Archive for the ‘quitting’ Tag

Quitting Smoking? A Harder Road for Those with Bipolar Illness.   12 comments

If every morning you wrapped your lips around the exhaust pipe of dad’s Buick and told him to kick it over and give it some gas, just so you can savor the luscious fumes, the production crew of “My Strange Addiction” would be on your doorstep chronicling your life threatening compulsion.   But most people wouldn’t do that because the violently hot exhaust would instantly burn your throat and lungs, possibly killing you on the spot.

Well about 20% of the population are doing this, although the pleasure source they have selected won’t mame or kill you quite as quickly; They’re called cigarettes.  And I’m not going to go on a diatribe on how bad they are for your health.  I’ve smoked on and off for since I was 12 years old knowing full well it causes cancer and heart disease, but chose to puff forth anyway.

I actually love smoking.  The hand-mouth thing, the calming nicotine rush with the first cigarette of the day, the relaxing act of inhaling and exhaling the gray wafts of smoke and how blissful morning coffee can be with a cigarette.  I have no proof, but I think bipolar people are more susceptible to this addiction because smoking a cigarette gives them time to pause and think.  I know whenever I felt a manic display of behavior waiting in the wings, a five minute cigarette break could put things in a new prospective.  If I would get frustrated or felt my anxiety level needed a release, cigarettes came to my rescue.  I actually convinced myself it was OK to smoke because I was bipolar. It was therapeutic.

I knew I was kidding myself.  Like when I tried to convince myself I needed a ten thousand dollar Hublot Big Bang watch as a good investment.  And after a little heart scare this past weekend which sent me to the emergency room, I decided enough was enough.  I quit cold turkey.  Who’s fooling who? My body is just like everyone else’s.  I can still get cancer and heart disease from smoking.  It’s my mind that’s different.  So now I sit here writing this blog in mild misery because I want my cigarettes.

I think it’s harder for bipolar people to quit because of the way our brains work.  We are forced to take medication, endure side effects and often never feel completely well.  Since many things in our lives are so difficult we crave an outlet.  Although many of us silently suffer, we can publicly blow off steam in the form of smoke.  Cigarettes become our friends.  As long as we are in a place where we can smoke, we’ll be alright.

Then some of us have to quit.  Maybe it’s a health scare.  Maybe you promised your daughter you’d be there for her wedding.  Or, maybe you decided against having your larynx removed so don’t you have to burp out your words while holding what looks like an electric razor up to a hole in your neck.   But you didn’t count on the depression that would ensue.  You’ve lost a pressure release valvue.  A distraction from the circus in your bipolar mind.  Something you can depend on with an illness that can be very erratic at times.  It’s quite a hit.

I can’t tell you how to get through the discomfort and sometimes agony of giving up cigarettes.  I’ve been hypnotized twice and lit up on the way out of each session before I even made it to my car.  But as a bipolar man, it helps that I understand why “the quit” is so difficult.  I think even harder than for someone without bipolar disorder.  But then again, everything is harder for us.  However I have learned that the “one day at a time” way of looking at things is very applicable.  And I do try to keep thinking of all the things I will be able to do now that I am a non-smoker; like run faster, smell better, not have to always carry cigarettes and a lighter with me and most of all let go of the guilt I had for playing Russian Roulette with a pack of Marlboro every day.

The one thing I won’t miss are overzealous non-smokers yelling out 5th floor windows of downtown office buildings at me on the street that my second hand smoke is making them sick.  I call this the “magic smoke theory.”  With all the exhaust fumes, food vendor smells and other smokers on the streets of San Francisco, somehow my particular cigarette smoke can be detected above all else and make these people sick.  It’s enough to make me want to start smoking again just to annoy them.