Thanks to Reader Peg, who posted the following comment on the “The Happy Ending” post:
“My current medicine of choice for myself is smoking about ten cigarettes a day. Before I get the health lecture, I quit twice for four years when my kids were small. I have tried antidepressants without success. I now realize after listening to you and others that they very well may need more time to work, but I am sensitive to changes in my body and when I got constipated or just felt like my brain/thinking was encased in something, I quit the meds. I didn’t feel like I was spontaneous on meds. Now I don’t have the extreme symptoms of depression that you describe, more of a low grade type. I’ve gone to counseling for help on a short-term basis several times. My Catholic faith has helped me a great deal and I need it very much.
“I would like to get off the nicotine, but find when I try, I go into panic mode. I no longer feel that weight gain is the greatest problem from quitting that I would encounter. I am afraid that some of the anger that I am suppressing will come out. I already have a tendency to anger and fear temper. I want to grow up but it is so much easier to find comfort in the nicotine when I feel stressed or sorry for myself. My heart sinks when I go to buy a pack of cigarettes and that tells me I really don’t want to do it. Any suggestions?”
First of all, Peg, who gave you my diary? (Oh yeah, it’s online.) And would you like to have Thanksgiving at our house? Because you would fit in so well with my family.
Okay, your question. Here’s what I would say if I were a woman with normal wiring and brain chemistry, enlightened and grounded, free of all vices and addictions (a person so boring that she wouldn’t have enough material–personal strife and issues–to cover one blog post, much less two to four posts a day, like moi): pray about it, use the patch (or some other seen-on-TV technique), and offer it up (the withdrawal symptoms and everything) to God (while doing charity work).
You won’t get a health lecture from me because if you came and stayed with my family for a night, you could give us an even longer one before you left. Although I’m Catholic, I’m not big on hypocrisy, and I know better to throw stones from my house of stained-glass windows. My two cents wouldn’t be found on WebMD, but here it goes:
Yes, smoking is bad for you. Every idiot knows that. But so are obesity, alcohol abuse, bad relationships, and every other kind of addiction. They all raise your blood pressure, weaken your immunity, increase your chances of heart disease and diabetes, and eventually kill you. You’ve just got to know which addiction will kill you the fastest.
After years of dancing with the devil in his many disguises, I know my killers (listed here in their order of most threatening to least threatening): depression (intense suicidal thoughts), alcoholism, toxic relationships, nicotine, sugar, caffeine, and Internet abuse.
Each morning presents an opportunity to live addiction free. And each morning I decline that invitation, hanging on to at least three from that list. Because come on, we all have crutches, and anyone without them are as dull as David’s scissors (they don’t cut anything–and their only purpose is to trigger temper tantrums from preschoolers).
For example, today was a success: I inhaled a rather large Hershey chocolate bar (milk chocolate and almonds, from the vending machine at the bowling alley), drank four large cups of coffee, and checked my e-mail and Beyond Blue messages constantly. That’s fantastic considering the bad boys I avoided–booze, lung rockets (cigs), and dys rels (dysfunctional relationships).
I guess I just try to be pragmatic in my recovery, which (if I’m truly honest) is a four-story apartment (forget the interior castle that Teresa of Avila writes about): The ground floor is survival–literally keeping myself alive; the second level, staying out of the psych ward; the third deck is status quo, meaning not getting worse; and the final tier is moving toward health (yeah!! That’s what I’m shooting for.)
What that means: When I was severely suicidal a year ago, getting drunk wouldn’t have been the WORST thing I could have done. Killing myself would have been. On many days, I contemplated getting hammered, if only to escape the pain for an hour. I knew, on some level, that getting plastered wasn’t a permanent solution and would make me feel even worse. But still, it would have been better than taking the twenty bottles of pills stashed in the garage that I was seriously considering.
At very difficult times in my sobriety, I have gone on smoking binges. That’s not healthy behavior (thank you, I know that), but it beat the bottle (for me a box of Marlboro Lights was much less dangerous than a shot of vodka), and it got me through the acute craving for alcohol and back to level three (status quo).
There have been a few days in my life (maybe five?) that have been addiction-free, hours that I have lived like Jesus, and the Buddha, and Mother Teresa. During these spells, I was sun bathing on level four–blasting to a healthy new me. And then I accidentally walked into some pile of animal waste and I grabbed for the coffee or the computer or the Kit Kat. Oh well. Not a huge deal, in the big picture.
But before you think I rationalize every bad behavior I have, and it’s okay for you to smoke your ten cigs a day, read on for the dozen addiction zappers and depression busters I try to implement into my life in order to stay on the upper two levels of recovery.