Thursday, July 21, 2005

Diary of a Madman

The early line on this post, which will span four full days, is that it will not be pretty.

Monday July 18

I have smoked my last cigarette. The details:

When: 8:28 a.m.
Where: Downtown Los Angeles, outside City Hall
Who: Queensryche's "Jet City Woman" on the iPod
What: Marlboro Medium
Why: Apparently, smoking cigarettes can rapidly accelerate the whole dying thing

Now, clearly this experiment has a high degree of potential failure attached to it, but if I'm gonna try it, I gotta think positively, right? So, I've set the above down for posterity.

I'm going cold turkey. Let the freaky dreams commence. The experts say it takes three full days for the nicotine to be flushed from your body, though withdrawl symptoms will continue for up to a couple weeks. Physical symptoms, that is. Mental ones will go on for, oh, 40 years.

I'm also not playing poker for the next week, as it's one of those activities that promotes my tobacco use. And, if you've been paying any sort of attention, you'll see that it's probably a good time for me to take a break from the tables. I guess I'll not be doing any drinking for similar reasons.

Paging Lloyd Bridges.

So, this post will keep my pissy attitude out of the rest of the blog. Should be quite a journey. Onward...

10:36 a.m.: I am past the first hurdle. I love the post-breakfast smoke, which usually happens about an hour ago. Especially after a filling breakfast like today's (egg, sausage and cheese burrito). Feeling a little fuzzy, but okay.

Noon: The urges are a little like contractions, in that they arrive ferociously, but if you can withstand the wave, they'll leave you alone for a little while. Yes, ladies, the pain of contractions is infinitely more brutal and no man could ever bear the rigors of childbirth, so hold the calls and letters.

So I need to have something. I need to have a task, or a ritual, to take my mind off the fact it's time to smoke. Because even if I'm not physically craving, there are actions I mentally associate with cigs and there are specific times when a five-minute break on the Veranda fit into my day. So what do I do at those appointed times? Ignore them? Take a little walk around the block with the iPod? Castigate the Warhead?

1:05 p.m.: Fantastic. Just what I need.

My biggest obstacle is avoiding stress. Not. Being. Avoided. Unforeseen circumstances rearing head. Must chill.

Seriously, right now, I just wanna scream, loud and long. Might get rid of the tighness in my chest, calm the jackhammering of my leg underneath the desk.

I'll never make it.

1:18 p.m.: Just saw that the little blurb I wrote for BG hit the OddJack page.

BG gets credit for an early save with the diversion.

2:33 p.m.: There's this weird, split-second netherworld between the instant I realize I'm craving a cigarette and the cold hard realization that I can't have one. For that brief moment, it's as if nothing has changed. "Hey, let's go have a smoke...AHHHHHHHHHHH!" And the universe collapses.

Number of compensation chocolate items eaten thus far: 2
Number of compensation Jelly Bellys eaten thus far: Several dozen

The last time the dear and patient wife asked me when I was gonna stop smoking, I said after my HS reunion in October. That kicked off the usual round of "It's always something....First it was this..." But I actually had a rationale for that. Because I'm gonna gain like 20 pounds in the next 3 months and if the past is any indicator, two-thirds of it is going to settle in my face. So, instead of showing up at my reunion all lean and mean, resplendant in my 33-waist slacks, I'll look like I'm storing acorns and struggling to keep the same belt loop.

5:00 p.m.: Made it through the workday. Not a pleasant experience overall.

Tuesday, July 19

5:30 a.m.: This is hard. The good news is there is no thick glob of lung butter in the back of my throat. The bad news is I just woke up and a full day of temptation/withdrawl is staring me dead in the face.

8:55 a.m.: There's a munity going on, my body rebelling against this decision of mine.

I made it through last evening pretty handly, thanks to the diversion of Real Madrid. Not a bad showing by the Galaxy and enough Zidane magic to keep my mind off the smoking. The drive home was a bit of a struggle, but I'll take it.

Right now though, I am completely out of sorts. My head is heavy, almost like its contents are expanding, pushing out against the confines of my skull. My nerve endings are exposed and raw, my nervous system sending out periodic shocks throughout my limbs. I've somehow become more clumsy, too, probably because I'm pre-occupied with my situation and oblivious to various pieces of furniture.

Did you know if all of your blood vessels were laid end-to-end, they would extend for about 60,000 miles? That's far enough to encircle the earth more than twice.

I'm spending far too much time at the American Heart Association web site.

It was brought to my attention that posting this all at once gives me an out if I fail to negotiate the non-smoking waters this week, in that I'll theoretically never have to post my failure. That's fair, but I'm all of 24 hours in and I don't think that's enough time to say "Hey! I quit smoking!" I don't wanna be crying wolf too early here. If I make it to Friday morning, then we're on.

And I'll post this no matter what.

Noon: I broke down about 90 minutes ago. I had to. I was literally dying. So, I've had a Nicorette. I chew them things so hard that my jaw hurts.

I feel better though. Awfully hungry, however.

2:10 p.m.: This are not going especially well. Whereas I could use a couple smooth days at work, the waters are choppy and insistant. I've let slip a few grunts of frustration, the latest prompting a colleague to ask if I was okay. Before I could blurt out that I quit smoking, I remembered that they all think I still don't smoke from the last time I quit.

Far as I know anyway. So I just told her that my hemorhoids were really bothering me.

3:15 p.m.: Nicorette #2. "Cold Turkey" is officially a dead issue.

3:45 p.m.: Leaving work a bit early today. A mild child-care crisis. Yay! Very relaxing. You know, you HAVE to be at the day care center by a certain time or we'll just leave your child tied to a post out front.

Forces conspiring against me. And I'm really itching to play the $11 Crazy Re-Buy tonight since I'll be getting home a little earlier. Danger Bees.

7:40: I'm cruising along, but I am dumb and curious enough to take a shot at Party's new Re-Buy tourneys. Ugh. Why do I do these things to myself?

7:50 p.m.: I already wish I wasn't playing this.

8:30: I'm having a moment. I tried to warn the dear and patient wife, tried to erect a wall around me to protect me from them and vice versa. Didn't work.

Unnecessary snapping at wife count is One.

10:20: I'm out. I think the one thing that bothers me more than any other during my poker downswing is the fact I am being busted out of these tourneys by players who have NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT THEY ARE DOING!

If you are UTG, with blinds at 200/400 and you are dealt KQo, what do you do?

a) Fold
b) Call
c) Raise
d) Raise to 4400

Of course, you raise 11x the BB, you big dummy. You have KQ! You're totally out of position!

Naturally, I have JJ on the button, but only 5700 left in chips, so his call of my all-in is correct. And, this being the last 3 weeks, I do not win the coin flip. Doesn't the very idea of "coin flip" mean I will win half? At this point, I'll settle for one.

10:21 p.m.:Unnecessary destruction of plastic tubing count is One.

Wednesday, July 19

5:30 a.m.: I slept well. My first waking thought was not of the forbidden vice. My first waking breath was not choked with phlegm.

6:30 a.m.: Boy, coffee tastes good. Amazing that just a couple days without cigs energizes the taste buds.

8:30 a.m.: Alright, enough with the happy-happy joy-joy. It's only Wednesday! Fuck me. Here's a tip: If you ever want a week to go by quickly, don't give up cigarettes that week.

No Nicorette so far today. I'm sticking with the Jolly Ranchers. I'd really like to not be chewing those square fucking gums in three months, so I'll sacrifice some short-term tooth decay.

11:00 a.m.: According to those douchebags over at, I've not smoked 45 cigarettes, I've saved 8 hours of my life and $7.00 of potential poker bankroll. The Jolly Ranchers cost $7.07, so I'm still stuck.

And why are the douchbags over at douchebags? Because they've converted most of their features to pay-to-play. It's the Internet! I don't have to pay for anything on The Internet! It's like those wienies over at You can't see anybody's e-mail or who has visited your profile unless you are a member. Sure, I'm curious as to who those three people are who want more info from me, but damned if I'll pay for it. This is America! I want everything now. And I want it free.

11:50 a.m.: One of the interesting things to come out of this Hell Week for me is the two (and counting?) stories I've put up on the blog. They've been a nice diversion from the workday, from my constant thoughts of smoking.

I wrote them both very quickly, which is not the norm for me. The most unusual thing, however, is I didn't know where I was going with them until I got to the end. The first one, about the people on the train, did not really happen. The people are real, the stiuation was real, but the ending was made up. It just came to me about 3/4 of the way through. And I loved it. One of my biggest problems in writing a story is having the template already in place. It's like trying to stuff sausage back into its casing. That story was like free-form writing and it just took on its own final shape, one that I was pleased with.

The second story, The Freshman, is also based on true events. And yes, I was that Freshman. The single most humiliating event in my entire life. When it says in the opening paragraph that people talked about it for years after...that's true too. Every fall, they'd do it to another Freshman. Every year, I would hope and pray my performance would be eclipsed, but it would fail to be even remotely as funny as the act perpetrated on me. I PUT THE BLINDFOLD BACK ON WITHOUT PEEKING!!!!!!!

Goddamn it's funny. For the longest time, it was the exact opposite. The ending, by the way, is not accurate, though it conveys pretty well how I felt. To be honest, I can't remember at all what happened after realizing I'd been had. Only that I was Flat Out Fucked.

12:35 p.m.: I'm hungry a lot. Or, more precisely, I just want to eat. Constantly.

1:55 p.m.: Have spent the last 20 minutes Google-stalking Denise Parley to little effect. That part of the story does not fit. Yes, she was a cheerleader with a huge rack. Yes, I did have a massive schoolboy crush on her when I was in the 4th grade and she and I co-starred in a church play/musical (you know those actor-types, always tryin' to get wit' their co-stars). But she did not lure me into my demise. There really was no reason, near as I can recall, outside of my own special brand of idiocy.

3:36 p.m.: Nicorette in. Ohhhhhhhhhh, the soothing peppery goodness....

Don't judge me.

4:24 p.m.: It's 108 hours after the fact, but I still can't shake it: I got busted out of an SnG by a guy named AnulLube.

9:15 p.m.: I've officially gone insane. Spent the last 20 minutes running around the house with AJ, ostensibly playing tag. It was more like burning off nervous energy, both us careening about like a couple of lunatics. The dear and patient wife said I reminded her of Chris Kattan's Mr. Peepers character on Saturday Night Live. It's cool to burn off the jones with fun, instead of stressing out in silence.

I put AJ to bed with an interpretive reading of "Ten Little Dinosaurs." Sometimes, for my own amusement, as well as his, I do an impression while reading to him. I went with Jerry Seinfeld last night. "What's the deal with archeopteryx?"

11:00 p.m.: The worst night yet. Couldn't get to sleep for a long time. My body was in a perpetual state of anticipation, crying out for smoke. It's a weird feeling, almost like a buzz. No odd dreams yet, unlike last time.

Thursday, July 21

5:30 a.m.: Ugh. Still there. I'm about ready to jump out of my skin.

7:00 a.m.: Must be cleansing day today. I'm coughing like crazy, hocking up junk left and right, which is not a pleasant thing for those riding near me on the train.

8:30 a.m.: That's three days, bitches! That earns me a Bracelet on At this point, I am not the least bit thrilled.

11:10 a.m.: More strange physiological things happening. Everything I eat tastes exceptionally salty. I'm yawning a lot, an act that involuntarilly causes me to project droplets of saliva.

2:00 p.m.: First Nicorette of the day. First in nearly 24 hours for that matter. I am master of my domain. Even so, punching something would feel very good right now.

5:10 p.m.: I'm walking to catch my train, a time of day when I usually have a cigarette, so I'm trying desperately to focus my mind elsewhere. When I arrive at Union Station, I find myself stuck behind an egregiously obese gentleman as I walk down the tunnel. No room to pass on either side. Naturally, he walks at a snail's pace, with all the weight he's lugging. Typically, this would drive me up a fucking wall, because I walk fast, and while I don't discriminate against slow walkers, I discriminate against oblivious fuckers who don't step aside so those of us with a cantering gait can get by. But no, not today, today I use the experience as a tool. I hang back a little to observe him, the two huge fat rolls on the back of his neck straining his collar, the way he's forced to lean back as he walks to support his gigantic belly. I can't even imagine all the health issues his weight causes him and how he's destined for early death. So much here to take in, so much to relate later, but all I can really think about is how much abuse his shoes take. He must go through pairs like a motherfucker.

8:15 p.m.: I'm clearly not right in the head. I am currently laughing my ass off at "Along Came Polly," which is silly because it's the Same Character that Ben Stiller's been playing since his masterwork ("Mystery Men") and the Same Character that Jennifer Anniston's been playing since her masterwork (still vacant) and there should not be anything remotely entertaining about this. But there is. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is shooting hoops.


8:30 p.m.: I'm playing the $20 MTT on Stars. Can I bum a smoke?

I'm also 3.5 days smoke free. 84 hours.

8:50 p.m.: Twenty minutes time elapsed before online tournament poker sends me scrambling for the Nicorette. No bad beats, but a ton of ridiculous pre-flop overbets with AJs and 55.

9:09 p.m.: I've been dealt AJo, ATo, AQs, KJo and KJo. I open-raised with the first two and folded to all-ins behind me. I won a pot with the third, A9o calling me down. I limped with the fourth in EP and folded to three all-ins behind me: AA, QQ and TT. I open-raised with the fifth in the CO and folded to all-ins from the blinds: AA and QQ.

The lesson? Lots of people get good hands when I get marginal ones.

9:16 p.m.: God Bless the big blind. Flop trip queens with Kournikova and get a guy to give me 500 chips before folding on the River.

9:18 p.m.: My prediction: I'm going to need to win a coin flip to make a dent in this thingee, break my two week streak of not winning any. I've got three big stacks at my table and none of 'em are particularly good, though the guy just to my right has gotten aces twice and kings once, getting max payoffs each time.

9:26 p.m.: The streak lives. My AQ falls to short stack's 33. Back just above starting chip count.

9:32 p.m.: What was that I was saying about shitty big stacks? I see another free flop from the BB with Kournikova and flop top pair and OESD. I bet pot, stupid big stack raises, I push and he calls with second pair, OESD and 7 outs with his J9o. No more improvement and I double up on the last hand before the break. Maybe I CAN avoid coin flips.

9:35 p.m.: This is the time of the evening/tournament where I would normally enjoy a tobacco cigarette, perhaps washed down with some alcohol, preferably beer. It's definitely beer-drinkin' weather out here in the IE, 85 degrees with a cool nighttime breeze.

Instead, I think I'll just chew this gum.

9:38 p.m.: We're down to just one "big stack" on the table, the guy who keeps getting big pockets. The other two have steadily chipped up everyone else.

9:41 p.m.: Seriously, I would love for somebody to fucking explain to me what the fuck I am supposed to do? Really.

Dealt to JoeSpeaker [Ks Ah]
solidluck: raises 450 to 600
JoeSpeaker: raises 600 to 1200
solidluck: raises 2450 to 3650 and is all-in
JoeSpeaker: calls 1935 and is all-in
*** FLOP *** [2s Qh Tc]
*** TURN *** [2s Qh Tc] [5h]
*** RIVER *** [2s Qh Tc 5h] [Qd]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
solidluck: shows [Ac Qc] (three of a kind, Queens)
JoeSpeaker: shows [Ks Ah] (a pair of Queens)
solidluck collected 6495 from pot.

It's not like this is a rare occurance. IT'S THE REGULAR OCCURANCE.


And I don't even have a smoke to fall back on. And don't give me this bullshit about me winning 4 out of 5 of those hands. It is not fucking true. It is so ridiculously far from true that I can't begin to quantify it. I know for a fact that is 8 straight MTTs where I've been busted by a suckout, four of them when I was at least 4-1 to win.

Okay, so in the next 50 years, it will even out. I'll be broke long before then. Twenty bucks at a time. Being "happy with my decisions" is no longer useful. My bankroll is fucking hurting. I need results. For a while there, I really started to doubt my game. I felt like I was getting out-played at a level where I'd had plenty of success. I started to think that maybe I was just lucky, that I really needed to re-tool my game, re-adjust my attitude.

That's partially true. I did play some a month or so back where I wasn't my best. But now I can't find any big leaks. I can always improve, but I'm playing just as well as I had previously. My money's going in when I'm ahead. Almost without fail. And there is NO WAY I'm out-classed at this level. No chance in Hell. There's such an over-abundance of poor play that I can barely handle it.

I toyed with the idea of just playing SnGs, a better chance of cashing with just 9 or 18 players, build the bankroll back up. Of course, that forum hasn't offered any relief from the poor run of cards/results and I found myself losing money at even a faster pace.

I'm still a winning player. But I've cashed out more than half my winnings and the 'roll is well below where it was two months ago. Forty percent below, to be exact. And more than half of that has been in the last two and a half weeks. I can't believe it's actually gotten worse, because it was fucking bad before.

I was so looking forward to playing tonight. I'm over the gun-shyness. I played my best game. Made not a single error. And all it got me was fucking pissed off again.

10:00 p.m.: I was gonna post this at 8:30 in the mornin'. Four days tobacco-free. I ain't gonna let this little episode push me off the wagon, but I'm gonna put the rant out there now. So I don't have to look at it any longer.

All apologies for the vitriol. But I'm free of nicotine, so I have a long healthy life of suckouts to look forward to. It's all just a test. One long, soul-sucking test.


At 11:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post...seriously. Your pain is well documented. Give at a week, then at a week, give it a month.

Think of it like a winning streak. You gonna let those toxin-filled paper rolls be the master of you? Fuck no.

You're gonna win. Keep the streak alive.


At 2:32 AM, Blogger poker_ghost said...

nice job with making it past the initial physical withdrawals, I remember the hardest part of quiting was the next few weeks when your mind starts fucking with you.

My suggestion is that if you completely break down and have to have a cigarette in the next few weeks. Just buy one of those really nasty brown sticks they sell individually at any corner liquor store in downtown LA. Two or three puffs on one of those disgusting little pieces of shit will quell any future temptation.

At 3:33 AM, Blogger Jackmama said...

Good luck.

I quit smoking 4 years ago, and I used the Nicoderm patch. Even with the nicotine taken care of, I was snappish and ugly for at least the first week.

I had to wear the patch overnight, too, since my morning craving was the strongest. The fun part about wearing a nicotine patch at night is that it disrupts your sleep patterns like nobody's business, and causes some strange fucking dreams. I was on that patch for the full course they suggest, something like 10 or 12 weeks, and I never got a decent night's sleep.

Once I got past the first month or so, I really didn't want a cigarette any more. I can sit in a smoky bar and not crave one. They're irrelevant. And I smoked 1-2 packs a day for 12 years or so.

Good luck. It's worth all the pain and aggravation.

At 7:13 AM, Blogger stannum said...

I did the cold turkey thing after a dozen or so years of happily sucking down Camel Lights (diet cigarettes if you will).

Everytime you think about having a cigarette, read back over this post. Think about all the pain you have gone through already. Do you really want to go through that again the next time you quit?

One craving at a time. It's the little victories that matter.

For me the cravings have never gone away. The only thing that keeps me away is my desire to avoid what you have just documented so eloquently, those first days of pain.

Good luck man, I wish you the best!

At 7:18 AM, Blogger BigPirate said...

I'm such a bastard for getting so much enjoyment from your pain. ;)

If it will help, imagine how good the first beer will taste.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Shelly said...

I wish you good luck (on both the poker and the quitting smoking!) :)

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Roman said...

I'll give you about 8 weeks.

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Roman said...

Actually, make it 6.

You're a weak, weak man. IsoP

At 9:51 AM, Blogger BryGy said...

Gotta wish you good luck. While I don't smoke, I can empathize with what your dealing with as I struggle with being a overweight desk jockey with my own demons sweets, candies, and cookies. I think documenting your struggles and small victories is an excellenet way to help control the cravings and keep your will strong.

Best of luck to you.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Maigrey said...

I love this post, seriously.

And good job with the quitting smoking :) Keep it up, and keep posting about it.

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I have smoked my last cigarette."

Again? hfg

Are you going to join that website so you can hit on those chicks again as well?


At 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nevermind, I see you already did join.

Good luck man.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger obp1000 said...'re quitting....AGAIN?

yes, and that breakfast burrito probably cut a few hours of your life, so you're back to square one.


At 5:02 PM, Blogger Chilly said...

"The Jolly Ranchers cost $7.07, so I'm still stuck."
How many effing jolly ranchers do you get for $7?

Try "sour" starbursts.

Good luck.!

At 1:39 PM, Blogger Drizztdj said...

8 years a non-smoker. Keep at it man!!

At 12:34 PM, Blogger helixx said...

you rock. this post rocks. your blog rocks. keep up the good work, ya big lug.

and resend me your email address. i think my email forward ate the last one. i never got it :(

try this:


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