Saturday, January 29, 2011

post 11

I have been procrastinating this post. Mainly because I am embarrassed and ashamed.  This first month of my goal has proven to be disappointing.  I have utterly failed at my first serious attempt at quitting. To this end I feel like a failure.  As I search for the words to try explain it dawns on me that there is no adequate explanation.  So I will not even attempt to describe the myriad of events that led me to picking back up the the bad habits.  However, one thing needs to be made clear. I AM NOT GIVING UP!

Back to the drawing board, back to square one.

Today I called the tobacco quit line. 1-800-QUIT-NOW (for Oregon).  I talked to this delightful lady named Esther.  We set a new quit date. February 1st.  She also pointed out that it seems a lot of my triggers are stress related so she gave me several relaxation tips and techniques that I am to start employing immediately.  She also gave me a great idea of taking a straw, trimming it down to cigarette length, soaking a piece of cotton in vanilla extract or menthol and sticking it in the straw to simulate the physical motion of smoking. I will also be receiving free nicotine gum, and additional quitting pamphlets.  She also gave me a number of resources both online and via live group sessions where I will meet others who are striving to quit as well.  I will be posting links and resources here once I have researched all the necessary legal permissions.

As a further proactive activity to change my day to day activities I have compiled a list of books to read.  So as part of this blog I will be doing mini book reviews.  I figure if I ever want to be considered a legitimate writer with a prayer for publishing; I need to exercise my mental muscles. I also need to pay homage to the great writers that have changed the world with their words.

So that being said here is my first review; Maus by Art Spiegleman.  This book was loaned and referred to me by my friend Heather who I have only known for a short time but has quickly become one of my dearest friends. She is also one of my most vocal supporters in this endeavor.  But I digress, this book is AMAZING!!! It should be required reading for everyone.  I actually had a really interesting conversation with a cab driver last night about this book.  World War two was a horrific chapter in humanities history and what happened should never be forgotten.  This was a story about one survivor written by his son.  It is a graphic novel written in a comic book format. It is brilliant.  At times quite disturbing.  But I believe that people need to be disturbed in this way from time to time.  It is our duty to remember the holocaust so as to never let it happen again.  It also humbled me and as I sit and write about my struggle against my own petty addictions. I realize that I have had a comfortable life.  I could have had it so much worse and I need to be grateful. I also need to take advantage of all the opportunities that my good life has afforded me.  I will strive not to take anything or anyone for granted anymore.  

Quote of the day "You must be the change you want to see in the world." - Mahatma Ghandi

Sunday, January 16, 2011

post 10 on day 16

Hello out there, I admit its been a few days since my last posting. I apologize to those of you who have put your lives' on hold waiting for my next posting *wink*.  It has been quite a struggle trying to a.) find the motivation to write and b.) finding adequate time to put in a quality session of writing.  Therefore I am going to amend my original goal of writing everyday to writing at least once a week, at least until I get a computer of my own. I think for obvious reasons I received a bit of a scolding last week for blogging while I was at work.  On top of that I have been battling a lingering illness the last few weeks and that has really sapped my energy. (even as I write this it sounds an awful lot like more excuses huh?)

In terms of my my quitting this last week has been a challenge.  I broke down and smoked a few times this last week and I am extremely disappointed in myself.  Rather than dwell on the fact that I did smoke I wish to discuss maybe what triggered my caving to the craving.

On Tuesday I received an email from a long, lost friend notifying me that she would be in town and that she would love to see me.  We made plans to meet up for lunch on Wednesday afternoon.  Mariah was my first room-mate ever; we were 18 years old, shared a tiny studio apartment in a scary part of downtown Spokanistan.  During those days (rather than getting our unemployed behinds to school or work), we would sit for hours in this tiny 12X12 foot space; playing chess, philosophizing on the social issues present in our young lives and having really intense, yet somewhat pointless conversations about what was wrong with the world.  Then in the evening drag ourselves out to some party and succeed in getting high, drunk, or high and drunk, and we pretty much chain-smoked through it all.  I am able to look back now and see that we were really just trying to find ourselves, decide where we wanted to go, and really just figure out life.  Later that year, Mariah moved to Seattle and I eventually moved to Portland.  Over the last 13 years our life path's just drifted apart only coming back together recently thanks to the reunifying powers of Facebook.  So on Wednesday morning I brushed my teeth, took a shower, cleaned the house and eagerly waited with nervous anticipation for my friend to arrive.  I was making a light lunch of grilled cheese sandwich's and tomato soup; which was prepped and ready to cook about two hours before the appointed time of our little reunion. I believe that a sign of life-long friendship is the ability to pick right back up where we left off, and I was worried that we wouldn't have that, I wondered if it would it be a series of awkward silences as we struggled to fill in the gaps of what we had done or not done in the last decade.  I found myself getting bored waiting for her to arrive and I had nothing to do. In my boredom, I decided to say F-it and I had a beer, which of course led to my bumming a cig. from one of my neighbors.  In my memory, she had possessed an anger and edge that made her seductively beautiful yet detached and cold. I was eager to see what she had become.  Mariah arrived looking soft and beautiful, she truly had grown into an "earth mother." My fears were alleviated as we drifted into easy conversation and giggly reminiscence; she was an absolute joy to see.  Incidentally, she quit smoking five years ago and is a fairly strict vegetarian.  On Thursday night we had dinner with another old friend from those days; Kristine, and we had a marvelous time, laughing and comparing stories of our foolish twenties.  Kristine quit smoking four years ago and has since run in two marathons, truly inspiring.  Needless to say, we all agreed that we will not let so much time go by between visits.

I realized that boredom is a trigger, and to counter-act that trigger, I really need to focus on prioritizing my activities and really just be more efficient with my time management.  Along with that, cultivating my existing and learning new hobbies would be truly beneficial as well.

My second lapse came on Friday, after a frustrating morning at work, I left for my lunch break and as I was innocently walking down the street a passerby pointlessly and needlessly shouted out their vehicle window "faggot."  I first thought well maybe it was someone I new, but after looking at the occupants of that truck I knew it was no-one familiar to me, and I was filled with rage.  First of all in a progressively minded city in which I live, hearing hateful terminology is few and far between.  In fact, since I had left Spokane I had never once been called a "faggot," (except for once a few years ago when I was in Vancouver after a weird and rare one night stand).  In my blind fury I had bought a pack of cigarettes and it wasn't until I was halfway through my second smoke did I realize what I had just done.  All the work and misery and "joy" of the last two and a half weeks had just come undone.  All because I let some ignorant piece of red-neck trash get me riled up.  I discovered that another trigger for me is anger. and I decided as I was throwing the rest of the pack in the trash, that I will never let someone else's stupid, thoughtless words have that kind of power over me.  Its easier said then done but I believe that through prayer and meditation this can be achieved.

Thank you all for your prayers and wishes of success.  I feel them and it inspires me to continue to fight this battle one day at a time.

Happy Martin Luther King day, may the spirit of tolerance, peace, and equality in all things, be with us all, as we recognize that we are all necessary and valuable members of the same human family.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

day nine 2:22 am

I suffer from insomnia.  I fall asleep with no problem but then anywhere from 2 to 4 am I wake up and find myself completely wide awake.  Its strange how the creative juices flow pretty heavily at these quiet hours of the night.

Maybe I get it from my father who is well-known for starting various projects at the weirdest times.  I remember one instance when I was in junior high and I came home pretty late after some music or athletic event.  To find a gaping hole in the front living room where the window used to be, and there was my dad standing on the front porch... Looking like a maniacal mad man holding a roaring chainsaw.  At the time I remember questioning his sanity.  If my memory serves me correctly it was November and in Spokane that is winter-time, not the most ideal time to start a major construction project.  He decided to build a bay window complete with a wide bench seat.  I am all thumbs when it comes to mechanical stuff, honestly I have trouble changing a light bulb.  Its a family joke now, my dad and his inopportune timing for projects.  But I have to say to his credit he always finishes what he starts.  I am trying to capture some of his fortitude in this blog project.  His abilities amaze and inspire me and his gift with carpentry, automotive, and that stick-to-it mentality is awesome.  And that Bay window is like a tiara for my parents modest home.

My childhood was idyllic, we didn't have much in the way of material wealth. But my parents, at least from my perspective never burdened us with the true poverty that was there, especially in the early years.  I am the youngest so my memory is hazy at best when it comes to that particular time.  When other families would go to a fancy ski resort, we would all pile into an old wooden fishing raft and be dragged around the snowy fields behind my daddy's old blue truck...I think it was a Chevy though I can't really remember (truthfully I have never been good with make and models of vehicles).  I didn't think it abnormal for the family to be selling corn off the side of the road like a band of gypsy's or packing up the van with music equipment to go play at some backwater grange hall. I love the taste of corn and it will forever be a staple to my diet.  And I still remember the smell of the burgundy velvet lining of my daddy's guitar case, that cherry-red Gibson electric is priceless in my eyes. And I still enjoy falling asleep listening (or feeling rather) to a low throbbing bass line. 

What did I care about fancy TV's or gaming consoles.  I had about an acre of corn field/Christmas tree lot/Mattoon family forest (that acre has seen many transformations) and a substantial backyard in which to play.  My imagination ran wild and free, to this day I still have a child-like capability of dreaming up fantasy lands.

I was a queer little kid; pleasant, calm, and obedient but always doing something strange.  I was obsessed by "girly" things when I was young; little orphan Annie, dancing, gymnastics, a huge horse-lover, and frequently I was a "damsel in distress." It wasn't that I wanted to be a girl, it was more that... well lets just say I preferred doing chores in the kitchen verses those of the "big red barn."  I did have my fair share of "boy" things that I loved too though, I had a bunch matchbook cars that my best friend Matt and I would play with all the time.  I also loved Thunder-cats and was very fond of Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles.  I guess I haven't really changed that much in my old age.  I still like a lot of those things;)

There was some ugly things in my childhood too though, and in my adulthood I have come to a proper reconciliation.  I was introduced to sex way too early.  However, I have found that I am not special in that regard, a lot of "normal, healthy" functioning adults also went through similar or worse situations in the youth.  I have found forgiveness and peace with that bit of personal history and furthermore I detest when people blame their childhoods for the mistakes they make in their adulthood. 

It occurred to me that I should probably explain that I am writing this here, because in the process of kicking these bad habits I do believe a thorough self-examination is in order.  I think reviewing my history is very important in the sense that by looking for patterns of addictive tendencies I may be able to isolate certain triggers that I can be aware of and be watchful for in the future.

Anyway, I am going to back to sleep now.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

day 8

A funny thing about inspiration is that you never know when it's gonna hit.  I was in the shower, vocalizing a mash up of various musical theater power ballads, when last nights dream came back to me.  Sprinting through my empty house, naked, dripping wet trying to make it to my journal before my train of thought slipped off the tracks.  What can I say I had to record the details.  (I am fortunate to live in a somewhat secluded area.)

But I digress, in my dream; I was blinded by the theater lights, I was standing on the stage of a vintage, Victorian era opera house.  I was singing to an empty auditorium, at first my voice was thin, and airy.  But I closed my eyes and kept on singing, and as I surrendered myself to the song, so did my voice grow and it did not crack or falter, my courage and confidence was reborn.  And after some time my song came to an end and as the curtains rose for my final bow, the lights came up and there were people spilling out the exits.

After last nights step backwards, this dream helped re-ignite an inner fire.  I woke this morning and did my laundry, cleaned out my car, and took down all the Christmas decor.  I then took a hot bath, followed by a cold shower and then made some tea.  I set some very important appointments and all and all I had a very productive Saturday. (I am finding that staying productive is significantly reducing the frequency and magnitude of the cravings).

Tonight I am babysitting my little buddy J, and we are having a superhero movie marathon, first Batman, next up is Superman (the Christopher Reeve's version of course:) And my cyberspace friends I can proudly say that I can put a sticker on the calendar for today:)

Speaking of my little superhero, I need to feed him and get him ready for the next movie so I am going to sign off for day 8 and overall I am feeling great:)

Friday, January 7, 2011

post 7 on day 7

A shadow has fallen over day 7.  I promised I wouldn't lie. I smoked a cigarette. I feel guilty, disappointed and I have no excuses.  It tasted horrible and definitely wasn't worth it.  Tomorrow I am going to clean my house, my car, and wash my mouth out. Then start anew. 

I am prone to beating myself up when I make mistakes.  I am not going to do that this time. I am human, I make mistakes.  I admit my flesh is weak but there is a verse out there that gives me strength "may weak things become strong." I whisper this in my prayers.

The most disappointing moment came when my 3 year old little room-mate couldn't put the sticker on the calendar for my 7th day of non smoking.  I will not give up. 

As a change of subject, I think I have been a little hard on my Manager.  Today I saw him as a man trying to make his place in the world.  Just like me.  We had a particularly slow day at the branch and try as we might we just couldn't get anything started today, we fell way below our goals.  At a moment when I don't think he knew I was watching him, I watched him put his head in his hands and exhale a huge sigh.  We have had our differences but I think I will try and exercise more forgiveness and less judgment.

Last night I had choir practice. Music brings so much peace.  I think I shall retire to my i-pod for tonight.

day 6 on day 7

I have always liked how a certain advice columnist addressed her audience as "gentle readers" I have been thinking of a clever way of saying "hello" to whoever might be reading this, any suggestions would be carefully considered and much appreciated:)  You may have noticed that I missed yesterday.  I can make no excuses except that I don't actually have my own computer and I alternate between using my room-mates computer (who is a busy student) and my work computer (which for obvious reasons isn't totally appropriate for blogging but what can I say I am a rebel).  Which is why I am choosing to "monetize" this blog. I know those ads can be annoying but don't let it dissuade you from reading. My understanding is that basically if someone clicks on the ad then I get a small pittance. The blog should still be free to read.

I want to thank everyone for their comments...It is encouraging and inspiring and much appreciated.  One comment in particular got me to thinking about my younger years, and my involvment in music.  Joette your touch with the Ivories was always so soothing to my soul.  I will forever cherish those memories.  As most of you know I grew up in an environment where music was a constant.  Whether it be my mother's lovely Alto, or my father leading a sing-a-long around the campfire with his guitar.  I was blessed with consistently being musically fed.  I myself was a mediocre violist, I dabbled in violin and piano and I sing with a soft tenor.  When I was 21 or 22 I sold my viola and completely stopped singing.  I think this broke my parents hearts.  I also think it did significant damage to my own heart.  When I made those "sales" I justified my actions with "I need to pay rent." Truthfully, I chose to pay for my cigarette habit, and my growing fondness for alcohol.  These actions are a prime example of "instant gratification," a classic symptom of  addicitive personality disorder.  It struck me that today I almost fell into the same pattern. You see today is payday and I am really just pennies away from having enough saved for a new computer. And if I compromised on another debt then I could buy a computer. However it would not be the one I really want and I know would regret buying it later.

I have to cut this posting short. Later this evening I will Post for Day 7...Cheers to you all and still going strong:)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

day five

Today has been an interesting day.  I spoke to a wise customer who is now my friend, he quit smoking 18 years ago and admitted that he still thinks about a cigarette.  My own father who has been a quitter now for almost 30 years, still pats his shirt pocket after a hearty family dinner.  It got me questioning, will these cravings ever really go away?

I have been tempted but I have been strong. The main temptation has been along the lines of little compromises, because I have quit, not only smoking, but also alcohol and caffeine many of my friends and acquaintances have offered a few suggestions/temptations that would make this easier.  I have been hearing "wow Levi that's cool that you are doing this but do you really want to give up all three at the same time?" The idea of allowing yourself to indulge in one of the three vices at  precisely one time each month is quite tempting.  But I feel that wouldn't be true to the intent of this whole challenge.  I am a big believer in the power of the mind.  I am determined to be successful at this.  My family and certain long term friends of mine knows that I can be a bit of a flake.  This time I must persevere, this time I must follow-through.  Why? Because I want to believe in redemption, and I want to believe in forgiveness.  And damn-it I guess I have something to prove.

I was introduced to the "rule of 3," Basically my understanding is that the 3rd day, 3rd week, 3rd month, 3rd year etc.. is supposed to be the most challenging when it comes to overcoming addictions.  (Great... something to look forward too) It got me thinking about a session I had with a therapist a few years ago.  I did that thing that a patient is never supposed to do...I peeked at her notepad...The words borderline personality, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addictive personality disorder was penciled in the margins.  I have never really read up on what these disorders means, I have been too lazy and too fearful to find out just how crazy and imperfect I am.  I have also never gone back to that therapist.  I have been thinking that I can give up these bad habits but I think it goes deeper than just the habits themselves.  I know people who can have one cigarette, or one drink, and manage to not develop a long-term nasty habit.  I am not one of those people and I want to know why.

So today I decided to google seach addictive personality disorder.  I need to preface the following with I am not a psychiatrist, nor am I attempting to self-diagnose, I am merely trying to understand addiction, as it pertains to me and I am also trying to be as honest in this blog as possible.  One website listed symptoms of APD as; "anti-social behavior, substitution of vices, instant gratification, anxiety and depression, and secrecy."  While I plan on analyzing each "symptom" in future Blogs.  I wanted to address the "secrecy" first.  The descriptor behind this basically speaks of the addicts desire to "hide addiction" driven by "fear or shame of being caught."  I thought well gosh, I am writing about this on the World Wide Web, and if anyone is reading this they could think that I am full of shit, how do you strangers know that I am truly a quitter?  The fact is I can't prove to anyone out there that I have indeed gone 5 days without a smoke.  I can only promise you that if I do slip-up I will be honest in this forum, I will tell you.  I give you my word.  And where I come from a man's word still means a great deal.