Smoking Saved My Life

Rockstar Juice

Rockstar Juice (Photo credit: The Master Shake Signal)

Lately, I’ve been traveling for work about twice per month.  The trips have generally been to my company headquarters, about 5 hours east of my house, though at the time this goes live, I will be ending another trip in the Chicago area.

Earlier this month, I was out there to conduct some training webinars and enjoy the company Christmas party.   After the party, my insomnia kicked in and I couldn’t sleep.  At 6AM, I decided to give it up for a lost cause and pack my stuff for the 5 hour drive home.

On no sleep.

The morning after a nasty ice storm.

I do not have a death wish.

Really.

I got packed, ready to go.  Then crawled back in bed with the nap timer on my phone set.   Thirty minutes later, I checked out of the hotel and got in my car.

I really don’t want to die, though this trip scared me a bit.   It’s a long 5 hours, 4.5 of those hours are on one road, driving across southern Wisconsin.   Tedious is one word that comes to mind.  Mind-numbing and lullaby-driving are two others.

Instead of getting on the highway, I drove to Wal-mart.  I stocked up on cigarettes and Rockstar.

Now, I quit smoking 6 years ago when we found out brat #3 was coming a bit faster than we expected.  It was purely a financial decision at that point, but breathing turned out to be a nice change, too.

Nicotine is a stimulant with immediate effects.  That means, if I start feeling drowsy, I can smoke a cigarette and I quit feeling drowsy while I chug energy drinks.

Good plan, Jason.

It worked.  I made it home, then fell on the couch and didn’t move for 4 hours.  Then I ate dinner and went to bed.

Unfortunately, even after quitting for 6 years, by the time I got home, it felt like I’d never quit.  So I get the joy of quitting again.

By the time you read this, the craving should be gone and I should just be getting ready to climb in my car for a long drive on not enough sleep.

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Quit Smoking: My First Frugal Move…Ever

Lit cigarette
Image via Wikipedia

It’s nearly the 5 year anniversary of my last cigarette, so I though I’d bring this post back to the front page. 

A bit over three years ago, we found out that my wife was pregnant with baby #3.    When we decided to have #2, it took us two years of trying.  Naturally, we assumed we’d have the same issues with #3.   Imagine our surprise when it only took 2 weeks.   At that point, we were getting ready to celebrate brat #2’s first birthday.

That mean’s 2 kids under 2.   Two kids in diapers.  Three kids in daycare.  Baby formula again.

We weren’t making ends meet with two kids, how were we going to manage three?  I dropped my pack-or-two-a-day smoking habit.

But, I’ve gone over that before.

This post is about how I actually quit.

Some Facts About Me

I don’t do things by halves; I tend to do things all the way or not at all.    For years, my wife would ask me to cut back, to just smoke a little less, but that never worked.   If I had cigarettes, I smoked them. I always had cigarettes.    When I eat, I eat.  I’ve never managed smaller portions.    I used to drink a case of soda each week, just because it was there.   Moderation has never been my friend.

As a corollary, I don’t cheat. At anything.  Ever.   Because of the above fact about myself.    I don’t moderate myself when I give myself rules either.   If I draw a line, I obsessively avoid crossing it.

The problem comes when I try to give myself a “gray area” rule.    “Smoke less” always leaves room for “just one more”, which easily leads to “I only cut out one cigarette yesterday, so what’s the use?”   I had to be done.

After smoking for fifteen years–more than a pack a day for at least 12 of those–that’s an intimidating thought.

The Plan

The first thing I did was set a day to quit.  I chose the day after my Halloween party.   Before that would have been setting myself up for failure.   Booze, food, and long conversations in a smoking-friendly environment were just 3 of my many triggers.    I always smoked more at my parties, so the day after, I didn’t feel up to smoking much, anyway.   I’d just ride that wave of “I don’t feel like it” to to holy city of “I quit”.

I didn’t quit smoking the next day, I just quit buying cigarettes.  That left me half a pack to curb my cravings.

I also knew that nicotine cravings are about the most distracting thing I’ve ever had to deal with.   That doesn’t make for a productive computer programmer, so I bought a box of the generic patch that Target carries.   I started with Phase 2, because I wasn’t interested in prolonging the process.   I just didn’t want to spend my work days thinking about smoking instead of designing software.  I needed something to take the edge off, without actually smoking.

My plan was to have the patch at work, so I’d be able to work and to stretch those last 10 cigarettes out, as long as possible.

The Result

It worked.   The pack lasted 4 days, I think.   I smoked during my commute and after dinner.   I used the patch only when the cravings got to the point that I couldn’t concentrate.  After a week, I stopped using it at all.   A few days later, I had a particularly stressful day and cheated.    I took 3 puffs of that cigarette and threw it away, because it tasted like crap and I wasn’t enjoying it.  That’s when I knew I was successfully done smoking.    It was a 10 day variation of “cold turkey”.    More than 3 years later, I have an occasional cigar, but never due to a craving.  The day I experience a nicotine craving is the day I burn my humidor.

That’s how I quite smoking, strictly to try to get my finances in line.  That has saved me at least $10,000 over the last 3 years.

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