Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On Quitting Things

I'm in a nonprolific phase right now, which usually seems to happen to me in the summer. I don't feel like writing much, so I pretty much don't write much until the weather is cooler and turns my thoughts inward again, where they begin to compact and force their way out through my fingertips into the keyboard.

But enough of anatomy for the insane. I do have a few thoughts about addiction and quitting.

I'm uniquely suited to understand many of the issues our current and future foster kids may be facing regarding chemical dependency. I'm a soak, plus an ex smoker. The unique thing about right now, though, is that I've just quit my last chemical dependency. Again.

July 4, 1999 was a day I spent mostly in jail mulling the fact that my alcoholism was at a crossroads. The law had finally caught up with my recklessness and I was going to suffer for it. Would I finally learn my lesson, save my life and quit drinking? Apparently so. I haven't had a drink since that day and never will again.

July 4, 2000 was a day of a different caliber yet. I had been smoking more or less nonstop since around September of 1984. Me...a cystic fibrosis patient. And I kept smoking for around three years after I was diagnosed. The breathtaking ridiculousness represented by my own personal history sometimes makes me believe I should be on television. On July 4, 2000, I was in New Orleans on vacation with my then-wife. I took my last drag from a smoke the night of the 3rd while sitting on the step of her cousin's house. It was as hot as only a July New Orleans night can be, and I'll probably remember it forever. Fondly. I got another monkey off my back that night.

July 4, 2003 was a fine day as well. My first day of complete tobacco abstention in many years. You see, I quit smoking, but my good friend Copenhagen stepped in where the Marlboro man left off so I was sort of cheating. No more. My rocky marriage had finally cracked wide open and was going down, and I figured I'd have to do something to make myself less vomit-inducing to females if I was going to get dates. As The Wife can attest, it worked out pretty well, but wasn't permanent. I actually remained tobacco-free for about a month shy of two years. It was while I was commuting to the new job a little over a year ago, living alone and having two hours on the road every day plus all evening to sit with my dog by a camp fire that I broke down.

July 4, 2006 is the latest in my personal saga of self-denial and return to responsibility and respect for my body and mind. I'm making my second and final run at a tobacco-free life. I've got close to 8 days under my belt at this point, and it hasn't been easy. I've had a very rough time this spring and early summer at work...we had the whole "Angel" incident which has shaken my confidence and not enhanced my calm...the attendant strains on our young marriage are probably the worst part of that. none of this makes it easier to suddenly quit an ingrained habit.

But the problem is, if I don't do it now, there will ALWAYS be a reason not to do it. A new job, or a move to a new house or town, or my toenail hurts or the Vikings didn't win the division title. On the other hand, I've had enough success with quitting nasty habits to know that the gnawing NEED to indulge does subside and reduce frequency. The real and tangible benefits to quitting are many and manifest, and I'll get to stay married. That's the best part. More wife-kisses.

There is one thing about quitting a chemical habit that you should consider if you decide to do it yourself, though. It could trigger a depression. It does with me to one degree or another nearly every time I do one of these stupid things, and this time it was HORRIBLE. Bad enough that I'm going in tomorrow to get some medicine for it.

I'm serious. I don't wish on the worst people I know the feelings I had last week. Nothing mattered at all, I was mired in the most disgusting pit of self-pity I can remember, and I couldn't seem to shake it. I was depressed about things I had dealt with years ago as well as things that I didn't know I was depressed about. It was so unfocused and general and all-encompassing that it was scary. Time to get the doc on the line. Tee up some prozac or something.

When I was diagnosed with CF, the docs nearly tried to shove antidepressants down my throat. Apparently there are a lot of people who have a hard time dealing with it. I can understand that...I have a hard time dealing with it mainly because I have so few symptoms that I have a hard time believing I actually have the damned thing. Of course, I can't completely deny it because hey, that crib in the corner hasn't ever had one of my bio kids in it, right?

So anyway, despite my distaste for drugs (born mostly from my fear of getting hooked on yet another chemical friend) I've gotta realize when I'm licked. I need something to even out these mood swings or they're going to get the best of me. Sis seems to manage them okay.

And that brings me to my particular fear about mood-altering drugs. I've heard that with some people these kinds of drugs can stifle or kill their creative impulse. They lose the desire or ability to write music, or play the guitar, or act, or sing...or maybe blog.

I'm not saying I believe that'll happen, but let's face it. When you mess with someone's natural mood rhythms, you do sort of mess with who they are at their core. And if you mess in that way with someone who is a writer or blogger at core, maybe you turn them into someone who eventually decides they can live without writing anymore.

And maybe that's okay, too. Because as I've been fighting this latest depression (actually the first real depression I've had since shortly after I quit drinking, to tell you the truth) I've learned some hard truths about myself, and the hardest one to me right now is that I must learn to let go of things much better than I seem able to do right now.

I need to let go of old friends, old relationships, old faces and places and things. I need to master the ability to take a particular friendship, for instance, and wrap it up in a little memory box and, as Mom advised me this last week, "put it aside". Don't necessarily throw it away...you might need it later. But until that time comes...IF it comes...I need to just put it out of mind except for the very occasional mind's-eye visitation with it. A moment's thought every great once in awhile should be enough to keep it alive, and more than that is probably unhealthy. And it's unhealthy to fixate on how awful it feels to consider the real possibility that the friendship has run its course and is no more.

So I guess while I'm quitting my last physical addiction, I'm going whole hog, and trying to quit some bad mental habits as well. Judging from my current level of energy for the project, my happiness with my marriage and other aspects of my life including fostering, my prospects for the future and my past levels of success doing things like this, I suspect I'll do okay. I'll probably successfully quit the tobacco, and I think I'll probably make up some ground on my mental housekeeping, though I think that will take a lot more work and maybe another independence day or two to get it to the point where I want it to be.

You know, some day I'm going to be able to look at myself in the mirror and realize that there is an actual, real-life adult staring back at me. But probably not quite yet. Because the other day on vacation I saw a rubber pile of puke on sale and my first thought was how I could use it to get a reaction out of "Josie". I wound up not getting it though. Who knew fake puke could be so expensive?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home