I'd never imagined that a nicotine patch could cause pain like this. Right now, my right arm is aching, from the shoulder where the small, clear patch is stuck, half way to my fingers.

A couple of days ago, it was my left arm suffering through this. Basically wherever the patch sits, the aching follows. It's funny - I could place a cigarette to my lips, inhale the smoke, exhale less smoke than I'd taken in, and not really realise that I was poisoning myself. The morning shower would pretty much always include coughing up some crap, often tinged with blood - whether from my raw throat, or somewhere else, I'm not sure. I don't really think I want to know. I pretended it wasn't real for so long, I don't think it's important to find the source at this point in time.

Now, after deciding that enough is enough, I'm realising the strength of the poison that I've been inhaling all this time. Each morning, for the last five days, I've woken and put a new patch on. The instructions talk about the possible side effects, including nausea, insomnia, vivid dreams, and so on. There's no mention of the position of the patch aching like this. Rebelling against the poison coursing through my body, suppressing the cravings. Well...at least to some extent.

Unfortunately, instead of experiencing weird and wonderful dreams, I've been suffering through the insomnia. I'm not sure that deciding to finally quit while in the middle of one of the busiest weeks I've spend at work - in a different city no less - was such a good idea. It's getting better now, and I've been able to have a couple of nights of reasonable sleep. I just hope that it's my body getting used to nicotine 24/7, rather than simply being so tired that nothing could keep me awake.

Then again, that's what really lies at the heart of all my reasons for not quitting up until now. The time is never just right. It's taken me a long time to realise this, after constantly finding a reason to exclude any particular point in time from my abstinence plans. Always, something would be coming up, which would have made it difficult to stick to my resolve. Always, something which I convinced myself I'd need a smoke to get through was on the horizon. Work, a big night out, life's little stresses - they were always there, looming over me. "No - now's not the time to throw away my crutch and stand by myself. I need something in my hands, something apart from air to breathe."

Not any more.

I've been away from home, and have just worked one of the busiest weeks I've experienced to date. Long days, stressed work companions, a city I barely know. Needing to train people holding one of the highest offices in the country. No, the week just gone was not a good time to quit, but it's about time I stopped making excuses for myself, bit the bullet, and simply stopped killing myself.

Right now, my right arm is aching. There is a controlled flow of nicotine flowing through that arm, designed to reduce the cravings I feel. I appear to have decided that I am being slowly poisoned, so my body is giving me warning signals, trying to prompt me into taking action to remove the source of the poisoning. It doesn't seem to understand that I'm attempting to remove the source of the poisoning that I've been inflicting upon myself for years.

Of course, the poison runs deeper than a simple chemical running through my bloodstream. Breaking long standing habits is going to be the hardest thing to deal with. Finding things to fill those moments when I'd normally be smoking. It's going to be difficult to get used to working through the day, without the small breaks I used to rely on. This was always another reason for not quitting - I need to break the day up, to get away from the desk for a short time, allow my thoughts to come together again, before getting back to things. It always worked too. If I was getting overly stressed, or I had too many things to do with no idea where to start, I'd head outside for a smoke. Those five minutes allowed me to focus, to think things through, set priorities for myself, and actually start to do something productive. I'm going to have to find a replacement for that. Right now however, away from work, the house is clean, I've vacuumed the car, bought some vegetables to plant in the garden, swept out the back, bought a new cd, put on a load of washing... If nothing else, finding time for housework isn't going to be a problem. Anything which allows me to move, to focus on, to distract me from boredom and thought - these are the things I'm seeking out.

The nice thing is, after close to a week since my last cigarette, I feel as though I have more energy. I'm getting used to taking a breath, and being surprised at the different feeling of air in my lungs. I'm not sure that a week's really enough time to make that much difference to my breathing, but it feels that way. I've got more motivation to get off my butt and do things. I've got more money to spend. I don't smell. I don't feel so dehydrated when I wake in the morning. When I do get up, it's easier to get ready because I don't have to waste time with the morning cigarette - I may even have time for breakfast now (yes, it used to be a sacrifice I'd make).

Basically, right now, I feel more alive than in a long time. And as each day goes by, and this feeling increases, I'm discovering that although the cravings are still there (they struck again, a mere two paragraphs ago), the energy I've rediscovered is best motivation I have to crush them. No reliance on goals, no need to run the advantages of not smoking through my mind like some form of mantra. All I need to do is feel.