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djmurray_12-31-14 Blog

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djmurray_12-31-14

I Am So Sad

Posted by djmurray_12-31-14 Nov 14, 2020

I adopted my sweet baby boy in April.  I had never actually had a dog who was just my dog.  He was 12 years old and needed a rescue, and he was the perfect dog for me.  He loved going outside and would ask to go every hour and a half.  He loved to cuddle.  Today I had to put him to sleep because he got terribly sick, with fluid in his lungs and a failing liver.  I am so sad I can't even think of anything more to say.  But I didn't smoke over it.

djmurray_12-31-14

Just Checking In

Posted by djmurray_12-31-14 Sep 24, 2020

Good afternoon, EXers!!  While I usually log in a couple of times a week, I don't often blog because after almost six years I've pretty much said everything I could possibly think of to say!  Nonetheless, I just realized I haven't blogged since June, and I assume there have been quite a few newbies who've joined EX in these last three months who haven't read anything I've ever written, so here I go.

 

Brief background:  I started smoking when I was 13.  I was 66 when I quit.  I smoked heavily for 53 years, and truly thought I would be the last smoker on the planet.  I thought I loved to smoke.  I had no idea how much smoking had commandeered my life until I quit.  You know the drill:  Do I have enough cigarettes? If not, when and how can I get them? Can I smoke here? I'll do [fill in the blank] as soon as I smoke this cigarette.  It's [fill in the weather condition] but I need to get cigarettes or smoke cigarettes. I'm happy, sad, nervous, bored, anxious, socializing, alone, driving, talking on the phone, lonely, sick, afraid, triumphant, and I must have a cigarette. 

 

I had quit before, once for three years.  But every minute I spent not smoking I felt deprived.  I white knuckled it.  I envied people who smoked.  I denied I had COPD for the first two years after my diagnosis.  I was a hard core smoker who thought I couldn't quit.  Then I found EX. I had known for the better part of the year 2014 that I needed to quit.  My cough was unbearable, my breathing was awful, and I kept getting bronchitis which made me miss work too often.  I joined EX in January of '14 but only stayed for a day.  I thought I could just wake up one morning and stop smoking.  That didn't work for me.

 

In November of '14, during yet another bout of bronchitis, I knew the jig was up.  I set New Year's Eve as my quit date.  I re-discovered EX.  I read Alan Carr's book "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking" and started thinking about smoking differently.  I relied on the support of this amazing community every single day for the first year and beyond.  Did I start out thinking I was giving up my best friend?  Yes, I did.  Did I think the crave would kill me?  Only a couple of times, but yes, I did.  Did I look at the elders and think "well, it must have been easy for them"?  Yep.  But I blogged like crazy, suffered the discomfort of changing behaviors I'd had for over 50 years, and found things to do other than smoking. My determination and the support of this community built this quit, one day at a time, and now I'm at almost six years of my forever quit.

 

To the newbies, please know that this community can make all the difference.  As long as you stay determined and make EX part of every day for as long as it takes, you'll find yourself building your forever quit as well. 

Greetings, fellow EXers.  Those who know me know I'm a sucker for round numbers and palindromes.  Thanks to Mark for noting my 2,000 day milestone to remind me of the biggest achievement of my life.  After 53 years of smoking, and smoking heavily, I have reached the first 2,000 days of my forever quit.  (Although doesn't it feel like it's been at least 2,000 days since March of 2020?)

 

To those who don't know me, I've been part of the EX community for five and a half years, but discovered EX six and a half years ago.  In January of 2014 I decided that I had to quit.  I googled quit smoking sites and found EX.  I was about an hour into my quit and feeling very shaky, (because I had already NOT smoked at least 4 cigarettes) and I wrote about how I was scared to lose my best friend (seriously, like many of us I considered those cigarettes friends.)  A number of people replied, and I read the replies, but hadn't done anything to prepare for my quit, so about 3 hours after posting I caved and smoked and promptly forgot about EX.  I thought.

 

Fast forward to the end of 2014 -- In November I had bronchitis (again) and I saw an X-ray of my lungs.  I thought about what I had been doing to them for my entire adult life, and knew I would HAVE to quit (I'd been denying the diagnosis of COPD for almost two years at that point).  I didn't quit immediately, but decided I would quit on New Year's eve.  And I did.  The next day, I remembered that I had gone to a quit smoking site almost a year before, and that someone had written something that I really liked.  I couldn't remember the name of the site, and it took me a while to find it, but I did.  And this community became both my anchor and my lifeboat.  I blogged every single day for the first year and learned everything I could about this addiction.  I read Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking and it changed my attitude about smoking.  I realized that I was NOT deprived by not smoking; instead, smoking is just satisfying the craving you created when you smoked the last one.  That was huge.  Every other time I tried to quit I felt like I was missing something, that those who could smoke were the lucky ones.  I essentially white-knuckled those quits -- once for three whole years.  But I always gave in to that belief that smoking GAVE me something.  

 

By staying close to this community and learning everything it had to offer, by learning to love my EX friends and feeling so loved back, I had the support to go through the discomfort of changing behavior I'd been doing since I was 13 years old.  I was 66 years old when I quit and realized that for over half a century I had spent my time either smoking, thinking about smoking, getting smokes, wondering when I could smoke the next one, etc.  It's a wonder I had time to do anything else!  Of course I was going to be uncomfortable -- sometimes extremely uncomfortable -- going through the process of changing that deeply ingrained behavior.  It wasn't actual pain, but it felt painful.  It wasn't going to kill me, but sometimes it felt like it would.  But as I learned how to navigate those awful moments, they didn't happen as often and they weren't quite as awful.  And then I stopped having those awful moments altogether.  Yes, sometimes I think about smoking, and during this quarantine I've actually had a couple of moments I would call craves.  But they passed quickly, and to my way of thinking, you can't help the thoughts you have, but everything after the thought is a choice.  If I suddenly have a crave (and I haven't had them for years, but this quarantine is challenging) I can notice it and let it pass or I can give myself permission to take the next step toward smoking.  Fortunately, I know what I know and taking that step would . . . I can't even go there.  This is my forever quit.

 

I don't come here nearly as often now, but I will never stop checking in.  Thank you to all for the incredible support you give, and the awesome elders who maintain the continuity of the community.  Love to all.

I've been lurking on EX today.  I have been feeling SO guilty about my thoughts about smoking that I logged on to do a blog about it, but I was feeling too embarrassed to say how much I have thought about smoking in the last few days.  But now I can say I've gotten a ton of help by reading the blogs of the last week or so.  So many of us (elders) have dealt with this issue recently, from seriously contemplating buying a carton of cigarettes to continuing craves.  It's so true that this community is a treasure.  When it comes right down to it we do not deal in platitudes, we deal in love and support.  Yes, we have our mantras, and as one elder said recently, we know them because we've said them a million times, and offered them to newbies.  It's been pointed out in the blogs in the last week that even the staunchest among us is dealing with more thoughts about smoking than she thought possible after more than a decade of her quit. 

 

We are all going through something we could not have contemplated a mere 3 months ago.  It has affected everyone on the planet; there's no "why me?" in this one.  I too am lonely, scared, anxious, eating too much and romancing the smoke.  But we're all in this together and nowhere is that more evident than here at EX.  I came close to giving myself permission to get in my car and go to the store and buy a pack.  I knew it was a choice (one of the things that's kept me from doing that during these weeks of isolation is the understanding that you can't keep craves from happening, but everything after that is a choice).  But with the human sensory deprivation of this bizarre isolation I've been getting way too into the thought that smoking is okay.  I walked my dog past someone who was smoking on their patio, and it smelled good.  I wanted to be sitting on my patio smoking.  

 

I've passed the five year mark in my quit that -- like everyone else's -- was hard won.  I was known as the happy quitter in my early days on EX.  How could I possibly be considering relapsing when I know so much about addiction and the horrific effects of smoking?  I've joked about the opportunistic little old lady who lives in my brain, but I'm not laughing now.  She has become a formidable foe.  

 

So after reading almost all the blogs for the last week, I've figured a few things out:

1.  This is the best group of people I could hope to share my quit with;

2.  In addition to love and support, this group has a lot of hard won wisdom;

3.  When we committed to quit, we were never guaranteed that past a certain point (a year, five years, ten years) it would always be easy;

4.  This is what maintaining our quits means;

5.  I think Guilia said it best when she suggested that our craves are so strong now because we subconsciously desire to go back to a "normal" we've known.

 

I feel better and stronger for having come to EX today.  We're so lucky to have us.

Meet Willie!  He's the 12-year-old toy poodle I adopted a few weeks ago so we can keep each other company during this really bizarre period.  Toy poodles are among the longest lived dogs, so I figure we'll have each other for the foreseeable future and beyond.  He is the perfect dog for me; he has some pep left in him but he sleeps right next to me for a good part of each day.  He has a bed right next to my computer chair, and he's snoring there right now.  I walk him 4 to 5 times a day and at least three of those times we stay out for 15 minutes (assuming it isn't pouring down rain).  When I watch TV he either sits on my lap (he only weighs 6 pounds) or sleeps right next to me on the sofa.  After four weeks of stay-at-home I was really ready for a companion, and he fills the bill perfectly.

 

Many of you know I lost my job on March 20, the one it had taken me 4 months to find.  I'm pretty heartbroken about this and while I will contact them when the stay-at-home is lifted and I feel safe going out (my doctor says I'm in the highest risk bracket, so I doubt I'll be going out to work until the fall) but this shut down about killed the company I was working for, and I doubt seriously that they'll have anything for me.  The result is that when I do go back out I will be right back where I was last year, looking for a job at the age of 71.  I've decided I don't have it in me any longer to work full time, so it will have to be a part-time job and I will have to move someplace cheaper.  But since I live in Virginia and we're on lock-down until June 10, I'm just not going to think about any of that right now and I'll go back to binging on Netflix.

 

The good news is that I've had almost no craves.  Being alone and feeling dread about the figure was kicking up old craves (they didn't last long and I knew why I was getting them).  The little old addicted lady in my brain is very opportunistic and when we went into lock-down and I lost my job and I was alone 24/7 she popped up with the same old suggestions ("you can have just one," "it will make you feel better," "no one has to know" "blah, blah, blah").  This is what we elders mean when we say you have to maintain your quit. It's way easier than it used to be and I go months most times before I have a crave.  With this pandemic and its precautions, and being alone 24/7, and losing my job to boot, I had a few.  Some of them were fleeting; others were insistent.  I started romancing the smoke.  But I know that there's no such thing as just one, and even if there were, smoking does nothing for me but clog up my already compromised lungs.  The truth is if I took a drag on a cigarette I would probably cough for longer than it would take to smoke it.  There's nothing in a cigarette I want, and I will let those craves fade into nothing.

 

So from a person who's been quit for 5.5 years, let me say to all newbies it gets so much better, and those craves you have now should never plague you again.  But know that there will come a time when you haven't even thought about smoking for what seems like forever, and then BAM, you're romancing that smoke.  Remember it's just the addicted part of you taking advantage of a situation you probably haven't been in before, or a stressor you're facing for the first time or in a new way.  Just look that crave in the eye and say "NOPE, I don't do that anymore."

Greetings, EX family -- From my house to your house -- random thoughts coming to the end of the third week of stay at home.   

 

Sorry for the "woe is me" of my last blog.  My granddaughter is fine and well.  In retrospect we don't think she had Covid-19 because she was completely okay within 72 hours.  This is a very surreal time for the entire world, and I think many of us (I know it's true for me) are quite jumpy.  I'm practicing deep breathing, and that helps a lot.

 

Last week I did a really good job of making sure I had a list of things to do each day and I checked them off as I did them.  This week not so much.  This week I've read a lot, started a jigsaw puzzle and watched some TV.  I went out to get groceries and pick up prescriptions yesterday during senior shopping hour and it was pretty darn exciting.  Given that I live in Virginia and we're on a stay-at-home order until June 10, I'm pacing myself in all things.  

 

It figures that when gas (at Costco) is $1.37 a gallon, we can't go anywhere.

 

I'm so glad I don't smoke.  I don't think going out for cigarettes qualifies as obtaining "essentials."  

 

Am I the only person whose glasses fog up when I'm wearing a mask?  I got a paper mask when I went to the doctor back on 3/16, and I tried to wear it yesterday when I went to the store, but I couldn't see because it made my glasses foggy.  

 

I'm really glad April Fools passed with very few people pulling pranks.  It just isn't a good time for that.  However, I have a few Facebook friends who are posting genuinely funny things, and I love them because laughter really is the best medicine.  One of my favorites: "After three weeks of staying in the house I'm beginning to understand why my dog chews the furniture."  Another one:  "After three weeks of staying in the house I understand why my dog stares out the window.  Today I think I barked at a squirrel." And: "For years I've said I just didn't have time to give my house a good cleaning.  Turns out time's not the problem."

 

I filed for unemployment a week ago.  The numbers came out today -- I was one of 6.6 Million who filed for the first time last week.  Holy (insert whatever cuss word comforts you, or, if you don't cuss, then "mackerel.")  The previous record was set last week at 3.3 million.  Prior to that the record was 658,000.  We're in totally uncharted territory here, in so many ways.

 

I just realized I haven't used my voice today.

 

Thank heaven for Zoom.  I was one of 52 people who participated in our church service last Sunday morning on Zoom and I think it will be a bunch more this coming Sunday.  I'm part of a study group on Wednesday mornings and we had 22 of us on Zoom yesterday.  I've seen 74 faces on Zoom, this week, which is considerably more than I've seen in person in 3 weeks!

 

And thank heaven for my family.  They know I'm not much of a cook which makes me lazy about cooking for just myself.  About 3 times a week they've been sending dinner over.  

 

So that's about it for now.  Maybe I'll take a nap.  Love you all!

djmurray_12-31-14

Feeling Broken

Posted by djmurray_12-31-14 Mar 21, 2020

My 16 year old granddaughter is ill.  She's running a fever of 102.  She tested negative for the flu and strep, but the blood work showed it is definitely viral.  We have no available testing for Covid-19.  She's at home and my daughter is taking care of her.  I'm worried sick.

Also, I lost my job yesterday, part of a massive layoff at my company.  I know I'm not the only one who's lost a job in this insane time and I have much to be grateful for.  But sometimes I feel like Sisyphus; pushing the boulder up the hill and sliding back every single time.  I will be able to file for unemployment after a week waiting period, and I'm grateful that I will have that. 

Of course, the opportunistic little addicted lady in my brain has been very active lately.  Yesterday when I filled up my car with gas I stood there for a full three minutes thinking "I could by cigarettes here."   I've been quit for over five years and damn if she doesn't show up every time I'm super stressed.  She wants me to romanticize the smoke, to believe I'll feel better if I light up "just one," to buy into the idea that it would relax me, and that no one would have to know.  But I know what I know.  I know there's no such thing as "just one."  I know that I would kill a beautiful five-year-on-to-forever quit.  And I know that I would tell you all.  So NOPE -- I don't do that anymore.

Four weeks ago I started having episodes of bradycardia.  I went to the ER for an infection in my eyelid that wasn't healing with oral antibiotics.  They gave me IV antibiotics but they were more concerned that my heart rate wouldn't climb out of the 40s.  They admitted me.  My heart rate returned to the 70's and after 2 days they discharged me and told me to stop taking the blood pressure medication I had been taking for six years.  Three days later my heart rate dropped to 32 and I spent the day in the ER.  The following Monday I was able to see the Physician's Assistant at the office of the cardiologist who I had seen in the hospital when I was admitted the previous week.  She put me on a Holter Monitor that sent real time heart data to their office.  The next day I awoke and my heart was running between 165 and 185,  I was in A-Fib with RVR and the Dr's office called me and told me to call an ambulance. I was just discharged from the hospital a week ago, after having had a pacemaker inserted on Thursday and a re-surgery on Friday when it was discovered by X-ray that the leads were too short.  I was doing swimmingly Friday morning, doing fine on Tylenol and not experiencing undue discomfort.  However, they went back in on Friday early afternoon, and I was REALLY hurting when I awoke after that second surgery at the same site.  In addition, my entire shoulder and my left-hand scapula were seriously hurting.  They put me on 2 mg of Dilaudid and that helped considerably with the pain.  Originally, they were going to discharge me on Friday, then they thought they would send me home on Saturday.  I was still in too much pain to go home, and on Sunday I asked to stay one more day.  They agreed.  That night while in the hospital and on oral heart medication, I had a 52 minute episode of A-Fib with my heart rate between 145 and 155.  My nurse tried to tell me that I was causing the episode because I was anxious.  I didn't feel anxious, but given that she had told me earlier that my Pacemaker wouldn't allow my  heart to go above 130 (and she had been a cardiac nurse for 25 years and she KNEW what she was talking about), I did get anxious and confused.  I had been sure that the cardiologist told me that since I had brady/tachycardia syndrome, the pacemaker would ensure that my heart rate would not go below 60, so however aggressively we had to treat the A-Fib, I would run no risk of my heart stopping.  She confused me, and furthermore, for those 52 minutes I thought my PM couldn't be working right.  I was scared that they would have to go in a third time.  The only way they got rid of the A-Fib was with an IV dose of the heart medicine, which they had given me orally about an hour before the A-Fib experience.  I woke up the next morning afraid to go home.  The rep from Boston Scientific came to see me, and she confirmed what I had thought was true; protection against bradycardia, but the tachycardia and A-Fib had to be treated with medication.  I saw a Nurse Practitioner from my cardiologist's office who said I could go home, but I wanted to talk to my doctor.  He was very nice about it, but he said I had nothing to be afraid of; that tweaking the A-Fib medication was part of the process, and no one is where they're going to end up eventually med-wise when they leave the hospital.  He assured me there is absolutely no possibility of a life-threatening event (although they didn't start the blood thinning meds last Tuesday); and I pulled up my big girl panties (I'm 71, so I've been a big girl for a while)  and was embarrassed and agreed to come home.  I googled recovery from PM surgery and found a small support group for people with pacemakers, and was so very gratified to read that I'm not the only one who became fearful about having this implanted and what it means for my future.  I don't feel like such a crybaby now.  I started back to work yesterday and while I would have loved to have taken another week, it's probably better for me to get back in the saddle and get my mind off of this very unexpected medical surprise. There's no support group like EX and it was killing me that there was some kind of glitch that wouldn't let me sign in here with my password and wouldn't send me an email to let me change my password.  It finally got fixed so here I am to tell my sad tale and to hear from my beloved friends who know I'm NOT a big crybaby most of the time.

Now, do you want to hear the weirdest thing ever?  When I woke up with the AFib on Tuesday, the 18th of February, I got a text from my daughter Jen, who had taken my son-in-law, Johnny, to the stand-alone ER down the street from us at 6:45 a.m because they thought he was having a heart attack.  Right after I got that text was when the cardiologist's office called to tell me to get to the hospital immediately.  I had to call an ambulance, and they took me to the best hospital for cardiology, Chippenham Hospital.  My granddaughter left school and came to sit with me while Jen was with Johnny.  They determined he was in Congestive Heart Failure and they would be bringing him to Chippenham to admit him.  They were admitting me, and said they were taking me to room 421.  They wheeled me out of the ER cubicle, and turned the corner and then left me there for a few minutes and called false alarm and moved me back into the ER cubicle.  Kennedy (my granddaughter) said wouldn't it be funny if they bumped you from that room for dad?  And that's exactly what happened.  When I went down for my second pacemaker surgery, it was done in the cath lab where Johnny was also having a heart catherization to see if ther4e were any blockages in his heart, which they knew was only pumping at 25% capacity.  She said it was the weirdest thing; she could see the patient roster -- her husband's name was there, and her mother's name was right above his.  He was on the fourth floor and I was right below him on the third floor.  At least we were in not only the same hospital, but the same wing of the same hospital.  I actually got to go up and visit him 3 times.  He's in worse shape than I am and he's only 50, but he's doing much better and is going back to work next week.  We are a very blessed family.

Given all the time I took off (almost the whole month of February) I doubt I'll make it to VA Beach in May, but I have a room reserved, so I'm not going to make up my mind until the last minute about EX 8.  Thank you for being here, dear friends, and thank you for listening to this very long tale of woe. (They kept asking me if I was short of breath, and I said well, of course I'm always short of breath - I have COPD!)

All my love,

. Donna

djmurray_12-31-14

Oops!

Posted by djmurray_12-31-14 Jan 2, 2020

Hello, dear EX friends.  I actually missed my five year anniversary -- holiday plans got the best of me, so I'm just dropping in to say how happy I am that I have stayed smoke free for five years (well, five years and two days), and will never smoke another cigarette as long as I live. I am so blessed to have found this community at just the right time, and I will never, ever think about quitting smoking without thinking of you all.

 

Life is so good now.  I'm working full time (again) and I love my job.  I feel like my brain has awakened, and at just about 71 years old, that's cause for celebration.  The holidays were joyful with family and friends.  My COPD has worsened, which isn't so great, but I'm fortunate that I even have lungs after how long and how much I smoked.  To you new quitters, please know that I was as staunch a smoker as any of you, and I was as scared as you are/were at the idea of quitting.  But if you get the education, the support and the wisdom of the folks on this site, you will be looking back at five years of freedom as well.  

 

Can we actually believe it's 2020?  Can we believe our worry about Y2K was twenty years ago??? Mind boggling how quickly the time goes by, and you have the opportunity to build those days of freedom one day at a time -- which will turn into one year, five years, 10 years . . . I think you get the point.  Happy New Year to all!

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.