Thursday, June 07, 2007

Time Number What?

As my asshole doctor, with his condescending know it all smirk, phrased the question on my first and last visit with him last week, "so this is time number what?" I'd have to answer that I've actually lost count somewhere along the way just exactly how many times I've quit smoking. It's been more than twice, less than 10 times, and lasted for over a year at least once, maybe twice.

In any case, I've quit smoking enough times to know that for me the first day isn't usually as bad as I think it will be, but by the second or third day some of the novelty of feeling fresh and not stinky is gone and that even after a couple of months or more I'm capable of starting all over again even though I've pretty well figured out how to combat the cravings (for me, deep breaths and sips of water work best). Going to Reno (this trip, not this one) around the 3rd month and having a bit of a buzz from the free drinks and playing video poker while sitting in the smoky casino next to someone who is smoking menthols (my poison of choice) and breathing in more deeply instead of taking a short break outside is probably where I went wrong. Even then, I'm still somewhat convinced that the pack that was supposed to be bought in Reno and to stay in Reno might have still been OK (hey, I know most would disagree, but I'm the one writing this) had the pack not made it onto the plane for the return flight. And so it did, and so I bought another in the following days. Bad move, that. That was February 2005. Since then I've had about a one month stretch or so where I quit, but I started again for a silly reason that I might share someday.

In the past, I've tried the patch, but I can usually only do it for about the first week or so because after that I would swear that the little trickle of nicotine actually makes me want to smoke even more. Nutty, but this is me. I've always had to remove the damn thing before bed, too, because it gives me what I call "the vivids." And I hate the vivids. The vivids are when I have that really restless sleep if I drink too much coffee (yep, even I have limits) before bed and wind up tossing and turning in between very, very vivid and very weird dreams. The dreams aren't necessarily scary, but just so very real and sort of creepy like that, and I always feel drained and tired like I've only gotten little patches of sleep.

So one of my good friends said that he'd started taking Chantix to quit smoking and that it actually made him gradually just not even really want to smoke. He was doing well enough that I called to make an appointment to see a doctor (new location, get to try a new doctor and hope it would be better than the ones I went to at the old place because they were not good). The soonest appointment was 3 weeks out - kind of crazy considering that you'd think the health insurance folks would want you to get going when the mood strikes on something like this that can save them buckets of dollars in the end - but, whatever, at least I'm fortunate enough to actually have health insurance.

Despite my new doctor's terribly condescending attitude for doing so, it's probably good that, yes, I do look at plenty of medical information online, even in people's blogs. This is a good thing because that snotty question at the start was about the beginning and end of our conversation about smoking or about actually taking Chantix. The rest of the visit was him mostly being a jackass rolling his eyes at me without actually rolling his eyes and passing me off to the smoking treatment people who would enroll me in some program where I got a "customized" plan with somewhat decent advice and will get 3 emails of tips and encouragement and apparently little else - well, except for the prescription for Chantix at a monthly co-pay price of $15.00 instead of the $111.90 it would otherwise have been without signing up for their emails. The good news is that I had in fact read a lot about Chantix online and knew the basics: it starts at 0.5mg/day and slowly ramps up to 2mg/day and that you smoke the first week while desiring it less and then quit the next week while continuing the pills for 12 weeks (oh, and that nausea and bad dreams are somewhat common side effects along with others that were of less concern to me).

So yesterday I went to the pharmacy with my special "you can get this for the co-pay price" letter that is apparently like gold to those folks (screwed without it I kept hearing), and I got my prescription. Just for fun, I asked for a consult and tried asking some questions of the pharmacist, but she was no more informative than my doctor - things like first saying that it's fine to take on an empty stomach, followed by her reading to me from the insert that says after a meal and with a full glass of water - and once again I was glad that I do know how to find the information I need online when my health plan folks aren't very cooperative or forthcoming. By the time I am an old woman and not quite so savvy I hope I will have found a good doctor.

As soon as I got home, I had to open this stuff up and take a look. The packaging is pretty cool and makes the whole ramping up thing pretty self-explanatory since it's laid out day by day from one pill of 0.5mg each morning for days 1-3, then 1mg/day taken as 0.5mg in the morning and 0.5mg at night for days 4-7. The remaining 3 packs for the month are for 2mg/day taken as 1mg in the morning and 1mg in the evening. I expect the next boxes for the remaining 8 weeks to be basically the same 1mg/day deal, but I've read that it might be useful to ramp back down (perhaps something like doing the starter pack, but backwards?) rather than just boom, stop. No chance of having anything resembling a real conversation with my doctor about this, so I'll just ask him when it gets to that time and see if he'll just prescribe. More out of curiosity than being committed to a specific quit date (in general, I'm just ready anytime), I went ahead and started with the first pill this morning (with a "meal" from the snack box and plenty of water) because I'm dying to know if this will actually work and make me slowly not want to smoke (yes, I know it's not going to make it a complete walk in the park and blah, blah, blah, but hopefully it will be better than times past when it just plain sucked).

The box also included a little credit card sized insert with a phone number and website address to sign up for the Chantix GETQUIT Support plan which actually looks like it could be useful and definitely better than what I expect in the emails through my health plan itself. Today's little activity (looks like you get a new one each day) was to write down every time I smoke along with where and with whom and how I felt. I took it a step further (because I'm anal and also love spreadsheets) to include anything else I notice, such as the little burst of happy giddiness that came from nowhere for no good reason mid-morning (though sometimes that's just how I am, so that might be a coincidence). As of right now, only a few hours in, that little "perk" that I feel when I light up roughly every hour has not left me, but if I understand correctly, that will slowly go away so that killing myself doesn't feel so damn good with that first drag. This is probably a good thing.

Hopefully my new answer to Dr. Asshole's question can be "Time number last, twit. Too bad there's not a pill to help you gradually stop having bad bedside manner."


  1. Ahhhh...the first post on the quit smoking ordeal. I've been a "sneak" smoker for 5 or so years so I have some stories in this area. Fortunetly my doctor brought the subject of not smoking up with me and recommended...implored...I take the prescription and giv e it a shot.


  2. Scott, bless your heart going all the way to the start and reading ;) Good luck!


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