Saturday May 1 - Tattoo Day
You get your tattoo today. When I drop you off at the tattoo place, the place smelled of smoke. The tattoo artist, also named Chris, smokes too. He is young and in the prime of his life. I screamed at him, in my head, to stop doing such a self-destructive thing. Even if he heard my thoughts, they would not have dissuaded him. He is at the immortal stage of human growth and development ... too young and naive to think anything like a stroke could happen to him.
You like Chris, you said he seems to know a lot for his age. Mmmm, I wonder...
It’s a nice day, while you are getting decorated, the children and I do errands. The tattoo was supposed to be done in 2 hours … four and a half hours later, the masterpiece was done. It is big but it does look good. You are happy with it.
You had no tears today … that’s progress.
Sunday May 2 – Saint Andrew’s Feels Like Home
Tomorrow is the first day of ‘No Smoking’. You want to talk to the congregation at the church and apologize to them … your friends, for your deception. You feel strongly about this. I suggest that you talk to Jay and see what he thinks.
At the church after the service, Jay and you talk about your role at the church. There are so many jobs that you know how to do and what needs to be done. You and the church have become comfortable friends, getting to know each other and what you both need. “I know where everything is, I know the oil has to be changed in the organ motor, I know how to look after the boiler and where things are stored. I know a lot but I don’t know how I could do these things.” You sigh.
Jay has an idea. He wants to convert a storage room into a library for the congregation. He thinks you would be a good guardian of the books. “You can come in a few times a week, put the coffee pot on and talk to people who come in and look after the books.” I think it sounds great. This will be a way for you to contribute to your church and community and have social contact and feel needed.
You have to get used to the idea. The idea of not working again for money. “I thought I had 10 to 15 years of work left in me.” I suggest it is a promotion. You think differently, You think it’s a pity position.
You love Saint Andrew’s Church. When you were talking to Mildred on the phone today, you said this and you added “St Andrew’s feels like home.”
It’s a garden afternoon. I realize that when we are home, communication is really important. In the summer, I love to be outside whenever I can and play in the garden. You are not a gardener and you can’t imagine how the garden can hold my attention for so long. To facilitate communication, I dig out the walkie talkies that you gone a few years ago.
As I garden and pull weeds, we chat over the walkie talkies. I smile at the thought of the frequency being open to eavesdroppers. I wonder what they think as we converse. Chris and Terry come over and hang out with you on the Sunday deck. Soaking up the sun that you have been deprived of all these past months in the hospital. I bet it feels good to feel the sun. The source of energy for life.
You soaked up a lot of sun. At the end of the day you looked a little crisp on the exposed body parts. At least only the burn on the right side actually hurt!
Monday May 3 – A No Quit Day
You smoked first thing this morning. The slippery slope continues.
OT and PT come to see what you will need for your home based therapy. Details are discussed but the process seems to go very slowly. After waiting so long to get you home, I want things to move yesterday.
With the effort to stop smoking, we need to help you fill your time with other activities. I had hoped that some physio would be done today. But no. We will meet again in 2 weeks to train the homecare team, meanwhile they can not do these activities with you. I find this frustrating and counterproductive to you mental and physical wellbeing. Your days are very long since you have been home. It’s no wonder that you felt the need to ‘fill the unforgiving minute with’ … cigarettes.
The OT had discovered that there was a program for people with depression, at the mental health clinic. She is going to look into this to see if it is something that would be good for you now.
We see Dr. Feltmate. She gives you lots of sound advice. And a prescription for the nicotine patch. She says, quite wisely that you have to really want to quit smoking but you can’t wait until you are ready to quit. This may sound like a contradiction but it isn’t.
Nicotine has a strong hold over you. It’s voice is loud and clear in your head and it dominates your thoughts. I can see this from the outside but you can’t see it. The voice manipulates you into thinking that you need to smoke. It is brain washing you. You try to pick fights with me to fuel an excuse to smoke.
You visit Donald today. It’s been two weeks since you last saw him. Donald seems lost in his own world. He doesn’t lighten up like he used to. It saddens you to think that you are losing a friend.
After much discussion about the patch, you decide to get the prescription filled. I was so pleased that I even threw in a 4X4 coffee. You wanted more … an unicorn charm to symbolize the effort that you are putting forward to quit smoking. You want the charm now so that you will stop smoking, I want to wait and see if you can do it before we mark the occasion with a charm. You are angry that I wouldn’t cave to your demands.
We strike a deal. After the children are in bed, I took you outside to smoke your last cigarettes. At bedtime we place the nicotine patch on your right arm. As I put on the patch, I pray to myself that it will help you.
Tuesday May 4 – One Patch and Several Cigarettes.
It was a tough day today.
It is stroke club day. It starts at 10 am and goes to 2 pm. You drive into work with me and the Accessibus comes to pick you up from the animal hospital. While you were waiting for the bus, you went to the handicap fitted washroom. I gave you a buzzer to call me when you were done. The system would have worked well except that you thought that you could transfer to your chair yourself. You wanted to help out and make my life easier. The transfer started OK but ended badly because one of the wheelchair brakes were off. You fell and tightly wedged your body between the toilet and the wall. There you lay pinned between the two and unable to reach the buzzer.
My coworker, Sophie, heard your panicked calls and came to get me out of the appointment. You were very shaken up and felt sore and even more helpless then you did before. Your response to this stress was to want to smoke. You have the patch on.” I point out. You don’t care. “I have to smoke.” You say.
I try to explain that the voice of addiction is so powerful that it talked you into doing something you were not able to do and now the voice wants you to feed it with a cigarette. “This is not your choice this is the addiction’s choice.”
Thanks to Sherilyn and Cecelia, they help me calm your fears and help me convince you to go to the stroke club.
After you left, I tried to get my head back into my work. Thankfully, the clients I saw this morning were so nice and understanding. I got a lot of emotional support from them that fed my soul and built it up. One of my clients, who is retired, even offered to help out with you needs and she doesn’t even know you!
I think that this is one of the many advantages of living in a small town. People instinctively care about each other, they don’t even have to think about it. Caring is a natural instinct that just happens. I think that this quality of human nature is lost as the size of a community increases.
When you came back to work, I asked how your day was. “Are you going to be mad at me?” you ask. Oh no, my heart sinks. I know where you are going with this. You bought more cigarettes and smoked a couple of them with the patch on. I’m sad and disappointed. I don’t know what to say to help you through this torment.
I feel your failure. I know that the ‘real you’ is hiding in your mind. The real Chris wants to quit and take charge but the voice of addiction is strong and overpowers you voice. You are not ready to quit and I am powerless to combat the addiction for you. Only you can do this.
I’m on call tonight and I got called in at dinner time and again later in the evening. At dinnertime, I say, as I leave, “Quinny, you are in charge and it would be lovely if the dinner dishes can be cleaned up after everyone is finished.” When I get home the kitchen is abuzz with activity. Spearheaded by Tara, the dishes are cleared away, the dishwasher loaded and the food put away. “Wow, what teamwork!” I marvel at my family.
Tara worked on her homework and you and Quinn read together. To me, this picture looked almost as it did one year ago. It felt comfortable and familiar. This moment may have seemed ordinary on the surface but it felt very special to me.
At the children’s bedtime, I got called into work again. You want me to take you outside so you can smoke, but I convince you to get settled in your chair in the mancave while look after the sick kitty.
When I get back, you had found the Angels game on the TV and fallen asleep. I don’t have the heart to wake you, because I know if I do, you will want to go outside to smoke. I let you sleep until bedtime.
Wednesday May 5 – The Addictive Voice
The addictive voice is powerful and loud. It dominates your brain and out shouts the other voices in your mind. I regard the addictive voice as a mistress. The other woman. She wants to steal you away and destroy you and our family. I can’t let that happen.
Until recently I didn’t even know ‘she’ was there. Now, I have to get used to the voice whispering empty promises in your ear and manipulating you so you won’t listen to your own true voice.
“I am here, I am here.” You said about a month ago. That was before the smoking got hold of you again. I feel powerless to help you find your own true voice. Sadly, I think all I can do is be supportive. When I hear a peep come out, I try to help draw it out more. Weak peeps like: “I want to eat blueberries.” And stronger peeps like “I want to run again.” And “I don’t want to die.”
Tonight, you wrote a little write up for the church newsletter. In it, you describe the gratitude you feel towards the people of the church – your friends and your family. You ask for forgiveness for your dishonesty. You say that you aspire to be the person that they thought you were.
I am touched by your words and realize that in a small way this is part of your recovery.
Thursday May 6
Today you are grateful that I’m not giving you a hard time about going outside to smoke. It’s raining today, so I wheel you out to the garage to smoke. You swear to me that you will find the strength to quit.
Ann drops by with a chicken dinner for us. She sees you in the garage smoking. You know Ann from the church and care what she thinks of you. You apologize about the smoking and that you smell like smoke. You tell her of the offer that Rev Jay had given you. A position at the church.
Last Sunday, when Jay told you about his idea of establishing a library for the congregation, you were lukewarm to the idea. Since then you have warmed up to the idea. You tell Ann about it. You would have a job, a purpose and be able to get out and meet people. The pay is the satisfaction of making a difference.
Since Sunday, you have brought up the idea with different people as if bouncing the idea off of them to see how it would fit you. You are a little concerned about the actual job part. The met and talk with people part will be the easy part. I told you that even wanted change is difficult at times. The change that you have experienced recently certainly qualifies you for the change part but you wonder if you are qualified to run a library.
Tonight, when you tell Ann about the church library, you say “I will do it because I need to do something.”
Friday May 7
Quinn lost his extra tooth. Quinny was bless with an extra baby tooth and as it turns out, an extra adult tooth too. I think Tara is a little jealous that the tooth fairy will get to visit him an extra time. I advised her that it’s not that great because one of the extra teeth has to be taken out by a dentist and we have to pay the tooth fairy for it!
Quinn says his mouth feels different. “Change is strange” he summarizes. “As you grow, you have to get used to changing body parts.”
As you grow… I should have said as you age. Change is strange
You enlightenment of the day you share with the homecare worker. “If you put ‘cluster’ in front of any swear word makes it sound so much better.”
I spend the first part of my day at my psychologist. I asked about the tendency to fixate on things. Perseveration, she called it. I noted that you often get stuck on the subject of smoking. I wanted to learn more about how to deal with this behaviour.
She suggested that my role is to keep you safe. If I make a stink about smoking, then it just becomes more of a topic for you to fixate on. If I drop it and take a casual approach to it, then you may be able to move to something else and it will be easier for you to let go of the habit.
“Build trust” she said. “Let him go outside and smoke.” The thought behind this is if you get outside when you want, then you may not smoke so many cigarettes at a time. She said. “When the topic of smoking comes up, just change the topic.
Hopefully the fixation will end. “Usually, this happens in about six weeks.” Of course that is in the non-stroked mind. I am not going to hold my breath. I can’t imagine you letting go of the subject in the near future.