*NEW* Recent blog entries

January 21, 2008

A Smoker’s Diary: The first rush… to getting hooked

Or, so you think you want to quit smoking?

So I had announced in the ‘Do only bad girls smoke post?’ that I was meeting a doctor who’d help me quit smoking. I did go and spend two hours sitting and talking with her. The first thing I learnt? That I don’t have any oxygen in me and the carbon monoxide levels in me are 20 + ppm. For heavy smokers. Also, she asked me if there was any phlegm with my ‘smoker’s cough’. No, there isn’t, which apparently is really bad news because it means the ‘cilia’ in my lungs (little hair that work as filters) are either dead or defunct. Basically, of all the 500 poisons we intake each time we take a puff, ALL are in me.

“How will a doctor help?” someone had asked me, “Quitting smoking is about will power, if you don’t have it, no one can help you quit.” While it is true that the first and most important step in quitting cigarettes is a WILL to quit and the determination to back it… HOW do you quit? Some of us need help with WHAT to do when the urge hits and that’s where Dr Sajeela Maini, PhD in tobacco cessation, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital comes in… Soon enough I would be undergoing a four-day intensive programme with her to get my lungs back. Before that…

--------------------------------------------------------

I had my first cigarette on 24th June, 1999. I was standing in the kitchen, the exhaust was on, the windows open, there was no home, but I wasn’t taking the risk. It was a stick of Charms (formerly Charminar, a Hyderabad brand), one of my father’s.

I was interning at a newspaper office and there were many women who smoked there. Two were girls from my college, my seniors by a year. I was curious: What did people like about cigarettes? Since I had seen umpteen movies where people coughed after their first drag and looked like imbeciles, I had decided that my first attempt would be in the privacy of my home. I’ve never been one for making a fool of me in public (unless it’s eyebrows on a TV show!) The cigarette was blackened as I had simply held it between my lips and put a match to it, not knowing that one needed to ‘pull’ in to light a cig properly… It was not a candle.

I thought I was a natural since I didn’t cough. It was only the next day – armed with my first self-bought cigarette – that I learnt that I hadn’t coughed because I was smoking it wrong. All I was doing was taking in the smoke and blowing it right out. There had been no taste and I had wondered, people surely didn’t indulge in it just to exercise just to blow smoke at each other’s faces. Wasn’t there more?

The next day one of the senior girls – as I sat amidst them all ears while they discussed the editor – pointed out that I was smoking ‘wrong’. She taught me how to pull the smoke in, then inhale with my teeth slightly parted. I watched her carefully and emulated. I didn’t cough… My head felt funny, slightly dizzy. Like I had just gotten off a fast spinning merry-go-round. I used as many words to describe what I felt when the senior asked me, “So what do you think?” As I finished my recounting she laughed and said, “Stupid, that’s called a rush.” Her name was Chitra.

I have never felt that rush again, no matter how many cigarettes I smoke in a day. They say the first cigarette after a day’s break from smoking will give you that rush. It’s a blatant lie. Once you get hooked to the habit, you don’t get that rush because habitual smokers will always ensure they never run out of cigarettes, not for a couple of hours and a day’s abstinence will give most smokers palpitations. And that’s the funny thing, I had never expected to get hooked, had never stopped to think I would become an addict.

“No smoker starts out thinking s/he will become addicted,” says Dr Maini. It’s the same pattern for everyone: you start out as a ‘social smoker’, or as an only-lunchtime smoker, or someone who only ‘smokes with alcohol’ or even a ‘weekend smoker’ and sooner or later – unless you stop altogether – you will get hooked. “You are either a smoker or a non-smoker, there are no grey areas, nothing called an occasional smoker,” says Dr Maini, “Even reduced-smoking is a myth.” By ‘reduced smoking’ she refers to people who ‘cut down’ on their cigarettes and think they are doing a brilliant job by going from 20 to two a day. However – and let no one fool you – they are still smokers and they will go back to an increased intake.

That was the first shock for me… I was hoping – like many a chicken-shit quitter – that I would do the gradual reduction. “You cannot reduce and quit, reduction is self-pacifying. Something or the other will get you back to smoking full time. The ONLY way to quit is going cold turkey,” says Dr Maini. And very honestly, it is a bloody scary idea. Not the trying, but the thought of not being able to. What if I fail?

Even as Dr Maini looked me in the eye to gauge the seriousness of my intentions, stories of those who have quit ran through my head. My father, two of his coursemates (one a Major General now) and one of our family friends. All of them quit in a day, they simply threw out the cigarette packets. “The first step is deciding to quit and knowing that you want to stop. I can show you the ways, but the determination is all yours.”

I could not assure her immediately as I started coughing, dry, lung-racking, body-shaking coughs that hurt my larynx. Earlier, my smoker’s cough would hurt my tonsils – right under my jaw – and I would comfortably blame it on season change. Now the pain has shifted and my entire throat, particularly the larynx and chest hurt. It scares me. What if I have… Hmm.

Pictures of lung cancer patients and those who wear a voice-box (cancer of the larynx basically removes the vocal chords and it’s replaced by a mechanical device) suddenly seem far more personal to me…


PS: Tuesday is when I visit the doc and start the programme. Nervous. And yet sickeningly enough, it’s Sunday night and I am smoking as I type this out…

13 comments:

Ravi said...

Hi there!

Don't worry so much..just believe in yourself...have a strong will..every thing's gonna be fine :o)

Just focus on QUITTING the cig..

Take care!

vEENs said...

Eve,
Try for your own self!
I felt afraid when I read the part about cancer, I am so pathetic I know.. but I can't help feeling afraid.

If you can try!

Lov,
Veens

Maxine said...

Ok...see it this way you smoker.Smoking is bad not only for you but the people around you.Now look to your right or left...ah!got the smile? Ok..now proceed towards the ashtray WITHOUT another puff!Yeah put it there.Thankyou.If this isnt enough inspiration...go fly a kite.

Y said...

Come on, Eve...do it. Quit. Somehow.

I hope you manage to. Good luck.

Crimson Feet said...

all the best to you girl... i disagree with the doctor a bit though... its possible to quit slowly also... in fact i feel thats probably the more long lasting type of quitting...

i used to smoke 35-40 navy cuts a day... decided that it was time to reduce and possibly call it off (thats critical... you gotta feel it IN YOUR GUT that its time to do something about the thing... or u gotta get indifferent to it!!! and then you'll do it...)

its been a year since then... i reduced to 5-6 a day... then down to 2-3 a week... and sometimes once in 2 weeks... i guess i am truly an "occasional smoker" now!

you gotta match it with how healthy/unhealthy you feel... and the upside is that if you do it once a month, you do feel the rush too ;)... and by this time you are mature enough to not seek the golden-egg-rush by cutting open the hen!

ATB

Eve* aka JB said...

Hmmm. Did you know that MORE women have smoking relapse than men...and apparently more occassionally-smoking women relapse faster than completely-quitting ones....
Sigh. See, earlier i was thinking i would get into the four day programme and bingo! would quit... but blurrrrgh... now seems am not going to get those four days instantly, all thanks to Budget. Sooooo...am goin for the gradual thing... aiya.

Crimson Feet said...

ever heard sidhu saying 'statistics are like mini skirts... ;)...

dont go by the numbers... if you feel it coming from within you that its time to do something about it.. slow down/quit... then you'll do it for sure...

after all you don't want be under the category of "most women"... ! do you?... there are others who dont relapse and quit successfully

Eve* aka JB said...

Quite sensible...and YET,....
Crimson betaaaa... why do i feel you are AGAIN kicking my skinny bum?

Crimson Feet said...

lol... no... not even trying this time!

i really think that loosing lungs to smoke isn't a great way to enjoy life... so i am supporting you!

:)

Pointblank said...

hey there! I always wanted to try smoking. Not after reading this post. Thanks for that. I 'm super vulnerable when it comes to getting addicted to things!

and m sure ul be able to quit soon. Its tough, but think te highs of puffing r just momentary, and the lows r for a lifetime!

Boyo said...

JBo,

I quit, with help from this wonderful drug called chantix. It inhibits the neurotransmitters that make you want to smoke. Look it up!

Boyo

VarmaJi ke jalwe said...

Hi Jhoomur,

I completely disagree with Dr Maini. I smoke only when I feel the need to release all pent-up emotions/frustrations/rage. Or (more likely?) wallow in self-loathing..

At times I smoke once in a week, at times thrice a day. My 20-pack of More usually lasts 6 months to a year, sometimes longer, which is when I throw it out because it's past it.

There are some excellent drug-based programmes in the market - am sure your doctor would prescribe those. One of my sisters tried it, but you have to get your house's walls painted to remove all signs and semblance of nicotine - so the Drs advise.

Good luck! Don't invite cancer - it's the most hateful bitch of a beemari ever.

Mishty

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

It's not a 'blatant lie' that you get a rush if you smoke after a gap. I started smoking when I was in high school. The Annual exams were over, and we were all standing under the tamarind tree thinking of some adventure. All of a sudden someone asked 'anyone dare to smoke'? I was the smallest kid and i didn't spare a moment to utilise the occasion to be big and there came a cigaratte within a few minutes. After that cigarattes were just a part of my life. I quit it a hell lot of times, and yes at the moment it's yet another test of my will power. I think it has been more than 22 days since I smoked. The new method I adopted to free myself from cigarattes is to say myself as i come out of bed that 'I won't smoke today'. So far so good. Now about the rush. I expereienced it as a frequent 'quitter'.
And recently I read about nicotine poisoning. The sad thing is I can't smoke at all nowadays. If i do i get all dizzy and my whole day would gone for a toss, thanks to my previous Avatar who smoked 6 to 8 cigarattes without bothering to have breakfsat. There was a time i used to smoke 20 wills a day. But I never considered myself as a heavy smoker for I know a friend-unfortunately it was me who taught him to smoke, to 'inhale properly'- who smokes 50 plus cigarattes a day. Try to quit if you're really serious. If i can anyone can....