My Stop Smoking Journey. The Good, The Bad, and The Angry

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I just completely lost it with my dog. Before you start calling the SPCA, I didn’t touch him; I just yelled…a lot!  All because he is so excited when I walk through the front door, and he can’t contain himself.  Yep, not because he chewed something up or peed on the floor, just because he’s super excited to see me.  This will make sense to you once you read this post, I promise.

As I have talked about in my first post about my journey to quit smoking, “The End Of A 30 Year Habit”, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever gone through.  It has now been nearly 6 months, and I thought I would share my thoughts on just what it’s been like for me to quit smoking after 30 years.

The Good

There are a ton of studies that talk about what happens when you quit smoking physically.  The coughing stops, your body starts to regenerate and renew itself, and so on.

I can honestly say that within a few weeks of quitting, I started to feel better.  The constant coughing did stop, and I can say that I rarely cough now at all.  I know my body is repairing itself from the inside out, and it will take time to undo all the damage I have done, but in the end, I have done myself a huge favor by quitting.

What is not really discussed is the emotional side of quitting.  When I quit, I really had to dig deep and come to terms with why I smoked or, in other words, my triggers.

Stress was definitely a trigger for me.  I had a high-stress job in retail management, and when I could step out and take a few minutes for that “smoke break,” I felt much better.  While I don’t have that high-stress job anymore, there is still stress.  I don’t think we can ever completely be free of stress; it’s just life.  We stress over money, family, career, and traffic. It’s really just a matter of how we react to it.

Before I quit, the only way I knew to deal with the stress in my life was to smoke. The stresses in life will always be there, and I really don’t think they will go away.  How I deal with them has changed.  I have by no means become all zen-like and able to handle stress with a smile on my face and song in my heart.  However, I know that instead of lighting up, I need to take a deep breath and think things through.  Why am I stressed?   Is what’s stressing me really that big of a deal?  If I let it go, will it be the end of the world?

In fact, now that I look back on it, my life revolved around a little white stick of cancer-causing carcinogens.  Where we traveled, where we stayed, the weather – I considered everything and how it would affect my ability to light up.

Basically, quitting has enabled me to live a bit of an easier life.  My time is mine, not the cigarettes.  What I do with it is entirely up to me and not the habit.  Things smell and taste completely different since the taste in my mouth is not tobacco, and the smell isn’t masked by smoke.  It’s amazing what a difference quitting has made to my senses.

The Bad

One of the biggest excuses I gave to why I didn’t want to quit was weight gain.  I realize that sounds incredibly vain, but when you’ve spent your entire life being a tall, thin, active person, it’s something that is always sitting in the back of your mind.

When I quit smoking, I knew that weight gain would be an inevitable part of the journey, and I needed to deal with that. That being said, I had no idea that the tradeoff for nicotine would be the sudden desire to eat everything in sight.  I worked so hard to try and eat healthy snacks, but those darned chips just kept screaming my name.  I did, and still do, eat frozen grapes as a snack, but I didn’t eat them enough.

The fact that I was not working when I quit didn’t help with my sudden hunger either. When working in retail, I was constantly moving and could easily walk over 2 miles in a day just working. With me being more sedentary, I really didn’t think about how the constant munching would affect me.  I have always been thin, and I just figured that would stay the same.  How incredibly naive of me to even think that way, especially at my age.

I know this sounds vain, but since I have quit smoking, I have gained easily 25 pounds, and I am not happy at all. Of course, I am in my early 50’s and going through what I refer to as “sweatopause.”  In other words, I’m going through the change, and that alone is enough, much less adding on quitting smoking.  Between the crazy hormonal changes, the mood swings, and quitting smoking, I’m amazed I’m still acting like a rational human being.

When I was younger, back before wheels were round, I exercised a lot. I ran, rode a bike everywhere; I stayed in shape partly because of exercise and part of blessed genetics from my mother.  I know I need to exercise, especially since my new job involves more driving, which means more sedentary time.  I can’t seem to find what makes me happy.

Not to mention after 30 years of smoking, my stamina and breathing are not what they used to be, just another lovely after effect of the nasty habit.  That’s a whole different subject and blog post that I won’t get into right now.  At any rate, getting back into shape is on the list of things to do in 2019, especially before we go diving again.  I need to find what works and stick with it. That’s the bad part – committing to it!

The Angry

When I think back to my smoking days, I remember being able to “turn off” my anger with a quick smoke break. Just go outside, light up, and everything would get better.

Now that I don’t smoke, I’m finding that I tend to get more agitated over some of the most ridiculous things. I know that the nicotine in cigarettes is as addictive as heroin, and it takes a long time to get over an addiction like that, but I have always been an instant gratification person, and if I can’t fix it right away, I tend to get a bit frustrated, and that tends to get shared with anyone around me, especially my husband.

I’m finding that little things agitate me more than they used to. It doesn’t even have to be something major. It can be the smallest of things like the dog whining or barking in the house, my husband sitting on the couch and not asking if he can help with dinner, just life stuff, really.

I do not like being an angry person. My mother was always a happy, easy-going, fun-loving person, and I have always been just like her. Now that I’m not smoking, I find that I’m more like my father.  I’m not saying my father was a complete ogre, but he was more easily set off, and we all knew when he was angry.  That is not someone I am enjoying being right now, and I somehow need to change.

The more I go through this journey of not smoking, I know that there will be good and bad days. I have to be sure and healthily deal with the bad and not take everything out on those around me.  Reference the first sentence of this post; I lost it with a dog – really?  How sad is that?

I am thankful for the Smoke Away products that helped me quit and continue to help me.  I continue to use the mouth spray when I feel myself getting really agitated, as it helps with that craving that is still there from time to time.  Along with the support group online, I have maintained my smoke-free life regardless of the “triggers” all around me.

My goal by sharing my experience is not to gain sympathy or pity.  The goal is to hopefully help someone who may be going through the same journey and feeling the same way.  Knowing that other people are going through the same thing, I’m going through has been a great help.  I can reach out to them through an online blog sponsored by the Mayo Clinic called and get the support and encouragement that has helped me through my journey.

I know this is a marathon and not a sprint, and I need to be more forgiving of myself. Am I happy that I quit smoking? ABSOLUTELY! It’s the smartest and best thing I’ve done for myself in a very long time.  I also know that I need to do more to take care of myself, not only for me but also for those who love me, so I can be around for years to come.

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