So Long, My Toxic Friend

458980Yes, I know I’m a respiratory therapist. I had a reply for people who would point that out to me: “Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, ‘Do as I say, not as I do?'” Or I would tell them that, unlike my patients, my lungs were healthy and I was not in a hospital bed.

I’m not stupid. Perhaps one of my coworkers summed it up the best: “Andrea, you aren’t stupid. Far, far from it. You’re a very smart girl. You just aren’t being very wise by continuing to smoke.” So the part of me with a brain knew that I was being a hypocrite, knew that I could use the defense that I wasn’t laying in a hospital bed.

Not yet.

You’re probably judging me right now. And that is fine. I have been a smoker since I was 21 years old. I put down the cigarettes when it was required to grow healthy babies. I banished the habit to outside when juvenile lungs took up residence in my home. As a healthcare professional, I can tell you that I never bought the idea that the odor of smoke on clothes was as bad as breathing second-hand smoke any more than the mere odor of marijuana makes you high. If you are allergic to smoke, I can imagine that the residue can be an irritant, but for the average person? I just could not believe it.I was content to just go outside. If I was outside when the kids were outside playing, I would move far, far away. Both my kids and those of others. I never smoked in restaurants because I don’t like to taste smoke with my food. If I was outside smoking somewhere and someone came up to sit next to me, I would ask them if it bothered them and then I would move away if they said it did. I was a conscientious smoker. I made great strides to ensure that the only person I was hurting was myself.

The problem with this is that I lost my mother to smoking-related lung disease. She probably only thought she was hurting herself, too. Now there are two little boys who will never meet their mom’s mom.

I have tried to quit more times than I can count. I can feel the changes in my body. I am a respiratory therapist, for shit’s sake. I know. I know that I am most likely to the point of irreversible disease. I knew all along that, while I could not change that, I could halt the damage in its tracks. And so I tried. Patches. Gum. Lozenges, Tapes. Wellbutrin. I even tried those Nicotrol inhalers, thinking that would be the miracle since it also replaced the physical act of smoking. I’ve tried support groups and keeping journals, all the while feeling stupid that I was having this much trouble with giving up cigarettes. Not crack. Not crystal meth. Cigarettes. A few years ago, I did have some luck with quitting. I was one month into treatment with Chantix, and in the middle of pre-med. I thought it was the medicine that was making me so queasy, so I would skip it, waiting until I had a solid meal to take it. Problem was tat I never got solid meals. My meals consisted of grabbing a granola bar between classes and grilled cheese sandwiches from the hospital cafeteria in the middle of the night on my lunch break. I stopped the medicine and picked smoking back up. And then discovered I was pregnant with Zachary.

With the exception of pregnancy-related quitting, I would always have the same reaction to lack of nicotine. I wouldn’t just get irritable. I would literally go crazy. I could be sitting with you, having a benign conversation about the weather and just burst into tears. My tolerance for anything would be so low that I would become completely dysfunctional. Once time, I got so upset that I had found a speck of missed food on a supposedly clean plate that I threw said plate at John’s head, leaving a massive knot. His response, instead of having me arrested, was to recognize what the true problem was and go and buy me a pack of cigarettes. He returned to the house with the pack and a new lighter and ordered me to smoke. For this reason, quitting scares me. I have a successful education going. I am good at my job. I have two children I love more than anything. I cannot allow myself to fall apart.

On the other hand, John’s heart cannot take exposure to any second-hand smoke at all. I need to be around for him. For the kids. I have to give it another go.

They tell you that in order to be successful, you have to want to quit for yourself. Maybe I am sick in the head, but I am more likely to quit for John and the boys than I am to quit for myself. I love them so much that I will do anything to give them what they need in life.

So nine days ago, I started Chantix again. I smoked my last cigarette almost 72 hours ago.  I have not killed anyone. I am not suicidal. I have only cried a few times, and it was soft, subdued tears instead of violent, crazy-bitch sobbing that would have taken place during other quit attempts. For the first time ever, I really feel like I can do this.

I want to document the process. I am hoping this will add some accountability, but I don’t want to turn the blog into a smoking cessation website, either. I rather like talking about whatever the hell I want on here without a real theme. Instead, I’m going to create a new tab. If you want to follow along, feel free. Maybe someone will be helped. Who knows?

But wish me luck, because I am taking this on at the same time I am taking on major lifestyle changes for John’s heart. Wish me luck.

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