June 23, 2004

We Have (Yet Again) Quit Smoking

“I haven’t been the same since I quit smoking.”
“When was that?”
“Fifteen years ago.”

-- "Annie Hall"

WELL, we’ve officially given up smoking -- again! We think this is our fourth or fifth attempt at doing so, but being the eternal optimists that we are, we are certain that we can fully quit this time around. Besides, we finally realized that if we don’t give it up, we are really and truly in for a world of shit.

The good news, as least as we can ascertain it from the scientists, is that quitting while we are under thirty years of age virtually nullifies the health risks associated with our vile habit. The bad news is we are fairly confident our lifestyle over the past decade, in which we recklessly neglected our health, is beginning to catch up with us. Well, perhaps a better way to put it would be that it has caught up with us, and is now in the process of beating us over the head with a tire iron. So over the next few months, we’re going to have to viciously fight back before our brains get splattered over the pavement.

We do not think we are not exaggerating. Those Loyal Rant Readers who have met us in person can easily ascertain that we’re not exactly in the best of health, but the true extent of this may not be clear. Well, for starters, we’re about forty pounds overweight. We’re diabetic. We’ve what can be reasonably described as high cholesterol, particularly when it comes to our triglyceride count. We have bad sinuses and a weak immune system and an occasionally sour stomach. Of course, we smoke, despite having an already-meagre lung capacity; and while we do some minor exercising, we live what can charitably be described as a sedentary lifestyle. Furthermore, to be perfectly honest, we don’t exactly eat as well as we should. Worst of all, that’s an incomplete listing of the identifiable health concerns we presently face. But it was one health concern, that we are fortunately not yet facing, which has rattled us to the point where we’re actually going to do something about all this.

Heart disease.

In two weeks, we are going to go in for a perfectly routine cardiac examination to see if this awful lifestyle of ours has managed to do any damage to our ticker. We were due for a physical anyway, but after reading up on some articles which uncomfortably reminded us of our own situation, we called our doctor and asked if he could throw this on to the testing battery. At first, the folks at the clinic didn’t get what we meant by a routine cardiac examination, so we said to throw us on a treadmill. But then our doctor got on the line. Here follows a dramatization of our conversation, which lasted under a minute:

PHYSICIAN: I don’t have your chart in front of me, but you have (this) and (that)?
US: Yep.
PHYSICIAN: I’ll call cardiology.

The natural question, we suppose, is how we got to this point in the first place.

Interestingly enough, when we were a child, we were rail-thin. This was primarily due to having a bad case of sleep apnea; excising our tonsils took care of that. We proceeded to rapidly gain weight and eventually became overweight; not downright fat, but we were certainly heavy. On an emotional level, of course, this was not good, as children are generally incorrigible little hellions when it comes to such things. Further, as we were quite uncoordinated when it came to sport, and hated exercise, and were generally the last person picked during any type of organized athletics, we paid no attention to healthy living. It is true that we did play tennis for a while, and we did some exercise in high school, but developing fibromyalgia gave us the excuse we needed to quit all that.

Moving on to college, and we found ourselves away from the one thing which saved us from really having problems – namely, our kitchen table at home, where our parents made sure we got two decent meals a day. Like nearly all college students, we gained an unpleasant amount of weight, and we also developed hypertension and ulcers and all sorts of fun maladies. Life after college wasn’t much better, although we did improve things a bit after we suffered our diabetic shock back in 1998. Our blood pressure, for instance, is much improved since our college days.

Still, things now aren’t where they should be. At six-foot-four, we should probably weigh 200 pounds; we probably weigh 240. Our cholesterol is too high and we’ve been smoking as much as two packs a day.

It may seem odd, given all this, that we’ve let things go like they have. But it’s not really a surprise, when we think about it. For it is one thing to watch one’s health closely when one is forty or fifty or sixty years old; but when one is under thirty, one thinks of oneself as invincible. Besides, we had survived all sorts of things before, so why would this be any different?

The concern this time, though, is that it will be different. Even though the exam is entirely routine and there is nothing to be worried about, there does seem a very small possibility that we have managed to work our way into a heart condition, or perhaps some other trouble with our circulatory system. Even the prospect is extremely troubling. After all, excepting the brain, the heart is the most important part of one’s system; and if the heart goes, the game is over. And we would hate to get fouled out in the first period.

So among the lifestyle changes we’re going to have to – have to – make in the next few months, the first we figured we could reasonably undertake would be to quit smoking. We had our last cigarette this morning, and we’re now on the nicotine patch, and looking forward once again to the wacked-out psychedelic technicolor dreams which go along with it.

We would offer one final caution, though. We figure our nicotine intake has ranged from 30 mg to 40 mg per day as a smoker. Unfortunately, the strongest-strength nicotine patches only provide us with 21 mg per day. Therefore, we estimate that sometime tomorrow evening, we will start getting VERY irritable, and progressively become more strung out as our body adjusts to the first step of the withdrawal. We would ask for your understanding and patience during what should be a particularly unpleasant, if necessary, experience.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at June 23, 2004 07:58 PM | TrackBack

Be careful, Ben, or you could end up like a scene from The Princess Bride:

Inigo Montoya: "As you can see, he's dead."

Miracle Max: "Oh, so look who's the expert! Well it turns out you're wrong. He's only mostly dead. And that means he's a little bit alive...."

Posted by: DCE at June 24, 2004 07:35 AM

I'm trying to avoid that, I can assure you. I had a salad for lunch yesterday too.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at June 24, 2004 08:07 AM

Good for you, Ben. I see this as a win-win situation for you and for Rant readers alike. Consider: if you quit smoking, you'll live longer, which is good for you, and for your friends and readers. Also, you can challenge any energy from withdrawal-related anxiety and irritableness into Ranting EVEN MORE. And so your readers win because we get to see MORE RANTING. And you win because your readers are happy. There's just no downside here.

Not for nothing, I've found that strictly following the Atkins diet (sans the cheating, of course) not only helps the weight issue, but my lipid profile and cholesterol improved, too -- my test results for those numbers at my most recent physical were "normal." They were, prior to Atkins, all on the high side. Just a thought. I have the same health concerns you do (family history of heart disease) plus I have a family history of diabetes on BOTH sides of my family, one grandparent each. Better still, it tends to skip generations quite well. So I, like you, am screwed if I don't get into better shape, which I am well on my way to doing.

Good luck.

Posted by: Geoff Brown at June 24, 2004 08:58 AM

That "challenge" should be "channel." Good christ -- that's what I get for trying to write first thing in the morning. God thing it's here and not, say, for some opinion I'm drafting.

Posted by: Geoff Brown at June 24, 2004 09:04 AM

Way to go Ben!!! As you know, I've made it a year now without a drag and I can tell, EASILY, how much it has helped.

I know I told you before, but I still think you might consider cold turkey. I think it is the only way to go. IMHO, screw these Nicorette people looking to make a buck off your torture and pain, while still keeping you hooked.

You said yourself it will suck anyway, why not have it suck "full monty" and be done with it? If you tore that patch off now, by Monday evening the grey skies will be breaking. You could do a "scream of consciousness" blog, he he he.....

GOOD FOR YOU THOUGH, I don't mean to "downgrade your struggle" as Sickboy did in Trainspotting. I just know from my experience that cold turkey was the only thing that worked for me.

Call if you need encouragement, especially when the sweats come.......

Posted by: simon from jersey at June 24, 2004 09:28 AM

I'm proud ouf you Ben. I know it will be a real challenge to finally beat the cigarette habit but I also know from experience that you can accomplish anything when you are really determined to do so. You are far too young to be encountering these health issues but on the positive side you are still young enough to turn things around. This time you will be successful in beating the cigarettes. The short term discomfort of kicking the habit will pay huge dividends over the rest of your life.

Posted by: swammi in solon at June 24, 2004 01:39 PM

You know what Mark Twain says about quitting smoking, don't you?

Posted by: miss tomlin if you're nasty at July 1, 2004 12:19 PM

Annie --

I'm familiar with it.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at July 5, 2004 01:54 PM