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42 days a non-smoker

15 Jun

Today is day 42 of being a non-smoker \o/

I want to celebrate because it’s a big deal for me. I want to at least mark the occasion, leave some breadcrumbs for curious future me, or —who knows?— for curious wannabe-non-smokers!

I think I’ve got this.

… Unlike three years ago, and ten years before that.

I had smoked for 31 years non-stop.

Since it’s a very different journey for everyone I can’t claim that my experience will work for others. But here are some takeaways and the things that made a big impression on me.

Framing your mind

  • Wanting is the first requirement, but may be insufficient (it’s my 3rd try and each attempt was more in earnest every time, in hindsight —i.e., each *seemed* 100% serious, and yet…)
  • Plan intelligently: set yourself up for success (I was fortunate to be able to time this with nearly a full month off work, and since work-induced stress or frustration ARE among my triggers, I chose thus to make the most of that vacation.)
  • Know your triggers and know that there will be a hard few weeks (as little as one, no more than three —the time it takes the nicotine to entirely leave your body—, and it gets better: the difficulty decreases steadily, it does not plateau.)
  • Know that cravings last only a handful of seconds. You can resist them even if they are potent and numerous. (You’ll get a lot of them at first, then less and less, and after 3 or 4 weeks they’re going to be anecdotal.)
  • Because for many people the monetary commitment is a necessary step, purchase something like nicotine gums or patches, or an electronic cigarette with nicotine or no nicotine fluids, or Allen Carr’s “Easy Way to Stop Smoking” (or all of the above!) My friend Amy gave me the latter 13 years ago (more about it further down), I got gums and patches 3 years ago, and lastly I bought a couple electronic cigarettes in February because they were on sale.
  • Do not trust yourself with emergency cigarettes or tobacco nearby “just in case”. Don’t. Really, just don’t. Since you’re choosing to become a non-smoker, choose whether you finish your current supply or dispose of it, turn the page and start anew!
  • Last, but not least—Adopt constructive language and thoughts: you ain’t giving up smoking, you choose to become a non-smoker —you are becoming a new version of yourself (the problem with “giving up” is that at core it is a deprivation, the problem with “stopping” is that it signals negative behaviour, and the problem with “quitting” is the implied notion of failure.)

There is no doubt whatsoever that for the first several days (or weeks) not smoking is a deprivation, and you are the first to know that smoking is negative behaviour, and you will be tempted to fail by giving in. You know all that perfectly well, so it’s beyond the point to further the negativity and all to your credit, and your mental sanity, to think positively: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Let this constructive language and thinking be your honey.

Look at yourself squarely in the eye

For me, it was the realisation during a particularly long trip that eagerly awaiting layovers and thinking “at long last I’ll be free to smoke [albeit in a horribly cramped and smelly place]” was in fact THE OPPOSITE of freedom. It was SLAVERY.

Once I had discovered this, it was a matter of time before I could do the right thing, but there was in no case any forgetting the discovery.

Allen Carr’s “Easy Way to Stop Smoking”

It’s a great book! I have not finished the book, however. I picked it up exactly three times in the 10+ years it’s been in my possession, and could never finish it. The second time, I didn’t even open it. The third time I went further than the first and I dare say I read enough for it to work.

It’s absolutely tedious prose. But the text is very simple and very, very repetitive.

Its purpose is to get you to acknowledge that since you became a smoker you have convinced yourself that you love it and depend on it.

“I think the most pathetic aspect about smoking is that the enjoyment that the smoker gets from cigarette is the pleasure of trying to get back to the state of peace, tranquility, and confidence that his body had before he became hooked in the first place.”

Allen Carr, “The Easy Way to Stop Smoking”

I stopped after the first third which is the important part where I got it into my head that THERE IS NOTHING TO GIVE UP.

I like to think of myself now as a different version of me.

Three years ago I failed because I was dominated by the notion that I would have nothing to replace smoking with. This time I went further in the book and understood that “nothing” is what you replace it with, and this is all the material you need to work with.

Self-hypnosis and other TEDx pep talks may work too!

I relied early in the journey (in the first two weeks) on listening to a 50-minute self-hypnosis recording by Michael Sealey, (bonus points for his charming Australian accent and deep soothing voice) based on some measure of neuro-linguistic programming (at heart it’s programming yourself by visualising what you want, while in a conducive state of relaxation), and a short TEDx talk by Nasia Davos, an eloquent Greek lady that I felt like I knew, after listening to her two or three times, whose main message is: every time you crave the cigarette, substitute “smoking” by “air” or “water”.

I feel confident

Third time is the charm? Maybe. Along the way there have been signs I have “bookmarked” such as the guilt I felt while not being entirely able/willing to stop smoking while pregnant 14 years ago, my former mother in law —a heavy smoker, like me— who succumbed to cancer a few years ago, my son asking me to stop, my parents and brother years before him, etc.

This time has been and felt different from previous attempts. I may simply have been ripe for it. Or picking up exercising 15 months ago set myself up for that particular success.

It’s been over a month and I feel pretty good about it. My family, friends and colleagues have been extremely supportive of me (love y’all!!). I have become slightly more efficient in my exercising; I have even started again to run and I am still not great at it but way better than last year.

I feel confidence that I am a non smoker, at last.

Spring is here!

20 Mar

Work won’t love you back

10 Mar

Abstract of what is on my mind: work is transactional by nature, excellent connections with coworkers are precious (I am fortunate to have many). Now, the companies that consider their work force “family” puzzle me. This is not exactly the case where I work (or is it?), BUT we are in a setting that is pretty conducive to it, AND after 27 years, this is going to change –in less than a year. SO I really wonder what that change will do to the current equilibrium (I’m pretty sure it’s going to put it to the test).


This stemmed from my browsing The Twitters yesterday. I read Kevin‘s tweet (screenshot and link underneath). He wrote “work won’t love you back.” And as much as I’ve loved the people I’ve worked with, it’s always turned to be correct.

He was quoting another Twitter thread (screenshot and link underneath) where I read “it’s so emotionally damaging when companies self-style their workers as “family”. you can have deep emotional connections with your coworkers, if you’re lucky, but don’t forget that work relationships are fundamentally transactional. i hope your family is not.

Tweet by Kevin pointing out that work won’t love you back
The tweets that Kevin quoted, referring to work as family but also as being a transaction

I don’t consider my workplace to be like family and we aren’t self-styled as such either. But, work is very central in my life: every other week I spend most of my waking time at work (the other week, I am solo parent of a teenager).

Firstly, I am fortunate to have very deep emotional connections with many of my coworkers, a few of which I even regard as father figures, many of which are true models for me, most of which I respect tremendously. Secondly, we have very little turnover. I’ve worked there for over 22 years and many current colleagues were already in the team when I joined. And we welcome newcomers, not as siblings, but with similar care and attention to their success. As though we have a stake in it –and we do, yes. Thirdly, we get together (we used to, pre-COVID at least) every now and then and those occasions are always enjoyable and looked forward to by most. Yes, like any other workplaces, there are difficult people who get along with fewer people or are not interested in making any connections at all. That’s my description of our unusual work environment. In fact, I remember how I described it to my mum a few years into it: like summer camp where you make new great friends and do exciting stuff, but all year-round.

Now, our administrative setup allows us to do our work without a whole lot of competition, without too many frustrations, because we are employed by four different institutions that legally “host” our consortium, and in most of our cases, the people who employ us are not those we take work orders from. I think that makes a world of a difference.


Change is coming. The Hosts arrangement, in place from the start in 1994, has enough drawbacks that for a few years now we have been exploring how to become our own legal entity. This is set to happen on January 1, 2022. When it does, the consortium will have its own bank account, legal and fiduciary obligations, and traditional management powers that we currently do not fully have.

The dynamics are bound to change. While today I (and many others in the team) are moved by the sheer impact our work has on society (HTML –heard of it? CSS, Web accessibility, Internationalization, etc. We are the little known consortium that makes the Web work, for everyone) and the Hosts that employ us provide the best abstraction to shield us from the reality of the transactional nature of work, this is going to hit us in the face like the train crashing Dr. Woodward’s truck in the movie Super 8!

There is a lot on our plates and most of us overwork because it’s really worth it! I remind myself on occasion that work won’t love me back but once we are truly as valuable as our ability to make the company money, I wonder how the care will fare.

Exercising: one-year anniversary

8 Mar

A year ago, my Apple Watch suggested that it wasn’t too late if I wanted to earn the 2020 International Women’s Day challenge: all it took was a 20-minute walk!

How it started

My dog in tow, I went for a walk. I earned my first “activity” badge. And this marked the start of my exercising daily.

International Women’s Day challenge award

The mammoth total!

In the past 365 days, I covered 1,172.78 kilometers (728.7 miles) in logged walks, or runs.

To put this into some perspective:

  • That’s about an eighth or a ninth of what I drive yearly.
  • That’s an average of almost 100 kilometers per month.
  • I will note that about half of it was achieved during the first five months (because that’s when I ran.)

As someone who abhorred even the idea of exercising and had stopped any practice of sport for a couple of decades, I find all of this both impressive and very gratifying.

Graphs

Daily average of exercise in the last year: 70 minutes
Daily average of active energy in the last year: 547kcal
Daily average steps in the last year: 7872
Daily average running and walking distance in the last year: 6,4 km
Activity graphs in the last year: move, exercise, stand

Notes on the graphs, key stats

Except the “stand” graph which so far has been steadily increasing (spoiler: it is about to plateau at 19 times per day, or decrease. I don’t sleep so well but I’m hopeful this can improve), all of the bars of the other graphs are consistent (that’s reassuring!)

March and April last year were the slow but steady start, then in May I really upped my game. In June I probably was like, “chill if you want to sustain this.” But July, golly! July was too much. So much that a huge dip followed and it took me all of August, September and October to recover and make really small progress. I didn’t resume running though. November, December and January 2021 were tough too, with another dip and a general but consistent sluggishness. I was back at it in February. And a week into March suggests it’s going to be a pretty good month.

Notable rounded numbers include:

  • May 2020: walked 110 km
  • Jul 2020: ran 100 km (over 12 hours), covered a total walking + running distance of 175 km
  • Aug 2020: 15 hours of core training and yoga
  • Sep 2020: 42 workouts out of 60 were yoga and core training, for a total of 33 hours
  • Dec 2020: daily yoga practices of 40 minutes
  • Jan 2021: only month in the past year where I didn’t exercise every day (only 25 workouts)
  • Feb 2021: 1:40:00 of average walk time (13 walks, over 21 hours, over 106 km)

How it’s going

My primary motivation (beyond the Apple Watch successful nagging of exactly a year ago) was to lose the extra weight that I had put on due to some medication I took for a month or so, and to get back in shape.

In that regard it has been a complete success. Although it took eight long months to complete the former! I am back in shape: no more knee and hip pains, stronger legs and arms, slower heart rate.

Weight graph over the last year: 62.09 kg

But what keeps me going is this: exercising is now a key part of my life. I swear I never thought I would think that! I still can’t wrap my head around it :) but it’s true. This is the only thing I do for myself. This is the only thing I do that is not working, or caring for my child or relatives (both of which, with a little sleep, a little Netflix, or a little art making or reading, fill the rest of my life.)

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