Tired of the foggy and unfocused feeling cigarettes left me with as an adult with ADD/ADHD and anxiety, I sought the help of a smoking-cessation specialist to help me quit smoking.
by Henry Greene
In my last post, after nearly exploding at my mother in frustration at the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) symptoms I was experiencing, I went for a run to clear my head -- and it worked.
“Mother!” I shouted in a disarmingly cheerful voice as I burst inside our house after my run. My mother, who was about to step outside the front door as I was entering it, scrambled to get out of my way.
Only after retreating to a safe distance did she reply. “Um, yes, Henry?” she asked apprehensively. She was still curt after the ADD/ADHD outburst I’d had less than an hour ago.
“Call the doctor!” I shouted as I jumped up and down several times.
“What’s wrong?” she urged frantically.
“Nothing is wrong, save for the fact that I smoke cigarettes and I want to quit! Please call the doctor!” I shouted, throwing my hands up with an air of liberation.
My mother and I had never discussed my smoking openly before. It was an elephant in the room that no one in my family acknowledged. I’d occasionally leave butts scattered all over the patio furniture after late nights of smoking. I’d forget to clean them up in my half-asleep state. In the morning, I’d wake up with a jolt. I’d be certain that this time, I’d finally get caught and would dash downstairs in a last-ditch effort to clean up the butts before someone found them. When I got outside and inspected the furniture, I’d see that there wasn’t a trace of tobacco. Even the ash had been neatly wiped up. I’d spend the rest of the day bracing myself for a moment of confrontation with whoever was responsible for the cleaning, but it would never come. We’d go about our daily business as though nothing had happened.
So I knew my smoking was no secret. Indeed, after my announcement, my mother nodded slowly, gravely. She announced a hesitant, “OK,” then paused.
“What's wrong?” I asked.
“Well, I am happy to help you through this Henry, but you’re going to need to do two things for me first.”
“What?” I asked.
“First, you’re going need to apologize for your outburst this morning. Then, you’re going to need to clean up all those butts you left outside last night.” My non-ADHD mother arranged my doctor’s appointment quickly and efficiently. Shortly after brushing up the ash I’d left strewn around the patio the night before, I was on my way to the doctor’s office. I’d boldly thrown out the remainder of my cigarette pack, and already, I was itching for a smoke.
There were only two noises in the sterile blue and gray hospital waiting room, and their emotionless repose contrasted wildly with my animal-like longing for nicotine. My head hung low, and I wagged it back and forth, eyeing everything in the room angrily. I hadn’t had a cigarette in two hours.
With especially poignant anger, I eyed a woman in a white coat who was jauntily walking into my sterile waiting cell. I disliked the way her pants made a Velcro-like noise as her legs rubbed against each other. It sharpened my headache. I disliked the way her capped pearly whites glared in my sensitive eyes when she smiled. I didn’t understand why this sensory overload had to be introduced to my space.
She made more noise. “Hi. Are you Henry? My name is Dr. Meyer. I’m your smoking-cessation specialist."
“Ugh,” was my concise response.
She hesitated briefly before recomposing herself. “Please come inside my office and we’ll discuss a proactive quitting plan!” she piped cheerily.
“Mmmm … ugh.” I nodded vaguely as I waddled behind her like a troll.
“You are in an especially lucky position, Henry, you know that?” she announced.
I assumed she was referring to the fact that I was near blackout. The absence of nicotine blocked out all other thoughts. Cigarettes seemed like the only light at the end of a long tunnel. If I didn’t have a smoke this instant, I’d pass out. I knew it. I began to relish the thought of unconsciousness.
“Your mother tells me you are transferring to Temple. When you start off at Temple next year, there won’t be any conditioned triggers to make you want to light up. You can start you new life at Temple as nonsmoker, never to have another cigarette again!” she clarified with a smile.
Never ... cigarette ... again. The words were some of the most painful I’d ever heard. Had she held out a cigarette in front of me at that moment -- nay, had a 6’8” bouncer with a scar on his face held out a cigarette -- I’d have slain either of them with my bare fists and smoked that cigarette down to the filter in a matter of seconds.
But alas, after a brief inspection, I saw no cigarettes within reach. So instead, I nodded politely and forced a smile with my yellowing teeth.
“So, Henry, I’ll prescribe you nicotine patches with progressively lower nicotine levels. In the meantime, here is some nicotine gum. It will quiet the urge to smoke while you wait for your prescription.”
My whole selfhood ignited with passion. Frantically, I grabbed the box and wrenched it out of her hand. I tore into the box, yanking a packet out of the shreds. I pulled out three pieces of gum, jammed them all in my mouth, and chomped away feeling very satisfied with life.
“Three pieces at a time is acceptable only during the first day of quitting,” my doctor chided while raising a bony pointer finger. “You will soon need to scale down to two. By the time you get the patch prescription, you should be taking one piece at a time, no more than 10 times per day.”
I stared at her dumbly. I reached into the packet, removed a forth piece of gum, and threw that piece in my mouth along with the rest, feeling the chemicals douse my desperate cravings. Already, I was dreading the emergence of my next craving, and this dread began to dominate my thoughts. My impulsive, childlike glee at my bold new endeavor had died hard. I desperately wanted to smoke! Yet, the process of quitting had begun.