Catching Up for 2020, Pt. III – March 5, 2020

…Continued from Pt. II…

I left off the last part of this (now way too long) blog post by describing the anxiety my upcoming 50th birthday was causing me, and what I had decided to do to mark that occasion.

I asked my wife and my very good, nerdy friend if they would accompany me on what I ended up calling my Super Space Nerd Birthday Road-trip. My birthday fell on a Saturday, so the plan was to leave early, and to drive the four and a half hours south to Cincinnati, Ohio, to the Cincinnati Museum, where Columbia, the Apollo 11 Command Module Capsule was on display. It was there on loan from the Smithsonian but would be leaving at the start of February, so this would likely be my last chance to see it before it was moved.

On the way back, after seeing the Apollo 11 CSM, we’d stop in Wapakoneta, Ohio, at the Neil Armstrong Museum, where the Gemini 8 capsule was on display, that way I’d get to see two actual space-craft in one day and geek out at two space-themed museums. We’d cap off the day by eating at one of my favourite chain restaurants, Famous Dave’s BBQ, to celebrate my B-Day before coming back across the border.

I made sure to check the weather forecast for the day since there would be a lot of driving involved. The reports said that all through Ohio, the weather would be clear, which was an outright lie. While the trip down was fine, we ended up hitting a rather nasty snow squall through most of the way back from Cincinnati, slowing us down quite a bit and making us almost miss the second leg of my Space-Nerd Museum tour, as well as giving me quite the white-knuckle driving experience on the way back to Detroit.

We did hit both museums though, which was awesome. It was unfortunate that we were so pressed for time since the Cincinnati Museum was very cool, with a lot of other interesting exhibits, but we only had time to check out the Apollo 11 exhibit before having to make our way back.

The exhibit consisted of the capsule itself, as well as several artifacts from the Apollo 11 mission, such as various pieces of space suits and equipment used during the sorties on the lunar surface. I was in NASA fan-boy heaven. I had a great time explaining to the ladies each and every piece on display, without having to refer to the information placards near each piece, which impressed/annoyed some of the curators of the displays.

The Cincinnati Museum is a unique building architecturally and was the basis for the design of the Hall of Justice featured on the old Super-Friends Saturday morning cartoon show of the 1970s. I got a real kick out of heroically posing out front of it for a fun photo.

All three of us enjoy museums greatly, but if we were to make it back to Wapakoneta in time to tour the Neil Armstrong Museum, we had to get back on the road rather quickly.

Wapakoneta, Neil Armstrong’s home town, lies about half-way between Detroit and Cincinnati. We stopped for lunch when we’d gotten just outside of the city, and by the time we got back on the highway, the weather had turned. An unexpected snow squall had moved in over much of western Ohio, slowing us down significantly, and making driving a bit dicey.

We only just managed to get to Wapakoneta about a half-hour before the museum closed, making for a rather rushed tour. It’s a small museum though, so I did get to see all of the main exhibits, including Armstrong’s Gemini 8 capsule, that he’d flown on a mission to test docking maneuvers with an Agena drone craft.

Despite both museum visits being rather rushed, and the large amount of driving I had to do, I had a great birthday nerding out with two of my favourite ladies, and I truly appreciate them indulging me. We capped off the evening with some BBQ brisket and cheap beer at Famous Dave’s near Detroit, which is always a treat for me.

So, along with the Skylab III CSM that I went to see in Columbus this past summer, I’ve now seen three spacecraft that actually went into space, one that even orbited the moon. All of the other craft I’ve seen have been either surplus, un-launched craft like the canceled Apollo 18/Saturn V at Kennedy Space Center, or boiler-plate and training mock-ups. I’d like to travel to see one of the decommissioned shuttles next, and maybe eventually even a recovered Soviet or Russian Soyuz capsule.

The day after my birthday was meant to be a bit of a milestone as well, and it’s a large part of the reason that the past couple of months have been so uncharacteristically odd for me.

I’ve been saying for quite a while now that in order to get my health back on track I need to make some really big changes. Letting go of some of the responsibilities I took on that was causing me anxiety was once such change. For another, I felt I needed some help, so I went to see m;y doctor.

Like every other smoker, I’ve tried dozens of times over the years to quit, with only (obviously) temporary success. Given my other health concerns, it’s critical that I give up the smokes, so I got myself a prescription for Champix .

I’ve tried other stop-smoking aids, and while a few of them helped, I always back-slid. I’ve heard both the good and the bad about Champix, and I can honestly say that both sides have some truth to them.

Champix is a pill that you take twice daily that works by (so I’ve been lead to believe) blocking nicotine from triggering your body from creating dopamine, reducing or even eliminating your cravings for cigarettes, and even removing your ability to enjoy smoking if you do light up. It also contains some type of anti-anxiety component, meant to help you get over the hump and reduce the mood swings brought on by quitting.

I’d avoided taking Champix because I’d heard about some troubling possible side effects. I had come to see it as a bit of a radical, last-ditch effort. But desperate times…

I got the prescription a few weeks before we left for our trip to Cuba, but held off on starting it since I knew I’d be smoking my face off while away (cigarettes in Cuba are about $2.00 a pack). You have to take Champix for a while to build it up in your system before you quit, so they recommend you set a “quit date”, and start on the pills a couple of weeks before then.

I’d chosen the day after my birthday as my quit date so that I could feel free to have a good time on my B-Day without fiend-ing for a smoke. I wasn’t sure how I’d be while on the Champix, so I didn’t want to take any chances that it would affect my ability to have a good time.

Problem was, by the time I did get around to starting on the pills, more than a month had passed since I’d filled the prescription. By then I had forgotten the instructions and warnings that my doctor and the pharmacist had given me about taking the medication.

That was an unfortunate mistake.

With Champix, you start by taking a very low dose initially, doubling it every day until you reach the full dose taken in 2 pills. You’re supposed to take the two pills separately, 12 hours apart from each other. That was the critical part of the instruction that I had forgotten. I was taking both pills together, along with my other meds.

Some of the possible side effects from taking Champix are – increased anxiety, increased appetite, and thirst, moodiness, and depression, tiredness/lethargy, lack of motivation, increased urination, dehydration, bloating and gastrointestinal issues (gas), muscle pain and cramping, vivid and strange dreams/nightmares, blurred vision and increased risk of heart attack.

And those are only the possible side effects that I can remember.

Doubling the dose, as I was inadvertently doing, greatly increased the chances of experiencing those effects, which is exactly what happened with me. After about the first week on Champix, I started having really vivid and disturbing dreams and waking up with bad cramps in my legs. I was hungry and thirsty all of the time – I couldn’t eat enough food or drink enough water, and twice I ate so much that I made myself sick and had to vomit before I could be comfortable again.

I began feeling really depressed and lethargic, having to force myself into doing anything more than sitting on the couch. My personality completely changed. I became sullen and withdrawn and quick to anger. My eyesight even seemed to be getting worse.

After my quit date came along, things got a little better, as I was amazed at how easy it seemed to give up the cigarettes – I had absolutely no cravings, not even when others around me were smoking. But the euphoria over that realization only lasted a couple of days before the anxiety and moodiness returned full force.

I got very worried about these side effects and considered going back to my doctor to tell her what was happening, and see if I should reduce the dose or go off of it altogether. I hesitated because of how easy the pills were making it to not smoke, and I was, and am, desperate to quit smoking.

So instead, I went on-line.


… To be continued in Pt. IV…



Final NaNo Word Count – 56,095
Current Word Count – 70,448

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