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The things they don’t tell you about quitting smoking…

Everyone knows the benefits of ditching the cigarettes. Hell, the negative consequences are published in graphic pictures all over the boxes, so if you don’t know the main benefit associated to smoking is to quit them you’re slower than I am.

I’ve smoked on and off – more on than off – since I was 18. 25 going on 26 years. More than half my life. That is not a brag, trust me. I refuse to even consider the amount of money I’ve smoked. But I’ve recently quit smoking (again) and there are some things I want to address. The main things being, what they don’t tell you to expect when you quit smoking.

Quitting smoking is not easy. Apparently. Every book, meditation, nicotine replacement therapy product, tells us that. We’re told it’s ridiculously hard. It’s harder than quitting heroin. It’s harder than any other drug. Why are we told that? Why is that so? And if it is really that hard, why are people not admitted to rehab to give up smoking? I mean if it’s easier to kick heroin why aren’t smokers given the same care and therapy to quit cancer sticks? Or does the veneer of legality mean smokers are on their own?

I’m sure there is a medical explanation as to why it costs consumers almost as much to quit smoking as it does to actually smoke, but I’m not a medical person. I barely know my anti-depressants from my anti-inflammatories.

Giving up nicotine in and of itself isn’t that hard. You do it every night when you go to bed. Unless you wake up to have a cigarette every couple of hours, you’re basically clean each morning. I once read the book Easyway to Quit Smoking by Allen Carr. The book, originally published in 1985, examines smoking, the causes for doing it and just why quitting being ‘so difficult’ is big business. When I read that book I quit smoking, cold turkey and with only one tantrum, for almost a year. Alcohol allowed me to derail that attempt.

I still recommend the book to anyone who is serious about quitting smoking. Almost a year with not one cigarette. That was a success. The book worked. It was me that didn’t. it worked more so than gum, patches, sprays, hypnotherapy.

When – and if – you ever decide to quit smoking there are a few things you need to keep in mind, and a few ‘symptoms’ to watch out for. Here are the top ‘complications’ I’ve come up against.

Time moves slowly:

Honestly until you quit smoking you have no idea how much time you spend smoking, or thinking about smoking. When you quit pay attention to your mind. As an exercise count how often in an hour your brain goes “time for a cigarette.”

Once you realise how obsessed you’ve become be ready for the excuses to flood through. The point to this reminder is; once you’ve given up smoking you’re going to be left with a lot of free time on your hands. Don’t let the free time derail you. Do something, anything, with the free time piling up in the corners. For me, I knit. It keeps my hands busy and allows me to think about other things. This brings me to my next tip.

Fatter and fatter the quitter goes:

People talk about putting on weight when they quit smoking almost as if it’s the fault of the cigarettes. It’s not. It’s years and years of putting things in your mouth when you’re bored. If you don’t fill the time with something productive you’ll fill your gut with Doritos and dip. It’s true. I currently look about five or six months pregnant. Two months ago when this first was started I had almost no belly at all.  Don’t quit smoking on a whim. I know that sounds stupid but seriously be prepared. If you’re not you’ll simply going to swap one addiction with another.

Your body will hate you for it:

Not the quitting smoking part of course but it will take the opportunity to get you back for all the chemicals and carcinogens you’ve spent years pumping into your system. As your blood thins and blood flow becomes easier you’ll notice some benefits. You’re hands and feet won’t be shaky or cold, you’ll have more energy, you’re sense of smell will return (honestly I’m not sure this is a benefit right now), and you’ll sleep better once you’ve gone through the first few days of detox.

On the flip side of the coin I’ve noticed pain in my gums as blood flow increases, almost a slight burning sensation that is constant. The first time I noticed that I thought it was a tooth whitening kit. This time I haven’t used one and I still have the burning pain in my jaws.

You’re head will cause you to pray for death as the toxins seep from your body. I’ve never in my life had a headache like the 3 day one I had recently. One of those headaches where you can’t do anything let alone lie down. Seriously, this was the most basic “stuff it I’m having a smoke” trigger. Don’t. You will survive.

When I quit smoking I assumed my lungs would be better, instantly. That was a stupid. As a matter of fact your breathing gets worse before it gets better. As your lungs work to clear away all the crap you’ve spent years breathing into them you will find yourself out of breath during the simplest of tasks. Deal with it. The alternative is probably a lot worse.

Taste returns:

Every knows your sense of taste and sense of smell returns. What they don’t tell you is all food will taste like mud for a while. Despite this you will feel like eating everything in sight. Just deal with it, it doesn’t last for long and everything calms down eventually. Go for a walk or drink a large glass of water. Water not only helps to rehydrate your skin after years of smoking it dry, but it helps to crush the hunger pains brought on by boredom.

The benefits to quitting smoking are well documented. The benefits to continuing smoking is probably not as well documented but I’m sure there are some. For those who are considering  quitting smoking now that it’s a new year make sure to do your research. Be prepared.

It’s not easy, but it’s not earth shatteringly difficult either. The trick to it is to want it. If you’re quitting smoking to shut someone up, or because you’ve run out of cash, you’re destined to fail.

To go through the first week you have to want to for yourself. But if you can last that first week, you can last the week after, and the one after that. Once the nicotine and other chemicals are out of your blood stream it all becomes a game.

You against your brain and the society that believes quitting smoking is impossible. Which strangely enough is usually made up of smokers.

While I am deliberately fobbing off the difficulty here, I’m not unaware of it. The first week is the toughest but if you’re prepared, committed and sober you’ll do fine.

And to all who are quitting smoking on January 1st 2017, best of luck. It’s a slight kick in the guts but ultimately it’s worth it.

Just make sure to be prepared for all the crap you’re body is about to dish out they don’t tell you about.


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