Emotional Withdrawals of smoking
Holy Shitballs Batman, I’ve Gone Batshit Crazy
The very first time I quit I had heard over and over and over again, “just breath through it. The craving will pass in a minute or five if you just breath through it.”
This was bullshit.
For the first 3 days that “craving” was like one continuous state of consciousness, blanketed by an eternal fog that gave me flashbacks of the 18 hour acid trip that I had when I was 16 years old. Mid-way through day two I was totally mind fucked and freaking out that this was going to be my brain without drugs for the rest of my life. I couldn’t just breath through those cravings the first few days, I had to breath through the still when it would grace me with it’s presence as I kept repeating, like some cracked out yogi, “it’s only three days, it’s only three days, mecca lecca high mecca hiney ho, it’s only three fucking days.”
By mid-day day 4 the fog lifted and I was able, even if just for an hour, to understand that this was going to get better and that I didn’t fry my brain on nicotine after all.
I made it one miserable week that very first time I quit three years ago. Every day of that week was filled with waves of rage, fear, and depression. I was completely irrational and would explode out of nowhere, for no reason. Everything bothered me and I wanted to punch everyone in the face all the time. When I lit that first cigarette on the following Sunday I was free, I felt sane again. I knew it was the mirage of addiction but I didn’t care, I just wanted to feel lucid. I had been smoking for over 20 years. For the following three months, I tortured myself with one cigarette a week, not realizing that I was never truly cleansing my system of the nicotine, which meant that there was never a day that I didn’t crave smoking, which inevitably led to my failure. One cigarette a week, a year and a half later had worked it’s way back up to 4 a day. Good by most smokers standards, but not good enough.
About 6 months later was the second attempt. I didn’t last two days before the insanity of the psychological withdrawal got the better of me.
The third time was truly magical. I had decided to quit while my mom was visiting.
Don’t worry, she knew.
We had planned that she would come and visit for one week and stay with me while I went through the first withdrawals. Because I already knew about the mind fuck that was about to happen and because I had my beautiful loving parent taking care of me, I felt safe. My main withdrawal this time round was feeling stoned, other than that I slept more than usual, ate more sugar than usual and cried a little more than usual. I was so happy and grateful to have my mom here to help me that I almost forgot about the other withdrawal symptoms. I was a super hero and felt like I was on my way to being a non-smoker FOREVER!
My mom flew out on day 8.
I lit my next cigarette on day 9; not for any stressful reason, just because I wanted to test the waters. I wanted to see if I could smoke a cigarette and not feel withdrawals the next day, and you know what, I did and I didn’t. It worked. Two days after that first cigarette, I smoked my second… and so… it began again.
I was going to quit. I needed to quit. It was imperative that I quit.
For a woman who is so dead set on living her life in health and happiness and freedom it was pretty ironic that my main crutch was killing and depressing and imprisoning me. Every single day that I did smoke I thought about quitting. Every single day I thought about how much I stank to passers-by. I thought about children walking with their parents and the second hand smoke that I was blowing into their lungs. I thought about how my hair smelt, especially in the winter and how unattractive it was when I smelt it on my clothes. Every single day I thought about how much better I would perform in my athletics if I didn’t smoke and how not being able to run 5 minutes in a row wasn’t because, “I just didn’t like running all that much”, but rather it was because my lungs couldn’t sustain the oxygen because I was killing them slowly. Every single day I thought about the snarls from the smoker haters and the neighbors wishing that I smoke in front of someone else’s building. There was no question. No debate. It was going to happen. But the very first thing I needed to do was forgive myself for failing. The second was to forgive myself for smoking. The third was to devise a plan, BROO HAHAHA!
I analyzed my experiences and put a plan into motion. I knew that I needed to feel supported and safe. I needed to feel cared for and needed people that I trusted around me. I also knew that I needed this support for longer than a week. I knew that those first few weeks were pivotal to my success and that I needed to create an environment that was conducive to said success.
The quit date was December 21st, 2016. I was flying home for the holiday on the 20th and there wasn’t a chance in Hell that I was going to quit on that day.
The next day it was.
The following three weeks were riddled with cravings, rage, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, irrational outbursts, sleepiness, judgmental criticism, nit-picking, emotional regression, flashback, and so much more I can’t even describe it all. By week three I truly felt like I was going insane. I was staying at my mom’s house and was the most horrible houseguest anyone could ever dream of. Ok, not that bad, I cooked almost ever day, cleaned on occasion and was often entertaining, but my mood shifted like the tides and no one, including myself, knew when the next outburst was going to erupt. I felt like I was going through a second puberty experiencing high hormonal shifts, excessive emotional sensitivity, taking offense at just about everything and flying into an angry lecture at the drop of a hat.
In week three I had one massive outburst where in the middle of my rage driven, loud, irrational lecture about nothing in particular, except everything that I hated about everything, something clicked. I had one second of awareness amidst the madness. I saw that what I was arguing, and the words that I was speaking were all ridiculous and completely irrelevant. They didn’t mean anything and held no weight. They were just angry words that I was yelling out angrily at my mother, the innocent bystander. Her patience is truly something to be seen. It was in that moment that I saw all of the emotional insanity for what it was, withdrawal, and it was in that moment that I was finally able to apologize and begin to heal.
I had no idea of the amount of pain I was avoiding with every cigarette. I had no idea the feelings I dismissed with every inhale. I had no idea how much the nicotine dictated my interpretation of my emotional reactions to things. It was a blockade and I feel like those first three weeks were the flood after the tsunami, every pain and insecurity and frustration and annoyance and judgment came rushing to the surface as a means for expulsion.
45 days and counting.
NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS DID I THINK THIS WAS EVEN REMOTELY POSSIBLE!!!
But you know what, I knew that I would keep trying forever until I succeeded, even if that meant to the death. “En-Garde El Capitain Cigarello, I took you down sucka!”
Before I begin to explain my journey of strange and unusual side effects that I have been experiencing since becoming a lucid non-smoker, I would like to apologize from the depths of my soul to my mother. You grew me in your belly for nine months, popped me out of your vagina (because according to your story I just popped right out), raised me in your home until the age of 18 and have continued to raise me in your heart ever since. I am so very sorry, from the bottom of my soul for those initial three weeks of madness that I put you through. I went temporarily insane, flying in and out of rages that were driven by trivialities. I was constantly irritated if not down right aggravated, picking on your ever last move. I apologize for taking all of that deep-rooted angst that had very little to do with you, out on you. I am so very sorry. You didn’t deserve such cruelty and disrespect. You are the woman who popped me out of her body and raised me more brilliantly than the majority of mothers that have ever existed on this planet. I am eternally grateful that you are my mother and ask you humbly for your forgiveness. I could not have quit without your love and support and patience. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you!
Physical Withdrawals of Nicotine
Sense of Smell
Have you ever seen that movie “Push” staring the Oh So Delectable Chris Evans? He plays a dude who can push things with his mind. Impressive. I know. Well, there are super villains, in the movie, who are called Sniffers. That’s right Sniffers and you guessed it, they smell things, and get information from them. When anyone ever asks me what my super power would be, (and yes, I have been asked this many times) I think about what my strengths are and exaggerate them, for instance, I can jump really high naturally, so I would be like super man jumping skyscrapers in a single bound….and….I have an insane sense of smell, always have, even before I quit smoking….so, I think it goes without saying that I would be a Sniffer…only for the good guys….
Superhero power aside, it has been said that cigarette smoke destroys your sense of smell, which destroys your sense of taste, which will lead to all kinds of cancers everywhere in your body, and that when you quit smoking your sense of smell increases and you’re able to taste food again and the possibility of cancers exponentially decreases. Yay!!!! Right?!? Mostly…
Because I’ve always had a great sense of smell, I never really had any trouble tasting my food; I never needed to douse it with hot sauce or salt and often smelt and tasted the subtleties in gastronomy. Since quitting, I’m thanking the good Lord that I’ve quit in winter when many of the smells of the city are frozen in scentless hibernation and my super sense of scent has time to adjust, because had I landed in NY, 44 days cigarette free, with this superhero schnaze, I certainly would have died from a cerebral aneurysm triggered by nasty scent stimulation.
Humans create some massive stank on a regular, daily, minute to second basis and it can be absolutely disgusting. Walking down the street I smell the roses at the local Bodega followed by the fart of the dude sitting on the box in front of the coffee shop. I smell the perfume of the woman clad in fur in 40 degree weather, followed by the body odor of the dude who hasn’t showered in days, coming out of the gym. I smell the cologne of the handsome suit, not too much, just enough to make me want to come in a little closer for a nice sniff, then his stank ass breath. I know what you’re thinking, “how creepy are you to lean in close enough to a total stranger to smell his breath?” I’ll be honest really fricken creepy close, my super scent is not that super. His fault, quite frankly for wearing such nice cologne; my creepiness paling in comparison to the masturbator hiding on the subway platform or the frotteur on the rushour subway car, or the grab and go subway stud. I digress, creepy subway experiences are for another post. What was I talking about? Oh yes….Fart fart fart, fart fart, fart fart. Farts of all shapes and sizes and scents. Everybody’s fucking farting in the city. The worst are the scents on the subway. WTF people, WTF? You have IBS, ok, you get a pass. You have Crohn’s, ok, you too, go ahead, pass go. The rest of y’all couldn’t you wait until we are all able to walk away from your stank, couldn’t you at least do us all that one solid courtesy?
Right, so I’m exaggerating…slightly, for the effect, but you catch my drift. If my sense of smell was super powered before I quit smoking, what do you think it’s like now?! Insane in the membrane!!!!
Side Effect #1 of quitting smoking: You get your sense of smell back
Digestion Progression, Hunger and Metabolism
You better believe I’m going there! Yes, we all do it, we all shit and fart and process the food we consume. It’s disgusting to most, lovely to others, and when I die I will be grilling God as to why It found it necessary to create this as humans primary means of expulsion; until then lets talk about the effects of nicotine on the digestive tract!
I know right, a topic you have been dying to learn more about!!!
I found so many articles and studies written on the gastrointestinal diseases that can occur as a side effect of regular nicotine consumption. Here are two that I personally found interestingly descriptive.
According to an article written by Jack Claridge for Tummy Trouble, nicotine can greatly affect digestion, from enhancing IBS symptoms to inducing Crohn’s disease. So all you IBS and Crohn’s subway farters, note to you, if you’re smokers, quitting might minimize your symptoms if not possibly eliminate them. ( I am not a medical professional and you should seek professional advice over mine)
A more clinical article describing the metabolism and pharmacological actions of nicotine is, “Mechanisms of Disease: nicotine – a review of it’s actions in the context of gastrointestinal disease”, written by Gareth AO Thomas, John Rhodes and John R Ingram, published by Nature Clinical Practice: http://www.nature.com/nrgastro/journal/v2/n11/full/ncpgasthep0316.html Also describes certain digestive diseases as side effects of regular consumption of nicotine.
These studies aside, I had trouble finding any clinical research on the side effects of quitting nicotine so forgive my anecdotes but here is my personal synopsis, from my own research and personal experience…
I think most of you are aware that nicotine is a stimulant and as a stimulant, side effects could include, fast easy digestion, feeling full, and a faster metabolism. But what happens when you are taking the stimulant several times a day for over 20 years? It no longer acts as a stimulant but rather acts as normal digestion; in other words, regular bowl movements, regular hunger pangs, and regular metabolism. Which begs the question, what happens when a smoker of 20 odd years stops smoking cold turnkey?
Well, let me tell you, constipation, starvation sensation and a slowed metabolism.
I started having regular bowl movements one month after I quit smoking cold turkey. I went from a healthy regular mover, at least once, often two, sometimes three times a day to, nadda, nothing, niet. Days went by without one ounce of physical movement. The gas on the other hand was a whole other story. That was knoxious and toxic and quite possibly dangerous to anyone in the near vicinity. I would guestimate potentially as lethal as toxic cow farts, that are allegedly destroying our ozone. Yes, I do believe that I contributed, in that first month, to the deterioration of the ozone with my knoxious fumes. Going out in public was hazardous to overall human health.
After the first month my inards did finaly start to move more frequently and I am proud and grateful to admit that I am back up to once a day activity and looking forward to the continued progression and regular reliability in that department.
It has been said that the reason new non-smokers eat more stems from a Freudian theory about oral fixation. The basic gist being that a smoker is so used to having a cigarette in his/her mouth that he/she just has to stuff his/her face with food 24/7. Well let me tell you, this is a total load of bollox. My theory: I have just been ingesting a stimulant for 20 or so years and now, out of nowhere, I’m not. My body, that was used to hunger satiation through the production of sugars derived from the absorption of nicotine is no longer getting that satisfaction and is realizing that it is actually hungry for real food!!! Holy MOLY!!! FOOD!!! Where I used to be able to go until lunch before eating, I am now hungry 20 minutes after waking and continue to feel real hunger ALL DAY SON!
How ‘bout that metabolism.
(Said in valley girl accent)
You are well aware by now that I’m not pooping as much as I used too and yet I’m totes hungry, like all the fricken time and ummm, you’re so not going to believe this buuuuuhht my metabolism has all but disappeared.
I mean stimulants…well…stimulate.
With every cigarette came increased heart rate, increased digestion, increased metabolism…not to mention increased risk of heart attack, stroke and cancers…but who’s counting. I am physically active, which does reduce the risk of my becoming morbidly obese. I have gained, what seems to be around five lbs, (I don’t actually weigh myself so wouldn’t know exactly) two of which have gone directly to my boobs (thank you) and am confident that this will be the gist of it given that I’ve been very active and extremely health conscious for many years now. That being said, I am finding it extremely difficult not to supply my dopamine deprived brain of sugars and treats and junk food. I have actually craved gummie worms and sour patch kids. WTF? I haven’t craved that shit since I was 20.
The solution you ask?
Clinically, I couldn’t tell you, I am not a medical professional and have not performed extensive scientific studies on this shit. Personally though, I believe the solution is time. My digestive functions are semi proof of this. I believe that in time my body will reconfigure itself to it’s healthy, regular functions, all I need is patience and understanding. I’m easy on myself most days. Eating those sugar cravings like the world is going to end tomorrow and then gyming most of it away. I am actively understanding that I’ve just put my body through a major upheaval that it doesn’t realize it’s going to thank me for later and is torturing me for now. I love you body. I’m sorry I tried to kill you slowly for almost half of my life. Believe me when I tell you that in two more months you’ll be flying high and in a years time, you’ll be praising the Universe for giving me the strength I needed to battle and beat this beast. But until then, I give you grace and leeway, so what you gotta do consciously and we’ll get through this together.
Side Effect #2: Complete digestive upheaval, Hunger like no other, slower metabolism (couldn’t think of a cheeky phrase for that last one).
Smokers inhale smoke everyday, which inhibits the distribution of oxygen throughout the body. Oxygen is essential to life as we know it. (obvious) As a smoker, we reduce the flow of oxygen throughout our bodies, causing shortness of breath (also obvious), lower blood/oxygen levels, (pretty obvious) and decreased circulation (slightly less obvious).
This has been the one area of complete success from the get go. I noticed improvements in my body after the very first day. The first run I went on, I ran longer than I had in years. The second run I cut my time by 10 minutes. When I take full deep belly breaths I can almost feel the oxygen coursing through my veins, no exaggeration. I still have chest tightness and minor coughing, but from what I’ve read, this is a normal part of the healing process. I used to get numb feet if I sat in the same position too long, that doesn’t happen anymore. My hands and feet were ALWAYS cold, now they’re only cold when they should be. My orgasms have increased in length and strength and multiplicity. Who knew? Had I known I would never have started smoking in the first place.
Side Effect #3: Oxygen is in my body
Skin and Overall Health
All in all everything (aside from my digestion) has experienced almost immediate improvements. My skin is softer and pinker (less grey, I assume from all the oxygen flowing through it) and less fine line-y. My decreased fine lines might be caused by my increased weight, but maybe not, maybe the excess oxygenation is creating a faster regeneration and elasticity…whaddya think…sellable idea? My hair smells good, even when I haven’t washed all week. My skin smells nice and sweet, even when I don’t wear perfume. My eyes are clearer. My endurance is longer. I have more energy. I sleep better. I wake up alert. I feel free.
So I’ve put on a few pounds and have a psychotic sense of smell. The weight will work itself out and the nose I’ll get used to.
I have yet to develop my psychic ability but I can honestly say that I truly desire to be a non-smoker for the remainder of my life and look forward to the day, week, month, year, decade that passes where I don’t think about smoking, not even in passing. Someone who has never smoked a day in their life doesn’t ever think about picking up a cigarette and I look forward to being that person one day.
You might be asking, why I’m telling you all of these intimate personal details about my bowl movements and mental breakdowns and the reason is this, had I known the possible plethora of all side effects, emotional and physical, and had known the possible length of time for all of these side effects to go through their process, I might have been successful the first time round, or at least the second. It might not have taken me three years to get this far, maybe just one. If in the end I can help one person then I consider this post is a success. The main fear for me was always feeling like the “off” feeling or “crazy” feeling or constipated feeling was never going to go away. If I can ease just one persons anxiety, the humiliating transparency is worth it.