Killing Addictions

I went through a pack of patches earlier this month. The grossness of them really got to me.

I can’t take stuff stuck to my skin. It’s in the same category as jewelery. If my wedding ring didn’t have such sentimental meaning, it wouldn’t have stayed on my finger through the first day. Also, the niccotine patch is a bit gnarly. My skin was always itchy underneath it, and I was breaking out wherever I put it. But it took the edge off.

After the first pack was gone, I couldn’t bring myself to pay $15 for another pack.

Besides, while I felt a little less groggy and grumpy, I was still frustrated by the need to put something small in my mouth. I chewed toothpics to little pulpy stubs. No pen or straw was safe. It turns out that my physical addiction to niccotine was minor compared to my oromanual fixation.

Lung cancer and emphysema get a lot of press. In truth, the biggest cause of death from smoking is heart disease.

The main causes of death attributable to smoking were cardiovascular disease (1.7 million deaths), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (just under one million) and lung cancer (approximately 850,000).

So, of nearly 5 million deaths worldwide each year, 1.7m were from “cardiovascular disease” (heart problems), 1m were from “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” (a specific heart problem), and lung cancer comes in at #3 with 0.85m. 2.7 million deaths from heart problems, and “only” 0.85m from lung cancer. That means, especially if you’re a man, you’re more than 3 times as likely to die from heart problems than lung cancer as a result of smoking. (When you factor in emphysema and the other lung-related stuff, it seems to be about 2.8 times more likely that the heart is going to be the organ to go.)

There’s other less direct problems, too. Smoking tends to increase your LDL or “Bad cholesterol”, making you more likely to have problems with your liver, kidneys, and (you guessed it!) heart.

But the point is, only the lung stuff is actually related to smoking. The other problems are all related to niccotine. And I was still putting niccotine in my system. Counter-productive. And, less comfortable than it could be.

I found at the end of the niccotine patches that I wanted to smoke as much as ever. I went to the local smoke-shop, and picked up a pack of Herbal Dreams cigarettes. They have no niccotine or tobbaco. Don’t get me wrong, they’re certainly NOT as healthy as breathing normal air. And they’re a sorry substitute for tobacco. They’re very harsh, so I’ve gotten accustomed to not inhaling. And they smell like something that you’d rub on chicken before cooking it. But it gives me something to do with my hands when I feel the need to light up.

When I started smoking them, I pretty much had one whenever I would have had a cigarette. Each time, it was horribly unsatisfying. My subconsious would get all excited, knowing that it’s getting its fix. For a few seconds there’d be the pleasant anticipation-of-satisfaction feeling, like when a hungry man smells dinner and knows that he’ll eat—for a moment, he feels less hungry. A little later, I’d be totally let down, but at least the itch was scratched a little.

After a while, I think the niccotine-craving and smoking-craving have started to be divorced from one another. Since the smoking-craving was only really kept around to satisfy the niccotine-craving, it’s been dying off slowly. I’m down to 2 herbal cigs a day—one during my break at work, and one at home. It’s getting to be less and less about a craving, and more about something pleasant-tasting to do with my hands.

I highly recommend these things. Once again, they’re not “safe” or “healthy” at all. You’re still breathing smoke which is very bad. But compared to niccotine in any form, smoking mint and parsley is about as dangerous as a kitten.

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