Up in a puff

The quickly snapped mobile phone pic is of my latest foray into the world of drugs. Nothing sordid I hasten to add, but still interesting. I love smoking and I make no apologies for it. It is a vice I share with many ( if not all) of my literary heroes. But I recognize that, like alpine skiing and other daredevil sports, as one advances in age the odds of coming to an unpleasant end start looking decidedly unfavourable. With that In mind and knowing that chemicals are our friends I asked my doctor for a prescription for Champix ( aka Chantix to our American friends). She ( I have a very cool young female doctor) highly recommended it and told me that many of her hardcore surgeon friends had managed to stop by taking it. I was a bit distressed to hear that some surgeons actually leave their patient halfway through the operation to run outside for a puff – but I kind of understand.

Long story short – the pills actually work. You are supposed to smoke for the first 8-14 days on the regimen but I found that without intending to I had cut my smoking in half by day 4. Heading towards the cutoff date I was told to set I found myself stopping two days ahead of time without planning to. I just stopped. I have now not had a cig for 6 days without so much as a sneaked puff. This is a record for me. Do I feel healthier? Nope. Can I walk longer on my exercise jaunts around the Savannah in Port of Spain? Nope. I never had a problem in the first place. But I will see how the experiment goes and perhaps I will not be smoking for a long time. I know it will make a few people happier and at least one that helped motivate me to take the pills in the first place.

I should note though that Champix has some well known side effects. It has been implicated in hundreds of suicides and serious depression episodes. As someone who suffers from occasional clinical depression I was lucky in that I had no such effects. It also totally screws with sleep and vivid dreams and frequent waking are very common – I have been experiencing this since I started taking them. No nightmares so far and I  quite enjoy the dreams…the waking up – no so much.

The experience has taught me a few things though.

  • Not smoking is not as great as those earnest types tell you.
  • Nothing is guaranteed to make you want to smoke again as much as non-smoking friends telling you to keep it up ( as if I just gave up molesting animals).
  • Many former smokers are a sort of fanatic group similar in many ways to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • Telling me that “I am glad you gave that up…I really hated it” makes me want to say “You are really stupid and I always hated that”.
  • Scotch without tobacco is a pointless exercise.
  • People who tell me that they think kissing a smoker is like kissing an ashtray are stuck in the 80s. Especially when many of them frequently put their mouth on things that would make an ashtray seem like a sterile petri dish.

The best reaction to my experiment ( and it was largely encouraged by the person in question) was “Well Vern I am proud of you and if you slip up a few times I will still be proud of you.”

As I told a few friends recently I will never be a non-smoker. I might, however, be a smoker on hold. It makes me feel better not to be part of the squeaky clean bunch.

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