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djmurray_12-31-14 Blog

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I'm definitely celebrating 1800 days today and I have much to be celebrating.  My new job is awesome, and the benefits are great.  I really like my boss, who is the general counsel of the company.  So the legal department is the two of us!  There are 400 employees of the company, but the headquarters is in New York City, and there are only 12 of us in Richmond.  The four-month job search was grueling, but I definitely found the right job.  As far as benefits go, I am astonished at some of them.  They determine how many days of Paid Time Off (PTO) you get not by how long you've been with the company, but by how long you've been in the workforce, so I'm getting the maximum 26 days of PTO a year, on top of 9 paid holidays!  They put 8% into my 401(k).  I'm sticking with Medicare and my supplement instead of taking their health care plan, but I can get dental and vision coverage through the company, and it doesn't cost me anything!!  I'm so thankful that this is the job I found, and it's yet another example of how faith works.  

 

And of course this has something (everything?) to do with quitting smoking.  When we take that frightening first step and say "no more", we are likely to envision hellfire and brimstone (figuratively) in our future.  We anticipate the pain that not lighting that cigarette will cause.  And the factor that allows us to not light that cigarette anyway is faith.  Faith in the process.  Faith that you will get to the other side.  Maybe whatever religious faith you practice that tells you that you will be all right.  I had to have faith that a job would be offered through that four months, and trust me, the fact that I went from silently screaming five years ago that quitting smoking would KILL me, to five years later being a bona fide non-smoker, informs everything I do.  Yes, I had faith (admittedly faltering occasionally) that if I kept up the job search even though I thought looking at another job board would suck the life out of me, I would find a job.  So I took it a day at a time, just like I did in the early days of my quit.  And the rich reward of finding a great job is only surpassed by finding freedom from smoking!

 

So my thought today -- on my 1,800th day of not lighting that cigarette -- is that for all of you newbies who are struggling, and everyone in no man's land who has a completely unexpected massive crave, and for those of you who are white knuckling it through the quit process and fearing the craves, have faith.  Have faith that those of us who celebrate multi-year milestones were just as scared or taken aback or exerting willpower as you are.  The beauty of belonging to a site like EX is that you see positive proof every single day that this process works.  That there is a rich reward on the other side.  That we're no different than you are and you are no different than us.  You can do this.  Have faith.

Those of you who know me are aware I'm a bit of a freak about palindromes (words or numbers that read the same forward and backwards).  I'm not sure why, because I'm terrible in math, but there's something about the symmetry of palindromes that fascinates me.  So here I am at Day 1771 and I got a job offer. I did a really bad job of retirement planning, and realized, at the age of 70, that although I plan to live for another 15 years or more, I have about enough retirement funds to get me through 2 if I stretch it.  So back to the job market for full time work. I've been seriously job hunting since July 5 and this last 4 months has been quite anxiety producing. I've sent out 150 resumes, gotten about half a dozen in person interviews and 8 telephone interviews.  I've worked with 7 agencies for full time and temp work.  Finally yesterday I got a call on an interview I had last Thursday in which I was told the corporate approvals were in process, but I should be getting an offer letter today.  And unlike many other statements promises I got in this process, I got the offer letter, and it's awesome!!

 

Now, you newbies are probably saying okay, what does this have to do with quitting smoking?  Actually, a lot.  First of all, the stress I've been under would have, in the old days, resulted in my smoking even more than usual, and with this much time on my hands, I easily could have knocked back at least two and a half packs a day -- maybe three.  I did smoke three packs a day from 1963 to 1983 (when I could still smoke at my desk at work).  But I haven't.  Not One Puff - Ever.  One of the things I learned in quitting was that smoking doesn't help anything -- it just costs a lot, smells bad and kills your lungs (and many other parts).  I scoffed at first when I heard that we were hiding behind a smoke screen, and we needed to deal with our emotions directly. It's true. In the almost five years since I quit, I've realized that going off to have a cigarette to calm down was a form of escape.  I don't do that anymore. Consequently, at a conservative price of $7 per pack, that's $21 per day I would have spent for a total of $2,310 over 4 months.  That's the rough equivalent of two month's rent.  

 

Quitting smoking has also taught me fortitude.  I was known as the Happy Quitter in my first year here at EX, but I never made out like it wasn't hard.  Of course it was hard.  Smoking was entangled in everything I did.  If I wasn't smoking I was thinking about when I could have the next one, or whether there was a place I could go to have one, or if there were ashtrays available so I could light up or if I had to wait, or how many did I have left and where could I go to buy more.  When you remove that obsession from your life, it's jarring.  It's hard.  But especially with the support of this wonderful community, I stuck it out.  I blogged every single day for over a year.  I read everyone else's blogs.  I learned how to get through whole days with only a few craves, and there came a day -- and I can't tell you when exactly it happened -- that I didn't think about smoking at all.  And now I occasionally have a thought about it, but it's never a crave -- just a memory.  That fortitude came in handy over the last 4 months, and I'm grateful.

 

So love to everyone on this happy day -- I know you can do it!!

Greetings, EXers!  As some of you know, I'm a sucker for milestones, which includes cool numbers.  Today's number (1717) is especially notable because 17 has always been my lucky number.  I was born on the 17th of January.  I was married the first time on the 17th of June and the second time on the 17th of May.  The first number I ever went bingo on was I-17.  So double 17 must be portentous, right?

 

Well, I certain hope so.  I am still looking for a job, and I'm doing my best to quell the panic.  I'll spare you the details, but I'm even considering reinstating my law license, not to open a law practice (I'm way too old and tired to do that), to do temp legal document reviews.  If I'm licensed I can get $10 more an hour for that work, and there's more work available.  I'm waiting to find out what it would cost to get licensed, and if I need to take the Bar Exam again.  If I'm required to sit for the Bar Exam it won't be worth it.  They only give the exam in July and February of each year, and I'm not waiting until February.  Although I passed it with flying colors in 1987 I'm quite sure that in 2020 it would be much more of a struggle.  And it's crazy expensive to do.  So we'll see.  I've sent out what feels like a gazillion but is probably more like 75 applications, and I've gotten about 7 responses, so it's really imperative that I keep up a good attitude.  I did spend 3 days in bed last week after I had 2 interviews that turned out to be "we've already filled the position you applied for, but we'll keep your resume on hand."   Then I had a telephone interview with Capital One in which they said the same thing and told me I needed to take a 2 hour online assessment, which consisted of 70 "lifestyle and work" questions, and a verbal reasoning test (17 minutes to do 30 questions) and numeric reasoning (also 17 minutes to do 30 questions). I took the first part yesterday, but ended up with computer problems, so I will take the two remaining parts after I finish this blog.  

 

I have enrolled in a clinical trial for a drug to treat fatty liver disease (I think they should definitely find a new name for that -- it's embarrassing to say "fatty").  It should be really interesting.  It goes over 12 weeks and there's a 25% chance I'll be on the placebo. They even pay $50 per session (there will be 8 of them).  

 

So that's pretty much what's going on around here.  Despite my anxiety about the future and distress about the job search, I haven't even thought about smoking.  To the newbies who have gotten past the personal stuff above, please know that it gets so much easier.  Those first days, weeks and months of our quits are so fraught with angst, and smoking seems like the thing we want least (and most) to do.  But there will come a time, sooner than you think, when thoughts of smoking barely register.  Yes, you will occasionally think about smoking, but it's nothing more than a passing recollection.  Take it from someone who was a heavy smoker for over half a century who thought she would be the last smoker on the planet.  It isn't easy but it is SO doable.  Keep on keepin' on with your quit and you will be so happy you did.

 

Love to all!

I love milestones.  Not only have I hit 1700 days, but according to the emails I get from Quitnet every day:

Money saved
$12,750

Life saved
1Y 0M

Unsmoked
51000

 

Those are some nice, round numbers!  And these round numbers give me an excuse to blog again.  I find myself coming to EX at least a couple times a week, and commenting on blogs from others, not creating new ones.  But I've had some thoughts lately that I think are worth sharing:

 

1.  One of the reasons this community works as well as it does is because most of us, when we first quit smoking, have an unrelenting loop in our brains saying "I want a cigarette, I want a cigarette, I want a cigarette . . ." and eventually, after a few hours or a few days, it seems like we will go crazy so we cave.  Coming to EX allows us to think about smoking 24/7 but it supplants the "I want a cigarette" with "I have every reason to hate cigarettes" and it reinforces that new thinking unrelentingly.

 

2.  I have had some struggles lately, dealing with retiring (yes, even though it's something we all look forward to, it's a huge change in living arrangements, lifestyle and socializing that can be daunting -- more on that later.)  The point is that I can now contemplate every challenge in the same context I view quitting smoking.  

         a.   Change is uncomfortable, but getting out of our comfort zones often brings great rewards.  Nobody grows in                their comfort zone. 

         b.   Fear must be faced.  I'm pretty confident that I wasn't the only one scared to death to quit smoking.  I couldn't                quit without facing that fear.  And the corollary to that thought is that the fear is almost always worse than the                reality. 

         c.   Doing something is way better than sitting around worrying about anything.

 

This is the official end of the part of the blog about why quitting smoking is the best thing you'll ever do for yourself and your loved ones.  What follows is about what's going on with me and will probably be of no interest to most of you.  

 

So I lost my job.  I've been looking for a job for over two months now, the unemployment insurance only lasts for 12 weeks, I'm already 7 or 8 weeks in, and I'm running out of money fast.  I did a lousy job of planning for retirement and even though I waited until I was almost 70 years old to actually do it, I pretty much only have enough money to live another 2 years.  Considering that I am likely to live another 15 years (actually, 16 because Quitnet said -see above - that I've added another year ) I've got way more than a math problem.  So although I started out looking for part-time work I've decided to apply for full time jobs, and if I get one I will live very frugally and save like a madwoman.  I've had a couple of interviews, and while I felt they both went well, I never heard anything from the first one, and I got a polite "thanks but we're going with someone else" email from the second one.  I've applied for at least 50 jobs and most of them are simply lost in the ethernet. This change in my circumstances is very uncomfortable, but who knows what this free fall out of my comfort zone will bring.

 

As some of you may remember I lost my next-to-the last pre-retirement job because seven years in I was suddenly required to be good at Excel, which I had never used for more than a simple spreadsheet.  Ever since then I shudder every time I hear the word "excel".  Well, I have faced my fear.  Last week I bought through Groupon an online course to prepare for Microsoft Certification. The Groupon price was $34 and I think it was a great deal.  I am learning Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Word and Outlook (I'm pretty proficient in the last two, but there's always something new to learn.)  It's about 50 hours of training, but I figure if I'm spending 1 to 2 hours a day looking for a job, I can spend another 3 to 4 doing training modules.  I'm about 15 hours into the training now.  I had shied away from apply for jobs that said "must be proficient in Excel" but not any more.  Oh, and after I spend the 4 to 6 hours on job hunting and training, I still have time to go to the pool.  And I have the best tan I've had maybe ever this year.

 

Last but not least I've signed up with a writing group and am writing short articles on a site called Medium.  There's the possibility of getting paid for these articles, but you have to have a lot of followers for there to be any payment.  I haven't gotten any money, but I really enjoy doing it.  And who knows -- maybe I'll end up writing that novel I've been thinking about for the last 10 years!

 

Love to all of you - elders, you're the best and newbies, you can totally do this!

EX has been such an important part of my life for the last four and a half years.  There isn't an emotion I haven't shared here during that time -- fear, joy, sorrow, anger, boredom (not sure that's an emotion, but I've shared it) depression, anxiety, happiness, and everything in between.  Nancy (Young At Heart) said it so well recently when she called us a "full emotion support group."  Quitting smoking does encompass just about every emotion, and being able to express those emotions to people who have been there or are going there or are right exactly there is what makes the difference between "trying" and "doing."

 

I have been blessed to attend three of the seven EX reunions, including the one that just wrapped up three days ago.  I saw old friends and met new ones.  I laughed and cried.  I reveled in great company and got some time alone.  The lovely aura of the connection we felt remains with me and I want to share that with all of you.  We've started discussions about having regional EX reunions so that more of the EX community can experience meeting in person those with whom we've shared so much.  If you haven't been to an EX reunion, try to build it in for next year -- you will love every minute of it.  Join the discussion about how we can expand these gatherings so you have a chance to get to know some of your dear friends from the site in a different way.  

 

Today is also a sad day, because we lost a very special person from our community.  We learned this morning that Sharon (Smorgy) passed away two days ago, and many of us are heartbroken.  Rest in Peace, beautiful lady.

I am not very good at technology any more.  I kept up for the first 20 years, but I'm pretty sure it's passed me by now.  I have all these great images to put in the photo at the top of these blogs, but simply cannot figure out how to make them the right size.  At any rate, the whole statement is "life begins at the end of your comfort zone."  That speaks to me today, having realized that I haven't climbed out of my comfort zone lately.  When I turned 60 I promised myself I would do at least one thing every year that was outside my comfort zone.  One year I went skydiving.  Another year I appeared in a community theatre production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" as the evil Mrs. Meers -- I even had a solo (and I really can't sing).  Another year I (and a number of family and friends) tended a dying friend in my home.  When I turned 66 I was 17 days into this quit (and that was waaaay out of  my comfort zone.)  But I turned 70 a few months ago and I've spent more time trying to be in my comfort zone (sometimes even trying to find my comfort zone).  I would like to plan something for this year to keep the "out of the comfort zone" tradition going. I'll have to give it some thought.

 

Oh, some of you may remember when I posted in March about having a migraine and going to the ER and having a miserable experience.  Well, I got the Medicare statement for that 7 hour torture -- over $10,000!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  They did one CAT scan and gave me one shot that didn't contain any pain reliever!!  As you can well imagine, I am stunned.  

 

So, that's what's going on these days.  Oh, I took my first yoga class last evening.  My wonderful church has a free class every Tuesday night, and that's now on my calendar (although I must say, I don't have a busy social schedule).  

 

And how are you all?  I know most of you who are on here are wondering who is this lady who has already written three paragraphs and hasn't even really mentioned smoking?  Four years ago I was four months into my quit, and blogging every day.  And for those of you who are inclined to write, I really suggest that.  I've never been good at journaling (I have many beautiful books that have three pages written in) but I seriously blogged for the first year virtually every day.  This community opened its arms to me and gave me a safe place to be, where people understood how scary it was to commit to quitting; how thinking of quitting meant giving up your best friend, how getting through the first day, the first week, the first month was an actual triumph each time.  I mentioned once that I had come to this site about 9 months before I started this quit, and boldly stated that I had quit that day.  That was my last "attempt" to quit and it lasted 3 hours.  But people responded to my blog, and when I did quit 9 months later, I remembered those responses and managed to finally remember the name of the group and get back to it.  Those of us who measure our quits in years keep coming back to help the new quitters AND to maintain our quits.  And on any given day you might write a blog that is responded to by someone with more than a decade quit, and somebody who just quit this morning, or is planning to quit next week.  And everything in between.  That's a big part of the beauty of this place.  To come full circle in this blog, our quits take us out of our comfort zones, and EX becomes the place of comfort.

I've been popping in a little more often lately, but I've really felt that I don't have much to add to the conversation.  I've been going through probably three months of tough times, and my quit is solid, and when I read blogs I find that what I would say has already been said -- and much more eloquently than I could say it.  But I was going through my emails, and as I've mentioned before, I get a daily email telling me how many days I've been quit, how much money I've saved, how much extra life I'll have, and how many cigarettes I haven't smoked.  And that number floored me!  I guess I haven't paid much attention to that last number for a while.  I haven't smoked 46,860 cigarettes since I quit.  Which means when I quit I was smoking a little more than 10,000 cigarettes a year.  That was when I was down to a little more than a pack a day.  But during my entire smoking "career" I spent more years smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day.  Wow!  I am grateful that I still have lungs, and grateful that I finally wised up, and grateful that when I wised up I found this community, and the rest is history.  What more can I say?

Thanks to everyone who responded to my very depressing blog the other day.  In case the image above isn't clear, it's a sloth hanging in there.  This is truly the best community ever, and the kindness I received was so very appreciated. 

 

I've been down with a migraine since Tuesday night and finally feeling a bit better.  I had my grandson take me to the ER yesterday because my pain meds weren't working and when I was in Northern Virginia and had an intractable migraine I would go to the ER and they would give me dilaudid, by IV, which would allow me to go home and sleep for several hours and that would knock out the headache.  Yesterday was a torture chamber.  I was there for 4.5 hours in a tiny waiting room before they even got me to a bed, they had to stick me 4 times to get the IV in, I waited another 2 hours before a nurse came in to give me a shot and it didn't include ANY pain medication.  It was benedryl (which I have at home) a steroid (which I have at home) and magnesium.  When I went to the ER I had a pain level of 7.5 to 8.  By this time it was a screaming 9.  There were no sheets on the bed, no door on the room and things were beeping like crazy.  I finally called the nurse after another half hour and said "I can't take this any more, I'm jumping out of my skin, my pain is ridiculous; please discharge me."  I never saw a doctor.  The physician's assistant came in and agreed to discharge me.  I was there for over 7 hours.  I was so grateful to be home I cried.

 

Other than that I'm doing better.  I haven't seen my daughter yet but we've spoken on the phone, and I'm giving her space.  I went to work on Tuesday (I work Tuesday through Friday) but then I had the migraine through the night on Tuesday so Wednesday I had to call in.  Thursday I went to work but they sent me home after 1/2 hour because I was in such pain and was extremely sensitive to light and sound.  That's when I called my grandson to take me to the ER.  Since I got home yesterday I've just been staying in bed, but I was able to eat something today.

 

When I was in the waiting room yesterday a guy came in from smoking and we ended up talking for a couple of minutes.  I mentioned I had quit, and he asked me how long I smoked.  I told him 53 years and had been quit for 4.  He asked how I did it.  I told him about Allen Carr and BecomeanEX.org.  He said he started when he was 14 and he's 40 now and really wants to quit.  I didn't get his name, but I hope he follows through.  I also told him he could find Allen Carr on You Tube.  For the newbies here, there's lots of good stuff on You Tube, and very early in my quit I was having a bad day and spent hours on You Tube watching videos about people who didn't quit in time.  Yes, it was kind of creepy, but in those first weeks it's pretty much whatever works, right?

 

So Happy 13 Years to Giulia, a warm "you got this" to all the newbies, and a huge thank you to all my good friends and soon to be new friends on this site.  Oh, and I'm really looking forward to EX7!

djmurray_12-31-14

1515

Posted by djmurray_12-31-14 Feb 23, 2019

Don't faint -- I'm back again so soon.  It's been a strange week, and I feel a need to be with people who care about me.  And of course, I am at 1515 days quit today, so it always makes me want to blog when I have those pretty numbers.

I am struggling with some heavy emotional stuff right now -- my daughter is finding me severely lacking as a mother, and my feelings are crazy hurt, but a lot of what she says is valid.  It's way too complicated to go into here, but I had the childhood from hell and never learned what being a good mother was about.  I broke the cycle of violence that I suffered, but I wasn't good at protecting my children from things that have come back to haunt them in their 40's.  So I'm feeling very shaky and failure-y about my parenting.  I'm also making lots of mistakes at work (again) and I can't afford the medication I was taking when I was working full-time.  It's so bad that the woman who is the full time secretary in the office suggested on Friday that I might want to take a supplement called "Cognition."  So I'm feeling kind of failure-y there, too. 

Life is hard.  Smoking doesn't make it any easier and in many ways makes it way worse.  And that's pretty much all I will have to say about smoking in this particular blog.

I wish I knew how to let go of this weight in my chest.  It's probably inappropriate to even blog this here, but I'm feeling desperately sad.

djmurray_12-31-14

Update

Posted by djmurray_12-31-14 Feb 20, 2019

   I got the email that they're migrating all of the old "wall" stuff and logged in to see what that was about.  Didn't find much on it, but I read some old blogs and thought wow, I haven't blogged for a while -- so here's what's happening.

   As many of you know, I retired in June, and in August moved to the outskirts of Richmond to be near my daughter and her family.  They live 5 minutes away and it's great.  In January I started a part-time job with the most old-fashioned attorney in Richmond, who still uses a Dictaphone.  Now, for any of you who are under 50, that may mean nothing to you.  Before I went to law school I was a legal secretary, and back in the 70's, that's what attorney's did.  They dictated letters and legal documents onto cassette tapes, and those tapes would be transcribed by the secretaries.  You controlled the tape with a foot pedal.  So that's what I do for this lawyer.  I work 4 days a week, 5 hours a day.  Now that I'm retired, I don't want to be in charge of anything!  But it gets me out of the house and more importantly, it provides a supplement to my Social Security.

   But the interesting thing is I have had more thoughts about smoking since I moved here.  One reason may be because my daughter still smokes.  Another reason is that I'm dealing with new situations, living in a new place, having different stressors.  I had an appointment with my pulmonologist on Monday, and I told her that even though I've thought more about smoking recently than I have over the last three years, I will NEVER smoke a cigarette.  I know now that smoking doesn't give you anything.  I wouldn't even call what's happening craves, because I don't actually want to smoke (I have enough trouble breathing as it is, and when I actually think about the experience of inhaling smoke into my lungs it hurts just to think about it!!)

   Now, one might think why would a long-time, happy quitter get on this site to talk about thinking about smoking?  Aren't we supposed to get to a place where we never think about smoking?  Well, maybe some people actually do.  But I suspect I'm not alone when I say I occasionally hear the little addicted lady who lives in my brain say "have one; you'll feel better" even though I know to an absolute certainty that I would NOT feel better and indeed would feel way worse.  And I'm of the school that believes if you have a puff you start at Day One again. 

   I have demonized smoking as much as anyone who quits for good, so I'm not saying I wish I smoked.  At all.  I'm just saying new challenges sometimes cause those thoughts to arise.  The good news is "have one, you'll feel better" is NEVER true!!

   Can't wait to see folks at EX in May!!

What makes these four years so lovely is at no time in that period have I hidden behind a screen of smoke.  All emotions (good, bad and ugly) have been right out there.  Not one cent has been spent on cigarettes. Not one moment have I spent battling nasty weather for the specific purpose of getting more cigarettes.  Not one time have I stated "I'll do it after I finish this cigarette." Not one cough has been a result of having just inhaled smoke into my lungs.

 

Every time I have to use oxygen I am grateful that I didn't make my lungs any worse than I already did.  Every time I see my sister smoke I grieve that she is so afraid of the pain of quitting that she accepts the pain of dying sooner.  Every time the opportunistic little old addicted lady in my brain wakes up and, every now and then, says "a smoke would sure be good now" I smile and tell her to go back to sleep, I'm not interested.

 

So 4 years have passed and I know this is my forever quit.  I have an old friend who has attempted to quit many times, even going to a residential program for a month.  She's discouraged, but we spoke last night and she's quitting again tomorrow, and I told her she can call me every day if she needs to.  She's read The Easy Way to Quit Smoking, and says she'll read it again today.  I've expressed to her how happy I am that this quit will stick, and that I'm no smarter than she is, or more disciplined than she is.  It's just a question of 1) knowing that craves won't kill you; 2) accepting that it's going to be uncomfortable for a while but you will come out the other side; and 3) grasping that you are not giving up anything of value.   There are myriad important concepts and tips, and elements, but for me it has come down to those three things.

 

I've suggested before that she come to this site, but she's convinced that an online community isn't her "thing."  I'll keep suggesting it.  I know that the three things I mentioned above were the basic elements of my quit, but this community has been the heart of my quit.  I don't get here very often anymore (although I keep meaning to) but I can't imagine celebrating a milestone and not being here to do it.  I went to lunch with my family today and mentioned that this was my fourth anniversary, and everyone smiled, but weren't that interested, and my granddaughter said "oh, I thought it was longer than that."  I can't expect them to attach the meaning I do to this quit, but I know for certain that here with you all I'm hearing a loud and enthusiastic Wahoo!!

 

I love you all!!

I will be doing a blog sometime tomorrow, but on the eve of my 4 year quit anniversary, I'd like to repost something that hit me right where it needed to early in my quit, and might help others planning their quit or early into it.  It isn't original to me, but I was given permission to use it her from another quit site. I rationalized for many years that smoking was my "friend."  In my very first blog on this site (a full year before I actually started my forever quit) I said I felt like I'd be losing a friend.  So here's another tool to help you see your "friend" for what he or she is.

"How do you feel about a friend who has to go everywhere with you? Not only does he tag along all the time, but since he is so offensive and vulgar, you become unwelcome when with him. He has a peculiar odor that sticks to you wherever you go. Others think both of you stink.

He controls you totally. When he says jump, you jump. Sometimes in the middle of a blizzard or storm, he wants you to come to the store and pick him up. You would give your spouse hell if he or she did that to you all the time, but you can't argue with your friend. Sometimes, when you are out at a movie or play he says he wants you to go stand in the lobby with him and miss important scenes. Since he calls all the shots in your life, you go. Your friend doesn't like your choice of clothing either. Instead of politely telling you that you have lousy taste, he burns little holes in these items so you will want to throw them out. Sometimes, he tires of the furniture and gets rid of it too. Occasionally, he gets really nasty and decides the whole house must go.

He gets pretty expensive to support. Not only is his knack of property destruction costly, but you must pay to keep him with you. In fact, he will cost you thousands of dollars over your lifetime. And you can count on one thing, he will never pay you a penny in return.

Often at picnics you watch others playing vigorous activities and having lots of fun doing them. But your friend won't let you. He doesn't believe in physical activity. In his opinion, you are too old to have that kind of fun. So he kind of sits on your chest and makes it difficult for you to breathe. Now you don't want to go off and play with other people when you can't breathe, do you?

Your friend does not believe in being healthy. He is really repulsed by the thought of you living a long and productive life. So every chance he gets he makes you sick. He helps you catch colds and flu. Not just by running out in the middle of the lousy weather to pick him up at the store. He is more creative than that. He carries thousands of poisons with him which he constantly blows in your face. When you inhale some of them, they wipe out cilia in your lungs which would have helped you prevent these diseases.

But colds and flu are just his form of child's play. He especially likes diseases that slowly cripple you - like emphysema. He considers this disease great. Once he gets you to have this, you will give up all your other friends, family, career goals, activities - everything. You will just sit home and caress him, telling him what a great friend he is while you desperately gasp for air.

But eventually your friend tires of you. He decides he no longer wishes to have your company. Instead of letting you go your separate ways, he decides to kill you. He has a wonderful arsenal of weapons behind him. In fact, he has been plotting your death since the day you met him. He picked all the top killers in society and did everything in his power to ensure you would get one of them. He overworked your heart and lungs. He clogged up the arteries to your heart, brain, and every other part of your body. In case you were too strong to succumb to this, he constantly exposed you to cancer causing agents. He knew he would get you sooner or later.

Well, this is the story of your "friend," your cigarette. No real friend would do all this to you. Cigarettes are the worst possible enemies you ever had. They are expensive, addictive, socially unacceptable, and deadly. Consider all this and NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!"

I have been planning for weeks to do a blog on my next palindrome day (1441) but it got away from me because it was three days ago.  Lots goes on in my family from Thanksgiving through the end of January.  Thanksgiving comes at the end of November, then Katy's birthday is December 1, there's Christmas Eve, Christmas Day then my birthday in the middle of January and Marsha's on January 31.  (We also have a half sister with a 12/31 birthday) who lives out in Utah.

 

This year Marsha really wanted to come down for Katy's birthday.  Marsha and Katy have always been close.  However, Marsha just isn't in shape to make a 5 hour drive by herself.  So my granddaughter Kennedy and I drove up on Friday, November 30, got Marsha and her oxygen and mobility paraphernalia (along with over a month's worth of laundry (she has to use laundry machines in her building which requires her to spend lots of money, carry the loads down a long hall, and make a big deal of out it.  Kennedy and I convinced her to bring all her laundry with her to do in my W&D in my apartment unit..  Worked out fine.  I've done more driving in the last 13 days than I have in years, but I made it.  And we had some good time in the car and some tough conversations.  Marsha is still smoking.  She's trying vaping, but pretty much uses that when it's just too darn cold to go outside.  I do a pretty good job of staying quiet about it.  She smokes (regular cigarettes) outside at my apartment, but last night when we got back to her place she started smoking indoors, and I spent a lot of time the bedroom.  I left yesterday though, and made it from Pittsburgh to Richmond with 1 quick stop in 5.5 hours.  Not too bad.

I thought I had brought a book on CD for my trip back from Pittsburgh, but I couldn't find it and then I remembered I had an Anne Lamott Book on CD I had picked up at the library sale for  dollar, so I had a companion on the way home.  She's a very irreverent religious lady (used to be a drinkin', smokin', druggin' hippie back in the 60's, but she got her act together in the late 70's and she's a wonderful writer about life and God and spirituality, and humanity: raising kids and dogs and how we struggle every day to do it right. She makes me laugh and cry and think and laugh some more. To those who aren't familiar with her I highly recommend her books.  This one is called 'Grace Eventually," and was written in 2004.

 

I marvel at the times I think about smoking for about a nano-second, and remember how it wouldn't solve anything, it would make me cough my head off, it would cost money I don't have, and it would start my stupid number back at one, and while today may not be a palindrome (next one's not until 1551) I'm darn proud of 1443 days of freedom.  I don't come here nearly as often as I did in the first year or two, but when I celebrate my 4 year anniversary on 12/31/18 I am going to be here with bells on!!  Four years will be the longest I have ever quit (and of course it will only get better from here because this is my forever quit).

 

To our wonderful newbies -- the struggle is worth it.  The struggle is so doable, and gets easier as the days go by. And you know what?  The days are going to go by anyway.  You can either mark them hating that you're smoking, or mark them with triumph every day you invest in a forever quit.  You can do it, I promise.

djmurray_12-31-14

Happy Tuesday

Posted by djmurray_12-31-14 Nov 13, 2018

Good morning, EXers.  Just checking in to say hi.  Health updates on my sister and me came in yesterday. Marsha had her prognosis confirmed -- she has a year or a little more unless she gets pneumonia or the flu or something like that, in which case she was told she would go downhill very quickly.  I've shed tears thinking about how to protect her when there isn't much to do except keep her away from anyone who could possibly be contagious.  Other than that we talk on the phone at least once a day, and try to laugh as much as possible.

My health news was more hopeful. The CT scan showed no sign of nodules or cancer, but does show worsening of my COPD, so there is that.  Also, I learned from my other doctor that I am at the brink of diabetes -- glucose at 135 and A1C 6.5. If I get to A1C of 7 I'm clearly diabetic.  So I'm on a low carb routine and wearing my fit bit again to get more exercise.  Hopefully when I see my PCP again in three months my numbers will be down and I won't have to have medication. As I am shortly to turn 70, the way I see it is I can move into my 70's relatively healthy if I'm willing to make these changes, or I can choose to keep doing what I'm doing and move (not as far) into my 70's and be miserable with the meds, the side effects and the misery of diabetes on top of my COPD. 

On paper it's an easy choice, right?  Just like just not smoking.  (Remember the video by Bob Newhart  in which his method for quitting smoking was "JUST STOP IT!")  But this community knows so well, that making changes is a challenge.  The good news is I have all the tools I learned here to apply to this new challenge.  So this is day 2 of my new eating/moving plan.  I won't ask you all to wish me luck, because there's no luck to it -- it's good old commitment, determination and acceptance.  Here we go again!!

   Hello, beautiful EX friends!  I want to share my celebration of 1400 smoke free days with you.  There has been so much going on here and so much I keep learning about keeping my quit (more on that, for sure).  Quick update first, though.  My sister Marsha is doing better and finally seems more like herself after getting finished with chemo in January.  She's just now mostly back to her personality prior to the cancer.  She still has the pulmonary fibrosis, and she's quite concerned about her prognosis. She chooses to continue to smoke, and I've had to process that to finally reach the understanding that she has a right to make that decision.  I can't make her quit, and I will not poison our relationship with a judgment about the choice she's made.  She knows I wish she would quit, but I respect her right to make even a bad decision.  We talk almost every day, and since the tragedy in Pittsburgh on Saturday we've spent a great deal of time on the phone, since we both grew up there and had many friends who belonged to Tree of Life Synagogue.  When I was in junior high I attended art classes on Saturdays at Carnegie Mellon, and afterwards my friend and I would walk to Squirrel Hill and go to the best deli and order Cokes and kosher pickles.  I was absolutely heartbroken, as I know we all were, regardless of political persuasion that 11 mostly elderly people were murdered in such a heartless and craven manner in their house of worship.  Just writing that brings tears.

    I've been living just outside of Richmond, VA since early August, and it really has been an adjustment.  In the 1400 days The first few months of my quit back in 2014-2015 were challenging.  Then things settled down and I pretty much never thought about smoking let alone wanted a cigarette.  Fast forward to the last couple of months.  My daughter smokes, and I actually think there are more smokers here than there were in Northern Virginia.  The pool here in my apartment complex allows smoking and the smoker doesn't even have to go to a special "out of the way" smoking area.  At any rate, there's been an uptick in the challenge to keep my quit.  Let me hasten to say that I am not going to lose these precious days of not smoking (double negative there, but you know what I mean).  It isn't that I seriously want a cigarette, but that little addicted and very opportunistic lady that lives in my brain has been very noisy lately.  I have no structure to my days, so I stay in my pj's too many days, and there are stretches of a week when I don't leave  my apartment.  I have applied for some part-time jobs, but they're not beating my door down for interviews.  My daughter works long hours and overtime on weekends to help make ends meet, and my fabulous granddaughter is a sophomore in high school, who plays softball and field hockey and maintains a 3.75 GPA.  She's dyslexic and has had an individualized education plan (an IEP) each year since 2nd grade.  She never let the 3 years it took her to learn how to read make her feel like a failure and she never gave up.  Oh, and did I mention she's also gorgeous?  And loves her grandma so much?  She has her learner's permit and tonight she drove me to McDonald's in my car.  It was very exciting.  

   But I digress -- the point is that they aren't around much and I saw them tonight for the first time in two weeks.  And what have I done in those two weeks?  Stayed in 95% of the time.  Is it surprising that I was feeling more and more depressed?  And when I'm feeling more and more depressed, is it surprising that the old addicted lady who lives in my brain suggests that I could bring my old "friend" back?  Of course not.  But I know the truth.  Smoking was never my friend, for many reasons.  The primary reason is that I am now on oxygen; that I can't ascend a flight of stairs without my oxygen.  So would I be connived into believing that smoking has something to offer me?  No. 

   So what I've learned about keeping my quit is that usually it's quite easy.  I don't think about smoking; it's a non-issue.  But in times like now, I have to actually work to keep my quit.  I have to consciously address what I know and why I won't smoke, because if I went into auto-pilot I would be standing at the counter asking for a pack of Benson & Hedges.  I know better and that is how I keep my quit when the always addicted part of my brain tries to sell me on going back.  

   I realize that I need to have more structure in my life, and I need to make friends, and feel like I belong here.  And I realized just today that notwithstanding that I've been a lapsed Episcopalian for 15 years, I want to go back to church.  I did some research (I Googled) on Episcopal Churches in my area, and found what appears to be the perfect one.  It's about 20 minutes from my apartment, and the Rector is a woman (yay).  I am going to show up on Sunday and start building a community within the church, and it's the most excited I've been about anything (except my granddaughter -- I am always excited about her) for quite a while.   

   The bottom line for me is that as an elder with close to 4 years under my belt, it's important to remember that keeping my quit means there are times I will have to actually, consciously, work to keep it.  That's okay.  Anything worth doing is worth working for.

   So my dear EX'ers, I'm an hour into my 1400th day, and I bid you goodnight. Sweet dreams and I give thanks that we have this community in which we keep our quits together.  Love you all!  

   P.S. To the newbies:  I always write long blogs.