I almost never ate breakfast and usually skipped lunch. However, that's not entirely accurate. You see, nicotine was my spoon.
With each puff, nicotine activated my body's flight or flight response, which would almost instantly dump stored fats and sugars (glucose) from my liver into my bloodstream.
I'd normally eat just one large meal at the end of each day. A portion of that meal was stored and the next day I'd use nicotine to release it.
The consequences of torturing our body this way were many, including a 44% increase in the risk of developing type II diabetes (29% for light smokers and 61% for heavy smokers of more than 20 cigarettes per day).
I had long ago forgotten how to properly fuel my body. Smoking 60 cigarettes per day, about one every 15 minutes, I had few hunger cravings and little experience satisfying them.
I repeatedly tried to navigate early recovery without awareness that nicotine had become my spoon. Not only did I endure nicotine cravings, I added hunger cravings. I endured a number of hypoglycemic-type symptoms including mind fog and an inability to concentrate.
An utter mess, I tried to eat my way out of food craves. It made recovery vastly more challenging than it needed to be. The result was always the same: needless cravings, anxieties, extra pounds, relapse and failure.
But back to our theme, what was it like to feed yourself, to fuel your body on a regular basis, to sit with friends and eat like a normal person?
What would it be like to no longer make excuses to leave meals early in order to replenish missing nicotine, to stay and comfortably savor the after dinner conversation for as long as possible?
A 12 cigarette per day smoker who spends an average of 5 minutes per cigarette devotes one hour per day to smoking. That's 365 smoking hours per year. Broken down into 40-hour workweeks, that's 9 full workweeks per year spent servicing their addiction.
Even while spitting, oral tobacco users easily blend in and hide where bellowing smoke cannot. Usually they require fewer nicotine fixes, each delivering substantially more nicotine than inhaled from a cigarette. But honest calculation of the total time each day spent servicing the oral user's addiction is likely to show as much or more than for smokers.
Time spent locating a spit container, your tin, can, pouch, bag or box, tapping the lid, packing the can or opening the package, sniffing or otherwise packing or loading up, working the dip, wad, pouch, orb, strip, gum or lozenge, sucking or chewing while waiting for nicotine to slowly penetrate mouth tissues and enter the bloodstream as anxieties gradually build, spitting or swallowing juices, parking periods, and disposing of spit, used tobacco or gum, it all adds up.
Imagine giving yourself a two-month vacation from work each year. What would it be like to reclaim such a massive chunk of life? What would it be like for your days to be entirely yours?
What if your mouth, hands and time were again yours without precondition? Where would you go, what would you do, and what would you become if not chained to mandatory feedings?
It is entirely normal for drug addicts to truly and deeply believe that drug use enhances life, that it punctuates rather than interrupts it. Rarely did we stop and reflect upon the realities of captivity and full price of bondage.
Nicotine's two-hour elimination half-life in human blood serum is a feeding clock without feeling or conscience. It cannot respect life, time or priorities. When nicotine reserves and tonic dopamine begin falling, it will not matter if the moment being interrupted is the most wonderful of our entire day, year or life.
The mind's survival instincts motivator is captive to nicotine. The lesson this circuitry's design now compels it to vividly and firmly implant within our brain is that nicotine use is core to survival, as important as food. In fact, nicotine use becomes more frequent and trumps eating instincts. Part of our body's fight or flight response is to shut down digestion, so as to divert more blood to large muscles.
Any activity lasting longer than the time we could comfortably go between nicotine feedings became a sacrificial lamb. Where might we have gone, what might we have done and whom might we have met? What learning was missed?
Chemical dependency onset did more than simply modify our core survival instincts. It became elevated above family, friends, food, work, accomplishment, romance, love and concentration.
You'd think we would have immediately questioned such a massive shift in priorities. How could we not notice the amount of time devoted to nicotine and its impact upon our senses, sensitivities, relaxation, crisis management, meals and moods?
We didn't notice because nicotine had our focus diverted elsewhere. All we could think about was that next fix, satisfying that next urge, and feeling nicotine-normal again.
Once brave enough to venture beyond nicotine's influence, hidden truths become obvious. "Real choice" gets introduced into the equation. We become the jailer, and our dependency the inmate.
Once home, the full flavor of life can be savored and celebrated. What's there to lose by coming home for a visit? And there's just one rule to arriving ... none today.