Multiple Sclerosis & Cannabis: MS and Cigarette Smoking

I am a smoker.  It is the single most embarrassing thing I can tell you about myself.  This is the hardest post I have ever written.  It is something that I hate and abhor…and yet i still do it.  At one point I have to believe it offered some sense of relaxation or calm but now it just makes me feel like shit…and yet I still do it.  But since starting to use cannabis for my chronic pain and other MS symptoms I have begun to really understand just how addicted I am to all the shit that the tobacco companies put in their products to ensure people like me will continue to NEED to smoke.  My body is completely addicted to it, but as I become more aware of my body, as I finally begin to actually listen to it, I am for the first time feeling as if maybe I CAN quit, that I can rid my body and life of this toxic relationship that I am not sure I ever had a chance of avoiding.

As I try and come to terms with not having this “thing” in my life anymore and I continue to focus on trying to be the healthiest me possible I decided to write a letter to the toxic relationship that has dominated my life for far too long…

Hello my longtime companion,

I feel as if I have known you my whole life, but the fact is that we met before I was actually here on earth, with my own name and identity.  My father was a smoker, and as was common back in the 1970s he smoked in the house, in the car or just about anywhere he cared to because that is what they did back then.  As his wife I’m sure my mother was there, breathing in the 2nd hand smoke as her body worked hard to form my little ears and nose, heart and lungs within the confines of her belly.  This is where we first met.

I was six and enrolled in kindergarten. The school had an anti-smoking campaign and I took to this idea – the knowledge that smoking WAS harmful, WAS dangerous and COULD kill you with all my heart.  It became my personal mission to make my father quit smoking because I didn’t want him to die.  And I did. I don’t know the details but one day, he quit cold turkey (from smoking 2+ packs a day) to never ever having another cigarette in his life.  That was in 1975 or 1976.  

I  was 12 when I was offered a cigarette while waiting for my parents to pick me up from the local bowling alley and we have been “connected” since then.  Sure there have been times, even years that I was able to fend you off, but you always returned with a vengeance.  You have maintained control and rule over my life for 47 years.  I obsess over whether I might run out – when I am going to have another one.  You are the first thing I think of when I wake in the morning and often times the last thing I think of as I doze of to sleep.

BUT – you no longer give me the warm rush of relaxation I used to once give you credit for.  I no longer look forward to being with you…As a matter of fact, our relationship is the single most embarrassing thing I can think of in my life.  I can tell the world about my falls, peeing my pants, shitting all over the bedroom and even my issues with sex, but this one thing…this admitting openly and publicly that I am addicted to cigarettes is the most humiliating thing for me to do. To admit to such weakness, to admit to such a flaw in character is shameful for me.

Because I KNOW you are bad.  I know you are killing me and yet over and over and over I come back to you. I know that above and beyond all the normal health implications you come with, that you are also toxic for my diesease.  You are NO good and I know that, and yet you are still here, in my life.   My father was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years back.  I KNOW that you kill people….and yet you are still around.

I get desperate and disgusted and I will throw you out, only to find myself digging through the garbage sometime later – needing another hit of whatever evil shit the tobacco companies put in you to make people like me feel that they NEED and WANT more.  I have even CUT you up into little pieces in an attempt to stop myself from returning to retrieve you out of the garbage pail and I have then sat and pathetically tried to scotch tape you back together.  I shit you not…

THIS IS WHAT ADDICTION LOOKS LIKE

And the thing is – you are legal.  I can buy you in any local gas station, grocery store OR even better – the drug store – where one goes to get medicine and other things to help with their health.  How fucked up is that????  You are this completely addictive, harmful and murdering thing that is approved by the overseers of right from wrong in our government.  The tobacco industry is allowed to continue to sell you, a product that is KNOWN to be harmful, is KNOWN to addictive and is KNOWN to kill people and yet that same government thinks that cannabis is the “devil’s weed?!?!”  It seems to me that the “devil’s weed” might just be helping me to quit our toxic relationship – to help me break the addiction and FINALLY live without worrying about you and when I can have my next smoke.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I know that this is not going to be easy.  This quitting thing – the for real, actual quitting and purging of the shit that I have become so dependent on you for- is honestly the most daunting task I have ever faced – and I say that as I remember just how bad the chronic pain was and how severely affected I was this last flair.  I made it through those things, I pushed through them – because that is what I do….So I know I am strong.  But as much as I hate you, hate smoking and everything about it – it fills me with absolute panic to think of NOT having you in my life.  Because you have been there for as long as I can remember and you have been in charge for SO long.

But here is the thing.  I am going to try.  I am going to try really hard.  I am going to try my hardest to kick you out of my life.  I am writing this letter to you, so that I can look back at it in moments of weakness, when I am thinking and plotting of making a dash to the gas station to bring you back into my life.  I may have to read this letter a thousand times before I stop getting those urges but I am going to try, because to not try would be admitting defeat.  And I am not going to let you win!  Now that I so clearly see you for what you are – a toxic relationship that brings me nothing but regret and shame I am going to do everything in my power to cut you out of my life.  

I don’t know if I ever had any real control over you coming into my life, but I do know that i can now try and regain control and kick your ass to the curb.  Truthfully now that I can look at it objectively it sickens me to know just how much time and money I have invested in you over the years and the only thing that you gave me in return is a constant obsession over you, self loathing and a feeling of shame.  None of those things are good, none of them fit into my objective of living the happiest, healthiest life I can.  So it is for that reason that I writing to say

I AM BREAKING UP WITH YOU!

I realize that after a long term relationship like ours, there is going to be a lot of residual shit.  I know that I will think of you, probably way more than often that I will want to admit.  But I am going to do my best to not allow you back into my life.  Now that I realize just how awful it has been knowing you I am extremely excited to not have you in my life any more.  In other words I promise you i will get to a day in time when I now longer miss you, no longer even think of you.  

Fondly,

Meg

If you have never smoked, have never been addicted to tobacco/nicotine and the other shit that is in them, then all of this might not make sense to you.  You may be able to see plan as day that smoking is bad for me and knowing that I have MS it would seem simple enough for me to just quit.  But that is what I am hoping to convey by publically outting myself as a smoker – I CAN’T JUST QUIT.   I have tried for years and years and years.  There is NOTHING that I loathe more about myself than the fact that I am addicted to cigarettes and yet I always end up back at the convenience store or the gas station, swiping my debit card as the cashier plops the small box on the counter.

Over the past year, as I have found relief from the chronic pain using cannabis I have also experienced a lot of clarity looking at my life and for the first time in 47 years I can actually realize the control that cigarettes have over me.  For years I maintained I wasn’t addicted, because I have been able to stop – for a period of time.  But the truth is that I always go back and knowing how much I hate it and how ashamed it makes me feel I am realizing just how strong this addiction is.  If me hating myself and feeling constantly embarrassed isn’t enough to get me to quit – I don’t know what is.  But I do know that now as I lay in bed at night having had a few puffs of my nighttime strain I can actually IMAGINE doing it – breaking the addiction and living without cigarettes.  I am not there yet, I still think of them constantly – BUT the fact that I can actually imagine/visualize life without them is a lot farther than I have gotten in the past.  

 

**This is my personal blog and all opinions are my own.  I am not a doctor, nor do I play one here on my blog. The content here is for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of medical professionals.  Be sure to contact your doctor before trying any new medications/vitamins/supplements, physical activities or therapies **

29 Replies to “Multiple Sclerosis & Cannabis: MS and Cigarette Smoking”

  1. Thanks for writing this. I’m giving it to two of my three sons to read, because they have both started smoking. They started late in high school but I only found out recently. I was completely dumbfounded because my mother is a chain smoker, and they know what an obstacle that is in her life and how much I hate it. Still, they started. They were both surprised that they could not just stop. One seems to be on his way to being done but the other is going to have a much harder time. He thinks it will be ok since he’s only smoking a few cigarettes a day, but has realized he’ll need a patch to kick that. I want them to realize how they are addicted by design.

  2. I was a young starter too, both of my parents were – and still are – heavy smokers. I swore I never would but started at 14, with the advantage that as they both smoked they couldn’t smell it on my clothes. I’ve tried to stop many, many times and succeeded after reading Allen Carr’s book. I went cold turkey, and found it very easy. That was in about 1995, and it lasted until mid 1999 when a hot summer day with cold beer surrounded by smokers got me back on it. I’ve had two or three other decent goes of many months since then. I was diagnosed with MS in 2003 and asked the neurologist whether I should give up red meat, red wine, and cigarettes and his response was that I’d made it to 29 with very minor symptoms and they might be the reason, so not to be rash. In fairness I probably couldn’t have done it at that point!

    In mid 2013 I coughed and a disc in my lower back prolapsed, and it’s safe to say I’ve never known pain like it. Yet despite barely being able to move, needing to pee into a bucket and sleep on the couch I’d still slide my way to the fireplace for a cig, blowing the smoke up the chimney! With lots of physio and some painkilling injections it was coming along nicely. Then the disc below prolapsed. Injections did nothing so I was scheduled for surgery to shave the discs and for some scaffolding to support the vertebrae. It would involve 4 nights in hospital and several months off work so I resolved to stop smoking. When they have to warn you that general anaesthetic is more risky for smokers it starts to make sense. My mental preparation was in the right spot too. My father in particular has a bad cough. He can’t laugh without ending up in a fit of coughing. I was visiting one time when my sister happened to be there. She’s also a smoker and 7 years older than me. I heard her cough and she sounded just like my father and at that point it struck me that I didn’t have long before smoking caught up with me.

    I went for surgery in February 2014, and I had an app that counts the days and adds up the money saved – based on the price of cigs on the day I stopped. I haven’t smoked since, not even a drag. Back then a pack was about £4.30; today I think about £7.00. According to the app it’s £6,127.50 that I haven’t spent on cigs over the 1425 days. Not money saved, naturally!

    My MS was invisible up to that point, and the next few months were probably when it turned into progressive and really started affecting my walking. Within a year I was using a stick, two sticks the following year and now it’s a wheelchair. I joke that it’s stopping smoking that caused it, but really it was probably the surgery, and possibly because a speck of blood landed on my spinal cord.

    Everyone asks if I feel better for it, or if food tastes different and my honest answer to both is no. I don’t feel worse for it, and sometimes I smell it on a person or walk through the fog as I leave a bar and I feel physically sick. But sometimes I catch a whiff and breathe it in deep and it feels beautiful. And sometimes from nowhere I get a craving for one. I wish I was one of those who could smoke one and then go months without or those who can smoke 60 over a weekend and not smoke again for years. But I’m not one of those.

    Cigarettes aren’t the problem when quitting, that’s the easy bit: you just don’t have another one. It’s addiction that you have to fight. I’m a smoker who hasn’t had one for 4 years and isn’t intending to have another. If MS gets me to a point where I struggle to swallow, and I have to pick a “last meal” – I’ll ask for a cigarette for dessert.

    I’ve not stopped drinking red wine.

  3. Hi Meg,
    I quit smoking a couple of years ago. It was killer but I had two friends do it with me. I was the last one to finally give it up. I went the ecig route which helped me alot. I worked my way down to 0 ncotine. Sometimes it was comforting just to hold it…..lol Some may think that’s wimping out but it helped me to finally do it!! Just know we have all fought that war. I know you can do this!!

  4. I must be a wimp! I never learned how to smoke. I tried when I was that dumb impressionable teenager, smoked a pack of Player Navy Cuts, but I never got the hang of it. Couldn’t do that French inhale thing either. Guess I was doomed to be uncool … back then. I did learn to play the bagpipes though, so I know there’s no issue with lung control. Hardest thing I ever did was to keep studying late at night when that little voice in my head would talk to me about how tired I was, and that I could take just a little break. I fought that off, I was afraid to run out of the allotted time, my program would finish and all I had was an ABD (All But Dissertation) and that is no degree at all.

    I know from working with clients that opioid and nicotine addictions are similar, and very hard to defeat. It’s the chemical bonding that takes place in the brain that makes it so insistent. Our mind gets involved giving us reasons about ourselves that we find so difficult to deal with: we are weak, we are not up to the task, it might be like this forever, its so damned hard, I’m terrible because (fill-in-the-blank). Overcoming the addiction is compounded by adding this overcoming the mind-chatter.

    Just like the stubbed toe can be worsened by the resultant mind-chatter, separate the two and deal with only one adversary at a time. Let the toe throb, it will feel better eventually, nothing you can do. Disconnect the mind-chatter to not keep bringing the toe back into focus. The average cigarette smoker who wants to quit fails an average of 11 times before being a successful non-smoker.

    Don’t quit quitting! You will make it.

    Meanwhile, I want to read about your experiences enjoying the rest of your life. It sounds like there are some interesting tales there.

  5. Oh Meg! As I sit here smoking my cigarette, reading your letter, I know I could have written the same words myself, and I know I’ve thought the same words a million times! How many times I’ve quit and gone back for just that one smoke I can’t even count. I’ve convinced myself that I’m not addicted to the cigarettes- I have no problem going hours, even days without one – but just that I enjoy smoking! I’m a fool and I know it. My walking and numbness gets immediately worse after every cigarette – I realize it but yet keep going back for the next one. I tell myself I will have that first one in the morning and then be done but the next one comes shortly after. I finish a pack and find that I need to get a Starbucks which – what do you know – is right next to the convenience store. I hate it and am disgusted with myself just writing these things! I am bookmarking this page and will go back and keep reading it because your words might just be the motivation that makes it stick! Thank you for sharing!

    1. I could convince myself that I wasn’t actually “addicted” since I too could go hours/days/weeks without one But the reality is that even in those times of “not being an addict” I was still thinking about the stupid things…all the time. Like you, I noticed that my walking and numbness worsened after each cigarette and yet I just kept it up.
      Until now, well until yesterday. It’s been a day and a half and as I sit in Starbucks writing this I can glance out the window and see the gas station right across the street….
      BUT for NOW for this moment sitting in a new atmosphere (had to get out of the house) I am ok and not tempted to swing by…but check with me in 30 seconds and I might be feeling completely different about the situation. I have to say that I feel the most important thing in all of this is stay focused and REMEMBER my resolve. They have been such a big part of my life that I know if I let my guard down, allow my self to slip into old routines – that is when I will slip up. SO I am thinking of leaving post-it notes for myself – like on every surface of the house and car:)

      Good luck my friend!

      Cheers!
      Meg

  6. Meg (or Megan, as your Mother & I named you, or “Sweets” as I called you for years): As the Australians say, “Good on ya, mate!” And most importantly, thank you and your brothers and your mother for inspiring me to quit smoking. As others have told you, it was the hardest thing I ever did and yes, I do still have some cancer left in my body, but it is responding to treatment. The important thing is that you are strong and your body and mind will respond to your strength and you will succeed in this crusade and be a nonsmoker! LOVE YOU, Dad (Poppa)

  7. Being a addict, and alcoholic I find that you saying this is the worse thing you could share to be a little over the top. I have addiction problems, most due to early MS and the lack of treatment and support of my family when growing up, and because of my addiction problems, most doctors wouldnt take me seriously either.
    I spent years cleaning up my act, 35 yrs clean and almost 18 years sober, with the help of 2 doctors I am still living, clean, and somewhat being treated for my problems.
    I have alot in my life that could be dirty little secrets, smoking a cig is FAR from the worse. I was going to quit at one point, after losing 2 friends shortly after stopping smoking my Dr told me to slow down and not to quit.
    I dont like spending the money on them, I dont like being hooked on them, but for me its better than death.
    I hate the fact that so much has been caused by tobacco, I have seen the cancers, lung problems and other things caused by these “Coffin Spikes” but I must also point out a couple of things This is of course my opinion.
    My Dr of 28+ years saw enough evidence of problems caused by people quitting she felt it was best for me to slow down and not take the “Chance” of serious issues, that can be cause by quitting smoking after so many years.
    I too smoke MMJ and have for years because of my many issues. I have done years of chemo and more.
    I again do not like the fact that I smoke, but for some time, not smoking would have meant drinking or doing more drugs, and in the times I felt the need caffine and tobacco were the very things I depended on to get away from those desires and urges.
    While I hate what the tobacco companies have done to sell their product, there are a great many more companies out there that are guilty of the same thing, only we have not declared war on Sugar, Alcohol, most OTC meds, Most scripts hell it seems sometimes and according to some everything in our lives will kill us at some point.
    Ok shutting up now, Just remember, folks there are worse things in the world to have in our lives. I dont condone smoking or the use of any tobacco products, and wouldnt wish it on anyone. THERE are much worse secrest to have. Peace and TY for everything you do in our MS groups Peace out Meg

  8. Thank you for this. My name is Carrie. I have MS. And I am a smoker…. Its my dirty little secret. I hate spending money on this nasty habit that seems to comfort me somehow..

    1. Hi Carrie! Thanks for introducing yourself AND for admitting your secret! It helps to know it’s not just me! Hoping that this time I will Be strong enough to make it stick!

      Xoxo
      Meg

  9. December 1, 1993 was the day I took my last puff of a cigarette. I was at my doctor’s office with symptoms of the MS that I hadn’t been diagnosed with yet. He didn’t know what was wrong with me, so he told me to quit smoking; quit drinking; quit drinking coffee. And her prescribed me valium. He was a gem of a doctor! lol. I had been a smoker for about 12 years at that point and haven’t had a smoke since. You can do it! Your post reminded me of when I would throw almost full boxes of cigarettes out of my car because I wanted to quit smoking and I knew if I had them around I would keep smoking. I’m glad I don’t smoke now. I can’t believe how expensive it is! I think I was paying $2.50 a box back in the day…

    1. Haha. Yup. Throw a half empty box out the car window. Been there done that. Although not in years because littering is no longer acceptable. Not that it ever is or was but didn’t think about it back then. Just wanted to get away from the damn cigarettes!:)

  10. I used to smoke 5 packs a day and for 4 years now I’m smoke free did it with vape ☺stopping that too soon but I do smoke marijuana 😉have a permit for it 😊Happy I quit cigarettes saved alot of money and still saving 😉 be well my friends take care and do what’s best for you ☺

    1. Thanks for sharing Frank! Mine is not so much how many (I’ve never managed a pack a day and can get down to 4 or 5 a day but I do need those 4 or 5 and they make me feel horrible. So figure it is time!

  11. One day at a time…One hour at a time…One minute at a time… You CAN quit FOREVER!!
    I stopped smoking September 19, 1983 at 7:02 PM😊

  12. I smoked for 10 years… I was a chain smoker. I quit two months before I got diagnosed. It was rough but you can do It! This month is 10 yrs since I was diagnosed so I’ve been smoke free for 10 yrs as well! Keep the quit! It is worth it!!

  13. I smoked a pack and a half everyday for 14 yrs. I quit cold turkey 27 yrs ago. Hardest thing I have ever done, and the best thing I have done for myself. It is freakin hard, but possible!

    1. I don’t know why my post looks so garbled… But you can do it girlfriend! It is really hard, but it is possible! I quit cold turkey 27 years ago… Best thing I have ever done for myself but also the hardest… You go girl!

  14. You are amazing! I have so walked the very steps that you currently trod and felt the exact same way. I was disgusted with myself and shamed and knew that it could kill me but I still would put it 1st in my life. I quit cold Turkey in 2003. it was very hard! I did falter once or twice for a moment only I did not let that get The Best of Me and continued forward now I detest cigaret smoke I no longer can go to casinos or places where people smoke openly because it gags me. I actually look at people smoking and think to myself ‘wow I actually used to do that?’ I also do medical marijuana which I’ve smoked on occasion when my vape runs out or I run out of cookies that I make it really does help me with the MS symptoms But cigaret smoking? Never again!! The man in my life who I love dearly used to be a smoker as well before we met. I told him that that’s the one thing that would be the deal breaker in our relationship I cannot handle a cigarrette smoker around me again because I never wanna take the chance of being 1 myself and the fact that it had so much control over me for so long that fear still exists…. I applaud you from the mountain tops!!! I cheer for you because it was the best thing I ever did for my health and I want that for you too! You can do it! just do it an hour at a time A-day at a time a week at a time a month at a time before you know it it’ll be a year then 3 then 10 then always It’s enough that we have MS to deal with…. don’t let cigaret smoke take away the good that you do have… I’m visualizing your success right now as I’m writing this!!! Because when you finally do conquer this addiction you’re going to be one kick a** MS Warrior!!!~Jan aka Azkrazy

    1. Thank you for all that Jan. I have hesitated for so long about writing about this. Making trying to quit public because it means accountability in my book. But it is done and it is out there and so now I begin the fight to get the fuck away from the cigarettes and to allow cannabis to continue to help me!:).

      Xoxo
      Meg

  15. You go girl…i’m 66 this month (have had ms 29 yrs) and finely kicked ass when I was 50…what did it for me? Seeing the addiction grab hold of my daughter…we quit together, and though she stumbled, she’s been clean for about 8 yrs now…I know it sucks bigtime when you’re going through it but it will loosen its hold on you….remember that when you crave that cigarette, the craving will go away within 5 minutes WHETHER OR NOT you have a cigarette!! Of course the craving can come back a minute later, which bites but again…5 minutes….just sayin..anyway May 29, 2002 at 7:30 am was last time for me and I’m going to predict that you’re going to have your moment soon! I’m pulling for you!!
    ♥️ Mary

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