Monday, January 13, 2014

Happy New Year, happy lungs!

It's 2014! It's been nine months since my venture to quit smoking, and I've succeeded. After getting bronchitis in September, I even stopped buying e-cigs. I puff on others' from time to time, but it's certainly not a daily thing. I feel no cravings, I don't miss it. I have gained weight, but I'll let my lack of exercise be responsible for that. I've gained about seven pounds in the last five months. Maybe it was all the holiday food... So my goal for the year is to get back to the weight on my driver's license (128) by my birthday, which is when it expires. I'll miss it, because it's a great photo of me, but I'll be happy to not have the red "minor til 2009" border.
2013 was the year of breaking bad habits. 2014 will be the year of starting good ones. I've already got a calorie counter, and some affirmations for daily exercise. All I have to do is do it. I'm revisiting this blog to remember how I felt when I was approaching the obstacle of quitting smoking. I'm already in a more positive head space just reviewing old posts. I know finding motivation to exercise and eat right is the hardest thing for lots of people. I can't afford a gym membership, but I've got p90x, some weights and bands, and a spacious room. Getting into a routine is the best thing I can do right now. I need to wake up earlier so I can have more of the day to give myself the food, exercise, and me time that everyone deserves before working. That being said, it's time to hit the hay.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Some Light at the End of the Tunnel Shit

I have to share this article from that really stuck to me and has widened my perspective about "staying quit." Before this article, I only had the very near future in mind. Mostly because most resources say to take it day by day, which makes sense. As much as I love to live in the moment, we have to think about our futures every once in a while. So read that article and know that shit happens, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And remember that you have a backbone, so you should use it.

Unconventional methods pt II

Today, I'm looking at naturopathy vs pills to help people quit smoking.

What is naturopathy? [na-chur-ah-puh-thy] Basically, hippie medicine. It's a real, medical practice that takes four years to earn a degree in. Only fifteen states in the US license naturopathists. Oregon is one of them. It uses nature, i.e. plants, herbs, spices, to treat illnesses just like medicine at the hospital. There are naturopathists just as there are optometrists and pediatricians.
I've read that smoking causes deficiencies of protein, fiber, B, C and E vitamins, as well as iron and beta-carotene; at the same time, it exacerbates these deficiencies. This is because a) smokers generally have poor diets, not eating as much of the food that gives us these nutrients (fruits and veggies) and b) the smoke itself depreciates them in our bodies. When we don't have enough nutrients, we're more susceptible to health problems like cancer and heart disease.
As for the anxiety associated with quitting smoking due to nicotine withdrawal, Valerian, Motherwort, Vervain and Skullcap are some of the herbs used in naturopathy to strengthen the nervous system. Generally, naturopathists prescribe herbal medicine as well as a change of diet catering to the different stages of quitting smoking. Almonds, for example, are supposed to repair some of the damage caused by smoking according to this study.

So what if this sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo? What if the people in white coats with MD/PhDs are the only doctors to be trusted with prescriptions? Do pharmacies provide better cures than the produce section? Here's what I found concerning "quit smoking pills:" has a short list of prescription drugs designed to help smokers quit. They're mostly some kind of brain pill, meaning they are antidepressants promoting they alleviate withdrawal symptoms or actually mess with the chemicals or cells in your brain. Clonidine is a blood pressure drug also listed. Every single one has a side effect, ranging from drowsiness to suicidal thoughts. I've even seen some people completely scared off by the side effects of Chantix.
Most of the studies done to show their effectiveness are around four weeks, which I don't think is long enough. People return to smoking six months, even years later. Some people are on again-off again smokers their whole lives.

I have to say that I've never been a fan of using man-made chemicals to treat or cure anything you can't fix yourself. I understand getting a leg blown off requires more than tree sap and sewing needles to fix, and post-injury pain management is a bitch, but trying to cure things like obesity, depression, and back pain are 99% of the time caused by shit you do to yourself and 99% of the time reversible if you just don't do whatever it is you're doing wrong, or start doing something you're not and you should. Like eating healthy and exercising. Some people can't wrap their heads around the fact that the human body is made to consume plants (and animals...?) and move. So they take pills and go through expensive treatments and procedures to fix what they're breaking.
I think if a better diet, taking some herbal supplements, and moving around more can help quit smoking, not to mention that it just promotes better health in general, there's no need for prescription drugs to (try to) do the same. I don't think eating fruits and vegetables has ever had any negative side effects, do you?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Unconventional Methods

Yesterday, I came across the idea of using reflexology to help smoking cessation. I decided to put a pin in it until I could get some good complementary methods to share at the same time.

Reflexology is one of those Eastern medicines that Western science can't prove. As scientific and logical as I like to approach most things, I am still a firm believer in the power of belief: the more you believe in something, the more real it is, because you're telling the universe to create it just by thinking about it. So even though Zues, vampires, unicorns, and/or Santa Claus might not be/have been actual, physical beings, they exist because people believe in them. The more people believe in them, the more real they are, even if we never see them. That's why I try to spend more energy on positive things than negative because energy begets energy, so why attract shit you don't want? With that being said, let's explore some voodoo mumbo jumbo magic faerie dust shit that really does work for some people:

Reflexology is a type of massage therapy practiced under the notion that the feet, hands, and ears are maps of the body, and it's used to help people quit smoking by massaging the areas on these extremities corresponding with the lungs (to clear them), heart (for circulation), and brain (to help with withdrawal and stress), and so on. I'm all for it, because who doesn't love a massage? But if it can help other body parts at the same time, why not? I see no harm in it.

I found a nifty video you should check out if you believe reflexology can work. Hey, she's kinda hot and has a British accent, too. Five minutes well-spent.

Another alternative method closely related to reflexology (i.e. acupressure) is acupuncture, which also came from the East. This usually involves penetrating the skin with needles at various areas of the body and either manually or electrically stimulating them. As hokey (and scary) as acupuncture might seem, it's the oldest known medicine on the planet, so .... I can't argue its validity and still feel competent. It's even endorsed by the US National Institutes of Health, the UK and the World Health Organization.What's great about using acupuncture to quit smoking is that it seems be used (at least in the US) for mental treatment, like anxiety, depression, and insomnia just as readily as for physical ailments. What's even better is that it can be used for both at the same time, essentially.
I have eight tattoos, have given blood, and had more blood tests than seems necessary, so I can't say I'm afraid of needles. I was super extra close to getting acupuncture done once, but the logistics weren't proving too great at the time, so I missed out. I wish so badly that I could tell you about it.... maybe next time I feel like going to the clinic I'll go to the acupuncturist instead. And videotape it.

Coming soon: Naturopathy v pills

The End of the Beginning

This will be my last in-class blog post, and probably the shortest. As a summary post, here's how I'm ending the class:

17 days, 14 hours since my last cigarette
~$35 saved
141 cigarettes not smoked
14 hours and 5 minutes saved

These things should be true, considering I've not smoked in over two weeks:
Heart rate and blood pressure are normal
Carbon monoxide level in my blood has dropped to normal
Senses of taste and smell are back
Circulation has improved 19%

As far as nicotine dependence is concerned, I don't feel I'm independent of it, because the e-cig I have gives 1.8mg of nicotine (vs 2-4mg in a tobacco cigarette). I haven't noticed my heart rate, because it's awesome. When I was smoking, I'd notice it, because it would beat way too hard and fast for how strenuous the activity wasn't that I was doing. I haven't noticed it doing that at all, which is making my Park Block walks much more pleasant. And my body must be a little more awesome than the average Jill, because my blood pressure has been 120/60 for as long as I can remember. Cigs or none. I've definitely noticed my taste and smell improving, which is nothing short of fabulous.

Other than my body, what's up? I don't think I have any more or less stressors in my life than I usually do, and I feel like I'm dealing with everything just as I always have (or better?). I have no intention of smoking any cigarettes ever again. I feel like it's behind me. At the same time, I've heard the first week is the hardest, and I've heard the fourth week is the hardest, so we'll see. It'll be an ongoing thing in my life, which I hope will be minimal. Ideally, I want to just check in with myself once a year and remember how long I haven't been smoking. It's just one more thing to make me feel good later.
Honestly, I'm more stressed out about trying to eat healthier and find time to exercise. For now, I'm enjoying walks, and playing frisbee in the park. I'm about to not have a car (oh, catalytic converters, how well you are designed to ruin peoples lives), but I have a really awesome bike, and the sun is about to be out for four months, and my externship is downtown (in walking distance from where I usually am), so .... I'll be ok. I'll be more than ok. I'm already better.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Continuing my trek into Statisticsland, here are some more cold hard facts to swallow.

I can't help but wonder how Oregon compares to the nation, since at least half of the state population lives in the Portland Metro area, and Portland prides itself on being a weird, hippie progressive city....

According to the CDC, Oregon ranked 18th in the US in cigarette use (19.7%) and 26th in smokeless tobacco use in 2011. About half of "all adults" in Oregon reported being exposed to secondhand smoke, which costs the nation billions of dollars in healthcare. Even though Oregon passed laws to prohibit smoking in public places, it's barely above the national average regarding smoke-free homes and workplaces. I've read all over the place that about half of the country's smokers attempt to quit each year, but guess where Oregon stands... About 46% of Oregonian smokers tried to quit in 2009-2010, ranking Oregon 49th in the state. That's out of fifty states, people. I understand half the state tried to quit, but being in 49th place means other states are trying harder. So WTF, Oregon? Even worse, Oregon ranked in the thirties regarding anti-tobacco media campaigns, and 34th in knowledge of secondhand smoke harmfulness, but get this! Oregon ranked 6th place in the nation in belief of nicotine addictiveness..... Srsly, wtf? If you know it's so addictive, why aren't you trying harder to prevent it, treat it, and ban it?

The CDC reports that states spend a fraction of their tobacco revenue (from taxes and settlements) on tobacco prevention and cessation. Oregon ranks 20th, spending $8.3 million of our $332 million revenue on prevention last year. For you visual learners:

[These photos are from the Broken Promise Report 2011]

So where is the rest of the money going? One has to question how many billions of dollars wouldn't be spent on healthcare if more was spent on tobacco prevention. If anyone has any answers or avenues I can follow, please let me know!

COPD: A Reality Check

In researching life after smoking, I came across the very hard-hitting story of Mike Anderson, who quit smoking after forty years, because his doctor told him to "quit or die." He developed COPD. In the comments to his story I saw a recommendation for reflexology. In another avenue of research, I read that five years after quitting smoking, women are no more likely to develop cervical cancer than nonsmokers, so that's something to look forward to. I had no idea what COPD was, so what else could I do but Google it?

You can go to to read about it, but I'm going to highlight what I care about:
What is it? Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Emphysema and bronchitis fall under this condition. Basically, the cilia in your lungs harden, shrivel and stop functioning very very slowly, making your life miserable. The older we get, the more likely we are to get it (as with most things), but women are more vulnerable than men. The site says only half of the people who have it are actually diagnosed, and 66% (9,900,000) of those people are women. I'm thinking this can be blamed on the harmful exposure factor; I dare say, far more women house clean with brain-melting chemicals more often than men are exposed to asbestos, charcoal, etc.
The most interesting statistic: At least 75% of those diagnosed are smokers. What sucks the most is that the damage smoking causes is permanent. Sure, people can exercise, improve lung function, and do what they can, but what's done is done.

In a way, I'm lucky, because I've only got three years of less than ten cigarettes a day on my lungs. Mike Anderson has forty years of two packs a day. Some people feel they're too far gone. They have this defeatist mentality of "I've already signed my death warrant" so quitting seems futile. There are no take-backs, sure, but there's this thing called the snowball effect. When we were small and made mistakes, it didn't make us bad people. Sure, we hit each other, and called each other names, and probably did some really stupid things. I think we do harm, whether to others or ourselves, because we don't know any better. But we learn from our mistakes and move on. To refuse to quit smoking out of some kind of self-pitying stigma that it's broke and not fixable is to say that if you fuck up once, you're forever doomed to fuck up. Which seems like the kind of thing an angsty teenager who wears trench coats and eyeliner on his forehead might say. Don't get mad goth kids, I used to be that guy, too. Then I grew up. So what I'm coming to realize is that in every smoker is a masochistic emo kid. What percentage of ourselves, or themselves, that kid is is absolutely a choice. If we have control over anything in our lives, it's our attitude. Why not have a good one?