Gaming Your Way

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Cessation Time Distortion

What a great title. It sounds nice and gamey. Like a sweet bullet time effect, or maybe a real time rewind function. Picture that, being able to pause and then rewind the action in any game, just by dropping the cessation time distortion component into your game. Nice.

It's actually got nothing to do with gaming or Flash, it's yet another smoking reference. Promise it'll be the last mention of my own personal trial on here ( In 15 mins I'll have been a non-smoker for exactly 1 week, hence my final farewell to banging on about how hard it is etc. etc. ).

"A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure.
It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied.
What more can one want ?
Oscar Wilde.
I've been doing a bit of reading about smoking and the effects it has on you, it does help when trying to stop, as it makes you realise it's not just a case of you being weak. It's a bit more than just caving in and eating that last bit of cake.
Ok we all know smokings bad. No one is so stupid as to think otherwise. Non-smokers just don't get how smokers can smoke, I mean it stinks, it's bad for you and it costs the earth. Smokers just hide behind a million different reasons just to keep smoking.
( Personally I used the combination of "I do actually enjoy it", "It helps me think" < Strong reason for me there, "I stopped before, and I remember how hard it was, and now I'm self employed I just don't have the time to effectively write off two weeks suffering withdrawal pangs". If you're a smoker I'm sure you can add your own to this list ).

So we all know all the bad things about smoking, the smell, the social costs ( It's no longer cool kids, try standing outside in the rain smoking, far from cool. Speaking of which, I'm sure I can't be the only smoker ever to stand in the rain, thinking "What the fuck am I doing this for ? I'm not even enjoying it that much anymore" only to do it again the next day. Same as going to a shop at 3am to buy some smokes 'cause there's nothing worse than waking up without a cigarette is there. ).

But here's something I only found out over the past couple of days. I was kinda aware of it, but never really knew the details. It's something that's never really thrown up as a reason to not smoke in the first place, I assume that cancer and heart disease are treated as good ( Bad ? ) enough reasons, in addition to the usual staples ( Smell, cost, ages your skin etc. etc. ).
To me it's caused more of a knee jerk than either of the big boy reasons not to smoke.

( Again, there's this pre-conception that smokers are dumb 'cause smoking greatly increases your chance of getting a million different cancers, with lung cancer being the big one, the mother of cancers. God's way of really smiting the smoker. You want to smoke ? Here's a cancer just for you. That'll fucking teach you.
As a smoker you know that, but it's an addiction non-smokers, so you can twist anything to suit your argument [ To keep smoking ].
Here's some stock replies, that I'm sure I've used before "I could get run over by a bus tomorrow", "You only live once, life's too short to worry about things like that. Anyway they say you can get cancer from <insert whatever has just been in the news recently that can give you cancer> so what can you believe anymore?" or the classic "I know it's bad for me, I'll stop smoking as soon as I notice my health getting worse, so I'll be fine".
I'm sure my Dad used that last one, he also used the other classic "Uncle Tom smoked 80 a day from the age of 14 and died in his 80s and was fit and healthy right to the end". Every smoker has that uncle Tom. My Dad died of lung cancer when I was 20, so 16 years ago. I started smoking when I was 17, and by the time Dad was dying infront of us I was quite happily smoking 20 a day. At his funeral ( Which btw was the first one I'd ever been too. Not the best way to lose your burial virginity ) I was desperate for a smoke, and when I got the chance, I did.
Here's a good definition of an addiction, "The uncontrollable, compulsive drug craving, seeking, and use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences." [source]. That's what smoking is, that's what makes you want to smoke at your Dad's funeral. It really is more than just not being able to turn down that last bit of cake ).

Nicotine is a poison, we all know that. It's the tobacco plants natural protection from insects. Drop for drop it's 3 times more deadly than arsenic. I guess there aren't too many insects eating tobacco leaves. It's also a member of the same family as cocaine, morphine, quinine and strychnine. Nice family.
But here's the detail that I only discovered the other day, the "If only I'd known that before I started smoking" bit of info ( That really wouldn't have made much difference in all honesty, but more than the big guns of reasons not to smoke ).

Eight seconds after your first ever drag your brain releases a ton of dopamine ( You can read the very dry definition here, or if you want to skip that, it increases heart rate and blood pressure. Basically it's an instant rush. It's also connected with your bodies reward system, which is handy in terms of forming an addiction ).
K, you've taken your first ever smoke. Nasty as hell. You're going to have to work quite hard to get addicted to this, but don't worry, smoking messes up your sense of smell and taste, so in effect it masks the fact that it tastes like what it is, poison. Also you know that stat about cigarette smoke containing 4000+ chemicals, included in those are things like Cocoa and Corn Syrup, added to make it smell less like death, and more like a white stick of nice.

Your brain knows poison when it gets a lung full of it. In return it reduces the number of [ Acetylcholine ] receptors available to receive nicotine to try and protect itself. It also reduces the number of transporters capable of moving the nicotine around in your brain, and as a final wave of protection, in other areas not affected by that first ever rush of nicotine it creates millions of extra receptors, so if you do have any more nicotine intake it's spread out more.
That's why you'll never ever get the same hit from a smoke as you did on that first ever time, every cig since that very first draw has been an attempt to re-create that first buzz. Your brain has re-wired itself to protect itself from having too much posion concentrated in one spot.

That's the thing that's freaked me out. That the crap I breathed in is dangerous enough that my brain is physically different, that it adapted itself straight away to avoid the harmful effects of nicotine ( The same thing happens with other drugs, it's the bodies way of coping with having something in it that really shouldn't be there ).

And connected to your brain being different to cope with nicotine ? Cessation Time Distortion.
In that first 72 hours when you stop smoking you have some nicotine left in your system ( It has a half life of 2 hours that's why when you're a smoker going over a couple of hours without smoking is hard as hell, for me it was an hour before I'd start getting really needy for one ), but it's not enough and that's why your brain throws a hissy fit.
This includes mood swings, lack of concentration ( It's exactly a week today that I stopped, and it's only just starting to sort itself out, although this post has taken ages to write ) and all the other things that make you a pain in the arse when you stop. At it's most simple level, you have a panic attack due to not being able to get what you crave, mixed in with your body regaining control of it's fight or flight mechanism, which has been run by nicotine since you started smoking ( Hence the attacks of instant pure rage for no real reason. Your body isn't used to handling anger itself properly any more, it's like when people have their sight restored after years of being blind, it's just over whelming and your brain doesn't really know how to cope ).

After those first 72 hours your brain kinda gets it, and starts resetting the changes it had put in place. Basically you're learning how to be the real you again, as opposed to the smoking-in-the-rain-even-though-you-don't-enjoy-it you. This isn't too smooth either, but should only take a couple of weeks.
Part of this re-wiring process is this really weird side effect, time distortion. Your whole concept of time is screwed. As a rule we all have pretty good internal clocks ( We've all had that "Got to get up in the morning it's really important" and then woken up a couple of minutes before the alarm was due to go off ) but during this process of re-wiring it's a million miles out.

At first that's a nasty thing. You know how when you're waiting at the doctors or the dentist time just drags. It's 'cause you're a bit bored, perhaps a bit worried about what's coming up, and it just seems to go in slowmo.
When you stop smoking, the whole day is like that. It's like the week before Christmas when you're a kid, it just goes on and on forever. Apparently actual physical nicotine cravings only last for 3 minutes at a time, but during the first couple of days you get hit by a lot of these cravings, and mixed in with this newly found no concept of time at all, they really really don't feel like 3 minutes.

Now I'm at the worst is behind me stage, this whole time distortion is nearly as cool as a component you could just drop into your Flash game to control time. I'm getting more done because I have more time on my hands. Not just 'cause I'm not having to shoot outside every 45mins / hour for a smoke, but because my brain really doesn't have a clue how long things take.
Which is such a result, as I have a deadline this Friday, and I've done relatively little the past week because I've had no concentration at all. I'm hoping I'm going to stay ever so slightly mental long enough to get the new game done.

And on that note, we're back onto games and leaving smoking behind. Normal service should resume tomorrow, thanks for indulging me.


Comments (4) -

  • Jeff Fulton

    11/24/2008 4:47:48 PM |

    Wow! Great great great description of exactly what it is like for the brain and body to react to a literal poisoning that you crave more of after one hit! Good luck, Squize, you will be better off. The story about your pop's funeral was heart tugging.

  • Squize

    11/24/2008 5:38:20 PM |

    Thanks mate ( I've just this second come here from your blog, thanks for linking to this, quite a nice surprise ).

    I think I hit the tipping point yesterday, where going back to smoking is no longer really an option as it'll taste really nasty and I won't enjoy it at all, I'll have to "learn" how to enjoy it again, but every 30 mins or so I'm thinking how much I'd like a smoke.
    Devil and the deep blue sea. The one thing I want I can't have, and if I do it'll suck.

    It felt odd writing about my Dad, I don't think I've ever done that before. I just wanted to show how strong the addiction is ( Greater than cocaine apparently ) that after watching someone I loved die fairly slowly over two years I'd still smoke.
    That my mind, which is pretty good on most things, will actually let me believe that I'll be one of the lucky ones who'll slip through life avoiding both cancer and heart disease just so I could keep on smoking.

  • Jeff Fulton

    11/24/2008 9:48:06 PM |

    My grandfather died of lung cancer (smoked a pipe for 60 years) but my sister still smokes a lot every day. Addictions are tough, but your article did a great job in explaining the consequences of trying to quit. I think many people will read that and shake their heads in shared acknowledgment. Nice job.

  • Squize

    11/25/2008 12:55:32 AM |

    Thanks for those words mate.

    Even though I've stopped, I naturally think of myself as a smoker, and as a smoker you know that for the most part non-smokers just don't get you.
    I've always heard smoking described as a "Filthy habit" and that just really annoys the crap out of me ( Although I can understand it. Just ).

    So I wanted to try and explain it from a smokers point of view. Giving up is ( Just ) like both being hungry and having an itch at the same time, neither of which you can do anything at all about, and that's constant for the first 3 days. You can distract yourself from it, but only for a couple of minutes and then it's back.

    It's not a habit at all, getting up in the middle of the night for a piss is a habit, checking your keys are in your pocket before closing the front-door is a habit, smoking is an addiction.
    And as such, that's why it makes you an arsehole. It makes you have to excuse yourself when chatting to people to go outside to smoke, it makes you deny the harm it's doing, it's like a virus that does everything it can to protect itself from you stopping it.

    It installs a really bad sense of fear when thinking about giving up ( Which is a chemical issue due to the effects on your synapses of smoking, not just a slightly neurotic selfish issue ).

    At the end of the day it's 3 days or so of hell, a couple of weeks of just nastiness as opposed to a lifetime of stinking, coughing, wasting money etc. In theory it's such a no brainer but against that you have all the built up resistance to stopping, all the worries that your life will never be the same [ As good ] again by being a non-smoker.
    It gets so screwed up, that all the anti-smoking literature ( My brand has recently started putting pictures on the packet, people with various ( And fucking ugly looking ) diseases related to smoking ) just makes you feel that bit more determined to smoke. It's basically just digging your heels in, but over something so stupid it's untrue.

    Every situation where you used to smoke, every single one, fires off a craving when you stop. Once you get through each one once it shouldn't really come back again, but there is a hell of a lot of situations which trigger a craving.
    For example going to the supermarket, I'd usually have a smoke on the way there, so bang craving. On the way back after loading the car another smoke, another craving.

    And after all that whinging about it, that's me spent :)

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