Archive for the 'Quit Anxieties' Category

Using Dreams

March 29, 2012 posted by Len B.

Today is my 18 month quit anniversary. It was on September 29th, 2010 at exactly 9:25AM that I snuffed out my last cigarette. I’m still amazed that, after being a prisoner to my smoking addiction for more than 40 years, I was finally able to beat it. Hallelujah!

Last night, in the middle of the night, I awoke after having had a very disturbing dream. Although not identical, I’ve had similar dreams on various occasions ever since I quit smoking. The general theme of these dreams goes something like this:

I’m in the middle of doing something (regular dream activities, whatever they might be) when I notice a lit cigarette in my hand. I take a drag as I look down at my shirt pocket where I see a half-empty pack of cigarettes inside. It’s at this point that I recall that I’ve quit smoking and am doing something that I shouldn’t be. With that realization I immediately toss my lit cigarette down and discard the pack from my pocket, trying desperately to convince myself that it was just a minor slip up and that it won’t happen again. Failing that, all at once I become overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, shame, and disappointment in myself for having ruined a perfect record of smoking sobriety. It’s at this point that I wake up and, for at least a couple of minutes, continue to believe that I’ve started smoking again and feeling like I’m a complete failure.

For the first couple of months after I quit smoking I was having these dreams on a regular basis. Puzzled by them, I did some Internet research and discovered a little-known phenomenon called “Using Dreams.” From what I read, recovering drug addicts frequently dream about using their drug(s) of choice for some time after having quit. Some of them actually report feeling high in those dreams, as if they’re actually using the drugs. I couldn’t find an explanation or interpretation of what those dreams actually mean, however, for myself I can appreciate certain benefits from having them:

Each time I have one of these dreams I eventually wake up long enough to realize that it was, after all, just a dream, and that I’m still a non-smoker. My feelings of guilt, shame, and disappointment are suddenly washed away with a renewed sense of accomplishment. The dreams remind me once again that my addiction to smoking was at least as powerful as any drug addiction and that I must continue to remain vigilant at all times, so as not to fall prey to that deadly addiction once again. As uncomfortable as they make me feel, I do think that my “Using Dreams” serve a valuable purpose.

Like Ripping Off a Band-aid

August 25, 2011 posted by Len B.

I was afraid to pick a quit date. Just the thought of letting go of what I thought was one of my most loyal friends caused me a great deal of anxiety. In fact, every time the doctors at the Loma Linda stop smoking clinic asked me if I had chosen a quit date yet my response was “no, I’m not quite ready.” It seemed the more I thought about actually quitting, the more I wanted to smoke!

By the morning of September 29th, 2010, I had run out of excuses. I had just finished the last of the stop smoking skills training sessions offered by the VA the day before. I had been taking Bupropion for a full two weeks and I was well-stocked with a full month’s supply of nicotine patches and oral puffers. What next?

It was that morning that I made a decision. Still mortified at the thought of quitting once and for all, I convinced myself to try one of the strategies I had learned during the skills training sessions: I would attempt to “cut back” on my smoking by making it as inconvenient as possible to light up.

At 9:25AM on September 29th I snuffed out my cigarette and put all of my smoking paraphernalia well out of reach on the back patio (I live in Palm Springs, California, where even in September it’s extremely hot outdoors.) I was used to smoking indoors, so I made the rule that if I wanted to smoke it would have to be outside in the heat. Then I slapped on a patch and went about my business.

One hour went by without lighting up a cigarette. Then one hour turned into two hours, two hours into three hours and so on, until it was finally time for bed… and I had still not lit up! I wasn’t sure if I could fall asleep without having a cigarette but I wasn’t about to lose the time I had already invested in not smoking so I gave it a shot.

Surprisingly, I slept through most of the night without waking up with a craving. I got out of bed shortly before 7:30AM that next morning and that’s when the urge to smoke again really hit me. Yes, I wanted a cigarette very badly. But then I did the math and figured out that I had not smoked for 22 hours – just 2 hours short of a full 24. If I could make it to 24 hours without smoking, it would be a personal record for me – something that I had not been able to do in many years.

Panic-stricken, I called 1-800-NO-Butts which is a free telephone hotline in California that helps smokers quit. I told the woman who answered what I was going through and that I needed to speak to someone. She informed me that no counselors were available at that time of the day and that I would need to make an appointment after 9:00Am. Argh! I was upset when she told me that so I proceeded to vent to her. I explained my frustration in a very animated fashion for about 15 minutes, and she listened. It must have done me some good because, after hanging up the phone, I was as determined as ever to make it to the 24 hour mark just to prove to myself that I could do it.

When 9:25AM finally came and went without lighting up I was thrilled. I had made it a full 24 hours smoke-free, and I wasn’t about to turn back. 24 hours turned into 48 hours, then 48 hours into 72 hours and so on, until a full week was gone without smoking. With the continued counseling and support provided by the Loma Linda VA stop smoking clinic, weeks turned into months. And now my first full year without smoking in over 40 years is well within my grasp.

I guess the lesson to be learned here is that everyone is different. Some of us can plan ahead when selecting a quit date; others (like myself) need to take a “rip the Band-aid off” approach by quitting one day without obsessing over it. One thing is for certain: to be really successful at quitting, we all need the right guidance, support, and tools along with determination and a strong commitment.

Anxiety Over Quitting

June 1, 2011 posted by Len B.

For those people who smoke and have ever thought about quitting, there are many challenges to overcome when making that big decision. One of those challenges is how to overcome the anxiety that comes about just at the thought of quitting. Thinking about quitting can provoke intense fear, not to mention the feelings of extreme anxiety after quitting. This fear is what causes many people to avoid selecting a quit date altogether.

The first step for dealing with the anxiety associated with quitting is to recognize and know the challenges that will be faced ahead, and then putting together an action plan for how to deal with each one of those challenges. For most, quitting smoking is not easy. Nicotine is highly addictive and your body has grown accustomed to having nicotine in it. When you cut off the supply of nicotine to your body it will begin to experience withdrawals and you will find yourself with the urge to smoke.

How did you plan on dealing with the anxiety over the thought of quitting? If you’ve successfully quit, how did you deal with it?