Before I say anything else, may I just interject?
Seriously, though. Ouch. My pride. My head. My lungs. My throat. In that order, I reckon. Just what’d I do this time? I tried to quit smoking cold turkey. Big whoop. All it takes to ease that particular anxiety and solvet that problem is a bummed cigarette, right?
I left my Nicorette at home, only to realize on the bus ride to work that I was without my back-up plan. About an hour into a 10:30 to 6:30 midshift, I broke, and broke hard. I’d planned for something like this. (Not this, but something like this.) I gave a coworker my last, nearly full pack of smokes the day before with the stipulation that I had the license to bum shamelessly till the pack was gone between the two of us, and went a cool twenty hours without a coffin nail. Felt good.
Felt real good.
The hardest times of the day for me are the morning walk to the bus and the moment I get off my shift in the evening. It’s so ingrained in me that I deserve a cigarette to get me through my shift and celebrate when it’s over. When I got through the bus ride without transforming into the world’s most useless chimney, I was pleased. Not proud, but almost. I bought myself a good cup of cofee and nursed it while I ate a sandwich before work. (Woah. Lunch at ten in the morning. Talk about self love.)
I think I may have blacked out a little around the moment when I took a nose dive as the need-bubble in my chest threatened to pop. I don’t remember what kind of stress triggered me.
All I managed to squeak out to a coworkr was, “…Nicotine…withdrawal…”
His immediate response: “You poor thing! You’re doing that to yourself?“
Yup. I did that to myself. The coworker with my pack of smokes wandered up to see what the fuss was about and immediately fed me one of my Newports. My coworker covered me so I could take my fifteen early. I ran outside into the sunshine and out of the parking lot and inhaled and felt…
Not calm at all.
So began the drawn out sensation of anticipating some kind of impending doom–a phrase we use a lot in my mom’s side of the family. The sandwich and coffee forgotten, I succumbed completely, stripped of my defenses, and proceeded to experience a multitude of very physical symptoms of anxiety. Distorted perspective (the setting of my life became Caligarian, as it’ll do when my mind tries to pull away from the immediate horror of a panic attack), dizziness mounting into nausea and a bad case of the spins, shaking and a heightened issue with my breathing.
There was a piece of me that didn’t think I was gonna make it through the day on my feet–I really didn’t.
I worked through a panic attack that lasted about five hours, and as the panic attack grew, so did that little point in the back of my mind that sharpens into depression. I became hopeless quickly, and felt as though I was sinking into the earth, a warm corpse for the worms to blindly nibble on.
All for want of a cigarette, a pacifier, something that opens your lungs for a moment only to cut the breath out of you a moment later.
But, with the help of the people around me, I got through the anxiety first, and then had to deal mainly with the hopelessness and the dizziness. Tough combo. The coworkers I trusted stuck close to me, and eventually I was dosed with the CBD (a supplement we sell), and that, and the coping mechanisms in my employ, helped me mellow out.
The last hour of my shift was fine. I was helpful and productive, joked with cashiers and customers, and had a blast because I didn’t feel like I was both violently physically and mentally ill. It’s amazing, the kind of perspective a sharp contrast like that will give you.
Did I eff it all up, though?
Maybe. Here’s the thing–I knew I had a strong chance of becoming episodic while I forced myself through withdrawals, thus the pressing need for the Nicorette to get me through that very tender second day. When I thought I could just push through it–well, okay, former me. But trying to push through it while I’m dealing with stress (even good stress) at work, man. That was dumb. And it didn’t have a small consequence; it threw my social anxiety into a place of utterly hopeless abandon.
I was bummed last night, and I’m bummed today.
Quite frankly, I’m hella embarrassed that I shot myself in the foot, and had to use tools to quiet and work with the strong emotional needs I was experiencing.
When I was a kid, my mom took me to horse lessons for a little while. They put me on a massive animal, and I fell off. Don’t remember how often or how much, but I remember landing in the dirt and thinking, Well, it was a good run, ol‘ girl, time to go home. What did I do? I got right back on that horse–because my mother made me.
I see a fork in the road here, now. A choice. I re-upped on Newports after a few hours of sitting at home last night, twiddling my thumbs. I have a pack in the breast pocket of my jacket, sitting in there, warm and cozy and totally evil. I could wait to quit until I felt more stable, got a little further away from this panic attack. Or–and this is the option that scares me, puts the fear of God into me absolutely–I could get back on that horse without a saddle or the reigns.
I smoked a cigarette this morning, and the choking nauseated feeling was so intense I almost didn’t finish it. The addiction was so strong, I almost lit another one.
Whether I smoke this pack through and hold onto a shred of my sanity for another day (that’s all it’ll last me anyway), or whether I gift it to that coworker so I can’t chain smoke in every spare moment, it’s going to be okay. There’s always time to work on myself and get me to a place where I’m comfortable being better.
My brain keeps telling me that I’m trapped between a rock and a hard place, but the truth is that I’m closer to being squeezed between two totally viable options. Am I frustrated with myself? Yup. Did I almost punch someone in the nose yesterday when they said the trick to quitting smoking is to not start in the first place? Uh-huh. But am I strong, whether I feel strength in me or not? Sure. That’s a strong sure.
I’m gonna be honest, strangers. I don’t feel it today. I feel like an effin failure.
But if I’m being honest with myself, I know I just feel like a bit of a failure. There’s a huge distinction between practicing, aquiring experience, and becoming a failure. In a way, I did all three, but that doesn’t make me the latter. Not by a long shot.