Monday, July 29, 2002

Anxious, Discontent, and Distracted

I can't tell the difference between an anxiety attack and a cigarette craving. My chest feels tight, as if my lungs are shrinking, and I feel like I'm not getting enough air, I'm not breathing, I feel fidgety and inattentive, I feel like squirming and groaning and crying. I haven't had a cigarette in four years, but I often want one very badly...the smoke, the nicotine, the oral gratification, oh yeah! But I have to wonder whether this craving is physical or mental... is the desire for a cigarette really a craving for nicotine, or is it a desire to medicate some particular feeling, such as anxiety? And is this feeling something that predates my smoking history, or is it an after-effect of the smoking?

See, with alcohol, I didn't crave the alcohol as much as I craved the oblivion, the emotionlessness, the thoughtlessness that alcohol gave me. I did in fact crave alcohol, I would continue drinking long after achieving the desired oblivion, so it's not like I wasn't addicted to the substance itself... but the mental disease is a stronger and more baffling component of alcoholism than the physical disease. So in quitting drinking, I was able to address those feelings and thoughts I was trying to get away from with alcohol, work through them or simply sit there and feel them. And these were all feelings that came to me before I took my first drink. After I quit drinking, I was very quickly relieved of the physical craving for alcohol, leaving only the mental craving for oblivion to deal with.

With the cigarettes, though, the physical craving remains, tied up in the mental craving... I've never separated the two. And of course nicotine is a more severely addictive substance than alcohol, so it stands to reason that the physical craving will linger longer (say it with me, friends: linger... longer...). In fact, before I even quit, my aunts (who had both quit successfully some years before) told me that the craving would probably last the rest of my life, and that I would have to simply tell myself that I wasn't going to give in to it... like the desire to kill people who get in your way, or the desire to kill yourself when you're in a lot of pain, or even the desire to bite really cute guys... one somehow manages to not act on those desires. It's the same with a cigarette... if you don't want the consequences of the smoke, you have to not light the cigarette.

Anyway, it occurred to me today that this sensation that I think is a cigarette craving might instead be a mild anxiety attack. It feels a lot like how some people have described free-floating anxiety. So I wonder if that's something I have to address along with the nicotine craving? Something to think about.

So the Depression is going okay. I had a nice weekend, pretty much. On Sunday, I drove out to San Ramon because Grandmother forgot to bring her suit... the suit that she had planned to wear to the party she was attending with my cousin and her husband, the suit that I had laboriously pressed after she had even more laboriously re-hemmed it... and so I got up early on Sunday, drove out to San Ramon (about 30 miles) and brought it out to her, then drove back home (I was going to stop at the Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek, but nothing opened until after 11 and I didn't want to wait).

When I got back, I sat and watched the second half of Speedway Junky, which I had started the night before but I had to go to sleep before it was over. It was a fairly good movie, the actors were very engaging and the writing didn't make me cringe at all... but it has occurred to me that all stories about hustlers (City of Night, My Own Private Idaho, and Johns come immediately to mind, but there must be more) are pretty much the same. There is this strange glamor in the life of the hustler, a sort of immediacy that results from futurelessness, the titillation of sexual outlawdom heightened by the danger and futility of life on the fringes.

But in the films and books I've experienced, there is always the new young hustler who meets up with some more experienced hustler, then there are several other hustlers who are all of different types, and there's usually some older person who acts as a mentor of sorts, and then one of the hustlers gets killed and the other one gives up hustling and either goes home or goes legit. It's kind of irritating. And there's so seldom any insight into why or how these boys got started hustling, why they continue to do it, or what they would be capable of doing in the future. So when Speedway Junky turned out so true to formula, I was a bit disappointed.

So after I watched that, Caroline came over and we went out to coffee and shopping in the Rockridge district. I bought a pair of Eddie Bauer chinos and two silk scarves at a favorite second-hand shop, Rockridge Rags, then a purse and belt at Crossroads, and coffee and French toast at The Crepe Vine.

Then the rest of the day, I watched television... various Disney channel offerings (I love Kim Possible), a couple of movies (Real Genius and Drive Me Crazy), a few agglomerated hours of pure channel-surfing (yes, I watch commercials on purpose sometimes), and the newest (really fabulous) episode of Sex and the City. Then I went to bed at 11 and watched a little bit of Wild Reeds (nothing prettier than a bunch of French boys, and Stephane Rideau makes me quiver), and actually got to sleep a little after 12.

So I got a good night's sleep, I got up at 9, did my prayer and meditation and a little bit of aerobics before showering and dressing and heading down to the office. But it wasn't all sunshine and lollipops... I left my glasses on the dining room table, since I already had my sunglasses on (I usually leave them in the car), right next to the yogurt I wanted to eat for breakfast once I got to the office and the CD and data disk for my Sims game. But it hasn't been too bad. Aside from this chest-clutching feeling of anxiety/craving, it's been a lovely day, today.

Ooooh, that lovely cigarette!...the boy's cute, too.

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