(Originally published 09/28/13 at Trojan Horse Productions. Republished here 10/31/13.)
(Saying “part 1” just in case. There may or may not be a part 2, etc., in the future.)
My patronage has changed, and as a result I must quit smoking. As of 09/27/13, I have not managed this very well. As a result, I’m now in a terrific financial bind.
Forget about not having any more money for smokes; in this coming week, for financial reasons, I may have to spend several nights at a much less desirable shelter; where I don’t want to use the bathroom, haven’t figured out how to shower, and clean clothes aren’t available every day. Then there are the issues of getting prescriptions filled and buying disposable underwear, of which I’m almost out.
Motivation doesn’t matter when one’s facing necessity. However, I have had ample reasons for motivation:
I’ve got some COPD, and a really bad cough that alarms others a lot. Almost every medical problem I have — the cough, sinus problems, ear problems, sleep apnea, diabetes — is involved with smoking somehow. My voice, which used to be so pleasant, and which is crucial to my career, has suffered either from the smoking itself or, especially, from the cough.
There are issues for my job search. Many employers won’t accommodate a smoker (See remarks below about B____ D____.), and my cough poses an issue for many occupations, such as any that involve food.
There are spiritual issues. I am trying to get clearance to lead chapel at the mission once a month myself. A core concern I mean to present to the men is stewardship — the right use of one’s current resources is essential to obtaining more. I cannot speak to that with integrity so long as I’m literally sending half of my own financial resources up in smoke.
But none of this was enough to really motivate me to stop.
Just about a year ago, I called 1-800-QUIT-NOW and arranged for a supply of nicotine gum to be mailed to me. There were problems with the delivery, and Pastor moved mountains to help me obtain it. I am using that gum now.
I wrote someone recently that “I am feeling somewhat better health-wise after several days of having seriously cut back, and I’m on the verge of enjoying saying no to the urge to light up. Of course, none of this would be happening if it weren’t for the gum. The biggest challenge I found had to do with a breathing pattern that I gather profoundly relieves stress, that apparently a smoker forgets how to do except with a cigarette in hand.” It is something like a sigh, or a yawn, and involves inhaling very sharply and deeply. Something about this is more important, as regards my own smoking, than the nicotine itself. When the time comes that my body wants that, and I don’t know how to do it intentionally, I feel as if somebody’s holding my nose, and start to feel as if I’m about to go nuts.
B____ D____ went to great lengths to force me to stop smoking, which seemed to me to be none of her business. (She was prone to intrude upon subordinates’ private lives.) She counseled me to do this deep-breathing thing, which I never really understood at the time, though I gather it’s what I’m referring to now.
My breakthrough came with treating a coffee stirrer like a cigarette: I took a couple “puffs” on that and then inhaled very sharply as if inhaling smoke; and then exhaled slowly. Having learned to do this without a cigarette in hand sharply reduces my cravings.
When I woke up Friday morning, I had one cigarette left, and my intention was not to smoke it unless and until I felt like I was going crazy. As of 8:45, when I was walking from McDonald’s to St. Paul Plaza, I decided that I did feel like I was going crazy. So when I arrived, I got it out and lit it up. I admit that I had not tried the breathing trick.
I decided to buy another pack, the idea being that I won’t light up except when I feel like I’m going crazy. I turned to go to the convenience store, and reflected that I’d just determined to do something wrong. But my plan was meeting no resistance; no cosmic “STOP!” sign appeared in the sky. I recalled the countless hours I devoted to projects I regarded as positive, in the months before I became homeless, that I now regard as having been misused: I was fleeing the drudge of job search. No great cosmic STOP! sign had appeared then, either.
I bought the smokes anyway.
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