Meeting (s)heroes

When I was young, I collected baseball cards. And yes, I was a serious contender. Indeed, cardboard box upon cardboard box stacked floor to ceiling remind me of the presence of my withering childhood, once praised for the potential possibility of properly placed masculinity and sexuality. Naturally (and I use this word with reserve), this hope for heterosexuality in my life was not of my desire, but of those around me. Of my family. My father. My mother. My siblings even.

Also, I collected: football cards, hockey cards, comic books, and the secret Garbage Pail Kids cards. Of these collectibles, my binders filled with Garbage Pail Kids cards remain on my shelf, always within reach. The others join the multitudinous collection of baseball cards in cardboard boxes. They collect dust–they, in the recent words of Ronald Pelias, “smell of history.” I was transported to these collections while among the academics of the ethnography division this past weekend. Standing in the presence of those whose work have become foundational necessities in the way in which I see the world through ethnographic eyes. The likes of Goodall, Pelias, Tillman, Holman Jones, Adams, Frey, Warren, Anderson, Ellis, Bochner, Berry, Poulos, and others.

Knowing me, of course, my bringing together of these worlds was in jest. It resided at the point of sense making where I think in terms of humor and in understanding. I envisioned my approaching the various Dodgers players as a child and asking for their autographs on their/my respective baseball cards. Nervous. The game would end. I was excited to have had the chance to see my Dodgers play another (terrible) game.

It was January 17th, 1994–Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I was 13 years old. Earlier that very morning what would become known as the famed “Northridge Earthquake” had occurred. Having been awakened by the rolling waves of earth for a mere 45 seconds, which felt like an hour, I was pumped to see my team play. Happy that the game was still on, me, my dad (rare happening here), my uncle Carl, and my brothers went to Dodgers Stadium. The game carried on. Dodger dog in hand, I screamed and cheered for my true Blue. A player, who I cannot recall now, was injured in the 7th inning. Tommy Lasorda, then team captain jogged to left field to assist the hurt player. Minutes passed and eventually Tommy stood up, picking the player up. The crowd cheered and congratulated the player for standing up, jeering him on. My youngst brother asks, “Why are we clapping?” My father, in jest, remarks, “we’re congratulating Tommy for making it out that far and not passing out.” I laugh and don’t quite know why.

The game closes and, as protocol would have it, my brothers and I whip out our baseball cards and head to the exit doors of the Dodger locker room. A chain link fence separates the screaming kids from our rockstar baseball players. One by one the players exit in their business casual. I was always amazed at this transformation from dirtied baseball uniform to pleated slacks and tucked in shirts. After my baseball games I only wanted two things: (1) to remove my cup and (2) to dress in sweats. These guys were hard core. As the players passed we would thumb through our stack of cards and locate the respective player then proceed to the performative screech begging an autograph or the slightest sense of acknowledgement in the world. Piazza, Hershiser, Offerman, DeShields, Butler, Mondesi, and others would walk by. On the rare occasion one would turn to their fans (us) and sign and photograph with us. They would touch our fingers. They made us/me feel worthy and real. Affirmed.

Now here I am, at NCA. It is the preconference session called, “Building Ethnographic Bridges.” I enrolled in this conference with the hopes of meeting those whose programs I want to apply to and to interact with scholars whose work has inspired me. I walk down the halls of the San Francisco Hilton. Snaking my way through long corridors, passing open doors. Alone. I walk. In clothing not of my liking but of particular demand for these spaces. I pass tables with empty cups next to water coolers. The rooms have projectors awaiting laptops and public presentations of research. A week of discourse and exchanges. I continue to find my target room. And I locate it. At the end of the hallways there sits a couch and on it 2 men and a woman. One of the men stand up and approach me asking, “are you benny.” I respond yes. He is Chris—a graduate of my program. An ally in this unstable land. He grabs my hand and welcomes me. I am introduced to others from his department, graduate students and faculty. And then he says, “Hello Caroline.” They hug. I stand. I think about the cover of my text, Ethnographic I by Caroline Ellis. Her. This woman, who is in Chris’ embrace. What I wouldn’t give for that text now. For her to sign. Like my Dodgers.

Yes, this is the humor. As I have distanced myself from those childhood realities and have melded into the academy I always found my interactions with and around those who I have become so intimately involved. Those scholars whose work has found its way into my bedroom, under my sheets, and at times, between my relationship. To extend a text to its respective author and to ask for an autograph, acknowledgement that I indeed, am your fan. That you have become my teacher by extension. That you are my mentor from afar.

My brother has baseball cards.
I have textbooks.
I laugh at the silliness of my life.
But it is what has made sense to me all along.
The authors now, however, are academics.

A year ago this occurs as well. At the queer conference at UCLA I see and interact with Edelman, Manalansan, and Boellstorff. I am beside myself seeing, for the first time, what these individuals look like. They are more than their words. And that is odd to me. What to say to them, if anything at all. For all of those that I mention above, I see them at NCA. Each time they pass, I take pause and inventory my location. I want to talk to them but am stifled by the words I’ve read fearing the “wrong” question.

“Hi (enter scholar’s name here) . Would you mind signing my text? I am such a fan of yours,”

I have grown to understand my nerdom as something to embrace, rather than something to avoid or to neglect and act as if it is insubstantial. I owe, in LARGE part, many thanks on this part to the recent addition of my boyfriend in my life who, through my messiness as an academic, appreciates my fixation on the intellect. He praises my tendency to speak head think freely. He challenges me to make accessible the dense. To bridge my world with his. To see in me, humanity despite my leaning toward academia. A ridicule and positionality rendered inhuman and undesirable by my family.

That matter. Later.

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My Apologies. New Directions.

For some time, I have been absent. Here and elsewhere. Simply gone. I would like to take the time to offer updates. To ponder. To extend direction, project possibility here. For this blog space.

I just returned home after a long, productive, and generally fun National Communication Association convention. Indeed, when I return from mass conferences/conventions in my discipline, I am energized and excited to move things forward in some fashion. One such space in which I want to engage and focus on is here: this blog o’ mine.

The end of the master thesis brought certain uncertainty and emotional instability as I clamored to take control of my grounding and to understand myself, again, as one not entirely bound to academia or to critical analysis–an undertaking in and of itself. Draining sure. Uplifting, hardly ever. Possibility never is an easy task. These current disconnected thoughts speak to my very state currently.

In short, I return from NCA with an intent to focus my autoethnographic and performative writing skills and I intend to use this space as a site for experimentation and exploration. As with any such method, this is a dangerous and exploratory method, which places me at the helm of instability–a positionality that begs liberation and attention. Quite contrary to the charges of narcissism (of which I do not deny in my life) and navel-gazing (of which I vehemently oppose), I find and position the potential for autoethnography and performative writing as painful and healing. As inherently queer methods for global and local inquiry. I invite, actively, community participation in my dialogue, even as this blog links to other sites–I do read and respond to all such comments. One final note as I continue forward–not all writing here will be of this ilk. Indeed, I will also seek to simply offer, myself. My me. Updates and all. In fact, and in brief, I offer two brief updates that are noteworthy as they connect to prior posts:

I remain smoke-free.
I approach 100 pounds released.
I am still vegan. Loose at times–but who isn’t… loose? ZING!

I will begin here.

I went to NCA, without much in the way of presenting material. Rather, I attended to learn and to grow. Also, to network. In my current quest for PhD schools I found myself at the crux of two amazing opportunities with faculty awaiting my arrival. Enthusiastic reception was met throughout–faculty, graduate students, and alumni alike. The decision comes down to two schools: Southern Illinois University, Carbondale AND University of South Florida.

To put it explicitly, SIUC has my current vote. But this vote shifts constantly. To live in Illinois. A turn never fully realized nor imagined up till… now. And it becomes increasingly more real day by day.

This morning, I ran. I thought. As I approached mile 4 or 5, I found my mind adrift. Back and forth I focused on the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the optimism and pessimism of each institution. While I will be well off at either program, I lean to SIUC as the place where I will experience the most productive change and personal development.

Some thoughts about SIUC that appear to outweigh USF at this moment: queer performance; queer and critical pedagogy; critical ethnography; whiteness studies; class focus; a performance space; a forest for a backyard. cheap living.

And what a difference from Long Beach–something I have wanted for some time. A drastic change away from here.

I need to continue debating while I complete my applications and statements.

The other issue is that of funding. This matter will be address in the coming days.

For now, I remain focused on methods and fit. And SIUC has my vote.

In other news, I returned home from NCA and had a response from WSCA about two of my proposals. My competitive paper was selected for presentation along with my paper panel on reflexive ethnography. This is grand news as I submit another piece to Text and Performance Quarterly.

I am going to lay down now.

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Bittersweet (or how i feel the fucking world)

You know that craaazy person?
The one that was dropped on their head as a baby?

Well, I was dropped on my head as a baby. Twice.
Technically the glass coffee table broke my fall.

I can actually remember that night.

Or maybe I recall the bright hospital lights
Or that I was thrown through the coffee table
With force
By this ominous figure I’ve come to call
“DAD”

Or maybe what I recall is the nifty Transformers coloring book
That made it all better

Whatever I remember it has transformed
Like so many distant memories,
Hanging on for validation
Fighting between what happened, what has been fabricated
Can memories be true falsities when riddled with so much shit?!

In the fact of the “baby through coffee table” incident
I was exactly 4 years, 4 months, 6 days, and 47 minutes old.
Things changed for me after this closeted familial skeleton.

In second grade i attempted suicide for the first time.
Clearly, i did not succeed.
But that was after my “Miss. LeMaster, your child is drawing very disturbing pictures” phase, and my involuntary admission to a mental hospital for “further observation.”
Momma knows best I’m told.

She does.

It was decided that i was “Manic Despressive.”
An archaic term nowadays.
And it was decided by professionals in suits and bullshit loafers
You can laugh that awkward laugh if you must.
Momma did everything that she had to
Because she did know best.

I feel like someone is always watching me,
Like someone is going to kill me.
I don’t like it when people touch me.
I spend lots of money.
I am an addict. Recovering. Relapsing. Back and forth. Up and down.
I am invincible
I relieve my internal angst with physical pain upon myself—to some that is a fetish, to me—euphoric fascination.
How much pressure can the skin take until it breaks.
Really, you can laugh that awkward laugh you feel creeping up.
It really is pretty fucked up what I’ve become.

When i was 18, my baby brother was murdered by a child killer
A killer combination of leukemia and the famed American health care system
Back to psycho-therapy for me

Am i psycho or just a manifestation of what others hide?

“Good news,” said therapist #342, “you are not manic depressive”
Slumped low in seat.
Tapping foot at rapid pace.
Busy with insistent thought,
Clouding of conscious ability to function,
As a normal human.
That makes me, INhuman.

I look up, rage pre-present.

Flushed.

“Then what the fuck am i?”

“Well bi-polar of course”

Me… “Of course.”

“The same thing as manic depressive, but more cutting edge. Here, some help.”

Help in tiny morsels.
Colorful tangents of light, on tray. Red. Green. Blue. Chalk. Mixed. Mangles. Candy-Coated.
In little orange bottles.
Scribbled on pads
Prescription verdicts leading to stabilized false moods.
Predestined ways of being. Or lack thereof.
Samples, i’m told.
Lithium. Prozac. Xanax. Zyban. Wellburtin. Lithium pushed.
Again.
A-Z in all.

I don’t tell many people this but,
I have severe social anxiety.
I drink sometimes to help.
And i smoke,
A LOT!

I don’t drink much now.
I have a problem you see.
With drinking.
With drugs.
Not with medications. You see.
I am consciously un-medicated

A conscious decision.
I made years ago.
With my momma
In protest.
Momma knows best and stood steady ground by me when I proclaimed:
I am un-medicated. I do not want to change who i am.
I am this way for a reason.
Head trauma perhaps, genetically wired maybe.
I am this whatever the reason.
And i am a functioning Type 1 Bipolar persona.

Don’t be too afraid of me.
My mania is bliss.
My depression is under control.
Most
Of my rapid, rappity thoughts are kept inside.
Unless I have a question to ask.

And I ask a lot of questions. I talk a lot. But slower.

N.o.w… I breath.
For my sake.

I write.
I am a self-help success.
Who knows my limits.
Who knows all too well the possibilities of bipolar-ism.
Who views mental illness as potential leaps forward in develop-mentality.

I am un-medicated and no longer ashamed of who i am.
I am bipolar and i have ups and downs like so many others.
I write because it helps.
I see beauty, through dark lens.
I am mentally strong.
And i am a roller coaster.
Sturdy.
Scary. And strong.

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2001 Maniacs: A Film Review

I was excited to find this DVD for sale on the Blockbuster used DVD rack at the 4 for $20 rate. Typically the allure of Blockbuster’s (fill in the amount) for $20 deals always “get me.” Indeed, and that usually means I only find 1 or 2 films that actually interest me while I am stuck searching endlessly for 2 more films to meet the Blockbuster quota. Yesterday, however, proved something different. Among these films were two that I want to briefly impress upon you: 2001 Maniacs and Dance of the Dead (which I hope to write about tomorrow).

I stumbled upon the trailer for 2001 Maniacs sometime ago and have meant to see this one for some time now. And I was not disappointed. Anonymous summarizes the film quite succinctly on IMDB.com: Three college slackers, Anderson Lee, Cory Jones and Nelson Elliot, plan a good time away from their college by heading out to Daytona Beach for Spring Break. But along they way, they get detoured into the small, off-the-map, town of Pleasant Valley, South Carolina, where they, along with three drifters, Joey, Kat and Ricky, and biker Malcolm and his girlfriend Leah, are welcomed as guests of honor by the cheerful but sinister-looking Mayor Buckman for the annual Pleasant Valley Guts and Glory Festival. Unknown to the eight unsuspecting Northerners, Mayor Buckman and the residents have more in store where they plan to use the festival as a blood ritual by separating the guests and killing them off one-by-one in ultra-gory fashion.” Did I mention Mayer Buckman is played by Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger fame)–enough reason to watch this cheese fest by itself.

I found this film highly entertaining with a certain flow of dialogue that, while simple, kept the film moving. Never a dull moment, this film began killing off characters almost immediately upon their arrival in this odd town. The ways in which the characters were killed were relatively unique and you get to see male pubic hair (GASP!). Some noteworthy scenes: the token gay guy is skewered through the anal cavity (the symbolism cannot be overlooked and it made me giggle); “She’s playing hard to get;” and “We got ourselves a Negro and a Chinaman” “That’s China woman!”

This film is riddled with social commentary and is carried out in obvious al beit, not so obvious, ways. The catalysts for the social commentary are (of course) the token characters–the black man (not the first to die for once, in and of itself a commentary), the Chinese woman (more mixed race, less Chinese looking), the gay guy (typical white gay male–except for the anal sex, you’d think he was hetero-flexible at the very least), and the Southern folk (while they are the murderin’ type, they offer a critique on Southern construction and a rebuttal to stereotypes that typecast Southerners as slow or stupid folk). The remaining characters are stock horror film types–pretty girls with blazin boobies and jock-type straight guys who are killed because of their preoccupation with getting their rocks off rather than staying alive. All in all, 2001 Maniacs was an enjoyable horror flick. Absolutely an enjoyable sit back and enjoy type film. The jump scenes are minute and it much less horror as it is a B horror full of great one-liners and decent gore. I am partial to grannies right hand boy–he makes me giggle.

I do recommend this film but don’t expect a mainstream version of horror here. This is a typical B horror film–culticism written all over it though. Love it! See the trailer for the film: here!

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Steps to Quitting or How I Came to Understand What I Needed

The beginnings of quitting. A list in need of collective growth.

Benny LeMaster

I can hardly believe that I am standing tall on day 21 (yup, 3 freakin weeks smoke-free!) and holding stronger than ever. There have been a number of reasons that have ensured my success to this point. I am so happy to see so many of you dropping your own cigarettes and moving your lives forward as well. I know that it is a tough decision/road to take and many of you have asked me for help in your own quits. I am more than happy to assist you–but we must understand that this cannot be a one-person road–your quit it your own and mine is mine. We can only be responsible for our own quit. However, in line with my own queer feminist pedagogy I feel compelled to share my experience(s) and to help whenever and however I can based on my own trials and tribulations—to use an effective cliche.

Below is a list of some initial things that I realized I needed in order to stay focused and to quit. Things that you might find useful. Items that might be considered a checklist for getting ready to quit. This list is intended to grow and shrink as my quit develops. Should any of YOU (in your own journeys) come across a point that I miss, please let me know. Let’s grow this list together and offer it to a world of future quitters. (quitting is sooo the new in thing). In doing so, I aim at a collective quit with an organic group encouraged by all of us—each of us. This includes those who have dropped their other vices behind. What helped you, how did you do it?

Part I: So you wanna quit smoking.

1. BE READY TO QUIT SMOKING. I find it rare that anyone is ever really ready to quit his or her vice(s).

However, there is a fine line between what you are communicating to yourself as a desire for help from your vice and your vice controlling your communicative ability to articulate this help. It is quite literally an ongoing battle between your mind and your vice to gain control of your consciousness. On one end you have a level mind that does not want nor need a vice. On the other end of the spectrum resides the toxins of your vice blocking your mind’s desire to think for itself leading your consciousness to rely on a foreign drug for its thinking ability.

This can manifest in a number of ways where you ‘think’ that you are not ready to quit smoking, perhaps you are afraid of failing at quitting, or that you’re not in a mental place where you can quit smoking. Whatever the case, you must be in a place where you are finally able to see through all of these mental fogs and notice that they ARE symptoms of addiction—nothing more, nothing less. Addiction is peculiar in that operates in a way that seems normal thrusting a sense of anxiety over ones psyche if you flirt with the idea of quitting. Once you are able to see that you have been duped by your vice and been falsely led to believe that you “need” your vice then you are ready to quit. I know that this is no easy feat. Here are some signs that you are in that place:

  • If you ever hated that your favorite clothing article smelled of stale smoke
  • If you ever found yourself out of breath walking up a couple of steps
  • If you ever found yourself avoiding face-to-face interactions because of your breath
  • If you ever said to yourself in secret, ‘I am done with smoking’
  • If you ever thought, if just for a split second, what life would be like without cigarettes
  • If you ever walked into a room full of people and were embarrassed to be the only one that smelled like cigarettes
  • If you were ever embarrassed to smoke around children
  • If you find yourself irritated at yourself for purchasing cigarettes when you cannot really afford them
  • If just for a moment you realized that those warnings were real
  • If you can right this second say out loud, “I don’t want to be a smoker” and mean it, even if for just a second

If you are able to say yes to any of these (or any other like reasons) then you are well on your way to be able to quit smoking.

2. ADMIT YOUR WEAKNESS. This might be one of the toughest obstacles that I encountered and it shows up in a number of ways—here are two that I have been able to pinpoint as of this writing.

First, you must admit that you are weak to the power of addiction. You must admit and understand that your addiction is controlling you and that you have no control over your addiction at this moment. It is not an inevitable truth and it can be combated. But admitting your weakness is much like admitting that you are an addict. This weakness is what keeps most of us vice-ridden people stuck in an ongoing cycle of false beliefs in ourselves as choice driven individuals able to make quit whenever we want.

Second, you must admit that you cannot do this alone. This weakness is unique for those of us who decide to quit. As I mentioned, the responsibility of quitting belongs only to YOU. Your quit is not mine, it is yours. When you decide to quit, you must do whatever is necessary to quit your vice. More often than not this means finding, developing and maintaining an active community of support. This community should invigorate as many facets of your life as possible and this community is comprised of new and old people in your life. The old people in your life (family, friends, etc.) should remain open and supportive in your endeavors. This is a time when you do not need negative energies sent your way—you need support and love for each and every day that you have successfully refrained from going back to your vice (withdrawals are a bitch!). The new people in your life should be those who remain positive but also those who have been in your shoes and have knowledge from experience to share with you and that can guide you in your own quit. New or old, your community must become an active and constant part of your life. If you are reading this now, then you have become a part of my quitting community. You are my help and you are what help buttress my weakness and make me a stronger person.

When you are able to admit your various weaknesses, then you are able to move forward in so many other ways. Admitting weakness is NOT the same as admitting defeat. Admitting weakness helps you to understand that you need help in your journey. There is no defeat in being able to look to your friends and family and to ask for help, for support, for unconditional love in your time of need.

Connected to this point of weakness is the acknowledgement that you are (in reality) not too cool to need help. I know it is hard to admit, but you must admit that you need help, that you need the support of others. Once you are able to acknowledge this, then you will have a much easier time getting through the first week of hell that quitting brings to you.

3. BE OPEN TO NEW ROUTES. Quitting smoking will change your life in dramatic ways. No need to lie—it depresses me to think how dependent I was on smoking cigarettes, and in turn, how many facets of life were tailored to ensure that my addiction was able to manifest when it wanted to (yes, think of your addiction as a demon using your body to manifest itself—you have become a catalyst for its insemination). Getting to the point where you are able to admit that you want to quit and that you need help in doing so are important but being able to pinpoint your trigger times are just as important.

When you decide to quit it will become a wild struggle finding ways to spend your time without a cigarette in hand. You must be open to changing your life an dramatic ways. If you desire a cigarette first thing in the morning, then you need to find new things to do in the morning—walking a dog (yours or a neighbors), washing dishes, singing along to your favorite musical, reading the paper, reading a book, volunteering at an early morning homeless shelter. If your desire to smoke after eating is strong, then try taking a walk after your meal(s), change your diet to reflect your bodily needs that will trigger your desire to smoke (e.g. if coffee = smoke, then you gotta put down the coffee for a little while or at least cut back), if your friends are a trigger for your addiction then you need to (at least temporarily) find new friends to hang out with.

On the matter of friends. This may sound like a harsh point but think of it this way. Your quit is YOUR quit, not theres. This is not a matter of you hating them or anything along those lines—this is a matter of you needing to do what you need to do in order to ensure a successful quit. If your friends are smokers, then so be it. They will need to get to the same place that you are (hopefully in this lifetime for their own health) before they understand this themselves. In the meantime, you must understand that your friends and habits with them have become a part of your collective weakness as an addict. It is not meant to offend you or your friends, it is a real part of quitting. Not to mention names, but in my own experience I have a handful of friends who remain smokers—I simply cannot hang out with them as often any longer. It isn’t because I resent them it is because I AM NOT IN A PLACE WHERE I CAN TRUST MYSELF TO BE AROUND THEM AND CIGARETTES AT THE SAME TIME. While I can hang with them for a little bit of time, any extended period of time (or when I become restless or when the smoke bothers me) will lead to my immediate self dismissal. I have been blessed to have friends who remain loyal and supportive. When I have to excuse myself on the whim because I feel that I have fallen to a weak place or to where the smoke is irritating my lungs and throat, they don’t question me or my abrupt dismissal—they just get it (or at least they say so, but I believe them because they are a part of my quitting community).

The main point in this section is that you must be open and be prepared to make any changes that are necessary to ensure YOUR successful quit.

4. FORGET ABOUT PAST ATTEMPTS. This is now. Rarely do people quit on the first try, or the second or even the third. On average it takes 7 attempts before a person quits and stays quit. Any quit attempts that you have endured in the past are part of your current attempt—each try gets you closer to your goal and full mental ability to think without the vice. I think of each quit attempt as clearing the fog a bit more so that you are able to think and see and be a little better. That said, it is important to know and acknowledge that no matter how many times you try to quit smoking you are susceptible to going off path—that’s okay. Quitting is difficult and it takes constant vigilance over the self. You must always watch yourself and strive to remain conscious over your choices and actions lest you end up with a pack of smokes in your pocket magically.

Again, this is now. Don’t be preoccupied with thinking about how your friends/family will react when you don’t stay quit, think of how happy your friends will be if you do stay quit and how supportive they can be even if you do fall of the quit train. Getting your friends and family (community) involved in your quit is important for this matter because they must understand that their actions and words deeply affect your ability to stay quit. Most people don’t understand that when they say, “I thought you quit” when you fall off the quit train, how damaging that can be. You must look past these words and know that these are people that don’t understand addiction and that these are your friends and family (community) who are in as much need of addiction education as you are. Invite them in as your ally.

5. BUILD A COMMUNITY. Because I have touched on this a lot in prior posts and on and off above, this one is no. 5 on the list but probably the single most important point to make. You must build a community for yourself. There are many communities out there that offer help and advice, but you must be the one willing to extend your hand and ask for that help. This is your quit. In your quit, you will need a community of support and help. My community consists of friends, family and a beautiful online community of gay quitters through quitnet.com. It is important to find a group and community that communicates the way that you do and a group/community that does not preach hate or espouse negative energy. Your community is in place as a foundation to fall back on. Your community are people that will be there when you are frustrated with your quit, when you could kill for a smoke, when you just need to cry, when you need to yell. They are there for you.

Remember how you would go through any hoop in order to get a smoke, including picking up a lit cigarette from a dirty gutter, asking strangers for one, paying with change in order to get that pack? Now switch that around to the mentality of a quitter—that same energy must by used in this new way. You must be willing to do whatever it takes to quit. The list above, I hope, can be a starting point for you and your friends to gaining a successful quit. Pass it on. If your experience warrants additions, let me know.

LET’S GROW THIS LIST! LET’S HELP OTHERS GET TO WHERE WE ARE! LET’S MAKE A HEALTHY COMMUNITY!

I end with this quote from a really good friend of mine: “No one ever congratulated me for finishing a pack of cigarettes, but you congratulate me on every day that I successfully complete as a smoke-free person. That’s cool!”

 

Up next: Part II: So you’ve decided to quit smoking, what now?

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Day 19, smoke free update. And more.

It has been sometime since I last offered an update as to my smoke-free attempt. Well first and foremost, here I stand (trust me, I’m standing and typing right now) smoke free on my 19th day! As such, get the thought outta your head that I stopped updating you because I slipped. Quite the contrary, I haven’t updated because I have been busy quitting.

Indeed, quitting smoking (or any addiction for that matter) is a trying task and a full time job. As I mentioned in my last post the idea of community is a very important part of this process for me (and I suspect anyone else). I recall past attempts to quit smoking where I was offered community resources but I declined feeling that it was silly to meet with and talk about my addiction–looking back the reason for my dismissal and decline to these invites was my continued fixation on coolness. I literally thought that I was too cool to meet with “losers” that couldn’t just quit their habit. What has changed? I am no longer preoccupied with trying to be cool and if that means that I have become one of those losers who discuss the frustration(s) of quitting smoking, then so be it–call me a loser. HOwever, I’ve come to see this kind of loser as a necessary part of my newly discovered life.

I am 28 years old and addicted to nicotine. I’ve smoked cigarettes for 15 years and have finally began to break that habit. That is no easy task–for anybody. That said, quitting must become a mindset/mindshift that takes place. It is a full realization that what you were doing before was wrong, that every single thought that justified your habit was not even you, but the chemicals inside of you.

I can finally see that. I can see that every single one of those thoughts that guided my existence for so long had nothing to do with me–they were those little cigarettes. Quitting smoking (and this is the single most important part that I’ve come to learn about quitting) MUST become your primary goal. One quits No Matter What It Takes! I cannot stress how important this has become in my own life. Quitting smoking is a full time job because one must consistently remind oneself that you are no longer a smoker without ever denying that you are a smoker. You see like any other addiction–once an addict, always an addict. And this is why I can no longer take a single puff ever again. There is a mantra that is shared among ex-smokers throughout the online community that I now call my second home. It is “NOPE!” This stands for: Not One Puff Ever! 

When my mind drifts and I feel weak and the thought of “well if you make it to 1 year then you can become a social smokers” or “just bum one and don’t tell anyone” I have to actively fight to take control of the my own helm and veer away from those thoughts to a place where I can surely respond, NOPE!

I do not want to smoke ever again. Every single day I take a pledge along with a number of others in my little quit-club–this pledge keeps me focused one day at a time. It helps me to remember that I am a part of something larger and that I am not the only one out there dealing with the shit of quitting smoking.

Quitting is the single best decision I have ever made for my life! And I mean that.

Now to some more specific updates and how I am doing it.

1. To combat my morning cravings (which have gotten much easier) I wake at 630am and head off to the gym.  I work out really hard for 1-1.5 hours on various cardio equipment then head home to work on my abs. I then walk my dog for 30-45 minutes and then eat my breakfast. By then, I no longer want a cigarette. Also, I am breathing hard at this point and know why I am glad to no longer be a smoker. I like to breathe. I like to breathe hard. I like to be outside to breathe and to not wheeze, not cough. Not hate my own smell. not hate my own breath!

2. Wellbutrin. Quit smoking drugs tend to open a large dialogue. I thought that Wellbutrin was working for me, but it was not by any means in retrospect. I saw my doctor after taking Wellbutrin for 1 month (by then I was 2 weeks into my quit) and told her that I was doing alright on the drug except that I was no longer sleeping and was very dizzy all of the time–experiencing vertigo and the like. She responded to keep up with the drug and that the average user stops smoking at week 7, not 2. I asked then what the drug was doing to help my curb my smoking, she said, “nothing.” I was quitting cold turkey already two weeks in.

So, I took myself off of the drug. Don’t worry–I didn’t just stop taking it–I ramped myself off of it. So, I’ve been quit now for 19 days, wellburtin free for about 1/2 week(s). I feel great.

3. Water. I cannot stress enough the importance of drinking water while you are quitting smoking! I drink about 1 gallon of water a day–usually more. Drinking water plays a number of roles in the quitting process. (1) It flushes out the toxins that smoking creates in your body; (2) it curbs withdrawls and cravings; (3) it keeps your hands busy if just for a moment.

Because of the amount of water I drink mixed with my vegan diet, the release of toxins was a relatively simple process for me and my body. Most of the withdrawal issues that are common with quitting (including those I’ve undergone in prior attempts) simply didn’t occur this time around.

4. Withdrawal side effects. The only withdrawal side effect that has really taken a toll on me has been my recent sore throat–although this could be attributed to any number of other items including touching of tons of cash over the past weekend at LB Pride fesitval where I volunteer every year. So, I am not quick to pin this on quitting, but quitting does not make it easier. My voice is rather raspy (more than usual) and doesn’t seem to see any clearing in the future–sweet! A life time sec phone operator voice–that ain’t that bad. 🙂 And finally, sleeping. From time to time I wake up abruptly in the middle of the night sweating, thinking of cigarettes. Those are lessening.

Overall, I feel fantastic. I know that I have made the right decision and I am happy to see people closest to me making the same decision in their own lives. I am happy to be their for them as a real-life community of support is just as important as my online community.

I only hope that more smokers begin to take the leap away from the tobacco industries. For my queer siblings–tobacco industries target young LGBT people and people of color. It is time to end this cycle of control.

Do as I do, keep an active tally (quitnet.com will do this for you) of the money you save and put that money aside. I am purchasing new tattoos with that money and a brand new bicycle so that I can finally partake in one of my personal dreams of training for and finishing the AIDS lifecycle.

Peace to you all. And if you are reading this and want help quitting smoking–I am here for you–for an ear, a hug, whatever.

Peace, love and queer solidarity,

 

benny

d19 smoke-free, and proud.

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Day 3, Smoke Free. Updates.

Alrighty. Well here I am and to be perfectly honest, I have never felt so freaking fantastic in all my life. I would like to share with you three aspects/developments in my journey to quit smoking: (1) Wellbutrin and me to this day; (2) Actually quitting; (3) The need for community when quitting.

(1) Wellbutrin. Today marks 2 weeks, 3 days using Wellbutrin. The first two weeks were rather rough and tough but I trucked on through it. Some of the biggest problems I encountered were: restlessness, 3 days of insomnia, one bout of marked depression leading to suicidal thoughts (not actions, and don’t worry, this has been dealt with), increased cyclical response in my bipolar disorder, flu shivers and finally, an overall lax and easygoing demeanor. While Wellbutrin does not turn off the need and desire to quit, many people opt to also use the patch in conjunction with the med. I do not. What Wellbutrin does is help minimize the cravings–which it has done very well. The withdrawals however, remain: My hoarse voice, my coughing, my headaches, my tummy aches, my overall ill feeling. Interesting. So, what I am dealing with now are the waves of withdrawals that occur about every 3 hours throughout the day.

The withdrawal is like a wave of emotion that careens into my daily routine, stopping me dead in my tracks as I look it in the face and fight to remain sober. It is indeed a battle. But interestingly, the easiest and best means for me staying sober is keeping cigarettes as far away from me as possible, that and community–which I will get to in a moment.

(2) Quitting. Today is also day 3 without cigarettes. The first two days were, how can I put this succinctly… SHIT! Absolutely. HAHA. I was irritable, pissed, and the above mentioned withdrawal symptoms. As one person put it–quitting is hard, smoking will kill you–choose one. I am done and tired of justifying my habit and allowing my essence to be guided by a drug–a company that thrives on my inability to think for myself. In all, Wellbutrin is a working for me and I know this because I have quit cold turkey before and this is certainly an easier feeling than those times. As for filling my prescription for month 2 and 3 remains to be known. I may opt out at month 3 and take the reigns by myself.

I nearly forgot. I have become a big, huge bag of emotions. And for that I apologize to my friends who have dealt with my random dramatic spurts and unsuspecting tears that simply start for no apparent reason.

Another key to quitting has been establishing BRAND NEW routines. When I wake up (which has been bumped up to 6am now) I immediately head to the gym t work out hard core. I work out hard and enjoy it. While I am working out I think about not smoking, about the reasons why I am quitting and genuinely reflect on how I am feeling about quitting. When I am done I come home and then walk my dog for an additional 30 minutes–jogging most of that route time. This has really helped to jump start my mornings. Other recent changes in my life that are noteworthy as intersecting my decision to quit smoking: 1.5 months vegan and remaining so, coffee cut to one cup a week, water increased 10 fold, no oils for cooking or consuming, no refined foods. This is me time I suppose.

(3)  Community. Much of my work has dealt with the need for community and community building. Every other time that I tried to quit in the past I was without a community–a full support network of others who has gone through what I am going through. It was always me by myself, occasionally with a friend or two who went along for the ride as well. However, we would always become each others justification for slipping on one smoke–after all, one smoke couldn’t hurt anything… WRONG. One cigarette always turns into one pack 24 hours later. That said, I’ve had to separate myself from my smoking friends until I feel that I am in a safe space where I can trust myself around cigarettes. In making this decision, I was in need of support (don’t get me wrong, my friends–smoker or non–are the greatest support indeed) that could catch me when I was falling and life me up when I was in need of a pick me up–I found it!

An ex-smoker friend of mine recommended I check out quitnet.com. I did and I fell in love at first sight. This is a wide-ranging community of smokers and non-smokers and many others including health professionals who are there to simply help one another quit smoking. Within this community are clubs and forums to which I immediately found clubs that I felt comfortable in including: Gay Quitters, Bipolar Quitters, College Student Quitters, and a few others. What I find astounding is the number and types of groups–reaching out to every walk of life. A community exists for everybody. The club that I am closest to is the Gay Quitters Club (GQ). In GQ there is a daily pledge to not smoke where a person lends a hand in support to which you lend your to another. This has become one of the greatest connections I’ve ever had when trying to quit and being as emotional as I have become, I tear up just thinking about the unconditional love and support these communities offer me in my journey to quit and to stay quit.

Today is Day 3 for me and the GQ formally announced my 3 day anniversary to which hordes of members reached out to congratulate me in my achievement. After only 3 days! And now, I want to move forward–I want my 1 week, my 1 month, my 1 year, MY LIFE TIME!

I cannot say for certain that this is the final time quitting for me, but I can say that I am giving my absolute 100% to quitting this time! I want nothing more at this point in my life than to be a recovering smoker. For those of you who smoke, you will quit only when you are ready. For those of you who do not smoke, understand that premise–a smoker cannot/will not quit smoking until he/she/zie is ready to quit. That is the truth–and now is my time. I am ready to quit smoking.
Peace to you all, my siblings

benny

Day 3 (GQD3)

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