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Out to Quit - FINAL WRAP-UP - Going through 'The Program'
Section One
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Out to Quit - FINAL WRAP-UP - Going through 'The Program'

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

So here it is, the wrap-up. I guess I'd consider myself a nonsmoker now. It's been over two weeks since I drowned my cigarettes in the kitchen sink, and I feel good. The cravings are not only getting easier, but fewer and far between. Some of them can still be overwhelming, but my family is still coming through for me, answering my phone calls during my fits of desperation.

We had our "reward dinner" this week. Only about half the group could make it, but it was truly a delight. We've all become friends, and even though we've only been seeing each other for about an hour and a half, one night a week, we've all bonded because of our journey.

We gathered at a Thai restraint on the north end of Broadway. We mentioned to our server that we were celebrating our quitting smoking and she admitted that she had once quit smoking and had since started again. Lark promptly went in to his now-familiar routine, and before she could even take our drink order, the poor girl was being given advice by every non-smoker at the table - clearly the program made an impact on all of us.

I confessed to the table that I had smoked part of a cigarette on Saturday. Physically, the cigarette gave me the desired effect; I immediately got dizzy and lightheaded, and had to lean on a rail to regain my composure. Although my body got what it wanted out of the cigarette, I didn't feel better afterwards.

The night before, a member of the group sent me an email over Facebook asking for advice on dealing with cravings. I gave him a few tips, but one of the things I wrote stood out in particular for me.

"The thing that's really hard to hold onto is why I quit, just because cigarettes are so tempting, and they seem like they can just make everything better when I'm panicking, but they never did. I still had relationship stresses, work stresses, all of it, and cigarettes never did anything."

Now clearly, I didn't take my own advice, but I have to say that I'm glad I did what I did. Smoking that cigarette on Saturday reminded me of why I quit, and I've had barely any desire to smoke since. I feel as if it gave me the perspective I needed, and now I feel like I've quit smoking.

I've come a long way in the past two months. Consequently, I decided to look back at each one of my columns and find a few selections that made me smile or were particularly interesting.

Week 1: "This program is completely free. I know I'll leave tonight feeling grateful towards Gay City, with a stronger desire to quit. & I get the impression that Out to Quit is a quality program, but do I think I'm actually going to quit smoking because of it? Let's just say I'd certainly like to."

Week 2: "So why do we love smoking? To take a break, to relieve stress, to wake ourselves up, to connect to our heritage, to reward ourselves, to get high, to be creative and connect with the muse, to be sexy, to suppress our appetite, to meet new people, to connect with the people we already know, to relieve boredom, or just for the hell of it."

Week 3: "I cough during sex, and hate myself for it. I hate waking up in the mornings with my lungs still full of smoke."

Week 4: "It is absolutely inconceivable to me how I would cope with stress without cigarettes. & It [quitting] is equivalent to making any huge life change, like ending a relationship or taking a new job far away from home. Both of which I have done, and both of which have left me changed forever."

Week 6: "I realized how much control I'd let tobacco have over me. I realized why I was really out there, and it became clear to me that if I didn't stop then, I was never going to."

Week 7: "These are not only the people who have been helping me cease my tobacco use; these were the people I quit for, because quitting for myself simply wasn't good enough."

The advice that I've got to give to anyone potentially quitting is pretty simple: Gay City Health Project. Additionally, I'd refer you to the Week 7 quote above. I'd also say this: once you're no longer smoking, just keep counting the days. The more time you have behind you, the more motivation you'll have to keep going.

As the group discussed early on, I've let smoking fill certain needs, needs that everyone has, and I guess I've still got some work to do in finding other alternatives to smoking. It will take time to connect certain activities and certain memories with things other than smoking, but I know I'll get there.

All in all, things are looking up. I've had significantly less trouble getting to sleep each night, and concentration is coming easier to me. Our new cat Osito is warming up to us, and I've got that feeling back now, the feeling I had when I first resolved not to light up again, that a new day is dawning, that a new me is emerging.

Here's to my health, to yours, and sticking it to the major tobacco corporations. Thanks for reading.

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