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Out To Quit: Going through 'The Program' - Week 3
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Out To Quit: Going through 'The Program' - Week 3

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

I had just extinguished a cigarette when I ran into Lark and Dan, two coordinators of the program, as I was walking down Pike St. towards Gay City for my third weekly meeting. We talked casually, and it seemed they hadn't notice me dispose of my cigarette. At first, I thought it may have been a lucky break, but now I almost wish they had seen me and called me out.

Before I go into the more-stressful-than-usual meeting we had, I'd like to talk about the STAND worksheet from last week. Let's just say I fell off the wagon - hard.

Last weekend was extremely busy and extremely stressful for me. I didn't record my weekend cigarettes, but from Tuesday (the night of the last meeting) to Friday at 6:28 p.m., I recorded every cigarette: 22 in total in just over three days. Here are the numbers:

63.6% cigarettes smoked while in a "good" mood.
18.2% cigarettes smoked while in an "OK" mood.
18.2% cigarettes smoked while in a "sad or depressed" mood.

68.2% cigarettes smoked while at home.
27.3% cigarettes smoked while at work.
4.5 % cigarettes smoked while elsewhere.

63.6% cigarettes smoked while in the presence of others.
36.4% cigarettes smoked while alone.

Some of these totals surprised me. I had figured that I smoked more at work than at home. Clearly, this wasn't at all the case. My mood fluctuations also took me by surprise. Generally speaking, I don't get sad that often, but like I said, the last week was pretty stressful for me, and I'm sure that had something to do with it.

We opened up the meeting by talking about our STAND worksheets. I soon discovered that I wasn't the only one that hadn't completed it. In fact, only one person in the group had done the momentous task, but like me, could only record each individual cigarette rather than each craving.

One member of the group, who was already down to two cigarettes a day the week prior, reported back that they had not smoked at all since the last meeting, and was met with an ovation and friendly smiles.

We were given a fact sheet about what we can look forward to when we quit. Here are a few highlights:

After 20 minutes, blood pressure drops back to normal. After eight hours, the carbon monoxide levels in the blood stream drop by half, and oxygen levels return to normal. After 48 hours, all nicotine will have left the body and senses of taste and smell return to normal. After two weeks, circulation begins to steadily increase, and will continue to improve for 10 weeks. After one year, risk of heart attack drops by half. After 10 years, risk of lung cancer returns to that of a non-smoker. These are only a few examples.

These really do give me something to look forward to. I'd love to have my circulation and lung capacity back. In high school, before I started smoking, I ran a 4:39 mile - my mile time now is something like seven minutes, and I have no excuse for this failure. This brings me to the theme of Tuesday's meeting: what it is we don't like about smoking. It was the polar opposite of last week's theme, when we sat around the table discussing how wonderful tobacco made us feel.

We were asked to make collages from various magazines about what we look forward to about quitting, or what we don't like about smoking. Lark supplied two porno mags in addition to copies of Out, Time, and The Economist. As soon as the porn hit the table, we began in a fit of creative excitement.

I was impressed with all the collages from my fellow group members. They were well-thought-out and revealed quite a bit. One member of the group, who has already quit using tobacco, used his collage to symbolize that he wanted to add more years to his life. Some collages featured transitional themes - half of the piece symbolizing life as a smoker, the other half as a non-smoker. Money was a common theme in most of the collages, as well.

As I was completing mine, we were given a pink and purple packet of papers entitled "My Quit Plan." I immediately started freaking out, and I wanted a cigarette right then and there.

A heated debate ensued in the group as to deciding our quit date, and the decision was tabled until next week. As far as this week goes, I requested another STAND worksheet and I plan to document cigarettes for the purpose of beginning to cut down. That's right, three weeks in, and now I'm going to attempt cutting down. Frankly, the idea in itself stresses me out, and you already know what I tend to do when I'm stressed.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about how fortunate I am for having only been a smoker for two years. It's likely that it will be easier for me to quit than other members of my group. I've been thinking about other reasons I want to quit, too. I cough during sex, and hate myself for it. I hate waking up in the mornings with my lungs still full of smoke. I also think of my mother, who's been in and out of the hospital for the last two years with heart problems, and I see my future in her.

Now, I love cigarettes, but I owe it to not only the people I love, but to myself, to quit them. I'm a war veteran, I've climbed a 19,334-foot mountain, I've led marches of hundreds of people in the streets, I've crafted a loving relationship with a wonderful girl, I make awesome stir-fry, and I can almost always find Waldo. I know I'm better than cigarettes, and now is the time to prove it.

This column took zero cigarettes to write.

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