Sunday, April 14, 2013

Turn the TV off

It's easy to talk about Glee, Louie, Big Bang Theory, the New York Yankees, Dancing with the Stars, The Housewives of (insert city here), Celebrity Apprentice, Family Guy, Game of Thrones, and American Idol. I like them too... but those are big league programs. Major television networks decided that enough people will watch those and make them lots of money in advertising revenue. There's a reason Disney still exists. Mickey Mouse is losing more than he's earning these days but he bought ESPN, Pixar, and ABC. 

Some suit in an office that overlooks the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree decides what millions of people will watch each season. It's not about entertainment. It's not about making your life better. It's not about spreading positivity. It's not about making the world a better place. It's about money. It's about that guy buying a new Jaguar and sending his kids to an expensive private school. It's about the parent company getting enough ad sales revenue. It's a distraction. It's about keeping your eyes on your TV instead of your family. It's about looking into a black screen instead of looking around you, or inside yourself. We live in a culture that is decided for us. We feel involved when we vote someone off a show but every 100,000 text messages is a million dollars for the phone company. 

Art is a choice. 
Choose to support local art. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 10 - Where is My Mind?

You thought Day 3 was hard.
... just wait. It gets much worse than that.

Day 10 is like being subject to water-boarding. It's constant torture. What's the weather like today? What are you doing tonight? Feel like some karaoke? What are you doing for dinner? Do you like my new tie? I DON'T FUCKING GIVE A SHIT! Give me nicotine! Shoot it into my veins. Give me a few sheets of used toilet paper... I'll roll it up, light it on fire and try to smoke it.

I woke up coughing today. It was not just a tickle in my throat and it was not just some phlegm. This morning I coughed up at least a dozen bronchioles. The anti-smoking pictures were right. They were dry and brown. That's what my lungs probably look like. I didn't give a damn because I never had to see them. Now I do. It's disgusting. It wouldn't stop. The more I hocked the more I needed to hock. There came a point when my throat was too ripped up to hock anymore. That's ok. I'm sure there will be more later.

I've been carrying nicotine gum for 3 days in my right cargo pocket. That's right, I have worn the same cargo shorts for three days. I don't give a shit. Be happy I'm wearing clothing at all. My buddy Ryan gave me this gum the last time I tried to quit. Seriously tried. Not that bullshit that you just go a day or two to see if you can. I mean really trying. Like right now. I haven't smoked anything in 10 days. I'm afraid to have a piece of the gum. It's there. I know it's there, but every time I think of having a piece I know it will lead to a pack. Once the sweet chemicals permeate my brain again I'll have no choice. I'll want more and more of the nicotine again. I'll say, "nah, I'm just chewing gum," but then I'll bum a butt. I'll saddle up to a smoker and lay on the charm.

I always hated people who bummed smokes. If you want one... go buy one. Don't offer me a dollar. I don't want money. I want tobaki! I want the leaves and the paper. There's 20 in the pack. If it were a Twix it would be 20 for me, none for you! I thought these bum-people were non-smokers who just want one every once in a while. The ones who only smoke when they drink and only need one or two. Now I realize some of these bums were probably where I am now. They were hunched-over junkies fiending for their fix. They were probably 10 days into quitting and just needed one. They should sell loosies in bodegas again. I'd buy one right now.

Smoking Cigarettes Guiness World Record 1,000
...but then I'd be a smoker again. The past 10 days would be for naught. I'd probably smoke a whole pack in one afternoon. Forget that, I'd probably smoke a whole pack in 5 minutes. There's a dam in my mind and it's blocking 500 million gallons of water. If this dam is broken, I'm not gonna just have a few. My self-imposed restrictions are suddenly lifted, I'd over-indulge like it was my last day on earth. I'd be like that Guinness record-holder for most cigarettes smoked simultaneously. I'd pack 100 cigarettes in my mouth at the same time and light them all up at once.

I thought it would get better. The longer I went the easier it would be. It's not getting better. If Day 3 was purgatory then Day 10 is hell. There is fire all around me but no smoke. Today I don't give a shit about being healthy. All of the reasons I decided to quit are ridiculous. This was a stupid idea. I don't really want to quit. I was just saying that. I want to buy a pack. I want to be full of chemicals. I want to poison myself slowly.

... because I want the headaches to go away. I want to sleep at night again. I want to go to bed and sleep for 7 hours without tossing and turning and smashing my head against a brick wall until my forehead splits open and my brains slosh out bleeding on the floor. I want it to be Day 100. I want it to be Day 1,000. Day 10 is terrible.

I know the pain is necessary. The pain is good. The pain is cleansing. I realize the hacking and headaches and nausea and lack of sleep is my body repairing itself and that's great. I'm in detox mode. Years of damage are slowly being reversed. I'm getting healthy and it feels like shit. Maybe that's why I smoked to begin with. I used to joke that I'm "suicidal, just not that serious about it." Taking care of oneself is hard. It's easier to let it go. Waste it, contaminate it. Destroy it.

Today I have a decision to make. I have to decide to not have one. I have to decide it every second. Now? No. Now? No. How about now? No. Just one. No. Just one drag. No. Get some weed? No. Go bum a smoke. No. Go outside and wait for someone to come out for a smoke break and then inhale their second-hand smoke. Ok, fine.

People are congratulating me. Friends are telling me what a great job I'm doing. Fuck you. I'm not doing a great job. If I were doing so well it wouldn't hurt so much. If I were doing well I wouldn't want one at all. I'm barely getting by. I'm a shell of myself and its taking all of my willpower not to punch you. Unless you have successfully quit... leave me alone. Unless you can say, "yeah, I've done it. It's hard but stick with it," don't say anything. Your banal accolades are a waste. Even people who have quit piss me off. They're done. They forgot what this feels like. They say, "you can do it." How do you know that? I haven't done shit yet. Day 10 is not "done." I have not quit. I deserve no congratulations. There's a very strong chance I'll be a smoker again tomorrow. What will you say then? "You really fucked up." No, you won't give a damn. Just like you don't give a damn about the personal hell I'm currently living in. I'm not saying you don't care if I quit. My friends and family want me to be healthy. That's great. They want me to quit, but the non-chalant "you're doing great," is a sham. I'm not doing great. Thanks for your thoughts but I'm really struggling over here.

My head hurts. It's like someone else has the reigns. I have no control over my thoughts. They always turn back to the one thing I can't do. It's a pounding. It's like someone is inside my cranium kneading my brains like pizza dough. It's like 12 people are playing volleyball with my head; sometimes it's just floating in the air but then suddenly people are smashing it down really hard. It's like my brain is being taken out to sea, held under water and drowning.

I am John's not-so-subtle sense of disconnect.

It is supposed to get better soon. The cravings are supposed to space out soon. I'm supposed to be used to not smoking soon... but when will soon be now? Not soon enough. Now is hard. Now is painful and throbbing. Now feels like someone is sticking needles in my brain. Now is constantly wanting to throw it all away and take the easy way out. Now I'm gonna have some sunflower seeds and smile even though I feel like kicking someone in the face. Now I'm gonna walk home and take some Advil so the anvil on my head won't feel so heavy.

Now I'm gonna hope the next few days go quickly. Now I'm gonna try to keep my stress levels low and constantly stop myself from doing what I'd really like to do. Now I'm gonna murder hundreds of people in Grand Theft Auto so I don't actually murder anyone in real life. That's who kills people. Assholes like me trying to go against what the body and brain are asking for. We can't handle it and we snap. Now I'm gonna try to cool down. Now I'm gonna try to distract myself. Now I'm gonna breathe deeply because this "air" shit just isn't doing it for me.

I'm gonna try to "be strong." I'm gonna try to "stick with it." I'm gonna ignore my body. I'm gonna tell my brain it's wrong. I'm gonna eat seeds. I'm gonna drink venti java chip frappachinos. I'm gonna eat cookies. I'm gonna chew gum.

The only thing I can't do is smoke.
... but that's all I want. Dammit.

John Powers

© 2013 - All rights reserved

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Day 3: Cold Turkey

Ah, we meet again. That familiar tickle, the sore throat, and the phlegm. Reminding me it hasn't been that long. It's only three days. It whispers to me. You can have one. I won't tell anybody. Then you can go another three days. You won't buy a pack. I know you're stronger than that. You've already gone three days. That's a long time. You'll stop for good this time. You're done with smoking.

... but I've been here before. Three days is just a tease. It's not real. It's a mirage. An illusion. A hallucination. Three days comes so quickly. It's a lie. It tells you it was no big deal. It tells you three days is nothing. It tells you that you have control. It lets you think you have control. It tells you that you can have one and then go another three days. You cannot. You have a choice after three days. Stay with your decision or give in. If you give in to it then you are a smoker again.

Jane's Addiction - Three Days (Live in Milan) I'm not. This is hard for me. I really want one. Just one. It's easier to have one than not to have one. There are so many reminders. You should have one. No Smoking signs. Anti-smoking commercials. I'll bet there's even advertisements on this page for cigarettes or cigarette accessories. They all make me want one. A subliminal reminder here. An obvious reference there. It's in the movies. It's on my TV. I should have one. It will make me feel better.

...but it won't. It has been three days. My body is just getting used to being clean again. Why would I introduce more poison? Why would I hurt myself? It doesn't make me feel good. It brings me down. It slows me down. It makes breathing hard. We think its a cure for feeling socially awkward. It's not. We step outside rudely. We stand around with other people who are suicidal. We think it's ok because other people are doing it. It's not. It makes us more socially awkward because people who give a damn about their body think we are nuts. We are not nuts. We are addicts. Cigarettes are a drug.

...why are these things not illegal? The founders of the country smoked? Not the same. I guarantee you Marlboro wasn't putting chemicals in their tobacco in the 1700's. Sweet, delicious, addictive chemicals. Carcinogens conveniently added to the tobacco leaves. I'm breathing better. Deeper. My body is already starting to rebuild. I should wait a few more days.

... "just say no" is bullshit. It doesn't work that way. Whomever coined that phrase has never felt the third day. There's nothing about quitting that can be worked out with a simple bumper-sticker slogan. This is torture. This is constant. This is an impulse every second of every waking hour. Go ahead. Have one. No, shut up. You know you want one. Be like Nike, just do it. Shut up! No. I know you're being ridiculous. This is part of you. You'll have one today. No I won't.

This time I'm not gonna just have one. It's never just one. It's not even two. It's a pack. It's a carton. It's choosing to poison myself. Not this time. This time is different. This time I'm George Bailey at the end of It's a Wonderful Life. This time I'm running in the snow and shouting off a bridge I once nearly jumped off, "I wanna live again!" This time I'm crying. As I write this I'm getting blurry.

I hope I'm not kidding myself.

Cold turkey is the only way to go. Any nicotine in my system will just make me want more. I need to just not have any. Say "no... fuck you. I'm just not going to have any." Constantly. Cold turkey is tough. Cold turkey is zero tolerance and a clean break. I've been doing this activity more than 10 times a day. Suddenly I do it zero times. What do I do when I leave the apartment? Nothing. Light up nothing. What do I do after a meal? Nothing. I breathe nothing. What do I do after great sex? What do I do when I'm waiting for a bus? What do I do when I've got 10 minutes to kill? Nothing at all.

John Lennon - Cold Turkey (Live in NYC)

I've tried everything. Patches gave me nightmares. Vivid ones. Scary ones. Stephen King scary. The gum tastes like shit. No matter how much mint they put in it you're still chewing some nicotine. Nicotine tastes like shit. People suggest the eCigarette. I've tried it. It sucks. When I put a match to an electronic cigarette it simply melted. That didn't satisfy me. There's nothing like lighting something on fire and breathing the flames. I'm a fucking dragon. You can't replace that with a piece of shit plastic with some vapor mist.

You can't replace it with anything. I'm tired of gum, Werther's, and sunflower seeds. I'm a kid that doesn't want candy. I want the slow death. The fire and smoke. The French inhale. The slow exhale. Smoke rings. The bus I'm on just passed an old man lighting a cigarette on the corner of 28th and 9th. He is very wrinkled but he looks like he has a few good years left. That could be me. I could go another 50 years and not have any problems.

...but you hate Bloomberg. If you grew the stuff yourself it would be 50¢ a pack instead of $15. Do you really want to keep giving 500% taxes to Bloomberg? He says he wants people to quit but he doesn't. He wants my money. He wants to make money off of me killing myself. My addiction pays for some other kid's lunch. Either way Bloomberg wins. Do I give him the satisfaction or the tax revenue. I should do what's best for me.

What's best for me is never having started to begin with. That's what they should really tell kids. Trust us... you really don't want to. I know that just makes you want it more. I know it looks cool. It really isn't. Ok, fine it is... but not forever. It's better to not be cool now and be cool later. If I could go back to school I never would've bought that first pack. Where's a Delorean when you need one?

Damn it three days. I hate you.

John Powers

© 2013 - All rights reserved