Sobriety Blows: Quitting Smoking and Drinking

“What’s that? You want me to drink you?  But I’m in the middle of a trial!”

Withdrawal is a bitch. I live in a constant miasmic haze.  I can’t seem to concentrate on anything as if my brain was surrounded by storm clouds. Strange phlegm emerges from the recesses from my body. My throat constantly itches. I want to punch my neighbor in the face. A cigarette and a drink would solve all at this moment. Except that it won’t.

 The strange fact of my existence—and maybe human existence in general— is that I am drawn to immediate pleasure despite long-term consequences.  Smoking and drinking happen to be on the top of that list. Lung cancer and emphysema seem so abstract and far away when the pleasure of a drag is so immediate and satisfying. A tired, hungover tomorrow seem worth it when the spiced-taste of Kentucky bourbon is at my lips.

But for the past three days I have to tried to live differently. The great psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Victor Frankl once said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Quitting all your vices makes you unusually aware of all the stimulus that trigger your cravings. Having a stressful day? A cigarette will calm you down. And maybe a few drinks after work will help your forget it. Except I have lived that way for too long, chasing after an ever-moving phantom. The toughest part of quitting has not been the withdrawal, although that sucks too, it’s constantly having to say “no” to my thoughts. It’s constantly having to respond instead of reacting to my unconscious urges…

A few things have helped these past few days. Texting my friend Dave, who is quitting as well, whenever I feel an urge has helped. Staying away from non-smokers has also been key. Eating sour gummy worms and sunflower seeds constantly have been a life saver.  And zazen meditation might be the most helpful tool of them all, as it forces me to see all my cravings head on.

I don’t know how long all this will last. Cigarettes and drinking have been my primary coping mechanisms for so long. Without them, I feel weak and anxious. I am without any crutches for the first time in a long. The goal is August 1st before I start drinking again. If I can make I there, it may very well be the hardest thing I have ever done.


5 Comments on “Sobriety Blows: Quitting Smoking and Drinking”

  1. Ross says:

    Came here from reddit
    I’m 5 days into my third serious no-smoking career. It gets easier every time you quit. Don’t sweat it. You know that if you go smoke, it’s not going to taste the way you think it will, and it damn sure won’t make you feel the way you want to feel. It’ll be a huge let-down.

    No drinks till Aug 1? Stronger man than I.

    • This is probably my fourth or fifth real attempt to really quit smoking. I figured I couldn’t do it without quitting drinking. It’s definitely easier this time around, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy 🙂 Thanks for the support, Ross.

  2. Matt M says:

    When I quit smoking, the craziest part was the weird zen-ish feeling that I was split in two. Eventually, I didn’t feel like I wanted a cigarette, I felt like some other me that I was connected to wanted one.

    Also, just as an amateur tip from an erstwhile smoker, my undergraduate biopsych education taught me that focusing on the craving or the thing that you’re trying to not want won’t work, you have to distract yourself. For me, when I needed to focus on something related to the forbidden act, I concentrated on making my hands do other things, since you can’t put a cigarette in your mouth without using your hands. Stupid things, I know, but your mind will always succumb to temptation when you are thinking about the object in any way.

  3. 667 says:

    To quote The Satanic Bible, “The God you save may be yourself.” [taken a little out of context, but it serves the purpose.]

    Thanks for the post senior. I myself are on day 3, and I’m bored, and I’m antsy, and I’m stripped of, simply, what I do. I’m not sure its coping, or addiction, or weakness, or if its just about little pleasures. I see a web of behavior – of what I do. Not only gripping for the obvious reasons, but also for the disdain of doing otherwise. Hell, if I didn’t know myself better I’d lie to you about wanting to live longer, which, is funny because breaks aside, I think the prospect of children, and specifically being the person I want to be in their eyes, is the biggest thing ebing my near purposeful drive toward … well.

    I’m a fan on whatever tricks. I’m good with looking inside, analyzing, labeling. I’m on the fence with respect the effort given to being proud of each minute gained. At the end however, is the not doing. At the birthday party this weekend, not doing. After longer days at work, not doing. When not doing anything else, not doing.

    The next pattern, I trust, will be when I notice that I am doing, by favored choice, what I want most to be doing. And not because I want, or need, to believe it. Am doing. That’s my goal.

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