We all have addictions. Mine happen to be coffee, carbs, socks, and nicotine. I realize that only three of those are legit, but socks are the best and I buy more socks than I’ll ever need in this lifetime. They come in a rainbow of colors, and when the rainbows are on my feet, I am the most awesome person in this house. Usually the only person in this house, but no one else is counting.
I’ve quit coffee numerous times, and I do like that I can just wake up and be awake without having to dump a gallon of bitter brown liquid down my throat before my eyelids finish separating. I get goaded into starting again by the smell, or when my Dad mails me enough coffee to caffeinate a hostel for a month to give him an excuse to call or email me.
“Hey kid, you get the coffee I sent?”
“Yup, thanks. Unfortunately, Dr. Squeaky told me I’m
not supposed to drink coffee anymore. Evil little pygmy.”
“Fuck doctors, you can’t live without coffee.”
So, I started drinking coffee again, and only read the research that says coffee is good for me, will prevent diabetes, cognitive decline, heart disease, and will give me a 1 in 1 million chance of pooping precious gems that can be sold for profit. Carbs (I’m talking about high glycemic starches here like plain old white spuds, processed flour, and all sugar) and caffeine tickle the motivation center in my brain. I must like being tickled in that particular spot because it’s difficult as hell to stop a sugar binge once it starts, and I refuse to stop drinking coffee. That’s non-negotiable. Yes, it makes my bowels more irritable, yes it does contribute to my propensity to become extremely dehydrated, but damn it, I enjoy it! I gave up all of the things that I enjoyed once, on a mission to ‘fix’ myself, and life sucked so much more that way.
I’m addicted to caffeine, but my love of coffee extends far beyond a simple chemical dependency. I derive great pleasure from the process of brewing it, smelling it, holding the warm mug in my hands, and of course drinking it. It’s one of the simple things that makes me happy, and when your world shrinks down to 800 square feet, it’s those simple things that make the difference between getting out of bed in the morning, or giving up on life.
My addiction to nicotine is straight up chemical. It’slike taking medicine. I don’t actually enjoy it, I just do it because I go completely batshit when I stop. I started smoking in college, and of course tobacco products were the only legal thing I was smoking at that time. Since I couldn’t very well walk to class with a doobie hanging out of my mouth, I embraced the nicotine and its ability to give me better focus on my work. Hooray, stimulants! At that point, I enjoyed everything about it, other than smelling like ass. I tried to quit multiple times for 7 years, each time hating the feeling that I wanted to disembowel all of my friends, and then claw my brain out through my eyesockets. It finally stuck my second year in Alaska. Try inhaling anything, even air, when it’s -50 degrees outside without windchill. Ouch.
So, my official quit date was April 1, 2008. I stopped smoking! I slipped up a couple of times, because I’m mostly human (at least 55% human), but ultimately it stuck. Then why am I talking about nicotine now likes it’s a currently happenin’ thing? Eh, because it is.
Here’s the story, as best as I can remember it. When I quit smoking, I started getting sick more often. Colds, the barfy flu, oral infections, sinus infections, bronchitis, fucking allergies that I didn’t seem to have before. It was also at that point that my bowels started misbehaving. As the months ticked by, I’d plateau, get used to that misery level, then I’d get just a little bit more miserable. I used to joke that everything would be better if I started smoking again, since it was the only thing I had changed. Continue this trend for the next 4 years. I now weigh 90 pounds. I can barely hold myself up anymore. I’m still being jerked around by doctors who are telling me, yes I have IBD, but there’s no way it could cause cachexia, and I needed to be sent to a facility that specializes in treating eating disorders. They weren’t exactly earning their paychecks with my case. I knew I wasn’t anorexic. My husband knew I wasn’t anorexic. Doctors weren’t so easily convinced.
Things were looking bleak. I was ready to give up because my body was too worn down to keep my brain functioning. I was on my weekly grocery run, standing in line at checkout. I saw the tobacco products behind the CS counter. I remembered a study I had read on mice with indomethecin enteropathy that mimics IBD, and when these mice were given nicotine in their nsaid cocktail, the colitis started to heal. Nicotine was reported to have a protective effect on the colon. The royal ‘they’ say that it helps colitis, but can make crohn’s worse. To this day, there isn’t histological confirmation that what I have is actually crohn’s, but it follows a Crohn’s pattern (my genetic serology says I have ulcerative colitis, so obviously this isn’t an exact science yet). Anyhow, in a moment of fuckitall, I bought cigarettes, and I started smoking again. 5 years after I quit.
Smoking gave me a ravenous appetite, it decreasedmy abdominal pain just enough to tolerate eating again, and I felt more “alive”. I started jogging again, until I stress fractured one of the million bones in my foot, but either way, I had energy that wasn’t there before. All of this was augmented by Ultracet and Peptamen, mind you. I couldn’t argue with the results, but I hated smoking, so I weaned myself off again after about 4 months, and switched to Nicotine lozenges. My colonoscopy was clear, despite not being on any medication, other than my self-prescribed poison. This was when they were afraid to give me anything because of my new-car-smell-kidney-disease.
My GI doctor wouldn’t put me on maintenance medication that I knew I needed, so I ended up relocating to a new state without a solid plan for future care. Before the move, I quit nicotine. Within three months, and 2 weeks after my husband got on a plane bound for the RoK, I was really. fucking. sick. This is what the cool kids call a flare. Most of fall was spent in the hospital. I started crazy-person nicotine therapy again, and managed to stay away from doctors until March. March, April, May? Hospital, hospital, hospital. The first week of June was okay, and then I broke my ankle. I’ve been using the lozenges again since hospital-October, but money is tight, and quite honestly, they’re pissing my stomach off big time since I stopped taking PPI’s (which I stopped on my own because I’m a miscreant who thinks her gastroparesis is worse while she’s taking them), so I’ve stopped using them again. We’ll have to wait and see if the prescribed pharmaceuticals fill the gap. I know nicotine is a neurotoxin, but I’ll be damned if every single part of me didn’t work just a little bit better while poisoning myself, to include the frickin ataxia caused by neuropathy. Withdrawal from such a low dose is super easy to deal with, lasting only for a few days. It’s much easier than quitting coffee, carbs, or socks.