There's never a good time
July 4, 2014 10:49 AM   Subscribe

I moved and can no longer use the strategies that have helped me get through writing, for ages. I have a lot to do just now but am not in the headspace to change. This is about the regular tabacky. What's as good as nicotine for writing, and similar in use factors?

I've quit for extended periods in the past using the patch/gum combo -- a lot of gum, lockjaw levels. Emotional stuff got me back into it. Most of the triggering problems aren't so relevant at the moment, but who knows. Anyway, I've been stuck in it again for some time.

I find the smell of my hair, clothes and space revolting. I'm ashamed of smoking; I hide behind dumpsters to puff in public, and wither when kids and families pass me. Which is right, ultimately that whole experience serves the public good. I hate everything about it except the hit, calm and focus I get from cigarettes.

Basically, I'm heavily addicted, and I know getting out of it either means psyching yourself up with heavy mental prep (Carr), or a sudden 'decision' that sort of just happens, and I'm not there for the first and can't predict the second. Also, the nicotine-reliant borg I have become needs it to write, which only really happens when I chain it (1.5 packs a day then, easily).

Is it even possible to pretend it's not 2014? Are there people here who've recently used nicotine in this way, and found substitutes that are specifically good at supporting concentrated work? Bonus points if suggestions involve an oral component -- that's a big part of it as well, and I'll eat the house bare in no time otherwise.

Constraints: I can't do impact aerobic activities beyond walking. Champix/Chantix and related are not options. Gum's ok, but kind of sickening after a while and messy (plus, lockjaw - it comes down to WADS of gum, wads).

E-cigarettes seem finicky and annoying, but I'd try them if there's a kind that's hassle-free and does the job. I just want to be able to write and not kill people or eat everyone's everything. Hopefully, the real quit will come along soon.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I went from a pack a day-ish to no tobacco cigarettes when I plopped down $50 for an Evod Kanga starter kit back in February and I haven't looked back. I took a drag off a friend's cigarette a few weeks ago to see if I still liked it and holy god it was gross.

I use the lowest-level-nicotine juice (I didn't mean to, but that's what I accidentally got one day) and am taking in a lot less nicotine than I used to, I'm pretty sure - it's not all apples-to-apples comparison, so it's kind of hard to tell.

The two flavors I like are one that's "American Spirit" flavored and one that's coffee. Neither are sweet or fruity, since that's not how I ever liked my cigarettes.

Gum and patches didn't work for me, either. This seems to be. The Evod setup seemed to be the least fiddly, based on my research - just fill it up, charge the battery, and go. It does take a little getting used to because it's not exactly the same as cigarettes, but it's close enough. And how much money have I saved? So much! Give it a shot. Feel free to memail me if you have questions or whatever.
posted by rtha at 10:59 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

It seems like your options here are going for a vaporizer product, or chewing tobacco or snuff, both of which are grosser than smoking. I'd go with a vaporizer.
posted by dortmunder at 11:01 AM on July 4, 2014

Yeah, those Evod Kanga kits are a great starter. But you can go get a 5-pack of disposables right now at any convenience store.

I quit a year and five weeks ago, starting off with "light" nicotine juice (I was an Ultra Light smoker, but 2 packs a day) and I'm down to the lowest - and I only "smoke" in the evenings a couple of nights a week, probably about the equivalent of one or two cigarettes. I'm no longer addicted except for psychologically needing to know I can whenever I want.

It IS possible to oversmoke, especially if you are a nervous smoker, so I would recommend starting at a little lower concentration than you'd initially be inclined to get.

I am not especially into tobacco-flavored juice (though there's a lot of great options). I've been smoking a mix of RY04 (a mild almost almondy tobacco flavor) and Cream (like cream) for about 6 months, but before then I toyed around with lots of desserty flavors.

And yeah, I can't even describe how fundamentally quitting changed our household budget. In a year I've probably spent the equivalent of three weeks of cigarettes, including a bunch of supplies I bought and didn't like or use.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:13 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ohhhhh boy.

The patch and gum only lead right back to smoking. You know what the most addictive part of the cigarette is? The ritual, then the sugar, then the nicotine.

I've tried vaping with e-juice and all manner of expensive and inexpensive e cigs.

They are mostly unreliable and unsatisfying except for the drugstore brand rechargeable Mistic e-cig (Rite Aid, CVS) with the black box refill filters, which is the filter cartridge with the highest nicotine. It's just a cheapie drug store e cig! The packaging isn't even as stylish as the similarly priced and marketed Blu, but the flavor, experience, and reliability of the Mistic is superior, IMHO.

I live in spitting distance to at least 10 upscale vaping stores (Los Angeles) and most of them don't offer the rechargeable or the disposable Mistic brand. Again, I own or have tried the more expensive vape sticks, pens, and disposable e cigs - they all break, or have a weird taste that isn't at all like tobacco, or the "pull" or "drag" is not like real smoking. Even if you find one you kinda like, they break. So annoying!


The taste of the Mistic is the most reminescent of tobacco of all brands tried, and I'm not interested in vaping strawberry nicotine liquid from dubious manufacturers, either.

The "throat feel" of Mistic def reminds me of cigarettes. It looks like a cigarette. The ritual part of the addiction is definitely fulfilled with this device.

I notice I drink more coffee now that I use the Mistic. Probably for the caffeine?

You can also go back and forth between the Mistic and regular cigs as you transition. So, say I'm having wine and watching a movie.... Instead of chain smoking 10 cigarettes, I'll smoke two regular cigarettes interspersed with A LOT of the Mistic e cig, usually 1/2 to 3/4's of a filter cartridge. And those 2 regular cigarettes? I took a fewer puffs before stubbing them out. Regular cigarettes aren't as appealing when something just as good without all the hassle and smell is right there.

It's really hard to smoke an entire regular cigarette once you switch to the e-cig. I can think of reasons for this, but I won't bore you. But yeah, switching to an e cig you like definitely changes your relationship to the ritual for the better. You're not so tied down to the experience - a few e cig puffs and you put it back in your pocket. An e cig you like are easier, take less mental energy and worry from your life.

You can buy a disposable Mistic to try it. The nicotine feeling won't be there (it's a low amount) but the experience including flavor will give you a good idea if you'll like them or not.

I've been reading it is easier to quit or cut down a hell of a lot using an e-cig you like vs patch or gum. I personally have found this to be very very true.

You'll probably want two rechargeable starter kits + one box of the black filters to start if you regularly smoke 1.5 packs a day, so you always have a wand that's charged and ready.

Keep the receipt. I'm pretty sure you can return anything to CVS or Rite Aid. This is not true of the other useless (and expensive!!) e cig and vaping kits (most of which broke within a month, did not "smoke" in an enjoyable fashion, etc.) that I've bought in the last few years.

I found the Mistic brand by lots of googling and reading of forums. Overall, people reported it was reliable and tasted most like real cigarettes, even by people who had upgraded to more expensive vapes. I found these user reports accurate.

YMMV. Hope this helps.
posted by jbenben at 11:44 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry for the long rambling and repetitive answer above.

I bought my first pricey rechargeable e cig 5 years ago, and I've been super unhappy with the whole thing (pens and sticks) until I did all that research.

I decided once more recently to try upgrading to a fancier pen (this time a Vaporite brand) and it's already broken in the hallway drawer.

The Mistic Rechargeable. IDK, it just does the job.

Smoking sucks. I wish you success!
posted by jbenben at 11:57 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am just resigned to life as a nicotine addict. I'm no good at quitting it. The best I can do is a harm reduction model. Here's what I've ended up with:

Lozenges are my best friend. I get the Target store brand as they taste better to me and are less expensive than the name brand. They're better than the gum because of no lockjaw.

I also like Green Smokes e cigarettes a lot. They're very cigaretteish.

Basically if I'm not eating I have a lozenge under my tongue, and for heavy trigger times (coffee, after dinner, drinks with friends, etc) I'll have an e or real cigarette.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 12:56 PM on July 4, 2014

I find the smell of my hair, clothes and space revolting. I'm ashamed of smoking; I hide behind dumpsters to puff in public, and wither when kids and families pass me. Which is right

I'm a non-smoker and can't give you a lot of advice about that. However I wonder if the intense self-loathing might not be hurting you more than helping. IMO it's much easier to adjust behavior when there's not a lot of shame or self-hate attached to it.

I'm not saying that smoking is cool and you should keep doing it, but if Winston Churchill, Barak Obama, Albert Einstein and JK Rowling, all disciplined and accomplished individuals, smoked, then perhaps you are not such a dreadful human for doing the same. It's an addictive substance. There's a reason there's a whole industry devoted to marketing and selling it ... and another to devoted to quitting it.

Self-compassion might, maybe, help you let go and move forward.
posted by bunderful at 1:54 PM on July 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I could have written your question. Good luck. I've been talking myself into cold turkey since Wednesday night and don't have a spare packet at home right now and about 3 cigs left.

I can't do e-cigs because its the nicotine that's killing my gums.
posted by infini at 2:42 PM on July 4, 2014

Your question seems to change markedly midway through from "I need help writing" to "I need help quitting cigarettes", and so I'm just going to suggest, here, that a lot of people with ADD/ADHD turn to smoking because nicotine is one of the better over-the-counter substitutes for real ADD medication. It is NOT a cure-all, but I do know one person who suddenly found themselves able to drastically cut back on cigarettes once they were properly in treatment for their ADD. If you're finding yourself unable to work without stimulants, the problem might go beyond just addiction, not that the addiction isn't also a thing. Just, for people who're trying to quit something that turns out to be their only current way of self-medicating a mental health condition, it does tend to be tougher.
posted by Sequence at 7:59 PM on July 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Champix/Chantix and related are not options.

Is this shorthand for "no medical quitting aids" or do you really mean "not this specific medication"?

I spent a lot of time both addicted to nicotine and also heavily reliant on it for concentration and productivity. Wellbutrin (sometimes a.k.a. Zyban when it's prescribed just for smoking) helped, and was the only thing that made it possible for me to quit. It's not something to just try on a whim, but it might be something to consider if you're open to medication in general.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:18 PM on July 4, 2014

Re vaping: I quit cigarettes via vaping, and if you go that way, I absolutely agree with those who recommend beginning with a Kanger Evod starter kit, if you decide to go the vaping route. I read a lot of related blogs and boards, and this is the most recommended beginner kit, and the one most people cite (or very similar) as being instrumental in first getting off cigarettes. (I started with something similar, slightly less good.)

Though, if you were sitting right here beside me, I'd skip you right up to the next step, and give you one of these Innokin iTaste VV v3s* (and a Kanger Mini Protank 3 to also try on top of it, plus some extra coil heads for the Mini), and tell you to pick up another iTaste VV so you can be charging one while using one. Then I'd spend about 5 minutes to show you how to use it, and send you on your way with a high degree of confidence that you're on way to being an ex-smoker.

The bad news is that personal vaporizers are still somewhat fiddly to deal with, though the technology is racing along; the good news is that there is pretty much nothing that's not covered by YouTube tutorials, and online vaping-related BBs are really, really helpful and supportive.

Getting an eliquid or two that you like to begin with is critical, and sometimes difficult. I was lucky and found some right away that I liked. If you have good vape shops near you, the best way is to try some out first, rather than blind buy, but if you are going to blind buy, you might try Halo Tribeca, which is a flavor a lot of people transitioning from cigarettes (as well as experienced vapers) like. Nothing is going to be *really* like cigarette taste, though, which is something that starts out seeming like a bug and soon becomes a feature. It's very common for people to begin wanting only tobacco-like flavors, and then branch out into other tastes, often dropping the tobacco flavors entirely. It's also common for tastes to change as your tastebuds adjust to non-smoking.

As for nicotine strength, I personally started at 12mg per ml nicotine (or 1.2%), and quickly went down to 6 mg (0.6%, considered very light), and now use 3mg, 2mg, or 0mg. Some people start with much higher nic percentages, but vape less; if you are vaping a lot, it's better to stick to lower percentages, but you have options, because you can have different percentages on hand. I have 18mg, 12mg, 9mg, 6mg, 3mg, 2mg, and 0mg on hand. The 18s are free samples that I just happen to have. My husband uses between 12 and 6mg, and I mostly use 3 or 0mg. I also make my own e-liquid, so I have *tons* of different flavors. Right now with my coffee, I'm enjoying some lovely buttercream mint. (And because vaping can cause dehydration, I also always have a large glass of water by me.)

There's not necessarily a set percentage of nicotine to begin with. People warn that if you start too low, you're more likely to go back to cigarettes. But if you are "chain vaping" like you would chain smoke, a higher percentage may be too much.

You are welcome to ask me anything via mefi mail (don't be shy), and if you like reading/researching or community spaces for finding out about stuff, a good place to begin is ECF because it's a space that has people at every level, from obsessed hobbyists who spend thousands to total newbs, men, women, old, young and everything in between, pretty much all of whom started vaping to quit smoking. If you're a redditor, you might be more comfortable on any of the several vaping subreddits.

I think it's probably helpful to already have a basic setup, and just check out boards like this to  s l o w l y learn about more detailed stuff as far as your interest takes you, because it can be confusing and discouraging if you are just trying to get started and you're reading a lot of jargony stuff about mechs and rebuildables – stuff you never have to touch at all to have a totally happy and successful transition off cigarettes, and then eventually off vaping, if that's the goal.

Here's my important disclaimer: Nobody knows what the health risks are related to vaping. Almost everyone is certain that it's better than the thousands of chemicals you get from smoking. I would never suggest vaping to anyone who could quit smoking via another means. I've quit smoking for months at a time, and every time I've started smoking again, but vaping works for me. If I could do it another way, I would.

* This is a variable voltage / variable wattage device, which is what people usually go to after starting with a fixed voltage device like the Evod starter battery for a couple of weeks or months. Info on using the iTaste VV here. This is entirely optional info, just in case you are interested. For beginners, Fixed Voltage Device Benefit: just use it and find out if you like vaping or not, no confusing buttons or menus; Variable Voltage/Wattage (vv/vw) Device Benefit: this is the next step up that a lot of people advance to fairly early in the process (for me it was a month after getting my starter kit), so if you want to you can start with a vv/vw from the beginning.
posted by taz at 3:58 AM on July 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was in exactly your situation. I started at 16, and kept smoking for twenty-two years. There were very few things I could imagine doing without smoking -- I smoked two packs a day for about the last ten years of it -- and writing without smoking was unthinkable. Or so I thought.

What I eventually realized, and it's actually really comical that I didn't realize it much sooner, was that I was writing without smoking all the time. I drew a division between "real" writing (fiction) and what I did and still do professionally, which was sit at a desk and write manuals for eight hours a day. Writing that stuff was fine! Yes, I would step away from my desk and take a smoke break, but there was no need for me to constantly have a cigarette going as I wrote. At all. It was unthinkable because this was the 21st century; I have no doubt that if I had been working in 1968, my desk would have looked like a set piece from Mad Men. But smoking on the job was absolutely never an option, and so even though I was doing exactly at work what I felt I couldn't do at home without a cigarette, I rarely if ever felt I needed a cigarette to do my work. Even my smoke breaks were about stepping away from work, not working. The idea that I needed a cigarette to write was an absolutely false premise. I can't say that it's false for you, of course. But I don't think I'm special, either...

I did quit smoking, and it was grueling, but it's been over three years and I am still good. This is what I did, and I don't know that I recommend it, other than to say that it worked for me so it's a method I know worked once. It can be adapted into just getting your addiction down to a more manageable level, which is better than not; it sounds like you are as miserable and desperate as I was and I know anything is better than that.

I realized that I was much too addicted to quit cold turkey. I am not really sure such an endeavor would have been physically wise, and I am pretty sure it wouldn't have worked. So I went the reduction route. I began with forty cigarettes a day (which I think may have been fewer than I had been smoking), and a few days later made it thirty-eight. I'd keep it at that level for a few days, then cut out two or three more, and so on. I don't even know how long this went on for; I didn't keep track.

This sounded like a way of gradually easing myself out of the habit, but what it really came down to was a death by a thousand cuts. My body would get accustomed to a new level of nicotine consumption, I would reduce that level, I would go through an emotional hardship that I now grasp was in fact nicotine withdrawal, my body would adjust to this new level again and I would be good for a few days until I cut down, and you get the idea. Anyway, if you just want to cut down your habit, this is a way to do that; I think that ultimately if you reached a level where you felt okay at, say, fifteen a day, that might over time start to climb back up again, but again, it's better than nothing.

I got to a point where I was smoking I think six a day, and when I reached the arbitrary quitting date I had set for myself (April 2, because I wouldn't do it on April Fool's Day), like when it was midnight of that day, I went to the dumpster outside and threw out my pack. By then, I was just angry at the whole stupid thing. I immediately wished I hadn't done it. But whatever. I haven't smoked since.

I have vaped, though, and at first I vaped a lot. I'll be honest: it didn't feel like it was doing shit in terms of relieving my nicotine craving. I hear people talk about mixing their elaborate juice formulas like they're amateur chemists, and I don't want to say the people who swear by vaping and its great wonders are deluding themselves, but I was smoking two packs a day of Marlboro reds and an e-cig may as well have been a stick of Dentyne. Vaping is a pathetic substitute for smoking in terms of getting a nicotine buzz. However, in terms of duplicating the look and feel of smoking, there is nothing better. It absolutely satisfied the psychological component of my habit; which was, taking into account how few cigarettes I had been smoking when I quit, really the major component of my habit. After a week or two, my vaping became an occasional stress reliever. Psychological. I really believe that. I think the craving was in my head at that point, and so was the relief. Eventually I stopped vaping regularly. It felt pointless; it felt like thumbsucking. But I don't hate on vaping or folks who vape, because I don't know that I could have stayed quit otherwise.

I would advise against lozenges and nicotine gum, as I have read these can lead to tooth loss and oral cancers on a long enough timeline. I've also read a lot of people who switch to these just become addicted to them and don't quit, so using them long enough for them to become harmful is a realistic possibility.

I still have an oral fixation, and chew the hell out of cinnamon toothpicks. The Thursday Plantation ones are good. The cinnamon ones. The tea tree ones give me a stomach ache. YMMV, of course. If you don't quit or reduce, keeping these around to gnaw on while you write may at least keep you in the room. If you do quit or reduce, you may gnaw on these anyway. It's okay.

Good luck. I hope something in all this is some help.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:44 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I quit cold turkey for the first time (completely surprising myself because I'd thought of it as the worst nightmare for the roughly 23 years I've been smoking) last year on 2 July. Kept it up till a completely disproportionate crisis triggered chain smoking again - sanity or smoking seemed to be the choice.

That was the first time I quit and it worked primarily due to half my mouth being full of stitches post surgery. That helped keep a cig out of my mouth.

Yesterday I left the pack and lighter at home and went off to IKEA. It was easier than I thought it would be and though I've been smoking since then, I'm conscious of each and know its going to happen this week.

I agree with kittens with breakfast, on attempting to replace the habit with another unhealthy one (addiction). What worked was retraining the muscle memory of habit.

I won't try ecigs or vape tbh for this very reason.

Anyway, I'm going to do it this week and what is holding me back is that yearning for the "one taste of a cigarette" - I need to have a serious talk with that first...
posted by infini at 2:23 AM on July 7, 2014

In 9 hours I will have passed the critical 72 hour mark. We have brought in ecigs into the house and housemate is seriously taking that approach. I'm still going the cold turkey route, after doing all the research.

The ECF is a great forum and makes me wish I could join the ecig community but since my problem is gum disease and toothloss, its best to minimize extra chemicals via the oral cavity.
posted by infini at 3:06 AM on August 16, 2014

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