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Smoking was Awesome
a blog by Jenny Roo November 15, 2013
I will admit it. I really, really love cigarettes. I'm using a very strong word here with no hint of exaggeration: LOVE. I love them. Love smoking. I love them driving, I love them after a meal, I love them on a train or in a box. I love the the instant relaxation that goes through my body when I hear the lighter catch, I love the gesturing device, I love that my day is partially divided up into divine little 7 minute breaks. Like meditating only more thoroughly awesome.
I say this knowing full well that my admission is not exactly going to earn me adoration and an encouraging "that's awesome! I love hobbies!". I say it because it's a vice, because it's embarrassing, because I'm not the only one who loves it. Most of all I admit it because struggling with quitting (and even if someone hasn't had one in weeks, I assure you quitting is still a struggle) has a particular stigma when you're trying to conceive.
At this point through online magic I know hundreds of infertile women, and in our little coven we freely share truckloads of personal information. After a certain point in treatment, you don't bat an eyelash at sharing your estrogen levels, how exactly you managed to give yourself a shot in the butt at your cousins' bar mitzvah or your thought process on how 'trimmed' one should be prior to an RE appointment with your fellow warrior women. And yet, I can almost guarantee that just about the last piece of information a fellow infertile is going to give you is that she loves cigarettes too and had to say goodbye. (And only after you admit that you have quit smoking yourself, and are seriously wondering if lighting people's hair on fire and sucking on their feet is going to give you any relief).
This is totally understandable. Why? It's embarrassing enough to admit you have or had such a gross habit in the non-TTc world. The general response by a non-smoker is to scrunch their face up in a way that screams 'well, I would have never in the first place.' (Super helpful, by the way). In TTC world, we're all on some level trying to prove to ourselves, the universe, whatever Deity is in charge that we DESERVE Motherhood (what it must be like to not have that feeling). I have seen women in the trenches torture themselves with guilt because they only ran 20 miles that week, only ate 2 lbs of kale, only drank enough water to fill a small lake... It's not exactly easy in those conditions to stand up and say "hey, my accomplishment this week was only lighting a death stick up five times!"
For non-smokers whose faces I can feel contorting in disgust right now, a way to help you maybe look at it a little differently. I'm not a wine drinker - but imagine if you became accustomed to having a shot glass of wine a couple of times an hour for stress. For years. Then you were hurled in a horribly stressful situation and ironically told you were no longer allowed to have that. Also that you shouldn't complain about it because it's your fault and you're disgusting (can't you feel the stress lifting already?)
And yes, absolutely - the fact that I'm a smoker is my fault and quitting became my responsibility. Non-smokers were SO much smarter than me for not starting in the first place. If I could go back in time and slap the crap out of 16 year old Jenny for thinking that it was cool, I would. 16 year old Jenny started smoking because she was stupid - 31 year old Jenny didn't quit without struggle because she's not He-man.
That all being said, when you're TTC obviously smoking has to go. Goodbye, sweet sweet friend, though in many ways you were awesome, you were terrible for me before but sadly I cannot let you be terrible to my future offspring.. I'd like to give them a fair shot and hope that they're much smarter at 16 than I was. So even though I am still struggling, by no-means a pro, I thought I'd offer some advice to any secret or shame-filled smokers because it's a topic that doesn't get too much response apart from "why would you do that?". A few things that I have learned.
One - and this one seems glaringly obvious but I've had to repeat it to myself like a MANTRA... The reward for doing good with the not smoking? Don't let it be a cigarette. The times I've relapsed have ALL happened because I thought to myself "you've done so well... you deserve a cigarette". This seems ludicrous to even say, I know, but believe me a few days free of nicotine and a cigarette will seem like the most sane reward you can think of. Before you start quitting think of what your little rewards will be - giant slice of cake, long bath. Okay you and I both know those things aren't as fun - but ANYTHING other than a cigarette will do.
Two - if you DO happen to relapse and have a cigarette or two or four or ten, don't beat yourself up about it - tomorrow's a new day. The tendency in beating myself up is to, the next day think "well, I'm just a dirty smoker - there's no hope now, I will just live in my smoke filled shame hole from now on" and light up.
Three - okay I'll admit my response when someone advised me of this was to think 'you have to be kidding me'. When a super strong craving comes along, try guzzling a bottle of water, waiting 20 minutes and asking yourself 'is this the very best I can do?'. I thought that one was really stupid but it helps. Feel free to roll your eyes while you're doing it.
Four - another dumb sounding one that has helped me the last few weeks was sunflower seeds. Cannot remember who recommended it, I tried it, and there's something about their flavor that curbs the nicotine craving just a little (and believe me, just a little helps). I have eaten enough sunflower seeds at this point to populate the entire US with yellow flowers.
Five - you are not a terrible or gross person. The people who make you feel like a terrible or gross person never smoked. Big props to them for never saying 'yes' to a cigarette, but anyone in their right mind will tell you that saying NO after years of YES is SO hard. It is hardcore on a different level. Guilt is something that will just stress you out, and unnecessary stress isn't something that you want while quitting. You are a badass.
Most importantly and the thing I've had to repeat to myself the most - that first week is going to be awful. It's supposed to be awful, it was always going to be awful. For the bigger win in the end (being smoke-free and hopefully having a baby) you're going to have to have one TERRIBLE week. And at the end of that week, you're going to feel normal. You are not signing up for 10 years of terrible, daily constant nicotine cravings. It will get better, and there will be a day (and soon!) where you will feel completely normal again, sans-cigarette.
Any other evil smokers have any good suggestions?