Friday, January 26, 2007

How To Quit Smoking Overnight...

Have a blood vessel in your brain explode. Be taken to the ER in an ambulance. Have the docs send a slinky up your femoral artery to seal off the blood vessel. Spend about four or five weeks (who can remember? I'm brain-damaged after all) in ICU hooked up to various machines. One that took a direct reading of whatever from a nifty wire than they shoved down another artery in my neck to my heart. (It was called a Swann, for those of you who care to know.) Another pumped air into my lungs after the hospital shared not one, but three separate infectious diseases with me. Get food from a tube down your nose. Pee through one poked up your bladder. We won't even discuss any other eliminatory processes. Go through all of this, and be delivered six weeks later (after rehab, remember) back home, a non-smoker.

I started smoking when I was 15, and I don't have to tell you how long ago that was. I smoked about a pack a day for the next thirty or so years. I was a die-hard, love it love it love it smoker. My friend, Laurie, whose mother died of lung cancer, tried to get me to quit when she did. She went to SmokeEnders, and she would come home from a weekly meeting and give me a mini-version of what she'd learned. I remember having to list all the reasons why I wanted to quit smoking. None of them had to do with health. All of them had to do with odors--my breath, my car, my apartment, my clothes, even my body. Laurie went back to smoking, and I never quit.

Then she found an acupuncturist who had worked wonders with old-school smokers such as Jason Robards, Jr. The guy was an MD in Scarsdale New York, and he cured Laurie. So she made me go. And he cured me. I walked into his office a smoker, and walked out a non-smoker. It wasn't that hard. Evidently he knew the right pressure points to hit for endorphin rushes, and I recall being sort of blissed out for a week or so. I barely ate the sunflower seeds he had given me to assauge my need to keep my mouth busy.

Several years passed in which I (a) didn't smoke, and (b) didn't particularly want to smoke, and (c) was obnoxious about those smelly smokers in my path. Then, I don't know, one day I happened to notice that all the most interesting people were those smelly smokers. Non-smokers were up-tight, rigid, parsimoniously correct; smokers were creative, funny, fuck-the-world types. That was me, and I wanted to be outside with them.

So I analyzed my smoking versus non-smoking situation and came up with these rules: 1. Since smell was the major issue for me, I would never smoke inside. 2. I would not smoke mindlessly; I would make sure each cigarette I had was a wanted one. Because I lived in the Northeast, rule 2 was impacted by rule 1: standing in a freezing rain or blizzard is not condusive to enjoying one's smoke.

My rules worked well for me, and I ended up smoking about seven cigarettes a day. I had my last one about eleven o'clock on July 8. I sat on the porch and smoked before going to bed. Four hours later my cerebral aneurysm ruptured, which takes us right back to where this post started. When people asked me how I quit smoking, I would tell them the ICU is a good place to do it. Sheer coincidence, was the implication.

But then I read this article in the paper today, and I'm wondering if along with the other parts of my brain that the aneurysm flattened, did it get my insula as well?

EDIT: Ooops, forgot to put my tags on.


  1. Damn. If only more smokers knew an aneurysm was more effective than the patch.

  2. I loved reading your descriptions of the ICU experience - because I'm an ICU nurse. You're absolutely correct in your descriptions, but I can tell you that I'll never call it a 'sheath' any more. Nope, it's a SLINKY! :) Sorry you picked up THREE infections (one is too damned many) but glad you stopped smoking in the process. Sounds like a helluva (helluvan?) experience, indeed.

    When I make it to CA this summer, if at all possible I am going to attempt a hookup with you, mmkay?

  3. Damn - that's scary. Cerebral aneurysm runs in my family and I don't even smoke! But lots of my friends do - and they are pretty freakin' cool. Crazy in the winter but still swell people. :)

  4. Q of D: It could be called the AnniePatch.

    TJ: You're goddesses in white (and gods, okay, there are plenty of guy RNs, but despite years as a feminist, I still think that's an oxymoron.) Just don't wear perfume.

    Erica AP: Ahem, you might want to get that checked out. CAs can run in families and they do test (MRI/CAT Scan) family members.

  5. Holy Moley! I just popped in here via the queen and did NOT expect to read this. I think I might quit just avoid all those tubes. Was this thing a product of smoking?

  6. Seismic Pirate:

    Smoking is definitely a factor...;)

  7. hey....I tried to link to the article, but I think the URL is a typo and it took me to some crazy W3C site. Can you re-do the link maybe?


  8. Anonymous7:22 PM

    I stopped smoking the same way you did, by being confined in an ICU for almost five weeks after a car ran me over as a pedestrian. No interest in smoking after that, and it had nothing to do with life-affirming ventures or anything. Most of the time I was in ICU I was pretty heavily sedated, as I remember very little until the last week when they lifted the sedation. No interest in smoking while I was there either. My family wanted to take away all my home ashtrays, but since many are very attractive, I said no. (Good to use as small bowls.) They did take all my cigarettes--about 3 cartons I had left. It's pretty amazing because I was a very confirmed, many-year smoker--I think the longest I tried to quit was about two hours. But I am very happy with this fringe benefit of the ICU.


So--whaddaya think?