Feb 3, 2010

Without Smoking

Here's a shocker: quitting smoking is hard. Not so much because you must stop smoking. More because it sets off a chain reaction of other changes. Many of these unexpected changes - you may not care for.

I've broken the habit. But I'm not well-adjusted to the new ones.

Smoking suppresses appetite. Which means, my appetite is now completely unsuppressed. My body doesn't remember how to make full feelings. Thus, I am hungry all the time. All the time. All. The. Time. While I'm eating, I wish I were eating. How many cheese-steaks could you eat? Eight? Nine? I bet I could eat a dozen. I'd like to try. I'd like to eat a whole head of lettuce with my hands. Right now.

This insatiable hunger means that I can't eat the stuff I used to eat, because I'd become enormously unhealthy - and enormous. Thus, I am snacking on carrots and celery and crackers. I chain-snack for five hours a day. This daily fruit and vegetable binge adds more unfamiliar material to my system. My miserable digestive system is in non-stop freak-out mode, begging for its life of leisure back.

And that's not the only dietary alteration. Without cigarettes, sugar and caffeine are amplified. To beat back the life-long specter of insomnia, I've had to switch to Sprite, I've reduced the sugar in my iced tea, I drink less coffee in the morning. Caffeine aids in focus, sugar aids in motivation and postponing gratification (believe it or not, sugar-rich bloodstreams are more patient, more apt to work toward future goals, because they're confident they aren't starving). This adds up to me being fuzzy and unmotivated at work. Work is too much work when I'm on-the-ball. Now I'm slipping behind. Which means I have to stay later. Which means I'm more exhausted when I get home.

Yet, I can't smoke at the end of a day, so I can't get that chemical kick-start, that rush of stored-fats released by a cigarette, that magic second-wind. I needed it when my days were shorter, I really need it now that they're longer. Thus, to replace it, I am walking a mile every evening. Of course, this just dumps more mischief into the chemical cocktail that is my skull.

And on, and on, and on. Everything is shifting. My body chemistry resembles a hurricane. It's a witches brew that keeps sucking in more ingredients by its own occult powers.

Is it any surprise that my concentration is blown? Or that I feel depressed and trapped? Or that I'm ready to start a whole new life in the field of Occupational Therapy, or as storyboard artist in Connecticut?

My left-brain is struggling for control, teetering around on uneven stilts, trying to keep pictures straight on walls that are crumbling. It won't give up control, it won't take a break. It won't let the right-brain take over. It's afraid if it steps away, nothing will be left when it comes back. After all, it hasn't gotten a reward in almost a month. I don't know how to convince it that we'll all be okay. I don't know how to convince it to let right-brain have the wheel a little more often.

I only seem able to write when I've exhausted the left-brain completely, late, late at night. Even then it's a struggle. And it only makes the next time harder, since I'm too tired to enjoy it, and writing becomes associated with exhausted suffering and struggle, instead of right-brain release and peace.

I guess we'll just have to keep waiting.

It has been 4 weeks, 5 days, 0 hours, 47 minutes since I quit.