"Cold Turkey" is for the Birds

Hi again! Carrie here. I wanted to briefly update everyone regarding my 24 hours of
being smoke free AND to answer Dr. Kleinman's previous post. Well, it wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. On average, I smoke between 7 to 10 cigarettes a day. If we were to create a smoking scale with "Super Stinky Smoker" being on one end, who smokes more than two packs a day (I can't even fathom that), and "Miss Social Smoker" on the other end, who smokes one cigarette a week when she's hanging out with her "cool friends" in the Marina, I imagine that I would fall in the middle, closer to "Miss Social Smoker" and all her "cool" friends. Given my place on the smoking scale, I really thought that going for 24 hours without a cigarette would be a piece of cake. In fact, I was a little nervous that I wouldn't have anything to write about. Well, I grossly overestimated my willpower. I made it through 24 hours but just barely.

So how was my day? Before coming to work, I had a typical morning--showered, got dressed, and fed my cat, Oscar. I gathered all my "quit smoking" supplies and put them in my bag. Walking out the door, I looked back at my feline moocher to say good bye, and I added, "Wish me luck, mister." He gave me a look that said, "Whatever
Typically, I light my first cigarette of the day when I leave my apartment to go to work. I've always felt that the "morning cigarette" is not a crucial one. There are some days when I skip it (that's typically when I've run out and don't have time to buy a pack). I popped in a piece of sugarless gum, anticipating my day to go smoothly and thinking over the tips Deborah taught me on Wednesday. By the time I made it to work, I noticed my jaw was sore from chewing my gum practically to disintegration. "No problem, I'll just have a diet Pepsi," I thought to myself.

What I call the "itch" began as soon as I started writing my first "Quit Smoking" post. Maybe it was writing about the act of smoking; maybe it was that my cubicle-mates (as wonderful as they are) appeared to be talking extra loud that day, making concentration even more difficult; or maybe, just maybe, it was up to its typical shenanigans and being the biggest pain in my more-than-ample backside. If you're a Google employee and happen to come across this post, I have feedback for you: my experience with your product,, is driving me to smoke and pull out my hair! I was having a tough time with getting my images to upload properly, and creating links was causing me to lose text. Anyway, the point is my nerves were tingling with frustration. I was snapping at people. Someone playfully tried to steal my "Turkey Masterpiece" sandwich, and I just about jumped out of my seat and smashed their face into the table...I needed a cigarette. I needed to inhale that luscious nicotine in smoke format and feel it percolate through my body, assuaging my frayed nerves. Instead, I popped in the nicotine gum. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't the same as a cigarette.

Ode to Mr. Cigarette
Oh, Mr. Cigarette, how much I miss thee! Shall I count the ways?
I took a walk without thee--oh, how lonesome I was!
I "smoked," "toked," and chewed pretty plastic party straws--I'm sorry, my dear, it was you I wanted in my jaws.
Juices from sugarless candies, swallowed I did, but no comparison to your smoky caresses did it give.
I drank diet Pepsi's 'til Mr. Porcelain God said, "Please! No more!"
I took deep breaths--my lust for you subsided, but my longing resided.
I repeated in my head, "a lot of guys won't date girls who smoke." I thought, "So what?! Life is but a joke."

Giving up smoking for a day was painful when stress was involved. So what helped when I was at work? I would say the nicotine gum helped more than I thought. If I started to feel like I just couldn't take it anymore and that I was about to loose, I would chew a piece of this mouth watering gum. There's a trick to chewing this gum, and if you screw it up, you'll be hating life for a good 30 minutes. It must be chewed for a short period of time and then tucked away in your cheek like a nut in a squirrel's mouth. If you chew it like regular chewing gum, your mouth will water like you need to puke, you'll feel nauseus like you need to puke; your stomach will start to sputter like it needs to puke; and you just may puke. Another thing that really helped was being visited by the dogs in the office. If you're trying to quit smoking, get a dog. They help a lot.

Once I removed the stress, i.e. left work and went to a bar, my cravings were sleeping tight, and the bed bugs--not a bite. I ignored Deborah's advice to avoid the "scene of the urge" and met a friend at a hole-in-the-wall bar. I smoked my plastic straws, embarrassing the blush right out of my friend's cheeks. We had a couple of drinks, talked about the danger of choking on melon balls, and time passed by like stealth does at night. It really wasn't that bad. The cravings were snoring away. I had band practice later that night. We drank a bottle of wine and made merry our music. Around 11:16, I started to feel a stirring. By the time I made it home, I was a dried up leaf lost in the desert. I was chewing the nicotine gum like a cow does cud. As I was walking home, across the street I saw a nice looking chap sitting on a stoop. I noticed a mist around his head and a red light that shined every 8 seconds for about 3. It was the devil, and he sat their innocently enough, tempting me, telling me that it was okay, because I made it through the day. My watch said 12:02. I had made it for 24 hours and 2 minutes. I deserved a reward. So I caved a menthol, of all cigarettes. I've now made it for 25 hours and 10 minutes since that mint tobacco crap, and well, another cigarette would hit the spot right about now. Nicotine gum is hanging out behind my lip and a plastic straw is dangling from my mouth.

I'll be contacting Deborah next week. We'll see how it goes over the weekend. The devil will be in full force, I guarantee. One thing I've realized is that quitting "cold turkey" is for the birds, besides I like my turkey hot.
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About the Author

MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.