humor here.
Needed a little humor here.

Contrary to a lot of other things in my life the fact that I’ve quit smoking hasn’t made it onto any of my social media accounts. Well, it hadn’t before this moment, but I guess since you’re here and you’re reading this.. well.. TADA!!!! *does jazz hands*

Why? What? How?

Calm your questions and raise your hand to be heard. Better yet, shut yer traps and let me tell story m’kay?

Author’s Note:Paula Wells, if you ever read anything I’ve ever written, know that the phrase “m’kay” is forever done in your accent in my head. I don’t know why, but it’s always stuck with me. Do you still say that phrase a lot? I wonder. I’m going to have to ask you one of these days, m’kay?” To the reader – she had this way of saying that at the end of a sentence that just let you know – this previous sentence only appeared to be a request delivered in a sweet southern tone of voice. It was really a command, and if you don’t treat it as such, I’m going to monkey stomp on your throat. M’kay?

Back to my story – boy am I rambling today. I’m actually proof-reading this 8455 word blog post now and its getting longer the more I edit….

ANYWAY (sheesh), I’ve wanted to quit for years. More specifically I’ve wanted to want to quit. If you’ve never smoked you won’t understand that. If you have, you might. There were lots of reason I needed to quit.

  • It’s bad for my health.
  • My wife doesn’t like kissing an ashtray.
  • People can smell it on you a mile away – not always good for business.
  • I’d like to be healthy when my kids are my age so I can be around to do things with them.
  • It basically contributed to the death of most every male in my direct lineage on both sides.

I’m not one to “try” quitting. I don’t like failing at things, so I simply didn’t quit yet. I had all the right reasons but the problem was that I truly loved it. I loved the taste, the neurochemical effect, the feeling, the social aspect. I love everything about smoking with the possible exceptions of the things listed above. I also didn’t brag about it because truly, I wanted to be sure it “stuck” before I did. I didn’t want to hear the congratulatory comments and then a week later be back to two packs a day.

Funny side story: I did quit once, years ago. I was dating a woman at the time (and she’ll probably read this and laugh, or maybe cringe? I dunno. Either way: Hey hon!) Her name was Ivy Stocks. Ridiculously beautiful little thing. She was almost dating.. well nevermind who, but I worked my computer-geek mojo on her and whabam, voodoo magic. I seriously look back at how that started and think “How the hell did she go for that?” I’ll tell that story some other time… or more likely, never.

We’d been dating about two days when she said “Ugh, I hate that you smoke. I wish you’d do anything but that.” Ok. I threw the pack away and didn’t touch one the entire remainder of our relationship. It wasn’t even hard. I just did it. She hated it. She was crazy hot and had the hots for me. Done.

Why was it that easy? I have no idea. I’ve wondered all my life what made me able to put them down that day and stop smoking for four months without a second thought. I’ve never found the answer. To conclude that story, we agreed to go our separate ways eventually and to be honest, I don’t even remember why, but we have remained friends to this day. She’s an awesome lady. Meanwhile, I went out that very day and bought a pack of Marlboro lights, lit one up and never looked back at quitting with any seriousness since.

One of you is gonna bring it up if I don’t, so I’ll save you the trouble; Why could I quit for and yet I couldn’t quit for the love of my life?

I have no answer to that question. Just read the damned story, m’kay?

I can only say in answer to that question that I’ve never forgotten a piece of advice I received from my sister, Karen. It had to be around 1998 or so when I was in college. She’d been trying to quit at the time and was on her third or fourth attempt I think at the time. She told me one day “I don’t want to quit. I just want to want to quit. Until I TRULY want to quit, it’ll never work.”

I never forgot that. Yes, dearest Sister.. of all the important things you told me growing up, that’s the only tidbit I hung on to apparently. It’s not your fault! lol

Fast forward to November 12, 2015.

Moose (Chris Comeau) and I were sitting in my shop, working on the computers much as I am right now. I picked up on the new smell immediately and looked over at him. He purchased a vape pen from the local tobacco shop. I remembered thinking “Dang, that smells good!” We chatted about it a bit and he let me try it. It really was a good vape. I commented that I could probably quit if I switched over to that. I’d tried electronic cigarettes twice in the past. I’d spend a couple hundred bucks on them only to find they get more horrible the longer you use them and just this last month gave away about two dozen of them to a friend.

The idea stuck in my head that evening. It was after 9 PM already and the vape shop was closed. I know because I tried to drive up there right then and pick up the one he had. It’s nothing fancy, just a 1100 mAh Ecto vape with a T8 tank. I was up first thing the next day, ready to go to the vape shop. I was waiting at their doors at nine am.

You know it’s rude to open at Noon on Saturday when I’m determined to quit smoking! I’m just sayin!

Fine, I drive back home, piddle around for a couple hours until lunch time, then go back out again at noon to the vape shop.

I’ll fast forward through the shopping process. Long story short: I left the vape shop that day with a new electronic cigarette (or Vape if you’re in the cool kids club), a flavor I liked (Blacksmith and Virgo), and immediately lit a cigarette when I got into the truck. Old habits and all…

I sat there, smoking and driving, and said to myself “Well, that’s a stupid idea, dumbass.” So I threw the cigarette out the window, rolled it up, and tried out my new vape.

I haven’t touched a cigarette since November 13th, 2015 at 1:15 in the afternoon… not that I’m counting or anything. (2 months, 13 days, 3.5 hours)


So, what’s life like post smoking? Well, I’ll get to that. Let me address the other elephant in the room first.

Does it count as quitting if you smoke a Vape? Yes. Screw you if you think different! See, I’m in total control of those anger issues that stemmed from quitting smoking! No side effects at all! *twitch twitch, twitch twitch*

I’m not smoking a zero nicotine vape yet, so I am still getting some nicotine intake, but really, let’s be honest; Nicotine itself has almost zero actual bad side effects on the human body. It’s the other crap you’re setting on fire and then sucking into your lungs that does the damage.  Nicotine is a stimulant, just as caffeine is, which is one reason they’re both habit forming and addictive. It also has a few benefits I didn’t know about until I’d adjusted my intake down too much. It helps you focus. I never knew that until I looked it up. That explained the entire week I spent unable to do much more than flit tab to tab in my browser, unable to complete anything and being in a general fog all week long. Of course it knocks off your brain’s production of melatonin, so my sleep schedule is COMPLETELY screwed up. In all honesty though, that could be equally the result of acquiring an Xbox One and Fallout 4 for Christmas as much as it is the effects of not smoking. I find myself not wanting to go to bed until 2 AM but it takes an army to make me want to get the energy up to get out of it. I’ll just lie there in a haze for an hour or more sometimes. That’s a topic for another day…

So, as a guy that’s smoked two packs of Marlboro Lights a day for 22 years, the decision on what nicotine level to choose was a hard one. As what I’d classify as a heavy smoker, I probably was smoking equivalent to a 18mg juice. I decided to start on 12, and have been working myself down using various mixes from that. I’m not at zero nicotine yet, but I’m definitely content with my progress and can consider myself firmly in the camp of “non-smoker” for the first time since I was 15 years old.


If you’re a younger reader, or my mom,  please stop reading here., or at least skip to the next picture after this one. I’m going to use some words you won’t like in the next section.

exit_stage_right

 

 

 

(inserting blank space so they’ll think the page is broken and leave)

 

(seriously, leave now if you want your opinion of me to remain high. This next section is a doozie.)


Ok, they gone? *peeks around corner, checking the blinds*

This might get a little Dennis Leary for a moment here, so I’m apologizing in advance. There are some things you just need to know about quitting smoking that aren’t in the freaking brochure. I know because after I started suffering from them, I read the brochure. I read ALL the brochures. I translated brochures from obscure languages, mmm’k? This shit ain’t in ’em! This is pure, unadulterated, non-polished, bare-assed truth ok? Ok.. read on. Seriously, I don’t want to hear any shit about language in the comments later. I TOLD you to leave, didn’t I?

There’s this thing that you’ve always heard… Quitting smoking (or alcohol, or drugs probably ) is hard… Ok fine.
No! Not fine! It’s NOT hard. It’s FARKING PAINFUL!

Holy testicular-torsion-suffering-camel balls-from-hell it’s painful!

I’ve never wanted to smash throats in so bad. There were moments I wanted to literally rip the throat out of every person that asked me what was wrong or how I was feeling! I’d rather dance naked in a pile of your steaming guts while running my dully glistening blade overly your freshly scalped skull and then beating your broken remains with a live baby seal than look at you… THOSE kinds of moments. And that wasn’t even the anger issues! That was just the canker sores! I had a handle on the anger issues. (Remind me to touch on those later.)

There’s a reason this shit ain’t in the brochures. If it was, NO ONE WOULD QUIT! EVER!

Dear god!

I should title this article “Am I allergic to my vape?” because that would GUARANTEE me ridiculous Google results. So if you’re one of those that looked this up and landed here on that search term, relax.. I got you boo. I’m about to explain what is happening to you right now, you poor unfortunate bastard. I’ve been there. There needs to be a freakin support group!

Vape Allergies? What do you mean?

Ok, so I’m into day six or so of not smoking. Ok. I’ve got my vape pen. I’m good. I’m handling this. Ouch. What’s that little sore spot in my mouth? Whatever.. probably poked myself with a nacho or bit my cheek or something. It’ll go away.

Day 7: What the hell? There’s no way I bit myself in BOTH cheeks. Wait, no that’s way back in my inner jaw area. What did I do? Did I accidentally suck on a welding torch when I wasn’t paying attention? Did I eat a live porpupine? Shit that hurts. Man up.. suck it up buttercup.

Day 8, Day 9, Day 10..

(Is it bad that I listen to so many audiobooks that I’m narrating my own blog in my head with the voice of R.C. Bray? Because this sounds awesome in his voice. I’m just sayin. You don’t know who R.C. Bray is? Where have you been? Mars? HA! Obviously not! That’s freakin’ hilarious if you get the joke…. no, really, ok… fine, read on. Potato….)

So by day ten I had over eight different locations in my mouth that were rife with canker sores. Not cold sores. Those are herpes, HSV, and on the outside of your lips and treatable with a variety of OTC or prescription medications. But don’t think for a moment I didn’t buy and try all those too. (Yes, all those medications say don’t take internally. No, they don’t work. Yes, they all tasted like total shit. Yes, I did it anyway.) I’ve got a receipt from Walgreens and Rite-Aid that would make the government wonder if there was a new way to make meth from cold-sore medications, because I bought EVERYTHING on the shelf that I could possibly try to get rid of this incredibly horrendous non-stop pain!

Anyway, canker sores are INSIDE the mouth, and as a final screw-you, modern medicine has no idea to this day what causes them, just what brings them on in certain situations. There is no cure for a canker sore (Officially, though I happen to know one… if you’re good I’ll tell you later.)

Anyway, I had canker sores as a kid. Lots of us do. You get one or two from time to time. They last a couple days. They go away. You go on. When I was a kid they attributed it to an amino-acid deficiency and treated it with Lysine, which is still done today and might work fine for preventing them, but it does nothing if you already have them. No, it really doesn’t! I swear. Not even if you crush them with a hammer and cut ’em up with a razor blade, turn it into a paste and directly apply it like a cocaine junkie with a q-tip fetish. I mean not that I ever did that. (Did I toss that receipt for razor blades? Hmm.)

These weren’t just canker sores. These were giant open bleeding craters full of pain that erupt inside your face and just hang out for WEEKS! And to add insult to injury, I got one on the tip of my tongue. Dear God! I’d rather stomp a baby to death than ever go through that kind of pain again!

How in all of Dante’s levels of hell could a freakin’ TINY dot on the tip of your tongue hurt THAT bad? How is it even possible! You know what? Forget waterboarding. Forget pulling out fingernails. Find a way to make suspected terrorists contract a canker sore on the tip of their tongue and then just give them food.. ANY food.. watch them try to eat. Or talk! Talking? Ha! You swallow, it hurts. You eat, it hurts. You drink, it hurts. You make any noise while speaking that results in the tip of your tongue hitting the back of your teeth, it makes you want to go back in time and murder your own grandparents just so you can’t be born to go through that pain. Try to sleep only to wake up smacking yourself in the face because your breathing hurt. I seriously considered taking a scalpel blade and cutting it off. I’ve had my tongue cut before.. sure that’s an annoyance. THIS is hell. Surely the little cut would heal faster than this… this thing that shows no signs of ever getting any bigger or smaller but is just content to sit here on the top of my tongue and make my life miserable! I mean, it’s a sharp scalpel. It’ll heal, right?

I’m not kidding. I spent days thinking that. Josh talked me out of it more than a few times when I was on my way to the shop to grab a razor knife and just get it over with. (The canker sore, not my life, just in case that needed clarifying.)

Ok, so it’s been about ten days and while they haven’t gotten any bigger, or grown in number any more, they’ve shown no sign of going away or getting smaller either. I’ve now got one on each side of my jaw muscles, the evil demonspawnfromhell on my tongue, and four or five others on my inner cheeks pressing against my teeth. So yeah, basically anything hurts…

Now, in the interest of being sadomasochistic, I feel obliged to tell you all the remedies that are supposed to work.

Listerine

Listerine DOES work for pain remediation, but does nothing to make them go away. It lasts for about half an hour then you have to repeat it.

listerine
Buy two, because you’re going to be doing this a LOT for the next few days or weeks.

Want the real kick in the nuts? Here it is -you can’t use any of the modern flavors of Listerine. They don’t contain the same stuff. Seriously, go look at the bottles in a store sometime. The new bottled flavors contain all kinds of stuff to make it taste decent and not burn. The old Gold-colored Listerine, that shit that REAL men used when our grandparents were growing up apparently… yeah, it contains three things: Demon Seed of Satan, dirty gasoline, and lightning. True story. Says so right there on the bottle. Fuckin’ lighting!

Because that’s what this stuff does to you when you stand there at the bathroom the first time, thinking “this won’t be that bad” and then hurl this stuff into your mouth full of open wounds. Be sure to swish it for 60 seconds now. Who the fuck came up with that rule? What the hell? Sixty seconds? At fifteen seconds in I was screaming through puffed closed cheeks – as if by puffing them out I could make the Listerine not touch them? I dunno what I was thinking. I just know that crap was torture! At first you simply taste the gasoline flavor and think “God, I’m so glad we have better flavors of mouthwash today, this stuff is…” AAAAAAAAAAHHHHKKKKKK GGGOOOOOODDDDDDD!

Yep… that’s when the lightning hits. Immediately your face is irradiated with a pain that made the previous pain you were feeling seem like a teenagers shameful dream they don’t admit to their parents in hindsight.

Have faith though my brother! If you can hang on through the first thirty seconds, the pain DOES lessen.

No, that’s not because it’s working. That’s because your mouth’s sensitivity to pain has been completely overwhelmed and you simply don’t hurt anymore. Pain is gone. There is only the lightning now. Enjoy your approximate 20 minutes of pain free living. It won’t last.

Now… keep in mind you’re going to have to do this every 30 minutes you’re awake for the next two or three weeks. Seriously. Every. Half. Hour. Every. Day. Save yourself the pain and just go light a freakin’ cigarette already. Dear god don’t do that do yourself!

Thirty seconds of oral-childbirth-like pain will be followed by approximately 25 minutes of numbness during which time you can eat, talk, even smile in relief. At about the 26 minute mark you need to be heading back to the bathroom, preferably somewhere people can’t hear you scream, and begin psyching yourself up to voluntarily do that same shit to yourself again, on purpose! I’d suggest just rinsing with it and staying in the bathroom for weeks. After the first couple times you simply lose the will to go through it anymore. You will inevitably decide to tough it out or try another remedy, anything to not have to do that again. Here’s a hint that’ll save you some trouble. Google search “canker sore treatment -Listerine.” Won’t work! Suckah!!! Anyway, by then you will eventually be in so much pain that you remember fondly the joy of numbness you briefly received after riding the lightning yet again and you will return to the oracle of Listerine for her mind-numbing, skull-fucking, torture session yet again. You poor bastard.

Salt Water

So, before Listerine I tried the more average remedy of simply mixing salt in warm water and swishing it around. Yes, this will moderately take the edge off the pain, at least to the point where yo don’t want to stab out a newborn’s eyes with your fingers and make their skull dance to Gloria Estefan’s “Conga” like a bobble-head doll for your amusement. The down side is, it lasts for only about as long as you want to sit there holding salt water in your mouth. If you’re lucky, you can rinse with it for a minute, spit.. oh shit, that hurt didn’t it? Yeah. Freakin’ Idiot! Do that again huh? Not!

I found that out too. Now you can take a sip of something not-full of ocean water and maybe eat a… nope, nevermind. Back to gargling saltwater like a freaking sea turtle with a punctured lung.

The cure?

Oh hell no, not so fast! If I told you now, you’d simply quit reading. The story isn’t done yet!

Am I Allergic to My Vape?

In short, no, you’re not. During my own quitting-smoking experience, after almost two weeks of this non-stop pain and with Thanksgiving in only three days, I found myself flexing my Google-fu for any chance I’d missed some important information. Maybe I’m allergic to my vape. Maybe I’m allergic to the acrylic tip? Sounds stupid, but maybe. Maybe I’m allergic to…

Stop it.

You’re NOT allergic to your vape.

Your vape, ecigarette, or whatever you’re replacing cigarettes with contains about 4 chemicals on average:

  • Vegetable Glycerin. You’re not allergic to that.
  • Propylene Glycol. You’re not allergic to that either, not unless you’re allergic to all normal tobacco products, coffee flavored drinks, ice cream, whipped cream, or anything dairy that’s pasteurized. You already get way more of it in those things than you do in your vape.
  • Nicotine: You’re not allergic to that either or else you wouldn’t have survived smoking.
  • Flavorings: While it’s not 100% guaranteed that you couldn’t possibly be allergic to a specific flavoring, such as vanilla or something similar, if you were, you’d already know that and would be vaping something else entirely anyway, right?

You’re NOT allergic to your vape.

If you’re like most people, you searched that because you’re in tremendous pain, have been for over a week now and shows no sign of stopping and you’ll do anything under the heavens to make it stop.

So, why all the pain?

It’s really simple. I’ll leave the the science out of it and just put it in human terms. Your mouth, just like that of any animal, is a breeding ground for bacteria both good and bad. You use mouthwash (just not that ungodly evil stuff I mentioned before) to kill some of the bad kinds, but you want the good kinds to remain. Every mammal has bacteria in their mouth, so relax it’s not gross or anything.

Your body has a natural balance it used to maintain before you started smoking. A certain amount of bacteria was present all the time. When you start smoking, the chemicals, tar, burning leaf, and all the other crap we ingested for all those years killed that bacteria off as fast as your body produced it. Your body made more, or allowed more I should say It’s not something your body produces, but is an important part of the ecosystem that makes up our bodies. Anyway, The smoking killed it. Eventually your body was trying to accommodate a certain amount over what it’s normal ecosystem would require, but it didn’t matter. As long as you were a smoker the smoking chemicals and other crap killed it all off. Your body is trying for 150% or maybe even 300% of the bacteria it needed and it did nothing. Fine. You don’t pay it any mind. You’re a smoker.

Now you quit smoking.

After about a week of not having those chemicals, smoke, tar, and other stuff killing all that bacteria off, your mouth’s ecosystem is WAY out of balance. Your body was used to accommodating a huge amount of it because it all died off from the smoking constantly. Now it’s not dying off. It’s thrown your entire mouth into chaos and it’s going to take some time for your ecosystem to find a new balance. Meanwhile your mouth has become incredibly alkaline, so much in fact that it’s breaking out in open sores because it’s not used to it.

The good news is that it will go away.

The bad news is that no one can tell you how long that will take. It may take you two weeks, or it may take two months. Regardless, it will eventually even out and the canker sores will dissipate. Will they return? Possibly, yes. In my experience, they won’t be as bad. I’m literally writing this today with two of them in my mouth as I sit here – which is how I can so eloquently remember with perfect passion how much they hurt. They’re never as bad as the first time though.

Does everyone that quits get canker sores?

No. I didn’t even know that WAS a side effect until I was out of other options to search for and stumbled on it. After I found it though it was a simple google search to see how many hundreds of thousands of ex-smokers were all complaining of the same thing. Don’t take my word for it. Do your own research while you sit awake in your man-diapers, alternately peeing yourself and crying in pain. You aren’t likely to be sleeping anyway. You might as well do something productive. Go. Learn Things, as Agent Pride says.

My Own Supposition

Note, this is my own theory here. Nothing in this paragraph is backed up in any form with any research ok? I think I would have always had them off and on if I hadn’t been a smoker. I remember taking Lysine on the advice of a doctor as a teenager. I remember that eventually they went away completely for 22 years. I know they returned for the first time ever the week after I quit smoking. I know that that two months later they’re back again. I think I’m just one of those people that’s genetically predispositioned to get them and now that I’m no longer a smoker and they’re back, I reason that the smoking was what caused them to go away in the first place.

Can I prove it? No. I just don’t know any smokers that suffer from canker sores.

Someone needs to put THAT on the + column for smoking.

Marlboro: Cures Canker Sores! Sign me up!

(end of my supposition)

So what’ the cure?

Ok, so you’re NOT supposed to do this, right? We all agree that we don’t condone this. Let me be clearer. You agree to indemnify and hold me harmless if what you read here results in you being sick, dying, or growing a third nipple. There you go.

Prednisone was the trick.

Remember, it was three days before Thanksgiving when I was at my wits end. I’ve got almost forty people coming over for the biggest cooking event my wife does all year. My friends are coming. Her friends are coming. Famiy is coming. I can’t possibly go through this weekend in this much pain and there’s no way I’m going to miss out on eating Thanksgiving dinner. Ain’t happenin’, Jack!

I can’t remember what I searched online but I ended up in a discussion forum that was almost a decade old. Reading through it I read that someone had taken prednisone for canker sores and claimed it worked. Some more focused Google-fu led me to look for posts regarding the two and sure enough there’s a few conversations out there from people that have experienced the same result.

Here’s the rub. Prednisone can do some really bad stuff to some people. so it’s not likely to get prescribed for what medical professionals consider small stuff. And canker sores, at least all the ones I’d ever experienced before this round, were always small stuff; a minor inconvenience not to even be thought about after the fact.

I’m also blessed for the most part with an incredible immune system and I heal fast. I’m also allergic to nothing and immune to most every spider, snake, bee, and other stinging thing I’ve ever been in contact with. I’ve also been on prednisone before after a particularly nasty bite from about a dozen brown recluse spiders, so I know a few things from that:

  1. Those freakin’ spiders SUCK.
  2. Yes, your hands and ankles CAN get bigger than your head.
  3. Having your office coordinator come over in the morning before work to help you dress leads to funny conversations later at the office.
  4. I’m not allergic to prednisone.

Prednisone is a corticosteroid. No, not the kind that make you like Ahnuld and will pahmp you ahp! (Did you read that in an Austrian accent? Do it again if not.) To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s the kind that makes your hoo-hoo-dilly shrink either. I really didn’t care for my purposes. Long story short, it supresses the immune system, so don’t go taking it without a doctor’s prescription.

I called my wife and said “In case I fall out dead by the time you get home, I took 20mg of Prednisone this morning. Ok? Tell the hospital if I’m twitching on the floor when you get home.” Then I hung up before I heard much more than “You did wha…” on the other end of the line.

Two solid weeks of misery day in and day out from the time you wake up until the time you.. well, let’s face it. You’re not fuckin’ sleeping with that kind of pain. You’re basically awake for two weeks… I took 20 mg in the morning, 20 in the evening for two days.

On day three, Thanksgiving day, no one had a clue anything had been wrong. I was right as rain. And eating? Oh dear God did I eat! I ate every damned thing in sight and it was SO very very good!

Note: In case you wonder, about a week after your canker sores go away, yes, acne can be a symptom of quitting smoking. However, it’s ALSO a symptom of coming off Prednisone cold like I did. Remember, don’t play around with steroids. I forgot the acne part. I got out of the shower and when the steam cleared from the mirror, looked at myself and said “What the hell? Oooooh yeah. I remember that side-effect now.” I was broke out on my chest and back for about two days following the prednisone, but c’mon, let’s be honest here. I could have had the hide flayed off me and wouldn’t have cared at the moment. The canker sores were gone!

What else happened after I quit smoking?

Ok, so you’ve heard the horror story about the canker sores. Remember though that not everyone gets them. If you ARE one of those lucky ones however….just keep smoking. (Kidding, kind of.)

There were other side effects, some good, some bad.

Tasting Foods

One of the first things I noticed was my taste buds getting back to normal. EVERYTHING tasted more… well, just MORE. About three days after I quit I opened a can of coke and took a sip. Whoa! That’s… that’s… COKE. Dang! That’s sharp, and sparkly, and.. dang, coke I guess!

The “down” side of that was that I always thought I was just getting used to spicy foods. My wife LOVES stupidly-insane hot food. I hate it. I’d been doing so good these last few years, eating her jambalaya without saying a word about the spice. After all, it really was fastastic, just spicy. But I thought I’d adapted to where I could handle it.

I was wrong.

WOW spicy foods are spicier than they’ve ever been. I asked her the other week “Hey, is this from scratch?” While she finished chewing in preparation of answering my question, I thought it was going to be a foregone conclusion that it was. Nope. “Zataran’s baby” she said. Yes, I know. You believe it? MY WIFE cook Zatarans… like out of a box.. like.. whoa… the earth IS flat!

Seriously? I quit smoking and Zataran’s is too hot for me now? The teasing about my lack of affinity for spicy foods is sure to only worsen with time, but I’m ok with that. They’re bad for you anyway. I keep telling my wife that and she keeps saying nothing verbally but her expression is one of “I’m a doctor. Shut up.” So I do.

After the initial shock, foods seems normal. I’m sure I experienced some zen-like moment the first time I tried a few foods after quitting but the new flavor became the new norm, so I don’t notice the difference anymore.

I feel so healthy!

Bullshit. No, I don’t. I feel exactly as healthy as I did before except I can breathe a little bit easier probably, though that really hasn’t been noticeable. I can say with alacrity that my sinuses are better. I never really had a sinus problem that I knew of but I just always seemed to keep a slightly stuffed-up nose. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t even really something I noticed… until it was gone. So I breathe better. I’ll admit to that much.

Weight Gain?

Notice there are no pictures of me in the last six months? Or if there are, they’re very few. I’m not sure if I can relate it to smoking though.

Since I was 16 years old I’ve struggled to maintain weight. Any girlfriend I’ve ever had, and even my wife can tell you, I eat like a horse. More specifically I eat like a horse with the dietary habits of an eight-year-old at the state fair with no parents around and a Amex Gold card. I’ve always been that way. I’ve been eating five to sometimes six meals a day for twenty years to maintain weight. If I don’t, I drop back to about 165. I don’t look good being six-foot-three and 165 pounds, so I’ve always maintained a good 185-195. The thing was though, I always WORKED to maintain that.

When I turned 34 that changed. It freaked me the hell out. I started having fat-girl moments and for awhile there I worked diligently to see what was causing it. I eventually discovered that my body’s natural weight had just changed. Instead of resting comfortably at 165, I now rested comfortably at 195. That’s ok. I always wanted to be about 210 anyway. The weight looks good on someone my size if its in the right places. So, from about 2011 until the middle of 2015, I weighed right at 195-200. Perfect. Couldn’t be happier. (It’s ok. I’ll wait a moment while all the women reading this finish cursing me. Someone is probably calling someone else right now that knows me going, “You believe this shit? Asshole freakin men! I hate ’em!”) Don’t worry ladies, you’ll get your revenge.

So soon after I turned 38 my natural weight seemed to change again. Gone are the days when I eat whatever I want whenever I want. My natural weight now seems to want to weigh in around 217 pounds. If I’d been TRYING to do that I’d be thrilled. In my mental planning, 220 was always my goal. The problem is I put it on without trying.

I won’t say I’m working anywhere near as hard as my wife to maintain a good weight now. She works out like a demon. I mean it. The woman’s workouts leave me exhausted watching her. Kicking, punching, push-ups, cardio. She’s getting freakin tanked! Me, I’m just trying to remember to eat more salad and maybe only have four pieces of pizza instead of six.

I’ve all but crushed my habit of second-dinner, which is a huge change for me. Then again, I’m not starving at 11:30 like I used to be. A year ago, and all the years before, I’d get back up off the couch around midnight and eat a quarter to half a box of cereal in one sitting, then go have a 1 quart bowl of ice cream for desert. Umm, second desert actually. I had first-dessert sometime around 7 already most times.

Times change. The gallon of ice cream we bought for New Years is still half full in the freezer, a full four weeks later. You’d have to know me to understand how incredible that record is. That’s NEVER happened. The cereal supply is intact too. I’ve asked my wife not to buy any more cookies at the store. I’m working on it. I’ve got the weight back to where I want it but I still need to work out and start a cardio routine. Josh and I are supposed to be going biking, but let’s face it… it’s freakin’ cold! I’ll have to figure something out though. Tommy don’t do love handles. Ain’t happening. Nuh-uh.

So, did I gain the smoker’s 40 pounds? Nope.

Why not?

I dunno. I suspect it has to do with the fact that I use a vape. Again, this is only supposition. It’s not backed by any kind of research or medical facts. I just know that most smokers have to have something to fill the void left when the oral fixation is gone. For some people it’s chewing gum, candies, or other treats. Others just simply use food of any sort. When you replace the smoking habit with an eating habit, especially considering the metabolic drop you go through after quitting smoking, you’re obviously burning that candle at both ends. You simply blow the hell up. In fact I’m the only smoker I know that DIDN’T gain weight after quitting. I gained it a few months before, but didn’t gain any more after quitting, and even the previous uptick was only about 15 pounds.

Mentally, I still smoke. I’ve got the vape there when I need to smoke. I can take a hit off it, put it back down and go back to work, watching tv, or whatever I’m doing (Fallout 4).

Do I save money?

Yes and no. I smoked two packs a day up until November. When I quit buying cigarettes my daily cost was $11.23 a day at the gas station across the street. So it’s estimated that I spent around $4,100 a year smoking. I didn’t actually account for the ancillary things I purchased due to being a smoker. I was good for at least one $1.09 coke a day from the Fast Stop gas station and probably one $0.99 honeybun. (yeah the ones most places sell for $0.50). You can call that basically $2 a day  I spent simply being inside a gas station. Now, I haven’t stopped at a gas station except to buy gas except one time to buy a bag of ice for the guys at work one day. I can probably tack on another $730 a year I save there. That makes my total pre-quitting expenses at around 4800 a year, or $400 a month.

The current menagerie
The current menagerie

My first week vaping, I knew nothing. It’s not like me not to be on top of a trend, but it just wasn’t a market I cared anything about so  I hadn’t bothered learning much about it. I’d tried them in the past and they sucked. They tasted like burnt motor oil being sucked through toilet paper, used toilet paper. Ugh. *shudders at the memory*

I picked up an Ecto starter kit for about $54 with a 1100 mAh battery and a T8 tank running a dual bottom 1.8 ohm coil on 4.8 volts. (Sounded like I knew what I was talking about didn’t it?) It was OK but I killed that battery halfway through the day. I went back and got another battery. Then I got another tank. Then I wanted a second tank so I could try a couple different flavors on a virgin coil without wasting the stuff. Before you blink you’ve spent $150 in a week trying to STOP from spending $100 a week. Damn man.

Now I’m on my second day of using this new Nautilus tank (the one shown left in the picture). So far I like it better than the others I had before. It’s a lot better hitting, smoother, better tasting, etc. It’s just overall better. Had I known that in the beginning I’d have been happy to spend the $29 on one decent tank rather than buying $30 worth of other tanks first. You live, you learn, right?

Then there’s flavors? What the hell?

“Do you know what kind of flavor you want?” was one of the first questions I was asked.

I looked her straight in the face and said “Yeah. Marlboro light.”

You believe they don’t make that? A hundred million dollar market making fake cigarettes and they can’t actually make one that ACTUALLY tastes like a cigarette? What the hell man?

You can smoke Trix, Fruit Loops, and Cap’N Crunch, you can’t make Marlboro? Useless idiots.

And who the hell smokes cereal? What the absolute hell is up with that panty-wasited fad? You’ve got to be kidding me. I had someone (love you, bro) say “Dude try this.”

So, I did. Freakin’ Fruit Loops! The fark?

Vape smokers are some coodie-passing sonsabeaches. We’ll let anyone suck on that thing. lol. I’m waiting for someone to spread anthrax via vape one day. We’d all fall for it. Just take it out, wipe it on your shirt tail and pass it on to someone else. lol. It’s a thing. Seriously. They all do it. Me included!

Back to cereal: When the hell did I ever wake up one morning and think “Damn, you know what I’d like to smoke right now? A bowl of #@($*&# cereal?” Never!

“Let’s go burn some Trix” said no man, ever.

So, $200 or more later I’m still on the hunt for the perfect flavor; one I can use day in and day out and be happy with. I love coffee. I’ve yet to find a “coffee” flavor that tastes anything remotely like any coffee at all. At ten to twenty bucks a bottle, it’s an expensive habit, but it’s still cheaper than smoking by a long shot.

I track ALL my expenses, literally all of them, so I made a new category in QuickBooks when I started vaping. I knew what I spend on smokes. I wanted to know what I spend on vaping.

  • To date I’ve spent $453 in 2.5 months.
  • $150 of that was me trying to build/find a pipe that I like.
  • $80 was a Christmas present to a friend in the form of an electronic pipe (which is freakin awesome I must admit. I kind of want one myself, but I’d need something with adjustable voltage and I’m not sure they make those, or that I could afford them if they did!).
  • That means I’ve spend approximately $89.20 a month on vaping, and I know that at least $50 of that was stuff I bought for Josh that he’s reimbursed me for in cash, so it’s closer to $60 a month.

So did I save money? Up front was a little costly, but long term, yeah. I save about $340 a month vaping rather than smoking. That’s almost a decent truck payment. I’m pretty stoked about that overall.

Other changes in life

There have been some other changes in life that are a little more subtle. I booked a hotel room for work last month and for the first time checked “non-smoking” on the search filter. Comfort Inn will be glad to know I’ll stop avoiding them like the plague now. (They’re 100% smoke free hotels).

I get more time on the couch with my wife! Amy doesn’t “like” the vaping per se, but I know she likes it better than smoking. At least I can vape in the house! If there are friends over or someone’s got a sub-ohm fog machine they get sent to the garage though. She’s ok with a little bit of it, but too much makes her give me “the look” so I’m trying to maintain a happy medium in that regard.

You brush your teeth more. The entire process of vaping is much more of a dehydrating thing for the body than smoking is. It leaves your mouth dry as hell and the aftertaste isn’t always pleasant. Your tongue feels like a dry sidewalk in your mouth. I find myself washing the taste of old vape out at least once during the middle of the day. Then again, if I manage to quit the vape too, that’ll be one more feather in my cap. Hold your horses y’all… one step at a time, ok?

No more smoke breaks.

This one is actually funny.

So yeah, there are places you shouldn’t vape. I realize that and try not to be rude. I don’t vape in restaurants, whether they have a sign posted or not. I don’t make it a habit to vape in stores, though if I’m stuck tagging along in Walmart for more than 15 minutes for some reason, there’s a good chance I’ll take it out of my pocket and hit on it one time, but then I put it away and I try to do it when no one’s around. I don’t care if they see it, but there’s still a certain stigma surrounding it just like their is cigarette smoke.

On the job though, now that I’m mostly over the need for the nicotine hit, I basically just work all day. I’ll stop for coffee every couple hours or go outside to take a phone call and “smoke” while I’m there, but for the most part having it in my pocket means if I “need” one, I can just puff on it once and go back to work and be OK for another hour or two without even thinking about it.

Riding in my truck and visiting family that smokes is a funny one though. The few friends I have that smoke obviously knew I quit, so they started trying NOT to be around me with it. Chris asked me the other week to hit a gas station while we were driving. It had been a couple hours and he’d wanted a smoke. “Dude, just light the freaking thing already” I told him. My truck has been smoked in since the day I got it. It’s not like it’s going to reacquire that “new truck” smell anytime soon.

Besides, I freaking LOVE the smell of a cigarette. Dear God there’s no better scent in the world. I don’t smoke but I pardon me for cuddling if YOU do. lol.

To me, that’s the test. I feel like I could easily quit smoking if I was never around it, but that’s not likely to happen. The real test of my inner resolve is when no one is around that would know, and I’m sitting there in the truck with it wafting past my face while I sit there and suck on my vape like I’m trying to suck-start a Harley on a cold morning. But I think that’s why I DIDN’T try to do it for my wife. I did want to quit as a present to her, but that couldn’t be the driving reason for it. If so, the first time I was gone away from home I could smoke a whole carton and no one would ever know. Hell I’m alone most of every day. I could sit here and smoke a pack before lunch and no one would know but me. Don’t think I haven’t thought about it! (Besides, If I told my wife “Merry Christmas Honey! I’m going to live longer!” she’d probably say “Well shit!” and stomp out of the room and change our life insurance plans.)

No, in reality it’s the ONE I think about. I don’t want to smoke a pack. I just want that ONE; that one to get me through the moment, to help me settle down, just to taste that incredible taste ONE MORE DAMNED TIME!

So no, I haven’t become that ex-smoker that everyone hates. I still love the smell of them and crave one every time I smell one, but it’s no worse than the cravings when I’m not smelling one.

Cravings:

I admit to always wondering what people meant when they talk about the desire to smoke never going away. How could you deal with it if it never goes away? I mean, let’s face it, aside from sex, smoking is the thing I enjoy most on this entire planet! And ask anyone who’s ever dated me… it’s a close close second!

I find myself being surprised at two things. First is the ease with which I find myself able to say no. I mean, you read that canker sore thing, right? Every time I crave one I think of two things; the merest thought of going through all that pain again, and how many days it’s been since I quit.

It’s like a game in my head. As long as I’m still quitting, I’m levelling up. lol. I’m at 74 days right now. That makes me a level 74 non-smoker! No one wants to reset and go back to zero! I don’t get a challenge coin or a funny cape or anything to go with the success but each day is a new level.  I really hadn’t planned on writing this until at least level 90, but what the hell, right? I figure two and a half months is enough time that I can feel fairly certain I’m not going to fall back into it, so I’m OK talking about it.

I’m curious to see what I’ll feel like if I look back on this article a year from now. Maybe I’ll feel completely different about it then. I especially wonder about the cravings. Right now it  hits me at weird moments. I’ll be just sitting there and something will happen, such as the stupendously fantastic computer crash I’ve been battling these last two days. I’ll hit that moment when I back away and throw something in frustration, and THAT moment… that’s the moment I’d usually say “Fuck it” and walk away, grab a cup of coffee, and light a cigarette while I try to think of another way to tackle the problem. THOSE cravings are the ones that hard to deal with.

That’s not to say there aren’t normal cravings too. When I see someone smoke one in a TV show, I want a cigarette. When I smell one out in public, I want one. (At the very least I try to veer towards them to get a second-hand high in passing.)

Overall, I’m dealing. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made. I’ve always wanted to firmly be in the camp of “non-smoker” but didn’t know how I’d get there. If you’re one of those out there looking for a reason to quit, I can’t think of a single reason to give you. They taste good, make you feel good, and let’s face it – you’ve been affording them this long so you obviously can afford them going forward…. I don’t have a magic bullet for ya.

The ONLY thing I have is that piece of advice from my sister, Karen. “You’ve got to WANT to quit, not just want to want to quit, or it will never work.” I decided one moment, on one night, that I wanted to quit. I quit. It was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. It was so easy it wasn’t even worth remembering as a “moment” of my life. In fact I don’t remember a specific moment, just a series of events that occurred surrounding it. Getting over it… now THAT was hell in a handbasket, a basket that was opened to reveal a moldy shit-sandwich I already ate once. I don’t plan on going through THAT a second time. I’d rather grow a uterus and pass a living newborn through it than deal with that again!

 

 

 

 


4 thoughts on “So yeah, I quit smoking…

  1. I wish you the best in an endeavor that I will never completely understand. (Never smoked) I hope if the cravings never go away they at least become very very mild. Just a thought… have you ever thought about writing a book? You have a very easy-to-read style. I just read a seriously long post about something I had no urge to learn about and enjoyed it! I’ve enjoyed reading a lot of your posts and I hate the thought of anyone suffering. Best wishes again on your way to Level 1000+!

  2. Congrats on the not smoking! As a life long sufferer of canker sores, I can totally relate to your pain (really). You did forget to mention how they cause you to speak as if you were injected by massive doses of Novacane by a deranged dentist (sorry dental professionals), because you try to alter your speech or words to avoid the agony of your cheek or tongue touching one. I’ve done the Listerine….you described it perfectly….I’ve also done straight salt on the open wounds….that’s a tie between the Listerine on the pain scale. i did find this (I use the tube stuff) that seems to work best….and holds off the pain the longest

    http://www.anbesol.com/canker

  3. I don’t usually comment on anything online, but this…oh my god, this. I picked up a cigarette for the first time at 13. Then I picked up dipping, like an idiot. While quitting smoking wasn’t the lowest level of hell for me, quitting dipping cold-turkey after 14 years has been a whole different ball game. Holy cow, I want to rip people’s heads off for breathing too loud. I spent a week solid with a sore throat and a dry mouth, then had a wisdom tooth decide to want to finish growing in. I’d rather stick my head in an erupting volcano. Its been exactly 28 days and while its getting easier to accept NOT getting a pinch, I’m still wanting one when I get pissed. Some days it takes every thing I possess, but I’m keeping on.

  4. I’m late to the party here, but:

    Yes, there is a topical cure for canker sores that actually works, and doesn’t have the severe side effects of prednisone. It’s called Negatan. It was available commercially for many years; I used to go in and have my dentist apply it. Now it’s not available off the shelf any more (company decided to quit selling it), but a good compounding pharmacy can make it, and so I’m able to buy it locally. It’s not expensive, and a little bit goes a very long way. See http://www.mouthulcers.org/messages.php?thread=1818 . It burns like an ant under a magnifying glass in the sun for a few seconds, then like the same ant under the same glass on a partly cloudy day for another 15 seconds or so, but then you’re ’bout done hurting, there’s a protective scab kind of thing over the site, and the sore’s mostly gone the next day and completely gone by day +2.

    Congratulations on having quit smoking!
    (Yes, I found your blog via the route you probably guess. I like your thoughtful, expressive writing.)

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