Sobriety Thread: Special Nonsmoking Edition

On the last sobriety thread I was just wrapping up a book I’d been gifted by my wife like two Christmases ago on how to quit smoking, and planning the date for my last cigarette.  As of the evening of March 15, I smoked my last cigarette and have been smoke-free ever since.  It was right before midnight too by the time I finished it.

There were a lot of similarities between quitting smoking and quitting drinking, with an equal number of huge differences.  The key difference with quitting smoking was that it was something I was really looking forward to, but afraid I wasn’t going to be able to do it.  With drinking, I knew I had to stop, and I knew that I could do it, but I was afraid of being seen as a failure for not being able to handle my liquor.  I could easily stop drinking, since I didn’t have any sort of physical dependency, I was just afraid people were going to think less of me.  With smoking, I knew it was the smartest thing I could possibly do for my health, and for my wallet, but I was afraid I was just not going to be able to do it, and that I’d cave a few days later.  The addiction, really, to both, is a very strong mental one that utilize different ways of trying to convince you that life will just be easier if you keep on partaking.  Alcohol made me feel like a washed-up loser for quitting and nicotine made me feel like I could never, ever give it up–especially after having tried so many times, and failing, to quit before.

The good news is that, with the right preparation, quitting smoking is pretty fucking easy.  Seriously.  I’ve tried to quit at least five times with serious intentions in the past that I can think of off the top of my head.  The longest I’d made it on those attempts was a full 48 hours without smoking a cigarette, and the only reason I made it that far was because I had one of those dreaded two-day hangovers that made the idea of me smoking make me want to puke.  Other than that, I’d cave within a day, maybe make it to the next if I really, really utilized some strong willpower.  But now I’m well over two weeks without smoking, with Friday being my three-week anniversary, and I’m pretty confidently not a smoker, although I’ll catch a whiff of the occasional cigarette and think it’s the most amazing smell I’ve ever smelled in my life.

What made this time different was reading Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking.  I don’t want to spill the beans on it too much, or work as its infomercial, or be too cult-like in praising it, but it really, really did work, and what made it work was some pretty basic common sense ideas.  I feel like when it comes to the wide world of quitting smoking, the idea is this:  Quitting smoking is going to suck really fucking bad, you’re going to have nic-fits, you’re gonna be physically withdrawing from it, so you’re gonna need replacement therapy, you’re gonna need to ween off, and it’s going to take a really long time and even when you’re over the physical addiction, you’re going to have the mental fixation on smoking for a long, long time and you’re gonna need to exercise some serious determination to keep yourself from grabbing another cigarette for the rest of your life.

That sounds a lot shitter than it needs to be, so what happened with me, instead, I’ll detail in a little timeline below.  I scheduled a time to smoke my last cigarette and more or less quit cold turkey.

  • Day One – Kinda sucked, gonna be honest.  I was luckily pretty busy that day, seeing the taping of the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend live show, so it was mostly totally fine.  During doldrums, like waiting in line, I kept thinking, wow, right now would be the perfect time to smoke a cigarette.  Allen Carr’s book describes the physical symptoms of withdrawal as relatively inconsequential, like a very, very minor hunger pang, but I respectfully disagree.  My mental fixation probably caused some of the symptoms I was having, from some bizarre sense of loss, but physically it sucked.  I had a tightness in my chest, I felt panicked, my heart fluttered, and I kept having these moments where I’d think, “Okay, when I smoke a cigarette–oh, fuck.  I don’t smoke anymore!  Oh, no!  What’ll I do?!”  But after making myself calm down, those feeling swent away.  Keep in mind, I’ve been smoking for 16 years.
  • Day Two – Day two was harder for me, because unlike the day before, I wasn’t having that much fun.  I went to a zine fest and tabled with my wife and it was the worst fucking zine fest I’d ever tabled at in my life.  I was bored out of my ass and sneaking off to smoke sounded like the best idea in the world.  Instead of sneaking off to smoke, I snuck off to some overpriced food truck, that sold warm sodas.  The poke bowl I bought, though, was really good, and I saw Joe Lo Truglio walking his dog.  That night, I went for a drive to see some friends of mine in Orange County and it was a great way to end the day.  Just hanging out and being calm made quitting smoking feel like a real possibility.
  • Day Three – This was the first day I had to break any sort of ritual.  Usually during the week, I would have two cigarettes:  One when I got home from work, and one right before bed.  I had all these elaborate plans of replacing those cigarettes with a break outside to go for a walk, but because I was so fucking tired from the day, I just ate a cookie or had a glass of water, instead.  By this point, quitting was already getting easier and easier and disrupting my smoking ritual wasn’t a big deal.
  • Even though I don’t smoke at work, because I wasn’t smoking in general, I’d have cravings throughout the day, and whenever I really wanted to grab a cigarette, I’d just walk up the stairs at my office, because having my lungs be exhausted killed the cravings right away.  I don’t really have cravings anymore, except for the occasional one, but I take the stairs, seven flights up, while at work and to me the craziest thing about doing that for so long, is how much better at it I haven’t gotten.  Taking the stairs still sucks.
  • Every day gets easier and easier.  According to Allen Carr’s book, and this varies from person to person of course, but the physical addiction lasts three days, and the strongest parts of the psychological addiction lasts three weeks.  Luckily, it’s not a struggle to get past those three weeks.  The first week is the hardest, and I had smoking dreams and nightmares every single night for something like four or five nights.  They were vivid, realistic, and feverish.  They.  Fucking.  Sucked.
  • Quitting smoking lowers your immune system for a little bit.  Basically, since your lungs are finally working at full capacity, any minor little sickness gets amplified, since your body is a little preoccupied with cleaning the mess you’ve made of your lungs.  For me, I didn’t really notice any sort of benefit to quitting until recently, because I was sick as fuck for like a solid-ass week.  I finally went for a run for the first time since I quit smoking yesterday and it went really well!  I didn’t cough up anything gross, but my smoker’s cough is down by about 80% already.  I used to cough a lot, because my lungs were constantly secreting fluid, but that’s mostly gone away and I’m just sort of doing what I can to get rid of it entirely.

So, on that note, I just wanna say that if I can quit smoking, anyone can.  I mean that, even though it’s a cliche quote you see on the accolades of whatever quitting smoking plan you see.  I wanted to quit smoking by the time I turned thirty, and when that didn’t happen, I was really afraid that I was going to be a smoker for the rest of my life.  I’m so, so glad that’s not the case.  My wife, my brother and my sister were all really supportive, which helped a lot.