0366 – “I was stuck but not anymore”, again

Alright, it’s writing time. It’s been about 6 days since I last published a vomit. I’ve taken a bit of time to pay attention to when my publishing dates are. I got myself a printer, and so I printed out calendars for the past 2.5 years and checked off the days that I published a vomit. It’s interesting to see how there were times where I went an entire month or longer without publishing anything. And inevitably when I started again, I’d start by writing about how and why I was stuck. I’m almost curious to aggregate all the “I was stuck but not anymore” messages.

I stopped smoking sometime last year, I think around July. And I kept a really good strong streak going. My wife stopped along with me. I had a cigarette or two with a group of people after the new year, and then it was nothing, and then my wife started working in the same building as me and an old friend. My friend was a smoker, but I had stopped, so I’d be comfortable hanging out with him while he smoked. But when it was both him and my wife smoking, not-smoking started to feel like too much effort or too much of a strain. I wasn’t strong enough to resist it. [1] Or I just felt like smoking again, I don’t know. I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to smoke with them once in a while. And I did.

And then it felt really easy to buy a pack with my wife, and we’d share it, and smoke together, and I wouldn’t feel like a full smoker as long as I was sort of just sharing a pack with her. But eventually the day would come when we had two packs at once, weeks later… and I recognized that I was fully into it. I was smoking in the morning when I woke up, while I was taking a dump [2], after work, and when I got home. I didn’t smoke at work because I didn’t want my colleagues to know that I was smoking again (such pride!), and I took heart in that fact– that I was “strong enough” to not-smoke while I was at work. I was more in control of myself and my habit than I was before. But it was still a rather miserable experience overall. I didn’t quite enjoy cigarettes anymore the way I had before. I knew they were messing with my eyes, my breathing, my fitness, my breath.

Eventually I stopped again. I can’t remember exactly why, I can’t remember exactly when. (I could figure it out if I really had to but it feels like this is one of those things where being excessively precise is actually a little self-defeating. It’s better if it’s just a sort of blur.) Feels like it was about 2-3 weeks ago. I’m clean again. My eyes are still recovering. My lips and tongue and throat have gotten past the worst of it, but they’re recovering, too. I still don’t breathe as deeply or fully as I think I should be able to. But this time I feel a little calmer than the last time I quit. This time I’ve been here before, I’m walking over familiar territory. I know that I can do 6 months again, and I intend to do at least a year. Maybe then we’ll go through this whole silly cycle again– and the funny thing about it is, picking up smoking isn’t pleasant. The first few cigarettes aren’t very enjoyable. They scissor your lungs up, your body knows its bad for you. But if you’ve been a smoker before, you know that if you stick with it there’s “free” pleasure at the end of it, at least, a little bit down the line. At the END is a painful stasis where you’re just a vehicle for the habit, the habit exists to perpetuate itself and your body (and mind) just suffer and wither in the process.

So why would I do it again? It sounds crazy when I’m up, but it’s tempting and alluring when I’m down. I suspect that it’s never possible to completely prevent yourself from being down 100% ever, and even the idea of it sounds a little sad, you know? I don’t know. That’s my past saboteur bum talking, raising this idea that sadness isn’t quite the same if you aren’t smoking and drinking. As I type these lines I don’t quite feel strongly for any particular position anymore. I don’t really care anymore, I feel. This seems to be a common thing with my thoughts about the past now. I’m starting to see the whole thing as this big inelegant dramatic mess that’s fading into the distance, and as far as I can I really ought to let it just gracefully fade into obscurity. There’s a whole new world ahead of me and I don’t want to lose it by constantly obsessing about the past. What’s ahead of me? I’m not sure. I’m also kind of worried that I’m falling into some sort of cyclic trap, where the next two years of my life will be the same as the past two, and then next thing you know 10-20 years would’ve passed and years of life worth livin would’ve gone down the drain. That would be a damn shame. And I’m pretty bent on not doing that. So let’s just move forward.

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[1] This makes me think about the normalizing effect of peers and environment– how something that seems weird can seem normal once you’ve been surrounded by it long enough. I was talking about it to a friend I recently met for dinner. How we tend to generalize. And that in turn was borne out of me writing the top-voted post on less Wrong, about generalizing from one example.

[2] there are nicotine receptors in your digestive system– the relationship between smoking and pooping is something people don’t talk about very much, but it’s a strong one.

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