Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Last Cigarette +50 hours

Given that it’s only been 50 hours since I had a cigarette, I think it’s a little premature to start talking about my quitting ‘experience’…but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to.

It’s honestly not as bad as I thought it would be. I think the first major mental hurdle for me was just going for an entire day without a cigarette. That might not seem like much…but bear in mind I haden’t gone a whole day without a cigarette in almost ten years.

A few years ago I asked a relative how long it took him to quit and he told me it took him a single day. I answered in the vein of ‘Yeah, right!’…and he explained it like this:

“Once you get through that first day it gets much, much easier. If you’ve made it through one day, you know you can make it through two. If you’ve made it through two, you know you can make it through three, etc, etc.”

It sounds like a load of nonsense, but thinking like that actually works. I know I can get through the next two days because I’ve already made it through two days…then, once you realize that smoking now means you’ve suffered through those days for absolutely nothing, that’s even more motivation.

What’s honestly amazing me is the tangible ‘medical benefits’ that I’m already noticing. While my sense of smell and taste hasn’t noticeably improved, we stopped at the local pharmacy today and while Sunny was waiting for her prescription, I used the blood pressure testing machine.

Obviously, there are no instant miracles, but every time I’ve used that machine before, my blood pressure was in the safe range, but it was always at the high end of the safe range. This time, my blood pressure was slap bang in the middle of the safe zone…and my heart rate was a full 15 beats-per-minute slower. From a rather unfit 85, to a nice and healthy 70.

If you’re looking for motivation, I really recommend going to your local pharmacy and checking your blood pressure after a couple days. When you’re smoking it’s easy to rationalize and down-play the bad parts. (I’m getting a cold, that’s why I’m wheezing…This coughing is because all of the pollen in the air...I’m out of breath because it’s so hot, etc.)

Seeing actual proof of how much harder my heart was having to work because of cigarettes was a great motivator. It’s really easy to focus on how hard it is to not smoke and all that pleasure you’re denying yourself. Seeing how much healthier you are after just a couple of days is an amazing motivator.

The hardest part right now is just getting rid of the habit parts. If I have a normal craving, I can just wait a few minutes for it to pass. However, when I’ve just finished eating or I sit down at the computer, I reach for a cigarette through sheer force of habit…and those don’t pass very quickly because I’m just so used to smoking at those times.

The one bit of advice I will give at this early stage is that nicotine inhalators are worth their weight in gold.

In all honesty, the actual nicotine part isn’t a huge amount of help (You’re supposed to change the cartridge after two hours because the nicotine evaporates…but I’ve used the same one all day and it’s worked exactly the same way).

I think the reason it actually helps is that it takes care of the habit part. When I get a craving I reach into my pocket, pull out a pack, open it, take a tube from it and put it in my mouth. In other words exactly what I’d do with a cigarette…only this time there’s nothing actually harmful in that tube.

Anyway, I’ve said it’s easier than I thought it would be…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.

It’s almost surreal actually.

This afternoon, we took my parents for a picnic and a nearby park…and on the way there in the car (a place I normally smoke a lot), I wasn’t smoking and I felt great. I mean, I was totally relaxed, my chest felt really clear and there wasn’t even a hint of a craving.

“This is awesome.” I thought. “Why didn’t I quit years ago? This is easy and I’ve not felt this good in years!”

Awesome, right?

Except for the part twenty minutes later when I’d have been totally willing to jump out of the moving car to pick someone’s cigarette butt off the floor.

I honestly think the hardest part of quitting is just getting your head right. After two days without cigarettes, (and when I’m not in the middle of a craving), I honestly do feel better than I have in years. I can already walk or run further without getting out getting out of breath.

I think the trick is just to focus on the bad parts of smoking and the good parts of not smoking. When I start to get a craving, I think about waking up in the morning coughing my guts up, getting out of breath just from walking, or the way my lungs feel when I’ve smoked too much and it feels like I’ve inhaled a cheese grater.

Then I think about just how much better I’m breathing, and that if I feel this good after just two days, how good will I feel in a month or two month’s time.

All I’m going to say, though, is this:

If you’re getting ready to quit smoking and can’t get an inhalator, go buy a few hundred lollipops or ice-pops. Basically something you can put in your mouth and hold like a cigarette when you get a really bad craving.

Sure, this may just result in you displacing the addiction instead of conquering it…but I’d much rather be addicted to sugar-free lollipops than cigs.

Oh, and this one is a biggie. Take the money you normally spend on cigarettes and put it in a jar to be spent only on fun things for yourself.

Basically, I might not get to smoke this month…but in four weeks I can take my saved cigarette money and go buy Guitar Hero for the Xbox.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This decreases the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream and ultimately decreases the amount of oxygenated blood reaching the heart muscle. Cigarette smoke contains nicotine, a substance that causes the adrenal gland to stimulate the release of a hormone that causes your blood pressure to rise abruptly.