Here’s the thing about quitting smoking nobody tells you. It sucks! It really sucks! There is nothing fun about it. I don’t know all these people who say once you quit you feel so much better, have more energy, blah blah.. That has not been my experience. I am here to talk about the real shit of quitting smoking. And for all those people who say “what’s the big deal?”, “Millions of people quit smoking every day and they do just fine, get over it” … what I say is **** YOU! Don’t minimize my experience because others have dealt with it differently. I don’t do that to you so don’t do it to me. I know many people who are going through hard times in their lives that I may have handled differently because of my tolerance but I don’t minimize your experiences, I expect the same in return. I am here to to give you another perspective of what you may experience. What you’re more likely to experience if you have been a long term smoker. Everyone is different so many of you may be those lucky ones that it’s just a week of nicotine withdrawals, you’re a bit uncomfortable and then boom you’re over it! Good for you, you can just move along. But for those of you that it’s more, stick around; there might be some comfort in knowing you are not alone in your experience.
I have been a full-fledged, pack a day smoker for at least 25 years. My whole adult life I have smoked. I started in school at a very young age; at first it was just to be cool with friends. It later turned into a pack a day habit. I always stayed around a pack a day, sometimes a bit more if I was overly stressed or out at bars socializing and drinking but that was my habit. Always lights, the brand changed through the years but always stayed lights….like that really makes a difference. And I was one of those people who liked smoking…. actually sometimes loved it! Many smokers hate themselves after each cigarettes, I was not one of those. I hated smelling like it but the doing it….I really, really liked! The whole thing brings back a sense of nostalgia about those times when a cigarette was my only comfort. That’s the thing that nobody tells you, every smoker knows that giving it up is good for them in the long run. We know it is a waste of money, we know it’s bad for us and giving it up is so much better, and we get all of that. We want to be like those non-smokers who look at cigarettes and thinks, “why in the world would you want to do that?” Those are some of the reasons that we give up cigarettes, because we know and those are good reasons but what happens after they are gone? That’s what no-one talks about.
First let me say why I finally gave it up. I have been thinking for a long time that I no longer wanted to be a slave to cigarettes. Really that’s the big reason. Also I wanted to be an example for my beautiful niece who looks up to me and wants to be like me, and I have a new nephew. I would like to be a good example for them and be healthy for them. But the big reason was the feeling of enslavement. As someone on the spiritual path pointed out to me, I wanted to get my power back. I no longer wanted to worry about going somewhere and stressing about a place I could smoke. I want to travel and go to Hawaii next year, I don’t want to be hiking on a mountain in beautiful nature and go looking for a place to smoke. I don’t want to always have to have cigarettes by my side to get through my life. I already knew all the health and money reasons to quit but that didn’t deter me. Smokers already know this shit and they don’t care, they still want to smoke, why because it is an addiction first and foremost but it is also something else. It becomes a relationship! That is where there real problem lies and why it is so hard to break. Yes it may be a toxic relationship, and it is, but a relationship none the less!
It has been almost 50 days since my last cigarettes, I went cold-turkey. No nicotine replacements. If you are going to quit forget the gum or patches they only keep you physically hooked. That is why most go back. First you must get the nicotine out of your system completely. I am not going to get too much into the physical withdrawals here, they are pretty bad but you can get through them. The actual nicotine withdrawal itself isn’t the worst part, at least for me. I got very, very sick and couldn’t breathe I suspect because of the healing of my lungs and it trying to release the tar and chemicals. The cilia grow back as soon as you stop smoking, so I was having a very hard time. That is what cleans and protects your lungs. Smoking damages that. I actually went to the emergency room twice in a week with not being able to breathe and having chest pains. The tests came back good so the doctors think that my lungs were just so inflamed from the years of smoking and no longer putting that in my body. It has been pretty painful to say the least. I am now feeling much better in that regard. They gave me steroids, some breathing treatments and cough syrup for the symptoms. It helps and it’s just the waiting for things to heal on their own. For about 4 weeks the cough was so bad I couldn’t sleep so it was pretty stressful. Now I am sleeping, that’s the thing that is very weird. One of the effects of not smoking is either insomnia or exhaustion. I have fluctuated back and forth between the two during this process. Then there’s the brain fog! Nobody tells you about the brain fog. I am forgetful, clumsy disoriented and spacey. I had no idea that would happen. It could be my brain chemistry changing as it is clearing out all those years of toxic poison I was doing to it. I am sure that’s it, I even got some online bills mixed up this previous month because of the brain fog which had to be sorted out.
There of course is the moodiness, agitation and aggravation; I was expecting all of that. Don’t take it out on other people and just know that even if you withdrawal a bit and need some space the people around you might take it personal. Don’t let that dissuade you in your goal, it is about you, not them and that will work itself out.
So now the important part that is unexpected and quite baffling really. It is the feeling of loss. The loss of a long relationship, there is a mourning and depression that set in that I wasn’t expecting. A friend described it like I just decided to end a lifetime relationship and there are feelings that are coming up to deal with. At first I was thinking that is crazy it’s freaking smoking and it’s bad for me and it’s done. That’s crap, what is wrong with me? But the more I think about it the more it makes perfect sense. If you are a smoker you will understand this if not pass it along to a smoker who is trying to give it up, it may help them if these feelings come up. Cigarettes and the act of smoking one has been with me through everything I have EVER experienced as an adult and even in those crucial moments while I was becoming an adult. Everything… now just try to think of something that has been with you through everything and imagine giving that up boom just like that! It sends your body and your psyche into shock. At first you are just numb, the physical withdrawals start but then when the numbness wears off, all the emotions and old habits come to the surface to deal with. They come and they come strong and they start the minute you wake up.
The average smoker will smoke every ½ hour to hour from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep. Can you imagine? What else do you do that much throughout the day? You don’t even drink that much water in a day. So imagine when that suddenly stops. You feel like something isn’t right, you feel like something is missing. And something is missing, your old companion. So expect that when you are going through the process and expect some sadness and feelings of loss to come up. Expect that you have just given up a significant relationship. That has helped me in processing all the emotions that come with letting go of that. I know many other people have felt this and I would bet they went back to smoking not because of the nicotine which after a week is out of your system, but because of how uncomfortable it is dealing with the emotions of loss. Even though we all know how toxic this relationship is it may be the longest relationship you have ever had. It is also the one thing that has, if you are like me gone with you everywhere.
Just look back at your life from wherever you are right now and imagine. Imagine every emotion of stress you have ever had you smoked. Every time you were angry, sad, nervous, anxious, stressed out you smoked. Every tear you shed most likely cigarettes were with you. Every time you were scared cigarettes where your confidant, and every time you were mad at someone or something cigarettes were your go-to friend. That’s just a very short list of all the times cigarettes were with you during bad or uncomfortable times. We are now going to flip it to all the happy and joyful times. Cigarettes were definitely with you on ALL social occasions, especially if alcohol was involved. I know that cigarettes were your friend every time something new and exciting showed up in your life. Every job, relationship, friendship, vacation, trip, weddings, parties, bars, clubs, happy hours, dinners with friends, sex,.. etc. The list is amazingly long and I could write a book just on when a cigarette has been with me. Another one that non-smokers don’t realize is smoking when you are out is a great way to meet new people. Think about it, we must go outside to a certain location to smoke. Do you have any idea how many amazing people I have met doing that over the years? Countless… and there is a strange bonding ritual that happens with you and other smokers while you’re out having your cigarette. If you are a smoker or ex-smoker you completely understand what I mean.
Don’t even get me started on all the times I had a cigarette to help me relax. Every smoker does that. But it’s a lie, if you do a Google search on the effects of cigarettes you will see it actually makes you more anxious. That’s a little trick the nicotine plays on you and add the emotional dependency to that, and you see why it is so hard to give up. Some say it is harder to give up than drugs and alcohol.
Ok so now that I scared you and your thinking, “why in the hell would I want to do that” I want to share with you the good news. It does get better. I am slowly feeling better. I have faith in the fact that the bigger picture here is not only my own health physically but my own health emotionally. If you are asking for change from the Universe or God than be prepared to handle it when it comes. You must detox yourself, the old self and all that goes with it must metaphorically die so the new can be born. It’s a process and the only way around it is through it. I am going through it right now. But at least I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I also truly believe that if I want to manifest good things into my life and healthy things, I need to stop purposely and consciously putting toxic chemicals into my body. I am sending mixed signals to the Universe in manifesting if I continue to do that. I must be very clear in my intentions for myself and what I want in my life.
I thought I would share this because I know if I have been feeling this way than many other people must be going through the same thing. People always feel better about an experience especially a difficult one when they know others are going or have gone through it. I take it one day at a time, and every day I still want to have a cigarette, even knowing all of this, I do still have the desire. I can say that it is less and less and when the cravings come they aren’t nearly as strong or as long. I do recommend in the first 3 months doing a lot of self-care. I also recommend keeping yourself as far away as you can from the biggest triggers in your life. If certain situations really have caused you to smoke than stay away for a bit. If it’s coffee or alcohol or certain foods give them up for at least 30 days, longer if you need to. Believe me this has helped me tremendously. If it’s certain friends or family, take a step back until you’re over the hardest part of it. You can always come back around when you are ready. If they really love you they will understand and give you that space.
I hope this helps you in your journey if you have stumbled across this blog. I wish you the best of luck and look on-line for alternative ways to help you deal with all the symptoms. Look up EFT and Tapping for quitting smoking, that has been helpful to me and so has Allen Carr’s, Easy Way to Stop Smoking.
xoxo ~ Melisa