At age 59, I decided I had enough and I quit smoking. It was not easy. My parents both smoked. My brother and sister smoked. At age 12 I smoked my first cigarette from an old pack I found somewhere. By age 14, I was buying my own. After I graduated from High School, that was it. 1 to 2 packs a day for 45 years. During that 45 years, I have no idea how many times I tried to quit. Many, many times for sure. (Which reminds me of the old joke: Quitting is easy! Why just yesterday I quit ten times. It is the staying quit that is tough.)
I reviewed all my recent efforts and decided to use nicotine patches and e-cigs. It worked. The nic patches eased any physical withdrawal and the e-cigs helped with the anxiety of quitting. I had noticed that if I went without a cigarette for a couple of hours, when I did have one it was the first one or two puffs that was key. I thought about trying to do that with a regular cigarette, but it is not easy to toss it aside after one or two puffs. The nice thing about the e-cigs is that it is easy to only take one or two, then put it away. So I just went as long as I could, then would have one or two and then go on about my business. After a month or so, I was able to ditch both the patches and the e-cig.
Then the fun began. Literally for the first time in all my life, I was without nicotine. After a week or so, things began to taste terrible. Food tasted like crap. Even the tap water tasted terrible. My weight began to balloon up. I went from around 190 to 225 in about six months.
I am a High Functioning Autistic. A thumbnail description is mild Aspergers.
Before long I discovered that a lot of the HF of my HFA is due to nicotine. I could not concentrate. My memory went to hell. I ran into people I had worked with for a dozen years and I could not remember their names. When I tried to write anything, I could not remember words, even though I knew I knew the word I wanted it just would not come. I was constantly finding myself at various places and could not remember why I was there. In my hometown, I made a wrong turn one night and I did not recognize where I was. Alzheimer’s is a real fear of mine and that had me scared silly.
I went back on the nic patches. I didn’t want to. The ones I was using turned my skin bright red and it took several days to clear. With my psoriasis, I was concerned it might cause an outbreak.
In a short time, I was back somewhere near normal, at least as far as the mental problems were concerned. Things did taste better, but still did not return to what I expected. Tap water tasted like water again. I could remember things again.
So over a period of time, I experimented. I found a different brand of patches. I found I could take a 21 mg patch, cut it in half and use it. I went to patches on Monday and Tuesday, skip Wednesday, patch on Thursday and Friday, skip Saturday and Sunday, then repeat.
The thing is that I feel the very best on the days without a patch, but if I go too long, the symptoms start returning. So I wanted to find the least amount that would work. Secondly this lets me stretch a two week kit (14 patches) out for seven weeks.
So, mentally I was more or less back on keel. But my weight was still a problem. I dieted the usual way. I reduced my calories. My weight still went up. I reduced more. By theory, a man needs about 2000 calories per day. (Yes, I know it should be kcal but by convention when referring to diet, the k is dropped.) I went down to around 800 to 900 per day. That is starvation level. I got down to 205 but any time I ate anything extra, the weight went back on. I tried going to a more high protein low carb diet, but it did not help much. Simply put I was starving myself continuously.
Early this year I heard someone on the radio talking about “power” coffee. There was also a reference to Keto coffee and the ketogenic diet. I did not have much to lose, so … I gave it a shot.
At home, for whatever reason I prefer drinking tea. I started drinking keto tea. Brew the tea as usual. While hot stir in a tea spoon or two of butter, ditto coconut oil and ditto heavy shipping cream. I have to admit it tasted oily/greasy at first. But after a couple of days, it was really amazing the difference it was making. Gone was the sensation of starving. I did not increase what I was eating, but with the extra calories from the fats and oils, it had to at least double the calories. My weight stabilized. All of a sudden I could eat some extra and it did not go straight to extra pounds. My energy level went back to normal, then above normal.
I had been exercising regularly. I go for 30 minutes plus a day. Every day. I figure that is enough to stay somewhat fit but is not so much overkill that it becomes a chore. I ride the exercise bike in 3 ten minute periods. With each I then do a series of resistance (bungee system) upper body exercises.
I can trot up a couple of flights of stairs and then walk down the hallway normally without panting like an old dog on a hot day. I can walk five miles without breaking a sweat or pausing to rest. My blood pressure is in the lower quarter for my age group. My resting pulse is 75-80. During the exercise I raise it to around 110.
I have cut out all the refined sugar I can. No “fizzy soda water”. No candy bars. About the only sweet is an occasional dish of ice cream. To it I add some liquid coconut oil and a generous dollop of heavy whipping cream. Sometimes I will cut up a banana and do the same. Or strawberries. For snacks, I eat a lot of nuts or grapes or olives. As far as diet goes, I stay heavy on protein: regular fat cheese, eggs, red meat (with lots of marbling), butter, with some bread in the form of a biscuit or perhaps a waffle or the like. For fruits and vegetables I follow the simple rule of above ground only.
One of the things I have been taking for some time to deal with my depression as well as problems with my psoriasis is Vitamin D3. I am currently taking 7000 IU per day. I had been taking St John’s Wort but since there is a problem with it causing sensitivity to the sun, I have not taken any for some time now. The sum total of all these recent events is this: my autistic symptoms has receded to an incredible degree.
I have lived my life within the framework and to a large extent, the limitations of my autism. The framework is still there, but the limitations seem to be expanded until they are not nearly so limiting. The OCD things which tormented me are quiescent. One of the worst things I used to suffer is what I call circular thinking. Something would happen, I would do some silly thing, or make some stupid mistake, or the like and I would beat myself up over and over and over. At times it would keep me from sleeping as in my head I would go over and over and over it again and again and again. I would try and break the cycle, try and stop it from happening by trying to think of something else or by trying to clear my mind. It would work for only a little while and I would find myself back into that obsessive cycle. Sometimes there would be something I would decide I had to do and my head would not let me rest until it was done. If I was not working on whatever it was, I was thinking about it, what needed to be done, how it needed to be done, how to start, what would be first, then what would be next and so on.
For some things, this was good. I could research and find things, study and learn and research some more. I could work on something I had written until it was just so. All the while ignoring any distraction. Hour after hour, never noticing time pass. Other times not so good. I’d get an idea in my head and I. Could. Not. Get. It. Out.
What I learned from my adventures with the nicotine dosage is this. When I used a full 21 mg nicotine patch, I tended to be on the OCD side. With no nicotine, I went to the ADD side. As I experimented, it was as if that arrow above moved side to side. What seems to work the best for me is to cut a 21 mg patch in half. I use the patch on Mon and Tues, then skip Weds, then do the same for Thurs and Fri then skip Sat and Sun. This keeps me on a pretty even keel.
But then I added the fats and oils to my diet. That improved things even more. There is some research which suggests that the brain does better when certain fats are available. The brain is mostly fatty type tissue anyway so I suppose there is some logic to it. Regardless I find myself to be a different person in a lot of ways now. My health is very good, but with the changes in my autism, I find myself in new territory. I have lived my life within the bounds of the autism limitations and now a lot of them do not apply. I learned and I know how to survive before, but now I find myself in new territory. The rules have somehow changed.
Simply put, I no longer know what I want. In someways it is like a prisoner released from his cell after a long, long time. There is an irrational wish to go back to what was, to that familiar territory where there was limits which bounded what I could do. Now that there is all this freedom, the question is: what do I do? What do I want?
I have no answers yet.