April 2009

Some down and dirty writing. It has to be quick because I want it done before I have to leave to pick up my son, and I want to give my time to my son when I pick him up. Here’s a story I told someone not long ago, hopefully the tale improves with each telling.

I tried to quit smoking 11 years ago. I had previously quit for a year and a half before foolishly taking up the yummy death sticks again, and the process of quitting was a bitch complete with a junkie’s painful withdrawal. I sought out help from my physician before taking up quitting the second time around.

After telling my Doctor about my previous experience with nicotine withdrawal, he prescribed Welbutrin to take the edge off during my attempt at smoking cessation.

Welbutrin is a highly effective drug used by many people successfully to help combat depression. I know two people who benefit greatly from Welbutrin; I have a family member who was an unbelievable bastard before medication, and I believe my high school sweetheart has taken Welbutrin daily as well.

I was told to take one pill each morning for seven days, and then starting in the second week I was to take two pills in the morning until I had accomplished my goal of quitting smoking. The first week was meant to get the Welbutrin rolling around my system, and I was to attempt the actual quitting of cigarettes the second week when I increased the dosage of Welbutrin.

I was working for Windsor Vineyards at the time, and my job was two-fold. I handled tradeshow responsibilities for the winery, and I managed a customer base of corporate clients who largely purchased wine on my recommendation for use as corporate gifts. Of course, many of my customers enjoyed the wines I recommended personally, Windsor Vineyards was the top award winning winery in the United States.

I filled my prescription, set a target date, and took my first pill on a Monday morning and drove to work. At the time, I was able to drive to work in under 10 minutes, and by the time I got to work, I felt the Welbutrin begin to effect me.

I made money when my customers bought my wine. I reached my customers who were spread from New York to California, Washington to Florida, by phone. I am personable. I give good phone. I made a decent living.

As the Welbutrin spread throughout my brain, I came to understand how it might be effective in helping me quit smoking. I was having a difficult time finding the motivation to make the calls that made me a living. I just found myself not caring. I thought that when, in a week, I didn’t smoke, I probably wouldn’t care. When I experienced withdrawal symptoms, I wouldn’t care. I found it hard to care much about things. Welbutrin had definitely taken my edge off.

As the week went on, I can’t swear that I sold nothing. I might have had one of my customers call me to reorder something they had previously enjoyed, and in spite of my inability to sell, they may have bought. It was odd being unable to sell, but the Welbutrin took away the ability to care about that much. I had my worst sales week ever.

I tried to find the good, in spite of my bad week. I was going to be quitting smoking, I had an infant son at home who I loved, and I had old friends coming to visit on Monday while I was at work and staying for a few days. There was plenty of good, I tried to put one bad week in perspective.

Now, let me be clear, when my doctor prescribed the Welbutrin, he told me to take two pills together each day starting on the 8th day, at the beginning of the second week, and to not smoke from then on.

On the morning of the second Monday, I took my two pills, and started the seven minute drive to work.

My first indication that I was in trouble was that the drive was extraordinarily difficult, seeming to last well over twenty minutes. I know that was the first problem sign now; but at the time, I was unable to recognize that I was indeed in trouble.

I went to my desk and stared at my phone. Where I found it difficult to find the motivation to make outbound sales calls during the previous week when I had one pill effecting my mood, I now found it impossible to make phone calls. I couldn’t reach the phone.

I was sitting at my desk, in my office space, the phone was where it always was, well within arm’s reach; yet it might as well have been miles away, I couldn’t lift my arm to reach it, the distance was too great.

I sat at my desk doing nothing, or slowly shambled outside to slowly breathe in great gulps of air, trying to find the ability to do anything.

It was effective making me not care about smoking. I didn’t care about anything, and was incapable of doing anything.

After about three completely unproductive hours at work, my coworkers wanted to take me to the hospital. They could see and appreciate that I was in trouble, even though I did not fully appreciate how deeply I was effected. I told them I would go home. I had to bargain to be allowed to drive home, promising to stay off freeways.

I should never have been allowed to drive myself home, but even while fucked up I must have managed some sales spirit, because my coworkers let me go. I recognized that my driving was impaired, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t care. About anything.

When I arrived home, my friends had arrived, and together with my wife, were shocked and greatly concerned by the degree of my impairment.

As the effect of the drug receded, I was able to appreciate how deeply under I had been. It felt like emerging from a deep hole, as I was able to look back at where I had previously been. Over the next 12 hours, and again the next day, I kept being amazed as I continued to clear, thinking that I was out of the hole and marveling at it’s depth, only to be re-amazed as I cleared more and realized that the hole I had been in was deeper still. It felt like my soul had really and truly been stolen by the drug.

When I told my family member, who benefits greatly from daily Welbutrin, this story, he laughed at how small the dose that buried me was. I believe the dose he takes daily, to beneficial result, would have resulted in my death.

I did not succeed in that attempt to quit smoking.

I did quit smoking this year, and have over 100 days not smoking under my belt. While not easy, it was nowhere as difficult as I thought it would be to quit this time.

I am not anti medicine. I am not anti Welbutrin. I am just anti Welbutrin for me.

Yesterday, I traveled a couple of hours to San Francisco to pick up a couple who were visiting from overseas and take them out for a bit.

The couple were a friend from an online forum I frequent and her husband, and I had really been looking forward to meeting them in person for quite a while.

Being in San Francisco is always exciting, and the energy of the city combined with the infectious smiles of my friends worked to hopefully allow me to serve as a decent host to one of my favorite cities anywhere.

We met at the hotel they chose, the Hotel Triton. I had always enjoyed the Triton because it is colorfully decorated with an artistic flair that I admire but can’t replicate and it is conveniently located at the Grant Street gate to Chinatown.

Instead of walking into Chinatown, we left the city and drove across the Golden Gate bridge to San Rafael and Taqueria San Jose for some Mexican food. The food so common to me, available everywhere at home, is what these travelers wanted and we enjoyed Super Burritos, 2 al pastor and 1 cabeza, along with two Pacifico beers and a lime green Jarritos for the designated driver.

We toured some of the neighborhoods of San Francisco on a driving tour, including the Presidio, Marina, Cow Hollow, Lower Pacific Heights, Lower Haight, Haight Ashbury, Civic Center, Tenderloin, SOMA, Financial District, Downtown, Chinatown, North Beach, and Nob Hill.

I got to spend about 4 hours with my friends, and I enjoyed our time together. We chatted the whole time, and I so lost myself in a naturally flowing conversation that I completely forgot to ask about a mutual friend of ours from South Carolina.



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