The Nicotine Curse

I learned how to smoke at the parking lot of a building in Makati when I was 22 years old. I wasn’t even at my office… I had lunch with 2  friends, and I remember being agitated and stressed that day. They taught me how to light a stick, how to inhale deeply and exhale slowly.

I picked up the habit pretty quickly. Within just a few months, I’d already graduated to one pack of 20s a day. I’ve been smoking religiously and faithfully since then.

11 years later, I’m trying to kick the bad habit.

It’s been a little over a week since I’ve deliberately and drastically reduced my smoking from the 20 sticks a day… to just a maximum of 5 sticks a day. People have been telling me to just quit cold turkey. I tried it for half a day but realized I wasn’t ready to completely cut the unbilical cord yet.

The 75% reduction in nicotine intake has already had drastic effects on my body though. Already, I feel lighter and more energetic. On the down side, my nasal passages are more congested than ever; my  throat is constantly a little bit sore. A friend who has successfully quit cold turkey once before told me this would happen, that it’s part of the withdrawal cycle.

The first few days were the toughest. Every hour I would feel the craving for nicotine. No candy or gum would silence the craving. Only willpower would work. And a glass of water. And real food.

A week later, I don’t feel the cravings as much anymore. I believe my body has already somehow adjusted to the decreased nicotine intake.

While I can’t successfully say yet that I’ve successfully quit – what the past week made me realize is that quitting nicotine is possible. I can do it if I wanted to bad enough.

So now, I need to not want it anymore.

My brother used to puff just a few sticks a day intermittently. I wouldn’t call him a smoker. At least not in the level of a certified, genuine, hardcore addicted smoker like myself.

In contrast, I’ve also read up a lot these past few weeks about quitting smoking.

Listening to a non-smoker telling a smoker to stop smoking is a bit humiliating and stressful. My brother talks down on me, and tells me flippantly that it’s easy to give it up and just stop. And frankly, it makes me want to smoke even more.

But I’ve seen a lot of good articles written for smokers, by (ex-)smokers.

One of the articles that particularly resonated with me was an article by an ex-smoker of 26 years. And there’s more from that site too.

A real smoker knows that the biggest barrier to quitting smoking is not the physical cessation from the habit. Physical withdrawal symptoms last only for a couple of days. Weeks, at most. And if my major cutting down is any indication – it gets easier every day that goes by. The cravings become easier to ignore, and your body starts rejecting nicotine more and more as you withdraw from it for more prolonged periods.

The biggest barrier to beat…. which is 10 times harder to beat….is the emotional and mental cigarette withdrawal. It’s not even the nicotine per se. It’s the many things that we smokers associate with the act of smoking.

I smoke when I’m stressed. I smoke when I drink coffee in the morning. I smoke when I chill with a bottle of beer or a glass of wine at night. I smoke when I’m celebrating the end of a good day. I smoke when I want to forget a bad day. I smoke when I’m bored. I smoke when I stay up til the wee hours of the morning to finish a presentation. I smoke on a heavy stomach after meals. I smoke when I didn’t get enough to eat. I smoke when I hang out with my friends. I smoke when I’m alone and not doing anything.

For 10 years, smoking has been my security blanket. The one thing that never lets me down when I need to calm down. The one thing that’s always just around and never abandons me regardless of the situation. Happy or sad, it’s just there. Always.

It’s a hard habit to break, because it’s not just another nicotine fix.

It’s the calming, relaxing sensation of taking deep breaths. It’s the warmth of a cigarette on your hands on a cold day. It’s the conversation that naturally flows when you take cigarette breaks with friends.

It really is like abruptly severing the unbilical cord. Like abruptly and suddenly leaving a child without his mom.

Which is why… the best and most fullproof way to quit smoking – is to really, truly, genuinely and deeply want to stop.

I’m getting there, slowly. Hopefully, surely too.

Meanwhile, I will pass one of the best advice my mum ever gave me.

If you haven’t started smoking, don’t ever start.

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One Response to The Nicotine Curse

  1. sauravthakur says:

    Wow, that was a good one, i would recommend it to my friends, who are so bad into smoking, thankfully , i never fell for it, though smoked couple of times, but that’s it..and after reading your article..it is out of questions…
    keep it up,
    you are an idol to those who want to quit smoking
    keep it up
    🙂

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