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djmurray_12-31-14 Blog

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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.

Good evening, EX friends.  Staying busy in central Virginia and made a round trip to northern VA today for a doctor's appointment.  No bad weather, no traffic to speak of, no trouble finding gas (no price gouging where I got gas} and friendly people amused at how many cases of water we had in our carts.   No real trouble making the 120 mile RVA to NOVA trip each way if you plan the timing right and have a good book on DVD in the disc player in my car.  When I travel to see my sister I'll  go a different way and will be able to miss going through DC to do it.

 

So here are a couple of thoughts I'm having that speak to not only me, but to those who are struggling with change of any kind, and certainly to quitting smoking.  It isn't easy.  If it was easy, then the first time you thought about quitting those cigarettes you'd throw them into the garbage (making sure it's the dirty, smelly garbage).

 

My change involves a number of areas:  I'm recently retired, and while it's nice to have time to do whatever I want, it's a change.  I've moved from Northern Virginia to Richmond.  That's a change.  I'm much more involved on a daily basis with my daughter and her family and their dogs.  That's a change.  And I've never been shy about sharing here that I suffer clinical depression, which doesn't help in the dealing with change department.  My daughter and my granddaughter did a wonderful job of getting this place unpacked, and I've been going through the things that were put away, and I'm changing some things to be more functional for me.  But I have had such difficulty motivating myself to do what I need to do.  So I have been thinking about this today.  I started coming out of my depression fatigue by saying "I have 24 hours in the day.  I can do anything for one hour a day.  The rest of the hours I can sleep, or read, or do more work beyond the hour, but I don't have to.  I just need to work for one hour.  Any more is gravy.

 

When I didn't look at the entire job in its entirety but instead planned by time, I was able to meet that very modest goal.  I know it's the same thing with smoking.  If we start out telling ourselves we can never smoke another cigarette, that's impossibly broad.  But if we say I'm simply going to work on this for today -- just make it for the current "day at a time." The degree of "pain" we experience in connection with quitting smoking (which I did a little more than 2.5 years ago), is directly related to our way of thinking about what we're facing.  Quitting smoking -- making a plan including facing it day by day.  The changes I'm facing is really the same -- make a plan including facing it day by day.   And maintaining a positive attitude is truly important. 

 

I would write more, but I realized it almost 11 p.m. and not that I'm an old retired lady I try to go to bed about 11, and I must have established a new habit because here at 10:45 p.m.I can't keep my eyes open!!

 

Love to all.  I'll write more soon.

I used to state, relating of course to my alcoholic husband, that "there is no such thing as a geographic cure."  In other words. just moving to a different setting for your suffering doesn't make a bit of difference.  It's true, too.

I am still a happy smoker and my oldest daughter, just having received a definitive diagnosis of Muscular Sclerosis (MS) after 18 years and 5 severe episodes is relieved (but certainly not happy) to finally get this actual diagnosis rather than the skeptical "have you considered seeing a psychiatrist" question because her test results aren't "right down the middle"

Make no mistake -- I love being near my daughter and her husband and my two fabulous grandkids, but I was hoping to feel less overwhelmed when I got here rather than more.  My family has done a magnificent job of unpacking and organizing me.  They've put together furniture for me, and I haven't done much of anything.  I did take my granddaughter out shopping for some things she wanted for school, and we  had great fun doing it. but I was exhausted all day and simply couldn't get out of bed this morning so I missed her first field  hockey game this evening.  I want to be the grandma who does it all, but I think I have to work up to that somewhat.  It was a gorgeous day here today, but I didn't get out of my jammies.  Guess I'll have to take this one day at a time, or one step at a time if I need to.

Marsha is going to be released from the hospital tomorrow, and I'll plan to drive up to Pittsburgh early next week to spend a few days with her and get her pantry stocked with things she'll actually eat.  Then when I get back from Pgh I'll start looking for a part time job.  Right this minute I'm not doing well at staying part time out of my bed, so I have a way to go. 

oh, my palindrome today is 1331.  Maybe it's a sign.  Love you all -- heading to bed and I'll write more when I'm not dopey from the sleeping pill.  Sweet dreams, brave quitters.

My sister is dying. 

 

I am the oldest of 3; our brother died 15 years ago at the age of 50.  Marsha and I have always been close and for the last five years or so we've been extremely close. I've blogged about her illnesses before and the fact that she still smokes. She was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease (pulmonary fibrosis) 3 years ago about the same time she was diagnosed with COPD.  The last year has been her diagnosis of lung cancer, her surgery and her chemo.  When she came down from Pittsburgh a few weeks ago to get me organized to put my condo on the market she worked like a Trojan and did in 2.5 days what I couldn't have done in 2.5 months (maybe years since I'm very ADD and when I'm overwhelmed I get paralyzed and I cry).  Unfortunately, although I felt like she saved my life (and told her so repeatedly) she ended up in the hospital for 4 days here in Virginia.  Her lungs were in bad shape and they said, "by the way" you're aware you have a mass in your right breast, aren't you?"  Uh, no.

 

I could tell she was scared because she never read the records they gave her to take home to show her oncologist. She got home on July 2, called the oncologist and they told her she should just keep her appointment on July 19!!!!  Surprise!

 

She had her normal every-three-month CAT scan last Thursday and saw her pulmonologist yesterday.  The horrible surprise is that the doctor wasn't at all concerned about breast cancer because Marsha's pulmonary fibrosis has progressed so significantly that she is rapidly approaching end stage.  She has a strict regimen to follow (which she's mostly followed since she was originally diagnosed, but now it's literally a question of life or death) which means she can only get into the hospital bed she's slept in for the last 2 years at night when she's ready to go to sleep, and she can do virtually nothing during the day -- not even cleaning her own apartment.  I am looking for a really comfortable chair she can sit in during the day.  The doctor said if it progresses further in the  next 3 months they will take her off of oxygen because it won't help her breathe with that much of her lung in scar tissue because the lungs will have lost their ability to absorb the oxygen.  The only further treatment would be an iron lung, which of course Marsha rejected.  When she comes off of oxygen it's time for hospice.

 

I would like to make a connection to quitting smoking and there probably is one.  I'm just too sad to try.

Good afternoon, all.  First of all, I love that I think of myself as a nonsmoker before I think of myself as a successful quitter (not that I don't love that, too).  Again, I know there are many here who don't know me at all, but it occurs to me that I have something to contribute from this perspective.  I know to an absolute certainty that for the first 66 years of my life (well, I wasn't smoking as a baby, but did start at 13) I thought the antidote to stress and anxiety was -- you got it -- smoking!!  It never occurred to me that I was smoking but the stress and anxiety didn't magically go away no matter how many cigarettes I smoked.  When I first quit 3.5 years ago, I realized that I had used smoking and the actual physical smoke to divert from dealing directly with emotions and issues.  It was something to do instead of facing these emotions and issues.

 

I retired on June 22 after doing a poor job of planning for retirement.  I'm five months away from turning 70 and truth be told it wasn't entirely my idea to retire.  I wasn't performing up to my own standards -- I was getting confused, making mistakes and missing things.  I had a wonderful manager who really tried to work with me, but in the end it was for the best.  And it relieved that constant stress of going to work every day thinking "what am I going to screw up today?"

 

But there are other stressors now.  Life is hard sometimes.  Emotions are heightened sometimes.  I am experiencing pretty high anxiety as my condo has been on the market for almost a month and I haven't gotten any offers, and we did an open house yesterday to which NO ONE showed up.  I am scheduled to move August 6 but had to take possession of the apartment I found in Richmond (where I'm moving to be near my daughter and her family) on July 3, so for July and now it looks like August, I'll be paying rent and my mortgage and my condo fee, which is crazy expensive.  I'm going to be living on my social security (which has been seriously diminished monthly because they take my Medicare Part B, on which I pay a penalty because I made too much money last year and my part D, also with a penalty).  I was going to have taxes taken out of it but I can't afford to.  I had hoped to get settled and look for a part-time job in Richmond in September, but I'm thinking I should start looking now.

 

So the point of all this background is that I am not worrying about losing my precious quit, even though I will be around more smokers when I move.  My daughter and most of her friends are smokers, and I wondered if it would tempt me.  But having spent almost a week down there for the 4th of July, I know my quit is solid.  I grasped very early in this quit that I am not deprived by not smoking.  Smoking was NEVER my friend, even though I wouldn't have believed it for decades of my smoking as much as I could.  I smoked 3 packs a day from the time I was 18 to 40.  From 40 to 64 I smoked roughly 2 packs a day because you couldn't smoke everywhere all the time anymore.  Then for the last couple of years I smoked it was 1 pack a day when I decided I would only smoke outside and you pretty much couldn't smoke anywhere.  I am so lucky I have lungs left, never mind that I have COPD and require oxygen.

 

So, to old friends and new ones, know that we are stronger than the little addict we have in our brain.  He or she will always be there and will spend more and more time asleep.  Don't be surprised if you run into a new situation, a new emotion or a new stressor to hear a little voice in your brain reminding you that you'll feel better if you smoke. That's just an echo of an old voice and we can smile and say "I know that isn't true.  Go back to sleep."  And then we go back to dealing with life.  As nonsmokers.

I'm still struggling with the fine points on this new site -- The image was supposed to say "Big Journeys Start with Small Steps."  Once again, when I look for wisdom relating to retirement, I always stumble across ideas that relate both to retirement AND quitting smoking!! 

It definitely takes small steps -- sometimes at the beginning of a quit those steps are minute by minute, hour by hour, etc.  My retirement benefits from that advice as well. I spent the 4th of July through yesterday (my daughter's birthday) in Richmond and came back happy, excited and energized and smack into an anxiety attack about how I'm going to afford to live!  Also anxiety about now I'm going to have to change my Medicare set up.  I suspect my Parts A & B won't change, but I am pretty sure I have to find a new supplement and drug coverage.  Ugh.  For some reason, dealing with Medicare gives me immediate brain fog!  But small steps.  My condo is on the market, but there hasn't been a lot of action in these first two weeks.  Nonetheless, I've scheduled my move for August 6, because I realized I didn't want to be in limbo about that very important decision.

I miss you all, and it occurs to me that I won't miss you all so much if I log in here more often.  Right now I'm really tired, and heading off to bed, but I'll come back soon.  Love you all!!

djmurray_12-31-14

AN HONEST UPDATE

Posted by djmurray_12-31-14 Jun 3, 2018

Greetings, all -- lots has happened since I last blogged, and even though I didn't want to unload on you wonderful souls who held my hand during the first year of my quit or any of the newbies who don't know me from Adam. First let me say that the one constant in my life right now is my quit.  Not a day goes by -- and I really mean this -- that I am not grateful that I finally conquered this addiction.  So not smoking is my forever choice notwithstanding that opportunistic little addict lady who hides in my brain but is instantly activated in some strange moments.  I know her opportunistic game and I simply smile and say go back to sleep little girl -- I'm in charge here.

 

Well, I worked 4 hours a day since November 1 and as of July 6, 2018 I am being retired, and will have no job.  I just can't seem to do the work up to my usual standard, and I have a lot of confusion that I guess I haven't hidden so well.  I am indeed pushing 70, so I don't know why I feel this fear.  I never planned for retirement and my social security isn't going to keep me afloat.  I'm going to sell my condo and hopefully the proceeds from that and the money I have in my 401k will help as well.  I'm going to move to Richmond to an apartment close to my daughter and her family.  I'm actually having a lot of trouble seeing what's next.  I hope to make it all work but I feel overwhelmed about getting my place ready to put on the market, and getting packed and finding a good place in Richmond, And then finding a job down there that doesn't require the same level of skills as the jobs I've had. 

 

I found a wonderful therapist who is a PhD Psychologist, and works in the mindfulness method of staying in the moment and experiencing the feelings that come with this kind of change.  She's just what I need to work through the depression and anxiety that acompanies these kinds of changes.  Coincidentally, I was scrolling through Facebook today and came across an excerpt from a Ted Talk.  The woman was talking about how we label emotions as good or bad.  Anger, disappointment and fear are considered bad, and we want them to go away because they make us uncomfortable.  She said if you live your life with the goal to never have, or ever acknowledge that you have those negative emotions, you have the goals of a dead person.  Only a dead person never feels those emotions, or any others, of course.  She concluded by saying that discomfort is the price we pay to live. 

 

I was quite struck by that. . And I realized that it applies to quitting smoking.  I've said before that for me the key was realizing that it was going to be uncomfortable every time I entered an experience (meaning everything I did from waking up to going to bed) where I had smoking solidly associated with the action.  And it was indeed uncomfortable.  It didn't kill me, and soon I wasn't having those moments of discomfort as often and then at some point I don't actually remember, I went for whole hours, then days, then whole weeks, months and years.  If I hadn't recognized that they were discomforts, not life-threatening pain we tend to consider them in those first especially tough days.  Discomfort is the price we pay to quit.  And the discomfort evaporates more quickly than we think it will.

 

My sister Marsha has mostly returned to her old self, but again I'm so angry at our health system.  She started developing peripheral neuropathy after her first chemo.  So told her care team, and they kind of brushed it off.  It got worse with every treatment, and they never addressed that issue.  I got on the American Cancer Society website and peripheral neuropathy is one of the major side effects of the metal-based chemo druges Marsha was getting, and that the care team should monitor carefully for this side effect because it should be addressed in changing the approach for the remaining chemo sessions.  So to add insult to injury, she now has a condition that resulted from her treatment that is most likely going to be permanent.  She's 67 years old and she needs to use a walker now.  Damn

 

Marsha is coming from Pittsburgh on Monday, and Tuesday we're going to Richmond for my oldest grandson's high school graduation and that will be really fun.  It will be good to actually see Marsha, which I haven't since last fall.  Hard to believe everyone's growing so quickly. Then again, we're all doing it, aren't we?  And whoever said getting old isn't for sissies hit the nail on the head!.

 

I'm so sorry I couldn't join you all on the cruise, and the few pictures I've seen look great.  Looking forward to seeing many more.  Love to all my EX friends and all the newbies who are starting their journies in this wonderful incubator for solid quits.

djmurray_12-31-14

I Love Milestones

Posted by djmurray_12-31-14 Apr 15, 2018

   Happy Saturday night, Ex'ers.  The Happy quitter, checking in because I haven't been here for a while.  One of the things that those of you who know me understand is that I really do love milestones, and this is a rather unique one.  I have a counter that sends me emails about my quit, and many days I don't even look at it anymore, but I did look at todays email and lo and behold, it's been 1200 days since I quit, I've saved $9,000 from not smoking 36,000 cigarettes and I've added 9 months to my life.  Every single number is exact zero's.  I don't think that's happened before, but there's a beautiful symmetry to it.

   It's been a long and strange winter.  It's the middle of April and we finally got a couple of beautiful spring days, but while we were in the 80's today here in Northern Virginia, in the mid-west it's been snowing like crazy!  And we're going down about 30 degrees or more by Tuesday.  My sister lives in Pittsburgh and they're expecting snow on Tuesday.

   To all of the newbies here who have no idea who I am I smoked for 53 years (pretty heavily) and I'm lucky I still have lungs.  I quit a little over three years ago with the help of this wonderful community.  I know I will never smoke another cigarette.  When you see I've not smoked for 1200 days you're probably thinking "yeah, but it was probably easy for her."  No, it wasn't easy, because I had to disentangle smoking from every single aspect of my life.  I smoked when I was happy; I smoked when I was sad.  I smoked when I was healthy; I smoked when I was sick.  I smoked when I was lonely; I smoked when I was in a crowd.  For the better part of 53 years I was either smoking, thinking about smoking, planning for smoking or trying to sneak in a little  more smoking.  Talking on the phone, driving the car,  with coffee in the morning and adult beverages at night.  To help me concentrate, to help me unwind . . . I could go on and on.  What I figured out at the beginning of this quit was that the agony I was anticipating in giving up what I thought -- like so many smokers do -- was my best friend was just the discomfort of untangling those connections.  Oh, believe me, I had my moments when that little sneaky smoker who lives in my brain tried to cajole me into thinking she was telling me the truth when she said "have a smoke, you'll feel better." Turns out that's nothing but "fake news."  

   The elders here regularly will guide you through this somewhat tricky but very doable process, and the quitters just ahead of you will help immeasurably as well.  You're on the right track and you can definitely make this your forever quit.  

djmurray_12-31-14

Hello Friends!

Posted by djmurray_12-31-14 Jan 12, 2018

Haven't been here for a while and wanted to say hello.  Lots of new folks here of course, and that's what it's all about.  Life is so much better without cigarettes.  I love that I don't smoke, and while I wish I had never started, it is what it is.  I'm lucky to have a beautiful 3-year and on to forever quit.

 

I've posted something I read at the beginning of my quit several times now, but it seems like a good time to post it again.  My apologies to those of you who've seen it all the times I've posted it. I can't provide proper accreditation, but I did not write this.

 

"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!"

Have a great weekend, my friends, and Happy MLK day on Monday. 

Disclaimer -- this is a very long blog -- those of you who know me are excused if you don't want to read such a long rant, and those of you who don't know me, the story is long and the bottom line is I'm very deeply depressed, but I am keeping my quit.  Of course you can read on, but I'll understand if you don't.

 

It has been a long time since I've gotten on here and vented.  I am grateful for this group with whom I can be open and honest.  My depression is deepening by each day, and for those of you who know me I am hoping some support can be received.  I will be celebrating three years smoke-free as of New Years Eve, which will be here before we know it.  I am not threatening to lose my quit.  I have assured those who know what's happening that I will not hurt myself in any way -- Of course I will not lose my quit and taking my life would only deeply hurt the ones I hold dear, my sister, my children, my grandchildren, those who know me from EX, those with whom I've worked, the doctors I've seen and hold in dear esteem.  So with those assurances I am going to press on, because right now I have nowhere to turn for the support I need.

 

My sister Marsha has lung cancer.  She also has emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis.  The background picture was taken in her senior year of high school. Her lungs are hopelessly fragile and compromised.  My sister and I have always been close, we speak on the phone virtually every day.  We've laughed together over more than 60 years we've been together.  Whether we're at close proximity (as we were when we were growing up and then living as young adults) or while  Marsha spent 10 years (from her 29th year to her 39th year) in San Francisco while I stayed in Virginia.  When she called in 1989 and needed me I flew out the next day and we drove her car and worldly belongings back here on an adventurous 5-day road trip.  In about 2004 she moved to Georgia, where my oldest daughter Jen lived with her husband and little kids.  Eventually she briefly came back to Virginia, but then moved to Pittsburgh 6 years ago where she currently resides.  I've managed to see her three or four times a year.  In the beginning of the summer, because of her Pulmonary Fibrosis, her pulmonologist wanted her to have a CAT Scan done every three months.  Fortunately, the University of Pittsburgh Medical System) which has numerous systems through the greater Pittsburgh area, provides all services to Marsha free of charge. In the spring her CAT Scan showed a suspicious nodule in her lung, so she went in for a biopsy. I went up for the biopsy.  It came back in late April or early May as okay.  We felt relieved and good.  Three months later, tho, it had grown rapidly and a surgical intervention was needed.  They removed the growing nodule and the lymph glands around it.  After surgery Marsha was told she was good to go, no oncologist was needed; they got it all.  Marsha was then going to have an appointment with her pulmonologist.  It had to be postponed for a couple of weeks, though, because Marsha had to go into the hospital for five days because she was so backed up and nothing that she did at home worked.  Because of the hospitalization she had to reset her pulmonologist's appointment which deferred it for about three weeks.  While Marsha was miserable and still in considerable pain as a result of the 3-hour extreme rib-spreading they'd had to do for her surgery, she was very relieved about the surgical outcome.

 

She finally met with her pulmonologist in late October.  That's when everything fell apart.  It turns out someone (I'm not sure who) decided to send the biopsy to a pulmonary fibrosis & oncologist specialist, who determined that the malignancy had spread to the lining of her lung and she had to undergo chemotherapy immediately.   She saw her pulmonologist on Wednesday, she got into see the oncologist on Friday of that week and immediately on Monday Marsha had her first chemotherapy.  She was (and so was I) angry at her pulmonologist for waiting to tell her what had changed and what she needed to do.  Three weeks went by with Marsha thinking all is well while the malignancy in the lining of her lung was being unchecked.

 

I am still working (more about that later in this lengthy tome) so while I wasn't able to get to Pittsburgh to take her to her first chemo, I got there a few days later and tried to do what I could for her.  Her first chemo was 10/30, and her dearest friend in her building took her to it, although they were late because Betty Lou (her friend) is just about 75 and is leery of driving in the city.  The Hillman Cancer Center is in one of the urban areas of Pittsburgh (Squirrel Hill, Oakland or Shadyside, I'm not sure which) Her chemotherapy takes all day because they hydrate her first for over an hour, they infuse her with anti-nausea medication intravenously, then they take about 2-3 hours for the first drug, another hour of saline, then another 2-3 hours of the second medication, and finally another hour of saline hydration.  While I was up there I did grocery shopping after we brainstormed what she could consider eating and loaded up on all of it.  I put money in her checking account and agreed to pay her car payment each month.  Marsha has been on disability for the six years she's been in Pgh. and her rent keeps going up while her disability payment has made only a minuscule increase.  I don't want her to worry over finances, so I'm doing my best to keep that on an even financial keel. 

 

So in the very beginning of November I was with her for about four days.  Her next chemo was scheduled for November 20, and I planned to drive up on Sunday so I could take her to her chemo, but then the weather report predicted snow in the mountains on the very day I was going to drive up.  She and I had made an agreement that neither of us would drive in the snow.  So I couldn't go up on Sunday.  Instead, I went on Monday, and arrived at her place before she even got home. When I used the restroom, there was a cigarette butt in the toilet.  My heart sank.

 

Marsha was in reasonably decent spirits when they got home, but she was at her wit's end.  My normally funny and positive sister couldn't even talk about the treatment or the trip to and from the chemo.  She knew the next few days were going to get worse and worse.  Oh, by the way, the other thing I missed on Sunday was her getting her head shaved.  Her hair was coming out in clumps, so it was time.  I felt really bad that I couldn't be there for it. I had even volunteered to shave my head, but Marsha insisted that I don't do it.

 

She didn't want to eat anything and I saw that most of the items I'd gotten for her on my last trip were uneaten.  She had a little soup, though.  On Tuesday morning she was doing okay, and we needed to go back to the Hillman Center because she had left her notebook there which contained all of her cancer information and a prescription.  So we made that the first thing we did on Tuesday.  She was still somewhat unsure about how to get there, but we got there.  Both of our nerves were pretty much shot.  I was lugging around my useless oxygen (more about this later, as well), and she was trying to find something to wear on her head so it would stay warm and look halfway nice.  She was very prickly as I and the sales woman tried to help her, and suffice it to say she got pricklier and pricklier from there.  She wanted to go to lunch at a Chinese restaurant we frequented as we grew up in Pgh.  But getting from the Hillman Center to downtown Pgh. was a challenge, and then we wandered around a bit, my nerves were shattering, as were hers.  We found the restaurant; there was no place to park at all, and a couple of blocks away we found a lot that was $20 for up to 15 minutes!  Marsha ended up screaming and cussing at the very rude lot attendant, and I thought my head was going to burst.  It wasn't that I thought he was right; he wasn't.  But Marsha's top blew off.  We gave it up, drove back to the suburbs where her apartment is, and stopped at a hamburger restaurant chain, thank god.

 

I had to work remotely from there per my manager, and I was very late signing on because of the very long trip I hadn't anticipated. Marsha took a nap as I worked for a few hours.  When she got back up she was in an even worse mood.  Anything I said aggravated her.  I tried to modify my voice to keep it mellow, but she kept telling me to keep it down.  I gave her space with her cat and stayed in the dining room and worked.  In the meantime, she got up and went into the bathroom a couple of times and was in there for quite a while.  I noticed she had stuffed a towel at the bottom of the door.  She was smoking.

 

This breaks my heart and frankly makes me angry.  They are putting poison in her system to kill the cancer; every puff she takes on a cigarette counters that poison and is its own form of poison.  But I can't keep her quit (if she ever had one) and when I mentioned it she became very defensive and angry.  I will not say anything further, but I do have to deal with my own feelings.  As the days have gone by Marsha has felt worse and worse and has become pricklier.  She's angry at the world.  I told her I would come up and take her for her next chemo session on December 11, and that I wanted to be there on Christmas, which didn't have to be anything special -- I just wanted to be with her.  I've learned through my daughter that Marsha thinks I've put too much pressure on her, so I've explained to her that I will respect whatever she wants.  I had also suggested that I would come to Pgh and pick her up, we could come back to Virginia and spend the night at my place, and then on Christmas day take her to Fredricksburg to see her niece Katy and grandson Riley for an hour or so, and then take her down to Richmond to see her other niece Jenny and my grandchildren Jason & Kennedy.  I told her she could let me know the day before if it was something she wanted to do.  But my simply having mentioned it as a gentle suggestion upset her and made her feel stressed.  I've tried to explain to her that she is not hurting my feelings, and that I will do whatever she wants.  On the phone tonight she pretty much told me she wasn't sure she wouldn't want me to come up for her chemo in December or for Christmas.  I will accept that as well.  But my heart is broken because of it.

 

I don't know if it's the stress or the depression, but my breathing has gotten horrible.  I can barely walk a block without panting.  I moved up my own pulmonologist appointment to next Monday because I'm either in an exacerbation of my COPD  or my COPD has worsened.  I need to get my oxygen supplier changed to the one that has the small, portable condenser.  Right now I've been dragging around heavy canisters that are worth 4 hours or 2 hours, but when they're empty they have to be returned to the company.  Traveling to Pgh. means I have to drag those awful canisters, and connect a gauge (which they only gave me one, so I have to set up each canister).  At any rate, I won't go on and on any more about this, but I need to deal with this breathing problem which isn't helped much by my Spriva, Advair and rescue inhaler.  And the second hand smoke at Marsha's doesn't help either.

 

On top of everything else, I've been cut back to 20 hours per week at work and I've lost all my benefits.  I was making mistakes and forgetting things, and my manager (who I really love and respect) thought if I didn't have to handle proposals (with short turnaround deadlines) it would relieve the stress and I could just manage contracts and act as a mentor to new and more junior contracts administrators.  Having to be available every day for four hours is difficult in my current state however.  I'm getting rid of all my work clothes and donating them.  I don't feel like getting dressed up anymore.  I don't even feel like going to work at all.  My depression is debilitating at this point.  I intended to go to work today, but couldn't.  I did have an appointment with my primary physician at 2:30 today and I mentioned during my weepy discussion with her that when I was most tempted to smoke during the early days of my quit, the last bastion was knowing I would have to be honest with my EX friends, and couldn't bear the idea of admitting I lost my quit.  I hasten to tell you all that I am not going to hurt myself -- I wouldn't do that to my children, my grandchildren, my sister, the people I work with, you all, and my doctors.  My dear doctor listened to me today and said "Work toward the day when you will not hurt yourself for yourself, since you are a good person and you deserve to live."  So, my dear EX friends, please do not call 911.  I'll make it through.  I am going to contact the American Cancer Society to see what support they can provide and I'm adding an antidepressant to my medications.  Oh, and that's the other thing that's driving me down -- Medicare -- I'm paying a penalty for my income in 2016, so instead of having $134 deducted from my Social Security it will be a total of $267 per month.  My supplemental policy is $152 per month.  I won't have prescription coverage until 1/1/18, so the prescription I got today was supposed to be $148 but they found a coupon that got it down to $54.  I had to buy it, because I can barely manage going to work, cleaning my house, going grocery shopping, etc.  So I need a boost and I need it now.  Oh, by the way -- when I do get my prescription coverage the best we could find was a policy that will cost me $34 plus an additional $13 because of my previous income (total $47) so just my monthly premiums will be $466.  When I was working full time, my premium was $120 per month.  One of my necessary prescriptions I have to take if I'm working will cost me $113 every month.  My other med copays will total another $150.  I have no dental or vision coverage.  So my new healthcare outlay will be $729 per month.  It's insane, and depresses me deeply.

 

So I am sad about my sister (I'm the oldest and unless I'm run over by a bus I'll be the last.  We lost our brother 14 years ago at the age of 50). Unsettled by being taken back to part-time, the maze of Medicare enrollment, the penalty for having made a good living which I'm NOT making now.  I just don't feel like I belong anywhere.  I know politics has no place in our group, but the last year and the never ending drama of it has further dragged me down.  I've put on more weight and all I want to do is eat ice cream.  Blah, blah, blah.  Sorry this has gone on so long.  I just realized it's almost 1 a.m. and I do have to go to work tomorrow.  So, for those of you who have soldiered on to the end of this lengthy boo hoo, I appreciate you, and wish I had something better to write.

OMG -- I have looked forward to this day (milestone) for such a long time.  I was so happy when I hit 100 days, and I'm simply delighted to have gotten to ten times that amount.  I love my quit.  I'm so thrilled that I'm no longer in the clutches of that addiction.  And -- okay, this is embarrassing - it feels like getting an A in quitting smoking!!  I so hope you are all doing well, and I so appreciate that you put me on the train while I was at work today and brought my work home, and just put all the work away.  And there I WAS, happily riding the train and gathering kudos.  (I still have to hit the train and read it down the track!)

To newbies -- some of you have raised children and they're young adults now and you think WOW that time went by fast.  Each day didn't necessarily feel like it was whipping by, but in hindsight, you remember so well when you sent them off to school that first day, and now they're graduating from college or getting a promotion in their career field, or making a family of their own.  That's when it really hits you.  And my point is that being a quitter feels the same way.  Sure, I can remember early in my quit when I thought "is it really tacky to go to bed at 7 p.m. so I can stop wanting to light a cigarette??"  Those early days were not whizzing by, any more than the days when you were potty training your toddler whizzed by.  But now that you've done a splendid job of raising those kids, you are proud and hopefully happy.  That's how I'm starting to feel about my quit.  One Thousand Days.  WOW. 

Just a quick catchup for all my peeps who care what's going on.  Starting next week I will be working 1/2 time and while I'm happy that it will be less stressful, at 20 hrs. a week, I'm going to have to change my lifestyle based on 1/2 the income.  It's a semi-retirement in which I get to keep doing what I like doing.  Also, I'm going on to Medicare, which for some ridiculous reason, scares me.  I have lots of medications, and the one I really, really need is crazy expensive, and I've been told that the supplemental coverage would require me to pay $96 per month for that medication (that's the co-pay), and it's only one of many meds.  But I've gotten the papers they need, and I will be sending in the application to start on November 1.  I'll have to get a supplement.  It's not that the employer provided insurance I've had is so fantastic, but from what I've gleaned, I'll be paying about what I was for coverage but I will have much more out of pocket.  But there's nothing for it but to do it.  They're paying me half of my salary, which is way more than I could expect if I just went out and got a part-time job.  And I like what I do, so that's a good thing, too.  And I really like the people I work with (not the commute, though).

My sister is going through another cancer scare, having a surgical oncologist remove what he believes to be a malignant tumor in her lung, but the tests they've done indicate there's been no spread.  Her surgery is on Thursday and I'll drive up to Pittsburgh Thursday afternoon and spend through the weekend.  If it goes well  she should get out of the hospital on Saturday (Could be Friday, but given her compromised lungs, they think they'll need to hold her longer.  I really should drive back Sunday night, but if she needs me I'll stay over to Monday. 

So it's late and I need to get to bed, but I love my EX Peeps and thank you for putting up with me for A THOUSAND DAYS!!!!