When you’re a smoker, thinking of quitting is one thing that is either constantly on your mind or far from it. There is usually no in between, because you either want to or you don’t. But from an ex-smoker’s point of view, you are about to read about the things I learnt about myself and life when I quit smoking 10 years ago.
For me there was good reason to quit. My health was deteriorating I was in my late 20’s. Certain aspects of my own health made me decide that smoking was no longer for me. I was diagnosed with silent reflux, which was affecting my ability to eat and drink, swallow and live a comfortable life.
Add to that my regular chest infections and hayfever allergies, which seemed to have been mainly caused by the toxic fumes I was breathing in 500 times a day, my diet and fitness levels were low for a person of my age, and my constant coughing and sniffling drove myself and everyone else around me insane. I also had minor skin problems like eczema, but there was actually one major factor that made me want to quit and stay quit; and that was I had met my life partner, we were engaged and thinking about getting married; and with that also came the talk of having children.
I had to make sure I was healthy enough to look after my child or children to come, and for many years into the future; and at that point in my life, I was still enjoying partying, late nights, drinking and smoking. I changed a lot of things that year, but it was quitting smoking that played the biggest role in my health returning to normal, or how I actually felt, was super hero status (compared to how I had felt since my mid-teens when I started smoking).
From the day I actually yelled at myself in the mirror when I woke up “YOU DON’T SMOKE ANYMORE!!” onwards, I was a changed woman. There was so many changes that went on in my life that were of actual benefit to someone else in my life (even though they had been born yet) that I felt like I was actually someone different to who I used to be. I have had many friends and family members also quit smoking due to various health reasons, children, even throat cancer; and between us, we have learned some valuable life lessons that I’m going to share with you now.
1. You’re addicted to one of the most dangerous drugs on earth. You’re a drug addict, who can’t get through the next few hours without your next fix. The rapid release of neurotransmitters that nicotine carries gives you a short-term high, but however pleasurable it is, it is a high that disappears fast, leaving you with cravings for another fix.
2. You can breathe properly when you don’t smoke. When you smoke, you don’t actually remember what it feels like to be able to breathe properly. And until you quit, you won’t actually understand what I mean. It’s kind of like when you are sitting in a hot car for 3 hours with the windows up, and someone decides to turn the air conditioning on, because you didn’t remember that it existed. The refreshing clean cool air from the air conditioning immediately changes your mood, it immediately cleanses your lungs, and it only gets better with time. As it does when you quit smoking.
3. There is a right and wrong time to quit smoking. The right time is when you are ACTUALLY ready to quit. You need to weigh up the options, the pros and cons of smoking. There is no point starting something if you aren’t going to be dedicated enough to finish it. It’s like running an obstacle race where you are the only one competing, and the prize is one million dollars; all you have to do is complete the race, but it’s a long race, with loads of obstacles, and you need to be completely ready to run it, otherwise you won’t make it to the end to receive your prize. Be ready, or don’t bother!
4. Your body will lie to you. Anxiety, hunger pains, headaches…(oh god the headaches), aching muscles, panic attacks, shaky hands, and the uncontrollable feeling of need to inhale nicotine, are just some of the lies your brain will tell you. Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs on the planet, and withdrawal from hard drugs like nicotine is hectic and messes with your brain. This won’t end until the nicotine is gone from your system (this should take around 6-9 days), and when your body has totally recovered (depending on how long you smoked for, this can take years).
5. You can smell and taste EVERYTHING!! Food and smells have a whole different meaning to you once you quit smoking. My palate began to change almost immediately. I started eating vegetables again, because suddenly they had flavour. I began eating foods I never even thought to try, and fortunately I started to eat the right foods. On the topic of food as well, my appetite completely changed when I stopped smoking as well. I wanted regular meals, and I wanted healthy meals. There was a bit of time there where I must admit I substituted my cravings for nicotine (one of the deadliest drugs on earth) for an even worse one (sugar) but that luckily didn’t last very long. The biggest lesson I learned from this was that you can’t substitute one drug for another and expect to be clean.
There are a bunch of other life lessons you will learn when you quit smoking, the biggest one for me was that quitting isn’t always a negative action. You have to quit believing that smoking is an expensive, addictive and life-threatening habit that will end your life prematurely.
If you need help to quit, call your local QUIT line. Good luck!