I used to be a heavy smoker. I smoked 2 packs a day for about 15 years. And believe me people, I didn’t believe in being wasteful. I smoked them down to the filter. I was one of those smokers that really loved smoking and thought that I would never quit. It was such a huge part of my routine, and I enjoyed every aspect of it. Despite it being a nasty, foul smelling, unladylike, cancer causing addiction that could one day kill me, or at the very least make it harder for me to breath and cause other illnesses, I poured a lot of money into my habit.
It didn’t matter to me that my home, clothing, breath, hair, and car always smelled like an ashtray. I kept puffing away. It didn’t seem to concern me that when little kids in my family visited they left smelling like a smoky bar. Yellow teeth? Nope! Didn’t care. The fact it could potentially ruin my skin? Not enough to make me quit. I became short of breath while walking up a flight of stairs. My morning routine consisted of coughing and hacking out all the mucus that accumulated over night until I thought I was going to choke. When the price of cigarettes went up to around $5. a pack, even that wasn’t enough to make me want to stop right then and there.
Think about that people. At 2 packs a day, and $5. a pack, that’s essentially $300. a month! And then I wondered why I was broke all the time.
It’s funny how doing the math is the one thing that ultimately resulted in my smoking cessation. It wasn’t so I could improve my health. It wasn’t so that I didn’t smell bad or look ridiculous while smoking. It didn’t matter if my pulse stayed at 100, or that I wheezed all the time, or that my blood pressure was going up. I just kept smoking until I realized that I could buy a car with the amount of money I was spending on cigarettes.
What a shameful waste!
I loved every part of the process of smoking. Just picking up the pack and tamping it down had a calming effect. Flicking the lighter, then lighting the end had this effect as well. Drawing in then slowly blowing out a thick stream of smoke gave me pleasure. It may be hard to understand, but there is more to smoking than nicotine addiction. It becomes a thing you do at certain times in your day. I smoked with coffee in the morning, after eating (especially spicy foods), while drinking a beer, first thing when I got in my car, and last thing I did before I headed home. On the phone? I’d light one up. Out fishing at the lake? Like a chimney! I fell in love with the process, and learned to accept the horrible smell, and yellow teeth.
How did I do quit? I bought an e-cig. That’s all it took to help me realize that I could break the behavior and finally quit. It was similar enough to smoking a real cigarette to help me through rough spots. It was different enough to help me realize that I could do without all the parts of smoking that I was also addicted to. I didn’t need to tamp the pack. I didn’t need to flick the lighter. I didn’t need to smoke the whole thing because it’s in my nature to not be wasteful (except for all the money I was pouring into a disgusting habit). Three things conquered, two more to go.
I still needed to take that big inhale, and see the billow of smoke as I exhaled. It may seem strange that this might be comforting, but it was. I may or may not have still needed the nicotine, but I was willing to find out.
I bought the lowest dose of nicotine available in an e-cig. It took me two weeks to burn that one out. Then I bought one with no nicotine. I discovered that I felt no difference in the experience between the two, and I didn’t suffer symptoms of nicotine withdraw. After finishing the no nicotine e-cig, I knew I was done. I never bought another one, and won’t. I am proud to say that I am now a non smoker. It’s been almost 7 years and I’m not turning back.
When I fist quit burning tobacco, which is most of what causes the health problems associated with smoking, within a day I noticed a difference in the way I felt. The first morning after the first full day of not burning tobacco I noticed my morning coughing and hacking routine was almost completely unnecessary. I could breath easier, and I was beginning to sleep a little better. By day two, the coughing, hacking, and wheezing was gone. By day three, I felt like I had more energy. My heart rate went back to normal, and my blood pressure was good.
Within weeks I began to notice how objectionable the smell of cigarettes that lingered in my home, on my clothes (even clean ones in my closets and drawers), and in my car was. I never noticed it before, but now it was beginning to make me sick. I went on a massive cleaning and laundering frenzy. The odor brought back the shame of what I had done to myself, my family, my pets, and my belongings. After smoking that much for so long, a sticky smelly film settles onto everything. It’s not easy to get off. Once I rid my life of the stench of cigarettes, I felt really good. These days, if someone lights up around me I have to leave the area. Walking into the home of a smoker, even if they only smoke a little bit, is almost too much to take. I’ve become hypersensitive to the smell of cigarettes and can’t be around people who are smoking.
I was lucky in that my smoking habit didn’t ruin my health or skin. I don’t have the leathery skin and smoker’s wrinkles around my mouth that many smokers suffer. I was a funny smoker. I always had to have a fan blowing the smoke away from me when I smoked, so that may be part of the reason my skin wasn’t ruined. If I had continued smoking there is no doubt in my mind that these things would have eventually happened to me. I can’t imagine how poor my health would be today if I had not quit smoking. My teeth did suffer, but thanks to whitening treatments and toothpaste, I’m all good there now.
For those of you who believe that if you continue smoking e-cigs or other vapor smoking devices that you’ve “quit” smoking, you haven’t unless you are inhaling vapors that contain no nicotine. If you are inhaling nicotine, you have not quit smoking. Inhaling the smoke from burning tobacco is what will cause cancer and other illnesses. Inhaling vapor with nicotine in it will cause other problems.
Nicotine is a stimulant. Although it is not currently classified as a carcinogenic, it can still cause other health problems. It is very addictive:
Nicotine is physically addictive and may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol. Nicotine activates the mesolimbic pathway (“reward system”) – the circuitry within the brain that regulates feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Dopamine is one of the key neurotransmitters actively involved in the brain. Like other physically addictive drugs, nicotine withdrawal causes downregulation of the production of dopamine and other stimulatory neurotransmitters as the brain attempts to compensate for artificial stimulation. As dopamine is downregulated, the sensitivity of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors decreases. To compensate for this compensatory mechanism, the brain in turn upregulates the number of receptors, convoluting its regulatory effects with compensatory mechanisms meant to counteract other compensatory mechanisms. An example is the increase in norepinephrine, one of the successors to dopamine, which inhibit reuptake of the glutamate receptors, in charge of memory and cognition. The net effect is an increase in reward pathway sensitivity, the opposite of other addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin, which reduce reward pathway sensitivity. This alteration in neuronal chemistry can persist for months following the last administration. [more]
Now we know why people get hooked on it.
It’s no wonder I had trouble sleeping, and had a rapid heart rate. Since nicotine is a stimulant it will have this effect on the body. So, although by inhaling vapors containing nicotine you won’t be getting the carcinogenic effects of inhaling tobacco smoke, you are still at risk for other problems related to the stimulant factors of it. You may very well gain weight when you quit nicotine entirely. I did. You can counteract this by watching what you eat, and getting regular exercise.
All in all, you would be stupid to not quit smoking knowing how much money you are wasting, or how negatively it can effect your health. Also, why be selfish in expecting your loved ones and pets to take part in your addiction. Is that fair?
It’s embarrassing to have to write all of this knowing that I might be judged for having engaged in a disgusting stupid addiction. It makes me sick to think of all that was lost, and what others had to suffer as a result of my inability or lack of strength (or courage) to conquer a beast that was controlling many aspects of my life. If my story can help others to realize that what they are doing is disgusting, smelly, harmful, and just really dumb, then it’s worth the shame I might have to endure.
Smoking is gross people. No really, just stop smoking.