Cigarettes, Stress, and Hep C

I reached a point in life where anxiety was so high that I started smoking cigarettes to reduce stress with Hep C. That shows you how confused I was. For starters, I didn’t know what Hepatitis C even was, but I had it. Daily life was proving to be a struggle. Between extra dental problems, hot flashes, and trying to work from home, life was getting a bit messy. If I couldn’t do anything else about my fatigue and body aches, I could relax with a cigarette and block out the world.

Hiding my smoking habit

I was a closet smoker. Very few people actually saw the extra long filters between my fingers. I carried mouthwash, toothpaste, and handi-wipes to get rid of the odor. I smoked outdoors where the wind could blow away the evidence. Long draws on tobacco seemed to be the only time I calmed down. It’s comical to look back to those days from the life I currently lead. Nowadays, my deep breathing is associated with yoga. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After the “butterflies and falling leaves” attack in the fall of ‘96, I knew there was a problem. My local library brought in books for me. I spent hours at the Oklahoma University School of Medicine Library. The cool part was, I had studied this type of thing for years. Since my teens, I have studied the power of human potential and spirituality. I knew our body was amazing.

Finding a personal path to calm

Did you know that certain tribes who live in the Himalayan Mountains reduce their blood pressure and heart rate? They do it by focusing on their breath. (no tobacco, just clean air) Being a good Christian girl, I never left these books out for my friends or family to see. But in the quiet of my home, when no one was around – I practiced yoga and meditation. I called it my “quiet time” with stretching. Same difference. You just say it out of the other side of your mouth and no one really notices.

So for about 20 years, I prayed and had my private “spiritual” practices. It included filling books with personal prayers, dreams, and goals. I recently read through a few of those books and saw how I dealt with anxiety. Smoking was included. Surely you can understand that a person with hepatic encephalopathy, fatigue, brain fog, and hot flashes could justify using tobacco products to calm down.

Working against myself

Looking back, I was throwing around a hot potato. Adrenaline and stress, combined with faking energy with cigarettes and caffeine made it worse. Everything was working against me. Heck, I was even working against myself. Eventually, truth began to filter in.

The realization came gradually at first. Then light bulbs would flash as new ideas took shape. I took each bit of information and stored it away as evidence. I could use these mental tools, along with clean deep breaths and body relaxation, to help me. I could reduce my anxiety and stop smoking cigarettes. I had quit before, but this time would be different.


Part 1 Anxiety and Stress Series

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