The Reality of It

So, apparently, I’ve quit smoking. It’s been a full week now. I hadn’t intended to do it. But last week I was siiiiiick. Sickity sick sick. So I didn’t smoke. And here I am. I was only smoking 3 or 4 per day as it was, so I’m sure I’m having an easier time of it than many of my amazing friends who have quit this past year (*waving at Jess*).

I worked out today, my first day back after being ill and holy f*&king criz-nap, I could BREATHE. I haven’t breathed that well in years and years. All the junk I expelled with my cold plus the non-smoking and voila, respiratory revelation. I think my old friend Kerri was right – all these “allergies,” all my misery… I just needed to give up the cigarettes. Duh. Well, I shouldn’t say “duh” yet. We’ll see. But it’s looking good.

Seriously? I can’t possibly begin to recount my worries about my breathing this last few years. This is a Christmas miracle in the works. Like, I could cry happy tears JOY JOY. *Deep breath* Ahhhh.

So. There’s that.

Anyway, I was reading Ellie’s post yesterday and it reminded me of something I wanted to get down on (virtual) paper…

I was in bed with Steve a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about it being 4 months for me now and how different things are. And suddenly, acutely, I remembered. I remembered the despair and the panic panic anxiety panic pain shame inside that I used to feel every single day. That my life was in ruins, that everything was bad. That I was losing hope. Me. The eternal optimist. It was SO SO SO bad. God so bad.

And what’s weird about, well, in my opinion, not only addiction, but any terrible things that we as human beings go through, is that it’s so easy to forget how bad it really, really was. But it was. There is no mistaking it. In that moment when the memory enveloped me, and that horrifying feeling came back to remind me of what it once really was, I said to my husband:

“If I had continued the way I was, I would have literally gone insane.”

I believe that. I was already halfway there. If you’ve been reading me for a time, you know that when I finally stopped, I made the observation that the first month was very strange, very blank, that something different had happened with my brain chemistry – it had “dropped” another notch lower with the last few months of my drinking.

If I had kept drinking, I don’t want to imagine how I would have ended up. Would I have killed myself? I’d like to think not, but I really have no idea. My thinking was so skewed, about everything and everyone. It’s painful to recall the horrible things I thought about my husband, my friends, my family, my coworkers. All of it untrue. Blatantly untrue. And alcohol did that to me.

I poisoned myself. I poisoned my own mind and stole sanity and happiness away from myself. I am simply lucky that the damage I did was negligible. Having read so many stories now, I am luckier than I ever imagined.

I must never forget how deep the darkness really went. I must never forget the real truth. I don’t need to rehash and I don’t need to let it rule me, but I need not ever truly forget. Remembering the reality of it is a pretty powerful tool in my arsenal for future moments of “maybe I can just have…”

Because I can’t. And that’s okay. That’s more than okay. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here saying so.

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8 thoughts on “The Reality of It

  1. And I'm grateful you're here saying so.

    Also. I'm so glad you've quit smoking, and maybe even glad you had that awful cold if it helped you in some odd way. Which reminds me, isn't it funny how everything bad is eventually turned to good in some way? I'm just so happy that the bad you have had turned to good in a way that affected you directly. In a way you could see. That's pretty fantastic.

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  2. Congratulations on quitting smoking, Melissa! That will be a big health boost for you to be able to leave the cigarettes behind you. My husband quit smoking when our first son was three years old because he saw our son imitating his hand motions of smoking, pretending to be like Daddy. That made him realize the example he was setting. He has been smoke free for 18 years this December and hasn't regretted giving them up at all.

    A friend of mine was in a horrible car accident several years back. He had been drinking a great deal when it happened. Luckily, no one else was involved, but the accident put him in a coma for a month and totaled his truck. He survived, but he had traumatic brain injury. He had to relearn how to walk and move his arms. It also left him with a changed personality and problems with short-term memory. He is off the alcohol now and still goes to AA meetings, but his drinking nearly killed him. He will never be the same person he was as a result of the accident. He is on disability and is unable to work.

    I'm not saying this same thing would have happened to you, but I just wanted to share that story with you. Abuse of alcohol can be a very scary thing. He's another one who knows now that he can't “have just one drink” ever again. He is OK with that most days, but he still struggles.

    Sorry this comment is so long. I'm happy for you that you have quit smoking. Hurray for you! It sounds like your lungs are already thanking you for the change. 🙂

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  3. Wow, this is so powerful! That is my greatest fear – that I will forget how awful it really was. I felt that I was going insane as well… I wanted to die… I remember thinking every single day that maybe if I just made myself sick enough I would end up in the hospital… and then I'd either HAVE to stop drinking or I'd die which would have been a relief. I mean, what kind of crazy thinking is that??
    Anyway, congrats on your four months and quitting cigarettes. Glad I found you!

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  4. Just you wait. The breathing will get better and better. It was an awful illness that prompted me to quit too. It just took me a good six months to work up to it. I was on two inhalers and couldn't walk across the room without getting out of breath and feeling like I was drowning. Scariest feeling ever. I decided I did not want to quit this world like that.

    Thanks for the shout out – and p.s. I'm thinking of you when I don't want to go work out and going anyways. 🙂 I firmly belive I would have already given up if I were still a smoker.

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  5. what a beautiful post, today(which is all i've got) i feel so blessed to be done with the darkness that was my drinking, there is nothing about that life that i miss today, and you're right, it's a blessing

    as for the smoking, i quit “by accident” as i like to call it and i've been going strong for 2 months now, and i'm SO glad i did 🙂

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  6. Thanks Mary. I know you understand exactly what this was and I appreciate you joining me in gratitude.

    Jess, I got that bad! I wheezed every day. It was awful. I thought… I'm never going to breathe like a normal person ever again. I mean, how ridiculous. At 35!

    Marie, I only wanted to die once, on a very, very bad night in March. I stopped for 9 weeks after that, but still wasn't in it for the long haul. It took another go round. I think if I had kept on, then I would have had that thought again. Anyway. I'm glad we found each other too. Keep going!

    Daisy, you can leave as long a comment as you like! Always. I'm thrilled your husband stopped smoking so long ago. It takes quite some determination to do it, but he had good reason. And thanks for sharing re. your friend. I know others, close friends, who have told me of their own physical or mental tragedies due to drinking, and I know how lucky I am – because the reality is, I could have very easily ended up like that.

    Rebecca, I had commented to my dear friend Nina the other day that i really think I got this cold because I needed to, to get rid of a lot of “garbage” and to get me to stop smoking. Because the gym + smoking was NOT working right.

    And everything bad, in every area of life, always becomes good in the end. I have learned this a few times already. 🙂

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  7. Thank you for this post. I am in complete agreement with you – if I had continued drinking I would either be insane or dead. It's really only took a short time for those feelings to disappear. Then, I knew it was the alcohol shaping my thoughts and feelings, but I only knew just HOW much it affected my thinking after I quit.

    I too feel grateful that as bad as things were, they weren't as bad as they could have been and definitely would have been. Remembering keeps me sober.

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  8. Isn't it nuts just how much alcohol makes you think crazy things?? I know that was a surprise to me. Yes, it definitely helps keep me sober. Though most days I stay sober simply because the rewards of sobriety have been so great!

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