In short, I used diet soda to cheat Father Time. (Or did I?)
Working bad hours, staying up late and getting up early when I actually had a chance to sleep, was breaking me down. I had heart palpitations, headaches from too much and headaches from too little caffeine / artificial sweetener. I also chewed tobacco, which is something I never talked about on line before because I’ve been embarrassed to admit to such a bad habit to my kids. It’s been fifteen days since I’ve had either one of these poisons. A friend at work recommended a site called www.killthecan.com where I learned that nicotine causes caffeine to be used more rapidly than normal. Which means I was chewing tobacco and drinking caffeine so that I could function on four hours of sleep (or less) a day. The joke was on me, because I was chewing more and more without realizing that this was causing me to drink additional caffeinated beverages with less effect.
I learn something every day. This caffeine / nicotine interaction was definitely not something I expected.
Without nicotine, I found a cup of coffee made me really jittery and kept me wide awake for hours longer than expected. It was tempting to blame this on withdrawal symptoms, but actually I was feeling the full power of coffee for the first time in years.
What does this have to do with writing?
For the first two weeks, I had one goal, and that was not to cave and return to my old ways. It turns out that getting motivated is one of my strongest triggers for nicotine. I remember reading that Stephen King quit smoking and how hard he said it was. I refuse to believe my creativity relies on any chemical, even one as commonplace as nicotine.
The fog of withdrawal is starting to fade. I am reclaiming my motivation, while focusing on leading a more balanced life. Family, friends, work, and other hobbies (exercise and taking time to relax) are taking their proper places in my writing life.
Today, I am continuously experiencing a true miracle. Quiting chewing tobacco is almost impossible. Ask anyone who has done it. Turning away diet soda after thirty years of total reliance on the drink may be harder yet. Quiting cold turkey has never worked well for me.
Yet it is happening now. Fifteen days? I never lasted fifteen minutes before. I believe in God, though I have struggles with understanding the mysteries of faith. Organized religion has committed foul crimes (just like every other organization or individual has) throughout history. But there is good in the world, and I feel it is often associated with religion done right.
I feel blessed, though I don’t deserve it.