Monday, February 13, 2012

My Love Affair with Mr. Wolf

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I deem that this is the right time to reveal the secret love affair that I kept three years ago. Yes, I had an enchanting love affair with Mr. Wolf that lasted for six blissful years.

I thought I couldn’t live without him. Every single waking day, he was the first thing in my mind. I couldn’t sleep without thinking about him. I always remember how after dinner I’d dash to call him right away. There was something about him that made my heart jumped all the time.

At work, I couldn’t wait to take my break. I often sneaked out and sauntered gingerly to meet Mr. Wolf at our rendezvous place. I didn’t realize that Mr. Wolf meant to me more than I ever imagined. He was the best friend I never had. The confidant that never judged. The lover that kept me craved for more. And the companion that was always available for me anytime of the day and anywhere I wanted. I was completely enamored by his irresistible charm.

And yes, Mr. Wolf is hot. If that’s what you want to know. It’s true. I openly admit that I was completely in love with Mr. Wolf. But wait a second, it’s not what you think it is. I’m talking about Walter Wolf- long filters packed in golden flip top case in full flavor.

This is all about my nicotine addiction that lasted for six years before I kicked off the filthy habit. If you think that the long challenging journey to a smoke free life is as easy as a pie, then think again. The truth was I had to win over the battle over cigarettes every single day. It was more like a tug-o-war between me vs. myself. Everyday brought a new hope that I’d stop and give my tired worn out lungs a fresh new pinkish color. I relentlessly persevered thinking that French proverb “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Whenever I failed to keep my commitment to myself, I always mustered the tenacity to do it all over again the next day. So, basically, I learned to live one day at a time.

Would you like to know how I did it? Here’s how I made it happen.
When I moved to live in Southeast Europe, my stress level of adjusting to a new country embracing a different culture skyrocketed. On top of pressures of living in a foreign land, the language barrier was the biggest cause of my headaches- groping the meaning of Slavic words which consisted of more consonants than vowels gave me more stress induced skin problems ( it isn’t easy to harden up your tongue with the Russian sounding rolling R, let me tell you.) This is why I found myself lost in translation in countless occasions.

I got introduced to a culture where smoking is widely acceptable, approved with two thumbs up and considered almost the norm in the society done by equal number of males and females. Everywhere you look people smoke. It’s either you go against them and get a second hand smoke or you join them and be a part of the smoking community. Either way, you’ll get it.

However, being formerly married to a professional smoker, by professional I mean consuming a pack and a half a day) didn’t help at all. On the contrary, it even encouraged me to take up this new formed habit seriously until I finally made a career out of it since we considered this as something we enjoyed doing together equally romantic as a dinner by candlelight date. We smoked together before and after a meal and whenever we felt the adrenalin pump kicks in the middle of suspense thriller like “Final Destination”. Then my ex-husband and I had to pause DVD to take a Walter Wolf breather at the balcony to calm down high wired nerves and to guess who the next victim is or who’ll kill who.

At work, things were no different. During my 30 minute break, my smoking buddies went to a special place we mused as holy ground that we named “Mr. Bush”- not after the former US President, George W. Bush. But it’s more like a reminder of “The Burning Bush.” Yes, literally it’s a thick bush hanging over a corner house’s garden fence. Hence the name. This spot, a stone’s throw away from the work place is where we ensconced ourselves and exchanged smoke rings while we vented out our personal issues. It’s more like headquarters for girl power movement or an informal street psycho therapy -in my case with my beloved, colleague, Nancy who never complained listening to my woes and blues. So imagine during four seasons rain, drizzle, scorching heat, heavy snow or flurries we showed our unwavering loyalty to Mr. Bush. There we worshipped the burning bush with our full flavor smokes. Aahh who cares about storm, hail or avalanche!

Smoking was not only a golden habit for me, but more like a part of my daily routine from the moment I started my day with morning coffee (The best time to get my nicotine fix. Ok not only the best time but are you kidding? caffeine plus nicotine? That’s an explosive combo) until few hours before I went to bed.

The unbreakable routine that didn’t respect any reasons for a total halt
stayed with me even a month after I got hospitalized with Pneumonia. I was so in love with Mr. Walter Wolf that no amount of sickness could break us apart. Actually, we stuck together in sickness and in health like a real husband and wife who pledged faithfulness till death do us part (well, in the case of a smoker, that’s what’s going to happen anyway.)

I had been going through the same struggles until two years after, the desire to quit became stronger and ofcourse harder. I started to loathe the stinky smell on my clothes, hair and breath and the wheezing sound in my lungs before I went to sleep. In other words, the smoking ghost started to haunt me every single night.

I got so desperate and mustered the courage to try everything including alternative untraditional methods just to get rid of the filthy habit.
First the book, Allen Carr’s “Easy Way to Stop Smoking”. I read the book slowly so I could digest every word. Memorized some lines. Highlighted striking sentences with marker. Bookmarked the last page read, then after, I went lighting up a stick again. I’m not saying that the book is not effective. It is. As a matter of fact, I’ve learned a few tricks from it too. But I was so anxious to do things the fastest way.

Second attempt was the quota for the day method. The first quota I set for myself then was 3 sticks a day. Proud like a peacock, I was telling everyone loftily with heavy denial that “I’m not a smoker”, which I wished that I had worn a T-shirt saying “I’m not a smoker instead of convincing everyone the lie that I put in my head. What are 3 sticks anyway?! It’s not much. But when I recalculated, ok, 3 sticks a day multiplied by 30 days in a month that’s solid 90 sticks a month! Holy Smokes, that’s a lot! I stifled nervousness and feigned fake confidence. Focusing on the 3 and ignoring the 90 by choice.

Ofcourse, as time goes by, 3 a day didn’t stay 3 but 7 then progressed to 10 and from 10 to 15 then 18 on regular days and during stressful days 20- which is actually 18 ( since I refused to count the 2 to fool myself that I was still consuming less than a pack.) But in reality, I’ve gone over and above the quota of 3 sticks. It’s now a pack. At this point, I was officially on the professional level.

So who was I kidding here? Ok you don’t need to answer that. I endured heavy consternation and the humdrum Math exercise of counting cigarette sticks on a daily basis. Something that I could have used for my preschool class for Math practice with sum up to 20. Seriously, it daunted me since it has slowly affected my physical health.

On top of this, I started tossing and turning and having some nightmares-waking in the middle of the night in cold sweat and dreaming about quitting smoking. The more I went through this at night, the more I smoke during the day. It was being agitated about the thought of quitting smoking and consequently, I smoked more.
How ironic, huh? But it’s true.

This went on and on for a few months until one day, somebody handed me a CD on Hypnosis- Stop Smoking Within One Hour by Susan Hepburn a renowned psychotherapist in the UK.

Like a curious first timer in hypnosis, my fear was not to be able to snap out of it. Though it was a self-hypnosis without the guidance of a professional in white coat dangling a pendant right on my face while I lie down on a couch. I didn’t know whether doing hypnosis on my own is a better idea than with a trained professional. But at that point I didn’t care.

Surprisingly, it was utterly as easy as a walk in the park. All you have to do is to follow instructions in the same way as you follow simple directions from a packet of instant noodle soup and voila!

And so I did.

After going through the whole nine yards, I opened my eyes dreading the real litmus test, to see how effective the hypnotherapy is. They say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So I followed my ex husband (now and my ex smoking partner too) to the kitchen the moment he lit up.

I was hoping for fireworks to happen to create some kind of magic to kill the cravings so I wouldn’t grab a stick and light up. As it turned out, no sparks of magic was needed at all because there were no cravings and no urge to smoke at all. The most amazing part was I never felt that I was a smoker.

It felt like I was unshackled instantly and gained an indescribable liberation from a bad habit that was eating up the whole me.

Living a healthy smoke free life for three years now is such a pure joy. This month, I’m celebrating my brand new life. Thanking God for using the person who gave me not just a CD but a gift of life. I thank God for reminding me that my father who died of lung cancer would’ve been the happiest that I did it.

It’s amazing how I got the chance again to breathe and smell the clean whiff of fresh air, appreciate the palatability of food and the real taste of strong espresso coffee again. Aaahhh, life is not only good.

It’s way a lot better than that.

Though I miss Mr. Wolf’s unfaltering fidelity to me everytime I think about him, but I’m not sorry to say that my love affair with him is over. We had shared lovely unforgettable time together. But the good times are over. I enjoyed every moment until I puffed my last.

Happy Valentine’s Everyone! Enjoy a smoke free life!