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.