Monday, March 8, 2010

44 Days Today - Smoking & Fibromyalgia

Started March 8th, Finished April 5th

Hello Everyone : )

I shared with you that I made a few choices recently that have helped me a great deal with managing Fibromyalgia and Allodynia. This post won't be pretty format wise or grammatically, but most of my posts never are! Hahahahaa!!

One of the choices I made, I started a while back and didn't stick with. (surprise, surprise...) I decided to start making it a priority again. That is making sure I'm exercising on a consistent basis. I've mentioned one of my favorite workouts before on the blog, but I'll put it here again just for reference.

I have a workout that I purchase at Wal-Mart called "Walk Away Your Waistline!" by Leslie Sansone. The reason I like it so much is because it's low impact and has 3 levels of exercise that you can choose. (1, 2, 0r 3miles.) Leslie keeps it real and actually sweats! : ) hahahahaa!!! Gimme a "high five" if you know WHY I like that so much! mmmhhmmm...(nodding head). Anyway, this workout helps me move, burn calories, and stay flexible. I do several combinations 6 days a week so that I change it up and also keep up with my body's daily abilities. If I can only do a mile or less, that's what I do. If I feel good and can do more, I do.

I realized that staying still was my nemesis. The more I tried to stop moving because of pain, the stiffer and more painful I became. I know, I know... my Dr. TOLD me to keep moving, but those of us with Fibro know exactly why I was stubborn about it and DREADED the idea of trying to exercise at all. Over the last 5 years, my body has become very, how shall I say it, "Jell-Oish" from sitting and laying down. I'm turning 40 soon and I'm not happy with what's going on in the mirror. Also my food wasn't digesting well because I'm wasn't walking enough or drinking enough water. I had to make a change if I was going to do what I write about and fight for my quality of life.

Another program I started is the "30 Day Shred" by Jillian Michaels. Boy am I at the lowest starting point on this one, but I'm getting better at it. This one you have to work into because it's about building muscle and that means lots of repetition and some weights for resistance. START SLOW. This one I sort-of fell into because of my daughter and her best friend. They started doing the program and Ashlynd bought herself a copy for home. We began doing it together to keep each other motivated. So it has a two-fold benefit. Exercises and lots of laughs and quality time with my girl. Yeah... we do a lot of laughing while we're struggling to keep up. Hahahaha! But we actually made it to the point we could finish level 1 almost entirely without giving up. For me, that's a major mile stone after all these years. Hey, I gotta get some definition back into my form. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do right? (Hubby's probably nodding his head) Heehee...


Ok......on a more serious note:

The other change I've made took 25 years to finally complete. P.S. it's super hard, embarrassing, and humiliating for me to share with you. I took a couple of weeks to really think about whether or not I wanted to post about it. In the end, there were two factors that made me decide to go ahead with it. #1) I gave my word to The Lord that if He delivered me out of what I was facing, I would honor Him for it and help others who are trapped the same way I was. #2) I felt that the help and support this could offer to even 1 person is worth my being willing to talk about it with you.

(Deep breath)...Obviously from the tone of my blog you can tell that I have been a follower of Jesus Christ for some time now. Let's see.... as of January 10th this year it has been 28 years now since I chose to give my life to Him. I was almost 12 years old when I made that choice. I take my relationship with Him very seriously. I know that, especially in today's society, being a Christian is becoming increasingly unpopular. I personally don't care. I know that if anyone wants to find and identify true Christianity and not the media's or society's version of it, nor those who seek to use the title as a means of exacting their revenge and self-serving power, they'll find it. There are enough of us out there that are the real deal. However...being the real deal means doing a lot of work on the inner self and choosing to follow the leading of The Lord rather than our own way. I've made some really bad choices during the times I chose my own way rather than His way of doing things. I make no excuses. They were ALL my own choices. I can't believe He'd even consider forgiving me for them, but that's Who He is. I still have to accept the consequences and results of those decisions though.

One of those times I made a seriously horrible choice not to follow His way of doing things was when I was 15 and my friend handed me a cigarette to try. Little did I know that that one cigarette would lead to 25 years of bondage. 25 years! It was an addiction I tried over and over again to quit without success. I prayed, I bargained, I cried, I did everything. But I gave more power to the addiction than I gave to quitting. I was a "weird" smoker too... I hid, I smoked in secret, I couldn't stand the smell, I was embarrassed to buy them... weird. Plus, only those closest to me knew about it.

I felt SO stupid knowing that I was The King's daughter and living as a smoker at the same time. I felt stupid fighting own self. On one hand I was a smoker, on the other hand I hated it. I was living a double life inside my own body! I was two-faced.

"Why all the guilt and drama?" you ask.

Scripture teaches that Christ died to take our sins upon Himself, pay for them, then rise again back to life, to show His authority over all things including death itself. The Father then sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to live our lives according to God's Word if we choose to follow Him and accept His Lordship. The scripture teaches that God sees that our bodies are inhabited by the Holy Spirit once we make that choice, and we are then God's temple. Rather than having a physical building as a temple, God has chosen to live within us. For the longest time, I didn't let it sink in that by smoking I was bringing a polluting substance into a Holy place..... God's place.

I finally had a light bulb go off one day. That would be like me going into the sacred Holy place of the temple that used to stand in Jerusalem, standing there with a cigarette and smoking in God's face. (That's where the Ark of the Covenant stood and where the high priest himself could only go in once a year. Incidentally, if anyone dared enter besides that day, they died).

I began to see clearly, the mercy He has extended to me for 25 years by forgiving me for this, and I also began to realize that although He forgave me, He still expected me to show Him the proper respect that He is due if I'm going to choose to have The Holy Spirit of God dwell within me. Otherwise, at some time, I would have to face the consequences of my decision to stay addicted to something that had more possession of me than my devotion to my God and King.

I began to earnestly pray and pray that He would take my desire to smoke away from me so that I could honor Him and no longer live a compromised spiritual lifestyle. As time went on I gradually became so disgusted with smoking that I yearned and longed to be free of it once and for all. I couldn't ignore what I was doing any longer. I began to hate it and hate it's control over me. I resolved to do virtually anything I had to do in order to get rid of it.

As far as Fibromyalgia and Allodynia go, the illnesses are bad enough without adding the something like 4000 extra poisons and chemicals in cigarettes to the mix. Those toxins get in the blood steam and tissues and fester there. Just waiting. There are numerous places one can look on the Internet and elsewhere to find out about the devastation these things cause to the body and yes, specifically to people fighting Fibro and other diseases. There are absolutely NO benefits cigarettes or any nicotine device can offer to us. None. Not even the fake euphoria of the "calm" that they give us when we smoke one. It's a lie. All it does is create another receptor in the brain that has to be fed with nicotine. Cigarettes/nicotine devices (chew included) breed receptors like rabbits breed bunnies. Let's just get down to brass tacks. We are fighting enough garbage without adding more fuel for the enemy of our bodies to use against us!

The final choice I made was to attend a 7 week smoking cessation class at our Health and Wellness Center on base, use Chantix in order to block the receptors in my brain that were feeding on nicotine, and I also signed up with AshLine for a counselor to call me every week and keep me accountable while I quit. I have a counselor assigned to me for 6 months. I am very grateful and would recommend it highly to anyone else who is determined to quit nicotine. AshLine provides an awesome service to the community.

I have to pause here and thank my friend Teddy Lyons who has been my confidante and prayer partner in this. She will be embarrassed that I wrote about her, but she deserves the "shout out" believe me. Teddy is an amazing woman. She is one of the main leaders of our Youth program at church and her passion and drive are incredible! Teddy is my friend at church who I chose to confess to about my addiction. She has kept my confidence and has prayed for me time and time again. She knew how scared I was to take Chantix and she prayed over my mind and my physical well being so that there would be no problems with potential side effects. She keeps up with my progress and we celebrate together with lots of hugs and tears. Teddy never downplays the importance of this determined stand against addiction to nicotine. She gets it.

Getting back to what we're discussing... previously I had tried things like nicotine gum and quitting cold turkey. Neither method worked long term because while I quit, I still longed to smoke. This time was different because I no longer wanted anything to do with cigarettes. They became my enemy, a false way of dealing with emotions or pressure, an escape I leaned on to numb my feelings. However, the lure of them was killing me. Cigarettes were physically, spiritually, and emotionally killing me.

I have been clean from nicotine for 44 days as of today. For me, it is a miracle. It is the first time that I don't long for and think about smoking almost all of the day. I don't even think about it much anymore. I can't believe it! I have cravings here and there but they've become an annoyance to me that I bitterly approach with war-like aggression. "Go Away!!!!". I breathe deeply and calmly until they subside, or get busy doing something, or just allow myself to cry through it. I approach it just like any other addict approaches their bondage. I say what it is; nicotine addiction. I say what I want; never to smoke again. I do what I need to; never allow myself to yearn for them again. They are liars and killers and they don't benefit me whatsoever.

Let me address Chantix for a second, because choosing to use it was a tough decision for me. I went to my doctor first and asked him if the medications I use for Fibro/Allodynia would interact with Chantix and cause any problems for me. He assured me that although every medication has risks, the mechanics of the way Chantix works in the brain, had nothing to do with the mechanics of how Lyrica or Ultram work in the body. There wasn't any crossover danger in his estimation. (*** Please always consult your doctor first before choosing to start Chantix. You may have a different situation that needs to be checked out first. Don't just take what my doctor said to me as your answer. Please!) I did a lot of reading on Chantix. Some of the potential side effects scared me and I was nervous about taking it. However, after talking to my doctor and after finding out that the Health and Wellness Center doctors on base would be continuously monitoring my progress with it, I felt more at ease. I knew I wasn't on my own.

I sat down with my husband first and explained everything I knew about Chantix and what my doctor said. Then he went with me to the initial class at the base so that he knew what to expect while I was quitting nicotine. We both felt solid about the support system I had in place. Then we sat down with our kids and explained what to look for just in case there were any side effects that I experienced. We banded together in prayer and then decided to tackle this thing head on!

I have to say that my family has been AWESOME through each stage I've gone through. They count days with me or call to see how I'm doing, or the kids cheer me on at mile stones. They've really supported my desire to beat nicotine and to get rid of the "idol" that I felt was interfering with my ability to have a more committed relationship with God.

I feel that after what God has done to show me His love, I owe him my allegiance out of sheer gratitude if nothing else. (That's putting it lightly) I don't want a "religion", I want to know my Creator in all ways that I can possible know Him. But because He is Holy, and has standards, I need to meet Him on His terms and respect Him. I don't find that restrictive or dictator-ish, I find it incredibly comforting and safe. He is a GOOD God, and He is also a Just God. He's been good to me.

As I mentioned before, I promised The Lord that if I was set free from nicotine, I would testify about His showing me the way to break this bondage off me. I knew that I needed to make the first step in this case. After He saw the determination I had to do virtually anything it took to be clean and to honor Him, He stepped in. He was there and has been there every step of the way. Through the roughest stages of withdrawal and the highest celebrations of mile stones, He's been there.

Listen, I'm not going to romanticize the whole issue and say how easy it was for me. Nope. It was very, very, very hard. During the first 14 days I had to learn a whole new way of living, deal with my emotions and stresses without cigarettes, and deal with the nausea I had at first while taking Chantix and my body was getting cleaned out. The first 14 days were the hardest for me and there were times I just gripped the edges of the sink or nearby counter and cried my eyes out, telling God how much I wanted to smoke so I didn't have to feel anything. I just stood there and allowed myself to have a melt down. That's when I was sure I would fail. But... I didn't. I wanted to be clean from nicotine more than I wanted to smoke and put myself right back into that vicious cycle of addiction again. I could hardly believe my inner drive to get rid of this thing. I had a resolve I'd never had before. God is faithful to meet us right where we are when we come to Him honestly and just let go of being in control. He took my blubbering, snotty, crumbled mess and lifted me up. That's the REAL Jesus.

44 days in, here are the benefits (not in order) of my choice to be clean from nicotine:

1) I can breathe so much better now. The weight is off my mind, my heart, and my chest.
2) I know The Lord is pleased and I see the best He wants for me.
3) My children, my husband, and my parents are seeing me fight.
4) I have LESS body pain. It's the truth. I feel better and I have more energy. I don't hurt as much anymore. Taking those pollutants out of my body has definitely improved my day to day function and ability to manage Fibro.
5) My hair has stopped falling out so much.
6) I don't feel like a slave to something that "owns" me anymore.
7) I don't have to hide.
8.) I turned 40 yesterday, and I was clean for the first birthday in 25 years!

My friends, I'm fighting for my quality of life right along with you. You are not alone.

Your friend and fellow fighter,
Sherri