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I Have A Cold

Posted by TomW5.15.17 Sep 12, 2018

I know, not a very significant thing to blog about.  Except that this cold is different.  For 20-30 years, I never went more than a few months between a cold and/or the flu.  The cold I came down with today is exactly 485 days after my last cold.  Which also happens to be the exact number of days since my last cigarette.   My wife, who has never smoked, says this is normal.  I figured that I would get sick less often, and less severely, but I still assumed everyone got at least one winter cold/flu per year.  She said she hasn’t had a cold in 2 years, and can’t remember her last flu.


Side note:  Those of you who get flu shots know that you are not supposed to get one if you currently have a cold (or any illness).  My wife tells me this cold is entirely my fault.  Yesterday at breakfast, she asked me if I had gone to get my flu shot yet.  I said I had to put it off until Friday because of work commitments.  Then I added, “Hopefully I don’t catch a cold in the next 3 days”.  Me and my big mouth


Feeling grateful

Posted by TomW5.15.17 Sep 8, 2018

I'm in the super busy part of my work year, and rarely have time to post here much.  Just wanted to share a little gratitude I'm feeling this morning.  It's pouring down rain here, and my commute to the office took 3 times longer than usual.  And that was before I got stopped for 10 minutes at the railroad crossing 2 blocks from my office.  A year ago (yes, even 4 months into my quit) I would have been reaching for a cigarette several times (a real one prior to 5/15/17, a phantom one after). The thought of smoking never entered my mind until I pulled up to my office and saw 2 people standing in the pouring rain smoking and looking miserable.


I'm grateful that I never had even the slightest urge to reach for a smoke during the drive.


I'm grateful that I didn't have to choose between rolling my window down a little bit in the pouring rain, or filling my car up with smoke. 


I'm grateful that I wasn't envious of those 2 smoking outside today.


For many months into my quit, I could never imagine writing this post.  I was beginning to think I would be miserable forever.  So glad I was wrong (cause, you know, being of the male species, I rarely am ).  And for the newbies, No, it didn't take me 16 months to feel this way.  Maybe 6 or so for me?  But it does finally happen, and this morning I'm feeling grateful for it.

This morning I had my second health insurance screening exam since I quit smoking.  I mentioned last year that they started testing for nicotine in your blood instead of a CO2 breathalyzer like previous years.  So not smoking, but using an NRT wouldn’t count.  To get the discount, you have to qualify in 3 areas:  a BMI under 25, an A1C under 6, and not be using any product with nicotine.  Today, for the first time in over 20 years, the only “test” was measurement of weight and height.  The rest was face-to-face questions (Do you use nicotine? Have you been told your A1C is 6 or over?)  Of course, we all assumed they would do the usual blood testing, so we all fasted since last night.  GRRR!


I wonder how many smokers decided to lie about their addiction once they found out they wouldn’t be tested?  So glad I don’t have to worry about that anymore!  Hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful smoke-free day!

We’ve seen a lot of relapses lately, which I suppose are to be expected with so many New Year’s quitters in No Man’s Land now.  All of them have sad stories of tragedy, or bad health, or anger or something negative associated with them.  It makes me feel so sorry for that person, and frankly a bit guilty.  My life has been going great for several months now.  In fact, I can’t remember a happier time.  And yet, for some odd reason, I’ve been craving cigarettes pretty badly the last 2 days.  I can’t think of any triggers I’ve had.  Maybe the change of season, although that has never bothered me before.  This is my slowest time of year for my business.  And my wife and I just became empty-nesters (YAY!).  So I do have a lot more free time than usual.  Maybe that’s it.


Anyway, another reminder for me to never get too over-confident.  And that craves don’t always come for bad reasons, or when you expect them.  I’ve come to realize they come for any reason our addicted brains can imagine.  And if that reason doesn’t work, our addiction will try just the opposite reason.

  • Stressed out?  - A cigarette will make me feel better.
  • Know that a situation is coming up that will make you feel stressed? -  Better have several cigarettes to prepare for those bad feelings.
  • Completed a task?  - Nothing says “celebrate” like a good smoke.
  • Have so many tasks, you’re not sure where to begin?  - Have a smoke and plan it out.
  • Meeting cancelled? Unexpected free time? – This would be a great opportunity to smoke.  After all, you’re not sure when your next chance will be.
  • Have so many tasks, you don’t have time to complete them all?  - Better take a break anyway, or your overworked mind will make mistakes on the tasks you do work on.  And, of course, smoke on that break.
  • Season changing? – Ah, remember last year at this time?  Yeah, you were smoking then.  Why not have just one for old time’s sake?
  • Smack dab in the middle of a season? – Ugh.  I’m sick of this rain/snow/heat/cold.  Think I’ll go have a cigarette.
  • Personal/family/friendship tragedy? -  Life sucks so bad now, a cigarette can’t make it any worse.  And it might make me feel better.
  • Angry at your significant other, boss, friend? – I’ll show them!  I’m gonna go smoke!
  • Happy, and everything going your way? – Since everything else is so good, one little cigarette certainly won’t hurt.

I haven’t visited the Daily Pledge for months.  Think I’ll go now and grab someone’s hand.  Anyone want to take mine?


Tom 386 DOF


Phantom Candy?

Posted by TomW5.15.17 May 17, 2018

For months into my quit I would reach for that phantom pack of cigarettes and then remember, "Oh yeah, I quit".  Today, as I was driving by the CVS store where I always bought my bags of hard candy and Atomic Fireballs, I reached for my glove box to check how my supply was doing.  But, I haven't bought any candy since I began my diet last January.  Jeesh!  The mind is a funny thing!


Hard To Believe

Posted by TomW5.15.17 May 15, 2018

At 7pm tonight, I will be one year cigarette and nicotine free.  That’s easy to believe.  I realize this sounds cocky, but when I crumpled up that last pack 365 days ago, I somehow just knew this was my forever quit.  What’s hard to believe is how normal I feel now.  I really struggled for months after my quit began.  Despite the Elders advice to me, I kept fighting my addiction and just making it worse for myself.  I never doubted that I wouldn’t stick to my quit.  I just assumed I would be a non-smoker who was miserable for the rest of my life.   And even after the nicotine craves mostly went away, the new craves for sweets did not.  I gained 26 pounds and 3 inches.  Then I finally committed to losing weight, but felt miserable that it was taking so long.  I couldn’t go out to eat.  I couldn’t drink alcohol because of calories and potential bad judgement ensuing.  I became depressed and angry.  It seemed like I would never feel normal again.


Then all of a sudden, the weight started falling fast and I am back to my pre-quit weight and waist size.  I got into a regular, more regimented workout routine, and began feeling like I had way more energy.  I can even have an occasional snack, dessert or cocktail.   I now enjoy trying out new coffees and teas even more than I used to like discovering new wines and beers.  I got my normal back.  I suppose it is a new normal, but it is mine, and I like it.  It took me a little longer to get here than some, but it is sooooo worth it!  Thanks to all of you, newbies, elders and in-betweeners who had my back these past 365 days.  I couldn’t have asked for a better support team.


I do have to admit to some sadness as well.  There were so many others who quit around the same time as me, who I expected to be celebrating with.  A few admitted to relapsing and announced their departure from EX.  Others just disappeared without a word.  I so hope they find their way back.  As many of you have said before me, if I can do it, anyone can.



365 DOF


336 Days!

Posted by TomW5.15.17 Apr 16, 2018

I know, 336 doesn’t sound like a milestone.  Especially with 365 being only 29 days away.  But 336 is also 11 months and 1 day.  And that also happens to be 1 day longer than I have every gone without a cigarette before!


I was really kind of nervous for the last few days, up until I went to bed last night.  I actually had some cravings for the first time in months.  So I’m glad to have this milestone over with!  In retrospect, it was pretty silly to obsess about it like I did.  I am far more educated than I was for my last quit.  And I didn’t have the unbelievable support of this group back then.  It shouldn’t have even been a day on my radar.


As Dale says, “Onward and upward!”  And as Larry says, ” One step, and then another, will get you to where you want to be”.

Interesting.  For those of you in states that allow medical or recreational marijuana, I'd be curious to hear your experiences if you try this.  Especially if you have relapsed before due to anxiety.


Marijuana could stem drug, alcohol relapse for addicts [Video] 

The Good News:

I’ve been dealing with an extremely painful condition called myositis for the last 8 days.  I won’t go into the details other than to say it is caused by elevated secretions of an enzyme called CPK from your muscles that cause severe pain and potential kidney damage.  A high level is 300.  Mine got over 13,000 at one point.  I had my 6th blood test in 8 days this morning, and a follow up consult with doc that I just got home from.  The good news is that my levels finally started coming down, and should start feeling better in a week or so!


The Bad News:

The day before I became afflicted with myositis, I went in for a Doppler and several other vascular tests on my right leg and foot because my right foot kept getting numb.  My doc just got those results and called me.  As soon as I am recovered from the myositis, she wants me to go see a vascular surgeon.  I have pretty severe cartilage blockage in my right femoral artery from where they inserted an angio scope several years ago, and damaged the artery with this new “port” they were using back then.  I will need surgery to clean out the blockage.


The Good News:

I was pretty upset when I got this news.  My first thought was to go pig out on something sugary.  But I’m doing Weight Watchers with my wife, and don’t want to slip and disappoint her.  Then I thought, I’ll go have a scotch even though it’s only 3:30pm.  But then I remembered the nurses last words to me as I left my myositis consult were to stay off alcohol until this clears up.  Then I thought I will splurge by purchasing a new computer monitor I’ve wanted for awhile.  Then I remembered all these medical bills need to be covered by our very large deductible.   I finally decided I’m not going back to work this afternoon, and I’m gonna drink a really strong cup of coffee instead of the weak half-caff I usually have!  And that’s exactly what I’m doing.  The really good news , I just realized, is that the thought of smoking to ease the “woe is me” I was feeling never entered my mind!


Quick Check-In

Posted by TomW5.15.17 Feb 1, 2018

This is the busiest time of year in my business, getting year-end entries done and finalizing budgets.  I also joined Weight Watchers and have spent what little spare time I had there rather than here at EX.  I remember a few people here suggested waiting a year (or more) into my quit before even thinking about losing weight.  Probably good advice, but I really haven’t been tempted to smoke for 4 months now, and I think my busyness helps me to not think about the food I’m missing


I have been underweight my entire life, and have never tried to lose weight.  So I have nothing to compare Weight Watchers with.  But it seems to be working pretty well for me.  I’ve been on for 2 weeks and have lost 7lbs. 


Have missed all of you!  Hopefully I can be more regular in a couple more weeks.


Tom (262 DOF)


Hospital smoking

Posted by TomW5.15.17 Jan 2, 2018

My wife works at a hospital.  Whenever one of our cars is in the shop (or my daughter from New York City unexpectedly pops in, then borrows my car) I take my wife to work and pick her up.  Today she was working in a new area, and I went to a different place to pick her up.  I had to drive by the smoking area to get there.

  1. I can't believe that hospitals have smoking areas (although, this one might not have been sanctioned, it was just near the main entrance)
  2. I can't believe that staff would allow patients to walk out of the building with their IV still attached, wheeling a pole.
  3. I can't believe how utterly pathetic someone looks in a hospital gown with bare legs showing, a winter coat over that, an IV pole in one hand and a cigarette in the other hand standing outside when it is 5 degrees (wind chill of -9).
  4. Unfortunately, I can believe that would have been me when I was a patient, had I only known it was allowed.
  5. I'm really, really glad I don't smoke anymore.

Your 84th Problem

Posted by TomW5.15.17 Dec 4, 2017


A farmer once came to see the Buddha, to seek advice, to get help with his problems. The farmer had many problems and he told the Buddha, in great detail, all about how they made his life very difficult.

The weather never cooperated the way that he wanted. It was either too wet or too dry, so his crops often failed. His wife, although a good woman, was far too critical of him. Lately his children showed little respect for anything that he did. His neighbors were nosy, always interfering in his affairs by spreading gossip. This farmer's list continued long into the afternoon. And, after each complaint, the Buddha replied simply: "I cannot help you get rid of that problem."

The man, now exasperated, asked the Buddha: "What kind of teacher are you? And if you are so enlightened, what can you help me get rid of?"

The Buddha replied: "I can help you get rid of your 84th problem."

"And what is my 84th problem?"

"Your 84th problem is that you assume your life will be better if you get rid of your other 83 problems."

Take your pick; problem, conundrum, setback or hindrance. They can darken our days, consume our mental energy and feed us the narrative that real life is still pending."

~ Terry Hershey


The Phantom strikes again!

Posted by TomW5.15.17 Nov 30, 2017

I just had the strangest "phantom" moment.  Instead of reaching for that phantom pack that isn't there, I had just parked my car and was in a hurry to get into my office.  I had a pen in my hand and flicked it (thinking it was a cigarette), then went to stub it out into my coffee cup (thinking it was an ashtray).  I gasped when I saw my coffee cup, thinking I was about to put ashes into a perfectly good cup of coffee!  Man, I'm glad I don't smoke anymore!

I wasn’t anticipating any crave triggers this week. At least not due to the holiday.  No one in my family has smoked for years. So instead of the holidays being associated with smoking, the opposite is true for me. I rarely (if ever) smoked on Thanksgiving or Christmas. 


I did have a mini crave today. I had someone take me downtown to pick up a package.  He dropped me off in front of the building and circled the block. When I came out and saw he wasn’t there, I immediately wanted a cigarette. Because that’s what I used to do when I worked downtown.  Fifteen years ago!  My ride arrived in less than a minute, and the crave was gone a minute after that.


I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!  But I’ll be thinking of all who are struggling to get thru.


Out on good behavior :)

Posted by TomW5.15.17 Oct 30, 2017

I haven’t posted anything for a while because I’ve been in prison since Thursday afternoon.  Well, not constantly.  My team would leave around 9pm to sleep in a nearby church gym, and then return at 7am each day.  I’ve been with this volunteer program for 13 years now.  We put on a retreat in April and October, and follow up with the participants weekly every Wednesday evening.  So, while I have mentioned many times here that I have quit 6 times before, that isn’t exactly accurate.  In addition to those 6 attempted quits, I have stopped smoking 26 times for 3 and ½ days in the last 13 years.  And every single one of those times, I tried to make up all the cigarettes I missed on the following Monday.  Even though I didn’t think about smoking the entire weekend, I was pretty sure today would be a trigger.  And it was big time.  But I got thru it, and I’m fine now.


It’s weird how all those prison weekends were bearable for me.  It was similar with the 2 times I’ve been hospitalized for a few days, or when I travelled overseas.  If I was in a situation where I knew I could not smoke, I could bear it as long as I had a time certain that I would be able to smoke.  During that 2nd hospitalization, the doctors began talking about possibly keeping me for 3 days rather than 2.  I started panicking, because I was mentally prepared for 2 days, not 3.  Even though I had survived plenty of my 3 and ½ day prison weekends at that point.


Last night, one of the newer volunteers asked me how I got started in this ministry.  I explained that I had volunteered in nursing homes for many years until I just couldn’t take it anymore.  He asked what I meant by that.  I told him I got tired of getting so close to someone, only to have them die on me.  So I looked for some other way to volunteer my time, and just sorta fell into this.  I was thinking about that conversation when I got on EX this morning, and saw that apparently, 3 more of my recent friends here seem to have disappeared.  With all my failed attempts at quitting, I certainly can’t judge anyone.  But it still saddens me greatly every time I notice someone drop off.