This is my 25th year smoking. I quit cigarettes cold turkey on Jan, 3 of this year. I am on day 56. I was living in downtown Denver in a blonde brick high rise , I had a tiny balcony on the twelfth floor that I would sit on a modern white plastic chair Smoking cigarettes. This was about 5:30 in the morning, 19 degrees outside, you could see every breathe, it was so cold. I would sit under three coats and two blankets , hat, gloves. It was my homeless look. That morning as I started to cough as I did frequently, I noticed I was coughing in unison with my downstairs homeless friend Kevin who lived at the 7-11 under our building. Kevin is very sick , he is still smoking in his 60’s and it was that moment , I had to look at my junkie behavior with these death sticks. I looked up emphysema symptoms on the google, while doing that search I found a website whyquit.com.
It was a website dedicated to nicotine addiction. Over three hundred videos are on you tube and countless articles for reading on nicotine addiction . They believe addiction is healed in understanding addiction, they believe only in cold turkey quitting, as a nicotine addict you have to agree to never take another puff, one day at a time. Sometimes a second or minute at a time. It was that morning I crushed the rest of my cigarettes and threw them away. I drew a hot bath with Epsom salts and watched you tube videos on my addiction and how it was killing me for the next hour in my bath. I made a decision In my bath sweating, crying and feeling the full weight of my addiction on me ,that this addiction had to go. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like shit. The only solution that I would commit to not taking another puff , ever.
What I have learned about nicotine addiction really has kept me from smoking when I want too. Smoking is an addiction not a bad habit. The thing I am finding through the process of quitting is that as a smoker whenever I was upset, sad, happy . I smoked away my emotions. On day three of this quit I wanted to kill someone. I was so angry!!!! I work with the public that is not okay!!!! The thing I was learning was that when I got upset smoking, I would go smoke. It would make me pause, think, get some dopamine and help with the situation I was about to deal with. Now, not having that smoke break, time out or dopamine and the anger comes, it can be overwhelming. I found out I still need to take breaks and go for a walk or take a break and breathe and feel the emotions.
I have cried more since I have quit smoking than I can remember ever doing in my life. The bathtub which has become my safe and happy place during this quit unleashes the tears. I have spent many baths crying. I think that this is healing and it is me getting out years of pain that I have smoked instead of felt. It feels bizarre because there isn’t necessarily a trigger or current reason to be crying that much. I am allowing myself to feel and respond which is new behavior instead of lighting up.
The other thing is when you stop an addiction the grief process begins. Anger is second on the grief scale. One thing that has really helped me was to compare my quitting smoking to my dad dying. I can miss him, I can be angry but it doesn’t bring him back. I can go through all these emotions of grief with smoking and it doesn’t mean that I will smoke again. It helped me understand emotionally I can feel devastated just like I did with dad’s death but I have to handle it and bury it without smoking when I feel emotions. I feel them. It doesn’t kill me.
Working out has helped me so much with the anger , moods, and overall frustration of withdrawal and psychological addiction to nicotine. I have a 🥊 punching bag that I absolutely love to destroy while hitting as part of my workout and we recently moved right across the street from city park, which was so divine in timing with quitting cigarettes. We moved 5 days after I quit smoking which really helped with the routines around smoking. We also moved so close to the park I can run everyday. My dogs are in love with this decision as well. I have always worked out even as a smoker. The thing I notice is how much it helps me emotionally to get into the fresh air and run. The beauty that surrounds me even in the middle of a city. Everyday I run I feel my lungs improving along with my stamina.
I have gained weight. That is super normal because nicotine is an appetite suppressant as well as a stimulant. Smokers burn 200 more calories a day than non smokers. This is because every time you light up it makes your heat beat faster. Nicotine also tells the body it’s full before it is. Some people who quit smoking gain a ton of weight. That is because they are replacing food with the cravings. I think it’s imperative to breathe during the first three days quitting instead of eating candy or food during a craving.
You can drink juice to keep your blood sugar up as nicotine affects the blood sugar. Deep breathing with the nicotine cravings is what helped me this time quitting. With addiction I think it’s easy to replace one with another. I don’t want have to loose 50 pounds because I quit smoking and replaced that addiction with a food addiction. A lot of people feel it’s better to do that than to continue smoking but I feel it’s just as dangerous to get addicted to sugar after quitting. Breathing calms and exercise is essential. I do and did mad amounts of yoga during this time. Sometimes I would be in a yoga pose and I would scream, I wanted a cigarette so bad. I found that gave me a lot of relief. Yoga helps because the pose is painful just like the experience with quitting smoking. It helps to reinforce the experience with the pose and the gains through the pain.
I have found myself depressed lately as the latest on the long list of symptoms of quitting smoking. Nicotine has been my drug since I was 15 years old. Nicotine gives me dopamine. That makes me happy. I no longer am getting that dopamine. I have to work at it by working out. Nicotine is also a stimulant so it gets you going. Not having that makes me feel tired and not as motivated. One thing I have to focus on in my depression is acceptance that this should be hard.
I have smoked longer than I haven’t. I have done so many things with my cigarettes I consider them my friend! Doing things without them will be difficult because it’s all new behavior. I think it is the resistance in our thinking that we shouldn’t be feeling or experiencing what we are. This is like learning how to ride a bike, learning how to walk. The hardest thing for me is giving myself permission to suck. Addicts are very hard on themselves. I am a total perfectionist. For me to come to a place where I allow myself to gain 7 pounds to achieve this goal of quitting smoking was a lesson. I taught myself how to accept myself through that. I worked out hard everyday, I cried several times a day. I freaked out on my poor boyfriend often. It was a day at a time. My whole life has centered around my sobriety to nicotine this past six weeks.
I have barely spoken to friends. Telephone and cigarettes are like peanut butter and jelly. I have stayed away from phone calls to make my life easier during this quit. I text more.
I try everyday to do my gratitude list when I am at my wits end . I tell myself everything positive that had happened during my quit. I am grateful for not smelling like an ashtray. Disgusting! I am grateful my circulation is better I used to be cold and uncomfortable. I have to accept that I have to do other things to get the dopamine I got from smoking that aids in my natural depression.
In closing, whyquit.com has a Facebook support group at:
Statistics show addiction is overcome with support and community. This support group has been helpful in my quit, when I have been struggling and having hard days with the quit to go online where everyone is going through this process of quitting or has gone through it.
Have you quit smoking? Comment on what worked for you.