Why was it so easy for me to give up smoking and why is it so hard for other people?

In light of my previous entry…or one of my previous entries…I need to think hard on this right now.

As I said, I need to dig deeply into my “card catalog brain” and try to recall how it was that I was able to quit smoking…and remain an ex-smoker, or former smoker, all these years, without any difficulty.

First of all, I completely took the MORAL ISSUE out of smoking.

If you smoke, YOU ARE NOT A SINNER.  If you pick up a cigarette, I don’t freaking care what society says, you have not been naughty and you have not “blown it.” Even if you are trying to quit.  Even if you have broken some promise you made to yourself.  It’s not a “dirty habit.”  All it is is SMOKING.  All you did was to light a cigarette.  Unless you did it in the middle of a National Forest (don’t be an idiot) or right on an ICU unit in someone’s room where the oxygen was running (again, don’t be an idiot), you didn’t break the law and nothing burned down.

I grew up in the 1960’s.  I have spoken on here before of being caught between the eras of the 1960’s societal pressure be the same as everyone else and the emerging 1970’s societal pressure to be unique.  By the end of the 1970’s and into the 80’s, I was becoming aware of feminism.

I was also, at that time, questioning my sexuality, that is, whether I was a lesbian or straight.  No way could I figure that one out, and I had no one to discuss it with openly without getting extremely self-conscious.  No way would I admit to someone who was straight that I had “feelings” for someone of the same sex, and no way would I admit to someone who was a lesbian that I had “feelings” for men.   I recall a lesbian friend of mine lecturing me to “make up my mind” whether I was gay or straight and “stick to it.”  “You can’t be both,” she said.  “There is no middle.”  I don’t think I had even heard of bisexuality until I was 23 or so.

I was hardly aware that what I was going through was something that just about everyone my age experienced!  Only nowadays, folks talk about it.  I kept it all inside.  I kept my thoughts about God inside, too.  I tried to talk about it but very few people wanted to talk about God with me.  It wasn’t okay to talk about God.  If you voted against Reagan, you never, ever talked about God.  But I had so many unanswered questions!

The mail was private enough, that is, snail mail, so I wrote to many religious organizations asking for information.  I got pamphlets in the mail, bibles and the like.  I wrote stuff about God and tried to figure things on my own.

The fact that there was no one to really open up to was immensely frustrating to me.  There was a guy I used to see for coffee sometimes, named John…I remember him fairly well.  But he was so stuck on the Bible, that is, the Christian Bible, and couldn’t get past that.

I would ask John, “What if the Bible wasn’t true? What is it were NOT the word of God?”

But John would not even consider this possibility.  “It says in the Bible that the Bible IS the Word of God, so the Bible is the Word of God, and the Bible is the Absolute Truth,” he’d say.

I told John that this was circular reasoning.

Nonetheless, John and I had extremely lively and deep conversations about God.  I recall drawing diagrams on napkins at Friendly’s restaurant one day, some kind of diagram that had to do with God.  Imagine that.

All this was just a bit before my eating disorder began.  And everything I went through, all the questioning, was normal adolescent stuff that happened to people and continues to happen to adolescents of varying ages.  The year was (I believe) 1979 or so, headed into 1980.

I started smoking around the time of my 24th birthday (I hope I am calculating this right), that is, I had dropped out of school, moved in with my parents, started day treatment, and because all the other mental patients smoked, I decided I should smoke, too.  Maybe if I smoked, I would stop binge eating.  I could substitute!  That would quietly solve my problems.  I could light up instead of binge eating.  In fact, I would stop eating altogether, just light up instead of eating.  But how would I keep my parents (with whom I lived) from finding out?

Of course, smoking didn’t solve any of my eating problems.  It pissed off my parents.  The ashes made an awful mess, too, and I never knew where to dispose of the butts.

Smoking was REBELLION.  It was symbol of that for me in every way.  I was rebelling against my parents and my upbringing.  I was saying, “I am this new person and I have this new IDENTITY, and you (my parents) can’t touch it.”

I think a lot of kids, when they start to smoke, are saying just that exact same thing, in their own way, aren’t they?

Do we, as people with eating disorders, say this when we go on our first diets?  Do we say, “I am a new person, a new identity, I want to strike out on my own….” and we try to strike out independently, however meager our efforts?  Why the need?

I recall I needed it desperately.  I was dying to do that diet in 1980.  I counted down the days.  I secretly planned it out.  I even relocated, that is, packed up my stuff and left my job and moved to an apartment by myself for the purpose of going on a diet and losing weight.  I gave people other reasons for moving.  I lied.  Made excuses.  I told the truth to my journal and said, “I can hardly wait to be able to eat what I want.”  Now that’s weird.

I guess when I “relapsed” after the big weight gain from Seroquel (really, I hate the word “relapse”) it was the same deal.  I was so totally determined and I hated that I’d gained that weight and hated what Seroquel did to me.  I hated the deception and lies.  I hated that my therapist had been blase the whole time, watched me gain and didn’t care.  I hated that I’d ask, “Why am I gaining?” and didn’t get an honest response, instead was told to “diet and exercise.”

I guess my anorexic response was, “I am my own person now and screw you.”  Losing weight felt excellent.  I felt free and independent at last.  I suppose it always has.  On my own.

There were a couple of other times that my weight dropped but I didn’t do it deliberately.  Looking back, I have no clue how it happened.   Suddenly, I’d be skinny for no particular reason, and I wasn’t deliberately restricting.  Funny how these were the times that the “professionals” took note and they’d get all pissy and claim I was horribly anorexic.  They’d do some bogus controlling “eating disorders treatment” on me, which would only get me riled up because the manipulation and meddling and imposition on my privacy was downright annoying.  If they’d left me alone, I would have been far better off.  They should have at least asked, instead of sticking me on the scale and saying, “You MUST be anorexic!” and jumping to conclusions based solely on a number.

Well, I should quit veering from the topic I promised to discuss, namely, “How did I quit smoking?”

I wasn’t an every-now-and-then smoker.  By the time I was 25 and 26 and 27 and 28, etc, I would smoke at every commercial break, every break between anything, twice before sleep (I’d fall asleep and burn the sheet regularly because I was so medicated) and I couldn’t get out of bed until I’d had my two cigarettes to wake me up.  I’d smoke while writing in my journal and there were ashes all over my apartment.  You’d think I lived in a volcano.  So yes, people would say I was “hooked,” or at least as frequent a smoker as anyone else.  So how on earth did I quit and why was it so easy?

I quit by stopping smoking.

I quit by no longer smoking. That’s all. There was no “patch” or “gum” in those days I don’t think.  I wouldn’t have wanted it anyway.  Substituting something else would have held me back.

I tell people that I got a dog and took up fitness walking, but these were not “substitutes.”  These were celebration of my wonderfully clear lungs AFTER I’d quit.  I gave myself a reason to keep my lungs healthy.  Later, I enjoyed riding my bike and I took up running.  I have no reason to cloud up my lungs with smoke.

Again, there wasn’t anything particularly moral about it.  I don’t fault people who smoke and I don’t think it’s “bad” to smoke.  A person who smokes doesn’t have “bad morals.”  If you are having trouble stopping, it has nothing to do with moral weakness.

So let me say this loud and clear.  I’m even going to put on my caps lock button.




See ya later, alligators.


Excellent book by Kathryn Hansen on binge eating, review coming soon!

Hi folks!  I’m nearly finished with an excellent book by Kathryn Hansen.  Here’s the precise title of the book:

Brain over Binge: Why I Was Bulimic, Why Conventional Therapy Didn’t Work, and How I Recovered for Good.

Now those of you that know me know, of course, right off the bat, just reading the title alone why such a book might appeal to me, Julie Greene.

First of all, I have had first-hand experience with binge eating, that is, I have done this act.  No, I’m not one of those therapists that makes ridiculous claims based on tons of reading and study on eating disorders that can cure patients without ever having starved herself or ever having lived in an emaciated body.

I do have what we former patients call “lived experience.”  So yes, I do know what a binge is like.  I know what a gigantic, terrifying binge is like and I do know what it’s like to have to keep it all inside.  I do know what it’s like to finally go for help, absolutely terrified, not knowing what the reaction will be, and then get the variety of responses that either make us laugh, cry, or kill ourselves.  Rarely do any of us “recover.”  The statistics that state that binge eating is “highly treatable” are completely wrong.  Dead folks can’t fill out those surveys, after all.  And some are just too sick or discouraged to hold a #2 pencil.

Secondly, I you guys know that I have now totally rejected the mental health system, which I often refer to as the System, yes, capital S.  So I love that Kathryn Hansen managed to stop binge eating without conventional therapy.  I saw in the title that she did this, so for sure I’ve wanted to read the book for a while now.

Today, my health plan called me and again offered me a “therapist.”  First, they offered two of the ones I’ve already “tried out” and I said, “no thanks.”  They offered a third.  I said, “I need to speak with this person on the phone first.”  I got excuses and was told to look online at the person’s smiley, photoshopped face.  I wanted to say more.  I wanted to say, “Do you know that three of your people turned me away last summer when I was clearly starving, physically weak, barely able to stand up, and my kidneys were on the verge of failing?  Instead I was poked fun at and threatened. Put off and trivialized. Told to go elsewhere.  Am I going to take my chances with the mental health people at this health plan again?  Or take charge of my body?”  But no, I kept my mouth shut.

I never phoned the “therapist.”  I have no intentions to do so.  I don’t want more abuse.  Kathryn Hansen speaks in her book about how therapy did more harm than good.  I’m getting to this part now. She was lucky.  She rejected therapy after only four years of that baloney.

In a nutshell:  One day, Hansen picked up a copy of Rational Recovery.  Have you folks heard of this?  It’s a cool book and program that’s designed for alcoholics as sort of an alternative to AA.  It’s not religious or spiritual.  What’s cool about it (in my opinion) is that RR completely rejects the disease model of alcoholism.

In other words, we are not damaged.  We are not defective. Not that I know anything about alcoholism.  I’m not an alcoholic.  I totally don’t get why anyone would drink it in the first place, and although at odd times I’ve attempted to swallow the stuff, I think it’s rather disgusting and it’s a struggle to consume it.  I’ve told you folks that now and then I’ve attempted to turn myself into a habitual drinker and I simply can’t.  I lose interest.  It’s boring.  It’s even more boring than the worst of Julie Greene’s blog posts that you end up x-ing out.  I’ve got a bottle of cooking sherry around here I think I’ve had for two decades.  Anyway, RR is very cool.  Kathryn Hansen doesn’t just talk about RR, she incorporates tons of research into her book, as well as her own original ideas based on lived experience with her own binge eating.

One thing you do need to know:  Brain over Binge is geared specifically to tackle binge eating.  The thesis is that purging behavior happens because the person has binged.  However, I do know people who purge not because they have binged, but because they have eaten something they aren’t comfortable with.  Therefore, if you are seeking a solution to purging behavior and this is your main problem, I don’t think this book is for you.  If your purging is purely a reaction to binge eating, and solving binge eating will in turn solve the subsequent purge, then by all means, pick up this book.

I don’t throw up and never did.  Hansen states that she, too, attempted to vomit many times but was unable to do so.  She used exercise to “get rid of the calories.”

I didn’t do overexercise, and still don’t.  There are many reasons for this.  Hansen does a brilliant job of describing her binges in vivid, gory detail.  I believe for the most part, over the years, mine took more of a physical toll on my body and by all means, I couldn’t get up the next day and go jogging!  Perhaps people’s bodies are just different, or maybe my quantities are larger.  Or maybe it went on for more years and decades for me.  I would be in so much physical pain from massive binge eating that I could barely move or breathe. I was afraid I’d aspirate my food, choke, or my stomach would rupture, even half a day after the binge.  To get out of bed was painful. Sitting in a chair, walking across the room…geez…I have been quite ill from this…so in that way, our experiences of the aftermath differ.  I do know of people who have taken themselves to emergency rooms following episodes of binge eating due to physical consequences that for me, sadly, are everyday occurrence.

So here I am, having stated that “I am going to review this wonderful book once I finish it” and have already yapped on and on, far more than I had intended.

I do want to say this: I intend to study Kathryn’s theories further and I do want to implement them.  She’s definitely onto something and WE need to pay attention to what she’s saying.

I also want to say that the book is a quick read and it’s not at all difficult or complicated to grasp her ideas.  No hocus-pocus, no gimmicks, nothing to purchase. No pharmaceuticals.

Hansen was originally helped by Topamax.  What happened was that the Topamax stopped working.  So she told herself that she was going to have to find anther way to stop binge eating. The brief success she had with Topamax served to help her realize that therapy is ineffective by comparison and a complete crock of shit.

My own experience with Topamax is that Topamax works.  It does.  Currently, it works so-so for me.  Not 100%.  Due to my kidney disease, I’ve been taking a lower dose of it than I did previously.  I know that if I didn’t take the half dose I’m taking now, the binge eating would be far more frequent.  I’m terrified just to imagine it.  I’d say I binge slightly more often than once a week.  What I go through is extremely disabling as it is.

I’d say binge eating was the main reason I had to give up writing my Nano book this year.  Following each binge, I was just too physically sick to get any writing done.  It was happening too often.  I knew this, deep down inside.  There wasn’t much I could do.

So…one more thing I want to mention, and then I’m going to go mail some things and then go read Hansen’s book some more….

Hansen talks about “habits.”  I thought a whole bunch about stopping an activity that’s harmful.  When did I do this?  When did I walk away from a very, very bad habit that was generally thought of as “addiction”?

Bingo!  Smoking.  Yeah.  Butts.  That was simple, wasn’t it?  And yet others found it a bitch to quit smoking.  Joe could never do it.  Most alcoholics say it was tougher to quit cigarettes than it was to quit alcohol, and they smoked like fiends after stopping the booze, compounding the issue.

But me?  Nope.  Just walked away.  I need to look back on how I did that.  I do know that I smoked like a fiend.  I do know that as I awoke and felt that I absolutely had to have a cigarette before I could even arise from my bed!  In fact, I had to have two!  I’d fall asleep with the cig lit, right in my bed, cuz I was too drugged on antipsychotics.  Then, I had to have two cigs right before going to sleep at night, right in bed there with my journal.  I’d watch the tube and absolutely had to have a cig during each and every commercial.  If I went to a “day program,” I absolutely had to have a cig during breaks.  If there was ever a break between anything at all, I reached for those cigs.  If I didn’t get the right brand, or I ran out, I’d throw a fit.

I know I quit cold turkey.  It wasn’t hard, and I know I didn’t “white knuckle” it, either.  I know I no longer want a cigarette or have cravings.  If there was withdrawal…I’m sure there was something but I knew that this would last a certain amount of time, and this I accepted as MY BODY TELLING ME IT HAD BEEN ACCUSTOMED TO CIGARETTES and now it was not receiving them on schedule.  So my body was saying, “Hey, where are they?”  After a while, my body realized it wasn’t going to get one, and quit asking.  Done.  It wasn’t physically or emotionally painful.  It shouldn’t have to be.  I wish that it could be so easy for anyone who desires or needs to quit smoking for any reason.  Unfortunately, most aren’t that lucky.

I’m totally positive that quite by accident I used the exact same process to quit cigarettes around 1991 or 1992 (I don’t know the date) that Hansen used to walk away from binge eating around a decade later.

I need to use my “card catalog brain” right now.  Search and find and remember.  Read and study further.  And write, for you folks.  It is a gift.  I love you all so much, and I want us all to be well.  Are you with me on this?