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Looking for a light at the end of the tunnel…

I always find it annoying having to go through a process. Once I make my mind up to do something, I just want it done. None of this piss-farting about as the universe realigns itself with your latest command. Just do it already.

Funnily enough, this isn’t going to be a ranty-rantpants has a rant update. It’s more an observational moment. Having decided to quit both smoking and drinking in late December of 2016, I had imagined that all the flow-on effects of that choice would be gone by now. In the immortal debating  skills of Donald Trump;

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Just because I’ve decided that stop means exactly that, doesn’t mean the universe has sufficiently punished me for 20+ years of bad behaviour. In the same vein as a past post on here about what they don’t tell you about quitting smoking, here are some other facts they fail to mention.

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Your brain is a bastard:

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There is no doubt that the human brain is vastly misunderstood and beyond complicated. It’s like programming a computer without a manual. Nicotine cravings – or any cravings really – are proof of that. It’s been 55 days since I stopped smoking. 55 days were, for the most part, I haven’t even noticed I’m not smoking. That is until you do. Once you do notice you’re not smoking, however, it’s a different story. I can understand the odd craving here or there particularly at the beginning of the quit process but what I have difficulty with is the brain deciding after so long that it really just needs one cigarette. Honestly, the brain is the biggest con-artist on the planet. Just one my arse. There is no way on earth one will be enough. I know it, my brain knows it, and yet it keeps on trying.

You’re never going to be well again:

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Well, this is garbage of course, but when one of the main reasons you give up smoking is because you recognise you’re getting older and your health should be more of priority to not feel well for more than a few days a week seems like a bit of a bastard act.  I haven’t felt well in weeks. I’ve either got a headache, or I’m bloated like a pregnant person. My digestive system doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing, I’ve had gout, 2 ear infections, an abscess on my jaw, a chest infection, 2 colds and now I have a 3rd cold, just in case, the first two weren’t enough. And that’s in 55 days. I assumed maybe a bit of a sniffle, or some sort of lung infection when I quit but I also assumed it would end. The other fun fact I’ve noticed from a health perspective is the constant burning in my mouth. It’s like my teeth, or at least the nerves in my gums, are on fire.

Too much of a good thing:

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When I was a smoker I never had enough time. Ever. Somehow, despite having the same 24 hours in a day everyone else did, there was just never enough time to finish – or start – anything. I was always trying to catch up. Work, writing, chores. Didn’t matter. No time. Maybe tomorrow. Now that I’m not smoking I’m bored out of my mind. I’ve got more time than I know what to do with. Between writing and job hunting I feel like I’ve still got about 28 hours a day left. Quick tip for anyone contemplating quitting smoking; be prepared. Have something, anything, in place to help fill the now vacant hours. Boredom is a killer. Too much of it and you’ll be listening to your brain suggest ‘just one’ with a lot more attention that you should.

Everything happens in fits and starts:

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Life continues, despite the best intentions of the diminishing nicotine monster inside your head. Life, funnily enough, doesn’t care if you are smoking or not. It just keeps going until it doesn’t anymore. Whether that’s with a cigarette clamped between yellowing teeth or not is up to you. You find yourself running along happily; until you’re not. The day is lovely, birds are singing, it’s all good. Wake up another day and suddenly you’d suck the nicotine out of a beer garden ashtray because you want to. It’s a game. I know that’s not particularly helpful, but it is. Riding a craving is like falling off a bike. You never forget how. Everyone has their own way to treat a craving; water, exercise, lollypops. For me I just ignore it. There’s no point acknowledging it for the most part. I’m not going to have ‘just one”. Not now.

Just one is a lie:

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Unless you have a remarkably strong constitution ‘just one,’ is a lie. It may start out that way but it won’t stay that way. A sneaky one here and there soon enough becomes a sneaky packet here and there until eventually, you give up trying to hide it and just pretend you never really tried to quit in the first place. Here’s the thing. You can’t hide the fact you’re smoking. I mean it’s polite to pretend you haven’t started again and it’s polite for those around to pretend they can’t smell the noxious stench of stale smoke and nicotine following you around like a cloud but truth be told, unless they have no sense of smell, you just can’t hide that stink. It’s a toxic smell that just goes everywhere. Remember, during the time you had quit, the smell on smokers you talked to or were forced to sit next to on the bus? That will be you if you have just one.

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Quitting smoking feels like a full-time job. Most of the time you’re just doing what you have to in order to get to your deadline and then, out of nowhere, something decides to make you curl up in a ball and hate the world. Quitting smoking is by far and away the single most frustrating, annoying, pain-in-the-arse thing I’ve ever done. And you know what? I wouldn’t go back to smoking now if you paid me.

The other day, while I was riding the ‘self-pity I’m unemployed won’t somebody love me,’ train there was a split second where I thought how nice it would be to sit down with a glass of wine and a cigarette. And it would have been. But now when I think about smoking I find myself asking ‘What benefit does having a cigarette bring to my life‘?

I can’t find one. I mean there’s the momentary false feeling of relaxation which could be a benefit I guess. There’s also the momentary ‘escaping the real world,’ feeling. But all-in-all there are no long term gains or benefits for me in having just one. As far as I can see it; all that would bring me is disappointment, in myself, for having it.

Nicotine addiction should be treated the same as alcohol addiction or any form of addiction, to be honest. Just because cigarettes and nicotine products are legal doesn’t make them beneficial. If you were giving up heroin just one would put you right back where you started from. The same goes for any other drug, whether legal or illegal.

For all that I haven’t felt particularly well, or that I seem even more susceptible to cold germs floating around, the decision I made in late December 2016 to quit smoking is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Even if a single cigarette could remove the boredom, stop the random sickness and generally perform some sort of miracle I wouldn’t smoke it.

If you are in the process of quitting smoking do it. Don’t think about it, don’t try to do it, just commit and do it. There will be moments when you want to punch a wall or hide behind the sofa, but that’s okay. In the long run, it’s worth the time and effort.

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1 Comment

  1. Well done! Keep going! A friend of mine used an app to track his giving up smoking: he posted updates of how many ciggies he HADN’T smoked, & how much money he’d saved- after a year he took his boyfriend to Bali for a week’s lushout- he saved thousands! Great post, thanks

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