I knew quitting would be hard, but...
October 15, 2012 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I quit smoking a couple of weeks ago. I think I'm over the initial hump, but the second wave of side effects is making me CRAZY. Please help me :(

I quit cold turkey, from smoking a pack-ish per day. The actual not-smoking-a-cigarette-when-you-really-want-to-smoke-a-cigarette has been predictably sucky, but surprisingly manageable. I haven't had one since The Last One, and the super-intense physical cravings have subsided a lot already.

My problem now is with a bunch of side effects I didn't expect, and they're making my life so shitty that I sometimes seriously consider smoking again just so I can get some goddamn sleep. Here are the major ones:

1) Major insomnia. This has never been a problem for me ever before. I am not drinking more or less caffeine than I did when I smoked. I don't feel especially anxious. But I fall asleep at a normal time, wake up at least a couple of times in the night for half hour or so periods, then really wake up maybe four hours after I fell asleep and spend the next couple hours drifting in and out until I give up and get out of bed. I am averaging perhaps three hours of real sleep a night. I am turning into a zombie. Is there something I can take to help me sleep and stay asleep?

2) Night sweats. Wtf. I am not a sweaty person. My sheet/blanket/comforter situation is exactly right and comfortable. And I'm still waking once per night absolutely drenched in sweat. The bed is actually WET. From my SWEAT. It's horrifying and I am seriously over stripping the sheets every day. What the hell can I do about this?

3) Digestion issues. I've always eaten pretty clean. Lots of whole-food fiber, tons of water. I have always had drama-free digestion. NOT ANYMORE. I am gassy, constipated and its opposite by turns, just overall not doing so great with the whole thing. What do I take/eat/not eat? ARGH!!

4) Sort of a general...sadness? Saudade, really, around not smoking any more. Like, I actually feel sad when I'm in a situation where I would love to be smoking, and I'm not smoking. It's like this major pleasure-giving thing has gone away, I almost feel like I'm grieving for a loss. This is silly, but it's actually also a pretty depressing thing and is adding a lot of sadness to my life that I do not want or need.

So quitting smoking has made me a sweaty, constipated, depressed zombie. I mean it's great, too, and I'm so glad I've quit (and I'm mostly joking about starting again) but I would really like some help with these side effects. Or do I just need to wait it out?
posted by peachfuzz to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It passes. Things should go back to normal in about a week or so.
posted by kpmcguire at 8:21 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I swear to you, it passes. It goes away completely and forever, and then your sleep, mood, energy and digestion are WAY better than they were before. Hang on. Just hang on. You can do it.
posted by jennyjenny at 8:23 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

it took me three months to clear all of the sweating and four months to stop hacking up junk and getting weird throat infections. hang in there! if you smoked for several years it'll take a while to clear out of your system.
posted by par court at 8:32 AM on October 15, 2012

I promise it passes. The insomnia surprised me too, and I had already cut back to a small amount before quitting. But it passes, all of it does. You're withdrawing from a powerful drug, your body is not happy but will adjust very quickly. Increase your exercise rather than taking something for it.

The sadness ... that will decrease and change too, although there might be a pang of some kind for a long time. I am ~15 years without a cigarette and there are times when I would like to have one, like with a beer, around a bonfire, stuff like that. I attribute it more to nostalgia than craving, your sadness might be along those lines. I also don't eat meat anymore and certain things, like Maryland blue crabs, stir up the same kind of nostalgia. Smoking, eating, drinking, etc. are social and ritualistic in nature, separate from the actual ingestion of the thing. Allow yourself to feel sad about not participating in those social rituals anymore.
posted by headnsouth at 8:36 AM on October 15, 2012

Yep, it gets better.... just hang in there, your body is detoxing....

in the meantime, find one of the online savings calculators that tells you how much you've saved by quitting. Eventually the number gets high enough that you have to admit to yourself that you would be an idiot to start again!

Also, when the urge gets bad enough, give someone $5, tell them to buy a pack of cigarettes for you and ask them to throw them away (where you won't find them)... As you throw away more $5 bills you soon feel driven not to make that all be in vain.
posted by HuronBob at 8:38 AM on October 15, 2012

I'm with you. It sucks, my doc gave me some xanax which helped with the mental stuff and sleeping.

I've been off 5 years so it can be done.

Digestion surprised me as something that changed from quitting, but it too shall pass.

Stay strong.
posted by ibakecake at 9:03 AM on October 15, 2012

Hah. $5. You must not live in NY! :)

It does go away. It's horrible. You have to hang in there for 30 days after your last cigarette. You've got another week, MAYBE two, and it will be so much better. Drink a lot of water. If you drink caffeine, don't stop! You can't reasonably detox from two drugs at the same time.

You're going to feel so awesome in a few weeks, and in a year, you will be like a new person who can smell and taste and breathe, even if you feel like you could breathe fine before. Trust me, you couldn't.

Hang in there. You got this.
posted by xyzzy at 9:04 AM on October 15, 2012

I had every one of those issues when I quit, and it took a little over a month before I started feeling normal again. It will pass, just hang on.
posted by hought20 at 9:16 AM on October 15, 2012

You may want to try taking 3mg of melatonin about half an hour before bed; it'll help regulate your sleep schedule again, and will make you sleepy without major side effects. And don't drink booze: it disrupts your sleep cycle.

Try a stool softener like Colace, and yeah, drink lots of water.

I totally get the sadness and feelings of loss! Hang in there, you can do it!
posted by Specklet at 9:20 AM on October 15, 2012

Just to validate your feelings in #4: cigarettes can act like mild antidepressants. And you're losing something that has been a consistant (and probably comforting) part of your life. Be good to yourself and hang in there!
posted by giraffe at 9:31 AM on October 15, 2012

Is it everybody-quit-month or what? You are the fourth or fifth person I've heard of who's quit smoking this month. Including me.

What I find works for the insomnia is just to give in to being awake, sit up, turn on the light, and read until I'm sleepy again (which is never more than a half hour).

When the urge arises, I just think instead of what I'm going to do with all the money I'm saving, how neither I nor my house nor my clothes stink, and how much less likely it is that I will end up hauling around an oxygen tank. That makes me happy.
posted by caryatid at 9:49 AM on October 15, 2012

Re point #4, a somewhat related AskMeFi.
posted by helion at 9:57 AM on October 15, 2012

I posted this thread 11 days ago. I have been smoke-free for 9 of those days. A few early thoughts:

The Allen Carr "Easy Way to Stop Smoking" book helped tremendously and boy, was I skeptical at first.

To combat the empty feeling left by the lack of smoking, I sit there and breathe as though I were smoking, concentrating on the inhaling and exhaling. Then I remind myself that it feels good to breathe fresh air and not crap.

I have replaced some of the bad cravings with yoga poses because they require me to focus my attention. If I can do a plank for a couple of minutes, it leaves me feeling strong and satisfied in a way that cigarettes never did.

My bank account is set up to transfer money from my chequing to savings accounts, so I can see the achievement paying off.

Hang in there. I know what you're going through.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:24 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I quit, I went to Quitnet.com. That was ten years ago but they're still around. Plenty of forums for practical advice and emotional support. And I was a MESS for about six months.

Remind yourself when the urge strikes that you just can't smoke today. That's all.
posted by lyssabee at 11:24 AM on October 15, 2012

nthing The Allen Carr "Easy Way to Stop Smoking". Do whatever you feel is necessary to stay stopped. Spend as much money, eat as much food, try not to sour any relationships (but "sorry I was quitting smoking" forgives almost anything). For insomnia watch movies, wander around outside, read forums about quitting smoking, go swimming --whatever is necessary to take your mind off smoking. Count one day at a time. If you absolutely must smoke tell yourself you can do it tomorrow but not today. Do whatever you feel is necessary to stay stopped.

It will pass. It will all pass. It may take time and there may be issues that continue to surface for some time but it will pass.

High fives. Keep going.
posted by uhom at 11:44 AM on October 15, 2012

Nicotine dulls the effect of caffeine so you probably need to adjust your intake now that you have stopped smoking. I also found that my quitting related tummy symptoms calmed down somewhat once I cut down on the coffee.

I had pretty much all of the issues you describe early in my quit and they have all passed now. I'm 6 weeks off them and I feel amazing. Soon you will too.
posted by roolya_boolya at 3:07 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some of the stuff goes away.

Some other stuff - insomnia - if you are a coffee drinker, it might be more potent now. Have your last one before midday.

Sadness can be a big issue - for me, nicotine was partially a self medicating system for depression and/or the lack of caused chemical shit to go on. Exercise at least half an hour a day, and if symptoms continue, go see your doctor.

Things will get better. One day you will turn around and find you have more time and energy that smoking took from you.

Also, if you're interested in a quitsmoking forum that doesn't blow sunshine up your arse, me-mail me. I accidentally acquired a bunch of ex-Quitnetters when a disagreement about the appropriateness of swearing occurred between that ex-smokers and the moderators of the forum. The core of that group continues, 10 years on.
posted by b33j at 3:15 PM on October 15, 2012

Like, I actually feel sad when I'm in a situation where I would love to be smoking, and I'm not smoking.

Nicotine pokes some of the same brain receptors that get poked when you are with loved ones. And at a pack a day, you are missing what amounts to a major part of your life. You are, in effect, mourning. It will pass.

I too find that caffeine (and other stimulants) really, really make me want to smoke. It is best to trim those back a little bit. I find it easier to give up the first dose of the day than the last.
posted by gjc at 8:02 PM on October 15, 2012

Seconding what roolya_boolya says: nicotine interferes with caffeine's half-life in your body, so when you smoke, caffeine doesn't affect you as much/as long. Now that you've quit smoking, you're getting twice the caffeine boost from your normal cuppa. So halve it, or drink half-decaf, and that will probably help with your sleep.

Also, nicotine's physical withdrawal symptoms (like night sweats) are supposed to be pretty much over in 72 hours. If you quit a couple weeks ago and are still anxious, getting night sweats, etc., it might be worth it to see a doctor.
posted by feets at 1:55 AM on October 16, 2012

I quit about eight years ago, and this chart really helped me visualize what I was going through, physically, which helped motivate me. It says that some of the symptoms you're having take 2-4 weeks to end, so hang in there!
posted by pyjammy at 9:45 AM on October 16, 2012

Shuffle things around, see what works, for you.

One of the most liberating things about quitting smoking for me (um ... 8 months ago) was that I could do things with my body, my diet, my sleep patterns, and so on without thinking "well, yeah, I might even do this in earnest once I've stopped smoking". I can actually get some exercise without feeling a complete tool.

1) Roll with it. Maybe even segmented sleep? Read while you're up, or go for a walk? Deep breathing exercises?
2) Had that; this burden shall pass. (Still got that, come to think of it, but less so).
3) More fibre. Fresh apple juice. Sugarfree sweets. Exercise.
4) Um, exercise, definitely. And light, plenty of light (is what works for me).
posted by labberdasher at 11:47 AM on October 16, 2012

You guys. You guys are the best. Thank you so much for the commiseration and for the metaphorical shoulder shaking. None of this is any big thing compared to NOT SMOKING WOOOHOOOOO.

Thanks, peoples.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:31 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey, dont know if you're still reading the responses here or not. I am also currently struggling with quitting. I'm on Day 6 and feeling some of the effects you are.

Not sure of your age/condition/etc, but what I am using to truly quit (I hope!) this time is running. I was never a runner, or all that athletic of a person. About a year ago (when I was trying to quit for an ex-girlfriend) I started up jogging, and worked my way up to being able to run a 5k. Long story short, dumped the girlfriend, started smoking again, running took a sidestep.

In the last 3 months I got back into running, and also have been curbing off my smoking. My leg muscles have all strengthened to the point where the only thing that holds me back is my lungs, I simple can't breath and can't go on. The less I smoked, the more I could run.... the more I smoked, the less I could run. Last week I realized I am in the best shape of my life, but still not in that great of shape, and realized my improvement was directly hindered by the smoking.

The stress of not smoking is killing me, and its kicking me out the door to run way more than I ever have. Not because I can, but because its the only activity that gets my mind of smoking. And when I'm not running, its my only inspiration to not smoke. The difference this time is I feel like I am quitting for myself, and my own self improvement.

Just thought I'd share my personal anecdote too, good luck in your struggles and maybe finding the reason you need to quit will help. Some reason you can think of and use to convince yourself to not smoke "just one more." We all know its never just one.
posted by el_yucateco at 9:49 AM on October 18, 2012

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