The Most Difficult Decision

I want to share with you some struggles that I went through in the last year in order that I might share the lessons that came with them. Last year in the summer, I asked my doctor for a change in medicine. One of the medicines I was taking at the time caused extreme drowsiness, making it very difficult to wake up in the morning. The only solution I had found to this was to sleep for around twelve hours a day giving me very little time outside of work to do anything. Eventually, I asked my doctor for a change from that medicine to another one that would not make me as tired.

The Gamble

At this time, I had been quite stable so I felt ready to risk a med change. My doctor moved me from the medicine that caused drowsiness to a related medicine which did not. At first, this was wonderful. I did not need too much sleep. I found soon enough, however, that while I did not struggle with the side effects, I did not seem to be getting the effects, either. I became extremely manic.
With mania comes irritability and anxiety. Eventually, I found myself shouting random noises whilst driving because of my excess energy. While dealing with the unending energy that tormented me, I found myself shredding a box for no especial reason. I knew I had to get help so I went to the local Community Mental Health (CMH).

Three Choices

Thanks to my years of experience in dealing with mental illness, I knew to be fully honest and to share everything going wrong with the people at CMH. I was presented with several options regarding what to do. I could go to a hospital diversion program, but sadly this option disappeared because I had been employed by all the local hospital diversion programs. Getting treatment there would create a conflict of interest. I tried advocating for going to a program like this an hour’s drive away, but the person at CMH would not allow me to drive that far. One of my symptoms had been thoughts of ramming other cars whilst driving and she did not feel it was safe to risk that for an entire hour.
Another option was stay at home intense therapy and care with a doctor at CMH. This is another sort of hospital diversion. The doctor for that program, however, was someone I had worked with before and did not like one bit. I still feel that he had made some serious mistakes with my meds years ago which are now very difficult, perhaps even impossible to correct. (Not actual med errors, but more prescribing meds I don’t need and getting me stuck on them).

How to Obey the Holy Spirit

Perhaps I should say now what I knew the whole time. I knew I had to go to the hospital. Whilst in prayer, I asked the Holy Spirit what I needed to do. I felt an overwhelming need to go to the hospital. I wanted nothing to do with this option but I felt the Holy Spirit was clear. This was before I had a spiritual father so all I could do was rely on my own judgment.
I wrestled with this. I was desperate not to go to the hospital, but I knew the will of the Holy Spirit. I knew I had not the strength to make this decision so I begging God to give me the strength. To find the strength, I called some friends. I have a WRAP plan. WRAP stands for Wellness Recovery Action Plan and is worthy of its own post but for now I will simply say that part of mine is that I have three people who can, by a simple majority, order me to the hospital. This is not legally binding in Michigan, but it is binding in my mind. That is the power of the WRAP.
One of them, told me I was stressing out over nothing and that I should just go. To this day, I don’t appreciate that, but he is one of the three so that was one of two required votes to send me. I called another. By now it was the middle of the night, but she answered and told me very forcefully “Go to the hospital.” She said it with compassion unlike the other, but I knew I had my votes. I spoke to the person at CMH and said, “I need to go to the hospital”. At that point I had actually negotiated my way out of going to the hospital, but she accepted my decision and sent me.
I was terrified. At the hospital, you lose all your freedom. You have no control over anything really. But it’s a good place to be if you need to be safe. I was scared out of my mind about going so I called my friend who had made the second vote. I told her I just needed to talk to someone encouraging while I drove to the hospital in terror, so she spoke with me an encouraged me.
My father watched the whole thing and saw that I made the right decision when I didn’t have to even though I was terrified of it. He later called to tell me how proud of was of me for making that decision. He’s not really the sentimental type who says that a lot, so I’ve cherished that call ever since.

The Lessons Learned

This is the story of my decision. Next will be my story of my stay there. I want to say for now that while I feel there are many lessons to be had in this story, I will let the reader discern most of them. The one I will point out is that even during a period of stability, a med change can make all the difference and ruin years of work. Generally, it is wise to avoid med changes unless things are already going poorly. I am not convinced it was worth it even though my fatigue was overwhelming.

Quitting Smoking

It has been a while! Much has happened since I last wrote here and I have many ideas. First, I want to tell the story of how I quit smoking. The idea of this blog is not so much a diary, but more using my personal experiences to encourage and enlighten others. That is, after all, the whole point of Peer Support.

The Beginning of Foolishness

I picked up smoking regularly back in 2008. I don’t remember exactly when my first smoke was but I remember what it was. I was offered a cigar. I remember saying that I would never smoke. I had, of course, seen much in the way of anti-smoking propaganda in school and not only was I against smoking myself, but I was nasty and judgmental toward those who did smoke, even coughing and gagging loudly when I was near them. My friends explained to me that cigar and pipe smoking is radically different than cigarette smoking. The former is not particularly addictive and does not involve inhaling anything, while in the latter you do inhale and addiction is strong. I accepted the argument and smoked a cigar. I really enjoyed myself, to the point that I almost wish I could do that again.

Step 2

I got really into cigar and pipe smoking and soon had a collection of pipes and a box of cigars I was working through. Before long, I would try smoking my pipe by myself. I didn’t really enjoy just smoking a pipe alone, but I found that I did enjoy smoking it whilst driving. Then, the worst thing happened. A friend offered me a Djarum brand cigarette. It was more of a cigarillo than a cigarette, but it looked like a cigarette even if it didn’t taste like one. I enjoyed it, and just as I was instructed, I did not inhale. Well, I didn’t at first. Later on, I did inhale just to see what it was like. At that point, the nicotine hit me hard. I got so lightheaded I couldn’t stand well. Apparently, this is the “Buzz” you get from a nicotine. To be honest, it’s not particularly pleasant. After a while, I stopped getting that buzz from the Djarums.

Social Smoking

I was more or less a social smoker with the Djarums, but then I moved in with a smoker. Because he smoked all the time so did I. Within days, I had to acknowledge my full-fledged addiction. At that point, I was still fairly proud of being a smoker. I thought I was cool (I wasn’t), and I had no idea at all just how powerful and nasty the smell was that was constantly on me. Now that I’m a non-smoker, I honestly hate being anywhere near smokers, especially just after they’ve had a cigarette. Sadly, I live with three of them, so I am near the stink much of the time.

Wanting to Quit

This was the longest phase of my story. Within several months, I desperately wanted to quit. By this time, I was smoking Marlborough Reds, despite the fact that they taste worse than just about anything else ever. This is also true of every other type of cigarette. I switched to other brands throughout the years, but it was always the same type of horribly nasty tasting garbage that one can get used to but not truly enjoy. The enjoyment one feels is only a false one. Many argue that cigarettes calm people down. This isn’t actually true. When I started smoking, I would have a cigarette to soothe myself sometimes, but it did nothing of the sort. It actually did the opposite and stressed me out. Smokers who feel soothed by the cigarette are only noticing the addiction pains going away. Not actual soothing or enjoyment. Plato commented that one in pain who moves to being in slightly less pain mistakenly thinks he’s enjoying pleasure. He experiences only an illusion. This is the effect of smoking for stress reduction.

Attempting the Nearly Impossible.

At a family gathering in my hometown, my uncle commented that quitting smoking was the hardest thing he ever did in his life. I did not understand that at the time because I was busy taking up smoking rather than quitting it. Now, I fully understand. Quitting smoking is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Did I mention that I’ve found recovery from mental illness and reconstructed my life from shambles of hatred and despondency? Yeah, quitting smoking was harder than that.

I wrestled with quitting. I would give up cigarettes sometimes for as little as hours before succumbing. I remember getting so angry that I threw my pack of cigarettes at my friend and said I was giving them up for good and just going with that. He laughed, but I was serious. He visited me a couple days later and handed me back my pack as I was smoking. He was nice and knew not to bother smoking them when I would be using them later. The headaches were bad. The anger was bad. The misery and the fact that one could think of absolutely nothing but cigarettes was bad. I tried so much meditation but it was impossible. I tried cold turkey, I tried the patch, I tried e-cigarettes and probably other methods I don’t remember. For five years none of them worked. I want to remind you of the math here. I enjoyed smoking for several months. I hated every minute of it for over five years.

Green Smoke

Eventually I found a method. I tried e-cigarettes. Many people are against e-cigarettes. They claim we don’t know what’s in them. They claim they are not recommended for quitting. As far as I can tell, most of this disapproval comes from the people who tried unsuccessfully to dominate these companies in court and rule their lives. When their dominance scheme failed, they started smearing the entire industry. I do know, however, that not all brands are equal. I tried the brand Blu to no effect. Blu, for me, was worthless in terms of kicking the cravings. I speak for myself, and not everyone. For me, what worked very well was a brand called Green Smoke. Their website is here
: Green smoke actually killed the craving for nicotine when I used the full dose. With this brand you can pick the nicotine concentration of the vapor. I started on the full dose. Then when I felt just barely comfortable, I moved down a step I did this until I smoked with zero nicotine. I did this for a while and then I stopped using it entirely. My brother suggested using toothpicks after that point, and I did to great effect. I still use toothpicks once in a while, but I don’t need them. I am an official nonsmoker. I knew I could classify myself this way when my self-identity changed. When you’re quitting smoking, you think of yourself as a guy quitting smoking. Now, I think of myself as a nonsmoker. When that was my self-identity, I knew I had made it. I am free.

Life As a Non Smoker

It’s different. I can do anything I want for more than an hour without being taken away. Before, I couldn’t sit anywhere for more than a couple hours without being dragged outside. In the winter, I don’t want to be outside. Yet as a smoker I went outside all the time against my will. I didn’t will it, but the addiction overpowered me. I was a slave. I was asked why I still smoked when I hated it so much, and I responded that I did it for the same reason that a whole lot of African Americans used to work on farms without pay. I don’t mean to say that I have suffered every bit as much as they did. I just mean that in my slavery to cigarettes, I began to identify with them a bit. I read a book by Frederick Douglas which described that the white people had to take the humanity away from their slaves because a human cannot be a slave. That is why when he learned to read, it became a forgone conclusion that he would be free one day. In reading the book, I saw that he was free already, and that is why he received so many beatings. As a smoker I was not free. It seemed to follow then, that I was not fully human. This was just my thinking at the time. I feel like a human now. Ah, to be fully human! Now that is a topic for another full length post.

TLDR:

NEVER EVER EVER EVER SMOKE!
If you’re dumb enough not to listen to the line above, try Green Smoke to get your freedom back.

Post Script

Green Smoke does not advertise as a smoking cessation method. I’m not sure they’re even legally allowed to. They advertise as a alternative way to smoke. There’s a whole culture now of “vaping” as they call it. My recommendation is to ignore this. Replacing smoking with vaping will only lead to more smoking and doesn’t actually set you free of the nicotine slavery.