Quitting smoking: Life after butt
January 13, 2013 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Beyond the initial challenges of quitting smoking, what are the longer-term effects? How does life actually change?

After years of hemming and hawing about quitting the fatal butt, I Am Ready to make the move. In internet research and discussions with GP and other professionals, what has some up are essentially two phases. The first is literally quitting smoking.

That involves a few days of breaking the addiction, and then a few months of learning to live without it. The results are well-documented. Headaches, insomnia, weight-gain, changes in metabolism, irritability, social disruption. As are the benefits.

There were a few details on how quitting smoking is really a decision to change one's entire life. The body physically changes. Blood vessels change. Gums changes. Enzymes change. Hormone levels change.

There is not very much documentation on how the experience of one's life changes beyond smoking. Most of the online forums focus a lot on the smoking bit, and very little on the rest of life.

GP said that typically with smoking, a person can lead a higher-stress life than is healthy. They can basically overload with stress, because the nicotine masks how much stress they're really under. She said that some people just quit and life goes on, whereas other people completely change their lives. They become different people.

Wondering what the hive-mind experience is in this case? What happened when you quit smoking? This isn't so much about the quitting story, as how your life as a non-smoker went on to change. Once you were free from the tyranny of butt.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I think it reasonable to posit that I have lived an addition 5-10 years (now 70)--maybe more as all my male relatives died quite young from cardiovascular disease and they were smokers. I quit 41 years ago. When I quit I also lost 30 pounds and started running. Congratulations on your decision--i wish you the best.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:35 PM on January 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

For the first few years you'll have to be careful about triggers...like having a cig and a beer or coffee. Or at a party where other people are clustered out having a smoke. Sometimes after a heavy elaborate meal--

After that, about 3 or 4 years later only every once in a while you'll get a craving to go buy a pack and smoke the whole thing. But the fact that it costs about $8.00 a pack now serves as a pretty good deterrent for not risking getting hooked again.

I know it's hard to believe but if you just stick with it, eventually you won't even think about it anymore except at times of extreme stress. Good Luck! its worth it to not be a slave to tobacco.
posted by AuntieRuth at 1:38 PM on January 13, 2013

I wound up using an electronic cigarette for about a year and not having the five minutes of cycle as part of the addiction was helpful, as well as not having all of the tar but getting my nicotine fix at will was pretty helpful.

As for changes, I really love swimming again. I tried swimming as a smoker and didn't realize just how pathetic I must have seemed, taking breaks every couple of laps. Now I can just swim for half an hour at a slow pace.

And I don't smell like shit.
posted by mearls at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2013

Be prepared to crave it pretty much forever, and have a plan in place for more healthy displacing behaviors when the cravings do show up. That said, the frequency of craving *does* decrease over time, although every now and then, something will trigger it, even if you haven't smoked in years.

Some nice things to expect: just how much more easily you'll breathe, faster you'll move, and money you'll save!
posted by smirkette at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2013

Once you were free from the tyranny of butt.
That, to me, was the most joyful part of stopping smoking. It was as if a ball and chain had dropped free of my leg and I sprang up into the air like Nijinsky. No more need to carry cigarettes and lighter wherever I go. No more need to rush outdoors or to the smokers' lounge immediately upon landing at an airport. No more need to fidget at a dinner party looking for an aperture of time to pop outside for a smoke. The tremendous lightness of being free still gives me joy to this day, 16 years later.

I gained some weight after I stopped, but didn't care. One thing at a time. Then, six months later, I started hiking, eventually doing hours and hours in the mountains with friends. Before that, I wouldn't even consider walking more than a half mile on the flat or a couple hundred yards uphill. It felt, it still feels, as if I'd been granted an amazing, secret method of locomotion rarely bestowed upon other mortals. A new and enjoyable way of getting from A to B.

I also liked to cackle over how much money I'd saved, using a spreadsheet to calculate how much I was no longer spending on cigarettes. I gave that up some ten years ago but by now it's gotta be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
posted by mono blanco at 1:50 PM on January 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

One benefit that a non-smoker can't really relate to is flying is now much less stressful. Or rather, it is only as shitty as it is for everyone else now. You don't have to stress about going XX hours without a cig, weigh the cost/benefit of showing your bits to the TSA again to go through security for an illicit curbside powerdrag, or contemplate whether or not a few drags off of a cig are really worth federal prosecution in the bathroom.
posted by hobu at 1:51 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I quit cold turkey about ten years ago.

The pros: above and beyond the obvious health factors.... My clothes no longer smell, hell, I no longer smell, like smoke. I can taste food. I have saved thousands and thousands of $$'s. I can enjoy long events without going into withdrawal. I have no burn holes in my clothes or car seat. Stress did NOT go up. I felt better about myself and my ability to control my life and choices.

Go for it!
posted by HuronBob at 1:52 PM on January 13, 2013

The calming effect of smoking is pretty much fictitious, at least chemically. You make assumptions about it, then make them come true. A popular version of this myth involves coffee and cigarettes. You can achieve the same results with any mantra if you give it enough time and invest it with sufficient credulity. Anyhow, never mind about that.

A few weeks after you quit, you will notice that your sense of smell is changing. You may or may not find cigarette smoke repugnant then, but eventually you'll notice places where smokers congregate: from a hundred feet down wind, or closer if the wind is with you. Your smoker friends' clothes will smell like stale ashtrays. Other variations of olfactory discover will be more pleasant as your sensory tools recover.

When I quit (I was in my forties, and had smoked since my teens), I felt a wash of physical well-being. It was as though I was ten years younger.

Recovery wasn't immediate. I had the urge to smoke for years. The urge would last only a few minutes, and in the beginning it was powerful, but it passed. This would happen every couple of hours. As the weeks passed the urge faded both in intensity and frequency. Every now and then, for years, I would have a sort of nostalgic urge to light one up. Sometimes the waft of smoke would smell good. Most times it didn't. Nowadays it doesn't.

I went through a phase of self-righteous exsmoker assholery, but, mostly I mananged to contain myself unless I was asked for my opinion. I'm sorry I waited so long to quit. I've come to realize what how insensitive, truly oblivious, I was to the offensive nature of my habit. My rationalizations (it was my right to smoke, so fuck you) were in error. I regret all that now, on account of how I understand what a pain in the ass it was for other to have to put up with it. My right to smoke clashed with their right to not have to sit next to a stinking, stale ashtray on a city bus. (Rights are not real, they are fictions we agree on.)

This change of attitude has manifold, if subtle, ripples. For example, I believe I'm a little more accepting of others who have a different asthetic sense, or point of view, than I do. I haven't quite migrated over to the reletavistic school, but I do get it, that alhtough I may be a cute little snowflake, the sun doesn't rise by my clock.

Another problem is that my smoker friends don't like to come over to my house because I don't let them smoke inside. I provide them with butt cans on the porch, and bith at them for throwing their goddam butts down in my walkway. Smokers are sort assholes, when you get right down to it, but their assholery is sort of based on ignorance, so they ought to be treated with as much tact as you can muster.

I get a little pissed at my sister-in-law, because she keeps holding up our bi-monthly pinochle games to go out her deck and light one up.

You get the idea. Anhow, good luck. I hope you are successful.
posted by mule98J at 2:00 PM on January 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

I quit 5 yrs ago next week - and I am SO glad I did. The best thing is that I'm no longer a slave to a cigarette. I don't think about it all the time, I don't have to plan for addiction breaks, and I don't reek of ashtrays anymore.

About once a year I get a fleeting desire to have a smoke, but it's more about having 5 minutes of peace than about the cigarette itself.

If I can quit, anyone can quit! You can do this!!!!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:01 PM on January 13, 2013

I used to think that smoking sort of "defined" me, or was an integral part of my personality. Who would I be if I wasn't part of the smoking crowd? Those were my peeps!

That turned out to be a load of bullshit, thank god. Instead, I lost my smoker's cough. I lost the stink that smoke leaves EVERYWHERE.

I didn't experience any weirdness in my bodily functions, and I haven't perceived any change in my ability to handle stress.

Don't fret it. Just do it. You will be SO GLAD you did.
posted by wwartorff at 2:25 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

My energy level about doubled and I was able to stop drinking excessive coffee. When I was a smoker I needed coffee before I did pretty much anything, at any time of day, because I was so lethargic all the time.

I also remember getting a kick out of being able to bend down or squat down and stand up as fast as I wanted without getting a headrush.

You're going to be tempted to avoid parties, dinners, drinking, hangouts on porches or around fires, or anything that triggers you. This is probably smart at the very beginning, but if you persist too long with "I can't do X because it will make me want to smoke" you are just prolonging the misery.

The sooner you face things the sooner you'll be able to enjoy them again. Conquering an early party or something like that and successfully not smoking is empowering. Is it gonna bug the shit out of you from time to time? Yes. But it doesn't hurt, it doesn't make you sick to your stomach or throw up. If anything it's like being really hungry and unable to eat soon enough, but it only comes in waves and with decreasing frequency. You withstand more difficult pressures all the time.
posted by TheRedArmy at 2:26 PM on January 13, 2013

I quit two and a half months ago and so far my life hasn't changed because I haven't let it. I knew going into this what had made me start smoking again in the past after quitting (this is my umpty-millionth quit and this one is going to stick) so I decided that I would try to hit every single possible trigger right out of the gate. Stress? I quit just before the holidays so that my stress levels would immediately skyrocket. Drinking? I'm still drinking way too much. Coffee? Haven't changed my intake at all. The only thing that has changed is that I am not smoking and I'm not going to smoke. I know this sounds bassackwards but it has worked really well for me: I can't let those triggers be an excuse when I have already dealt with them over and over.

As far as the stress thing, stop thinking that cigarettes help you deal with stress. They don't. The only stress cigarettes help you deal with is the stress of wanting another cigarette. I would say that my stress levels are dangerously, insanely high - my friends would agree - and smoking or not smoking hasn't changed that one iota.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:29 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I quit cold turkey 12 years ago and I had some relatively serious mental health repercussions. Turns out smoking was masking some depression, and once I quit, I had to deal with it. Also I was a complete and total bitch for a month or two.

Not smoking messed with the timing of my days. Without the 10:00 am smoke break my days were a lot longer. When I quit I had a pretty long commute and not smoking during the drive to work was very difficult.

I used Quitnet.com for quite a while. Check them out if you're so inclined. Quitting was difficult, not gonna lie. But I'm still pretty proud of myself for doing it. Good luck!
posted by lyssabee at 2:53 PM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

For what it's worth, everyone tells you you'll have better breathing, a renewed sense of smell and taste, masses of energy, and all this other great stuff. Other than saving money and not smelling, I got none of that. That's OK though - I'm a big fan of saving money and of not smelling, as it turns out.

Irritatingly, what I did get was chest pain and shortness of breath I'd never had as a smoker, so that sucked. It's actually not that uncommon but it's one of those things you never hear about until you have reason (like chest pain and not being able to breathe) to Google it.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:59 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

In the interest of balance: I have been off smokes for 2 years now after smoking for more than 20 years. I have found no positive effects regarding food tasting better, increased energy, higher stamina/lung capacity or resistance to infection. I am staying off though since I do actually believe that they are terrible for your long term health.
posted by Iteki at 3:01 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I quit two years ago (today–seriously!).

- It became much easier craving-wise between 6 and 8 months. I still get cravings in times of unusual stress (this month I craved a cigarette once, for instance). But now when it happens it's nothing. It's as though the cravings are farther away or much 'quieter' (as a poor analogy–but that's how it seems).

- My hands and feet are warm. I was always freezing cold in the past.

- I calmed way down. I have anxiety, anyway, but it's much, much more manageable now. That took 4-6 months.

- I was in withdrawal for 3-6 months. Nicotine is out of your system within weeks but your brain has to catch up/re-wire itself. I was in a mental fog and felt fragile/bitchy most days. Eventually, I started hearing that I seemed happier and just got better reaction form people in general. I found that people will clue you in to your progress. (It's hard to 'see' your own progress as it happens slowly/incrementally).

- I kept remarking on how great everything smelled as well as noticing how things like the drain in my bathroom sink smelled (not great). I also noticed how badly everything I owned smelled of smoke, something that was not at all obvious to me while I smoked (unless it was after a night out somewhere before smoking bans). I thought I was pretty careful, but summer clothes that I had put away clean, smelled like smoke the next spring (about 5 months after I quit).

- I temporarily lost the ability to write and work on art projects. It was a combination of brain fog and having a hard time doing things I enjoyed without getting horrendous cravings to smoke. It has since mostly lifted due to my continuing to do those things anyway until it was no longer awkward (a year, plus).

- I had to stop drinking in order to quit smoking. I kept relapsing after three, four months and found that the common denominator was always alcohol. I might have eventually quit while continuing to drink, but it was so much easier to just quit everything (I wish I had figured that out earlier).

- I sleep much more deeply and have more dreams that I remember.

- My energy is much higher. I only know this because I kept journals and made a point to make note of how I felt before I quit so that I could read it later (while jonesing!). I highly recommend doing this.. It's easy to lose sight of the reasons you quit as well as any improvements made along the way. This is complicated by the fact that at certain points during withdrawal, your brain will do anything/tell you anything to make you smoke again.

- I no longer break every single activity into several parts because I will have to stop everything to smoke. I just keep going, working, reading, writing, relaxing, etc.

- I have more stamina anyway (physically/mentally). That, too, didn't happen until I got past six months.

- One thing that made the biggest difference for me: I made quitting smoking not about 'living longer' but about the improvements that will be made right now. It is very easy to think about how were 'all going to die anyway' and start smoking again. I coped out this way a bunch of times. I had to deliberately list every single reason why quitting makes my life better right now, this very minute (and the reasons keep revealing themselves even now).

Good luck to you!
posted by marimeko at 3:13 PM on January 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

I quit smoking cold turkey three years ago May. I'd finally just had it. I was sick of wheezing when I laughed, tired of my throat hurting and more than a little freaked out about the subtle signs of smoking showing up on my face. (I was 34 at the time, and maybe that was vain, but...) I quit though, and after about two days, I told someone that smoking seemed like something I used to do, but not anymore. I didn't miss it, and I don't know why. I still had the automatic though of reaching for a smoke first thing in the morning or after a meal, but that wasn't a craving, really--it was a habit, and after waking up and eating meals without a cigarette for about a week, I didn't think there was something I was forgetting as I walked out of the kitchen after washing my plate.

I still don't miss it, so the idea of always having to guard against cravings isn't necessarily a hard and fast truth you'll have to deal with. It really depends on you, though, and the reasons behind why you're quitting. If you're quitting because you see smoking as a part of your life that you want to be over so that you can have a "new" life, the cravings will possibly be less than if you stop smoking because you feel you have to, and really wish you could still have a smoke after dinner or out at the bar or when you have a morning coffee. If the cigarette is a friend you have to break up with, you'll miss it.

All that notwithstanding, you'll have more energy, and you won't necessarily gain lots of weight. You might even lose some, who knows?

If you haven't already, maybe check out Allen Carr's book on the subject. Good luck to you!
posted by wolfgirl at 3:23 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

My friends changed. I didn't want them to, but they did. I quit smoking and (I would never have predicted this next part) pretty shortly thereafter became a runner. Most of my friends continued smoking, and some of them had compounding alcohol issues, etc. But I loved them dearly and I wanted them to stick around. I thus made a great effort to be absolutely certain I'd not be that "I quit, and so should YOU!" asshole, and tried very hard to in no way project bullshit onto them. But suddenly, I found that everyone would go to similarly great lengths to avoid smoking around me (which I didn't actually ask for, but probably did help me quit), and that felt like they were avoiding me, which became quite isolating and weird and sad. I'd find myself sitting alone for half the evening, watching everyone's bags in a bar or restaurant while they all happily piled outside to smoke and I sat there fighting the urge to join them. Eventually (and very gradually) about 90% of my friend set shifted as our patterns and habits changed. Maybe it was just normal friend-shift as lives diverged, but I wasn't real happy about that part.

The big doozy of quitting, though, was that I had to deal with the reasons I was smoking. Smoking, for me, was primarily a 2-way impenetrable smokescreen, preventing certain crap from getting in, and a whole lot of MY crap from getting out. The physical addiction itself, and the extreme but temporary discomfort of going off cigs cold turkey, was completely miniscule in comparison with having to deal with this realization. It became immediately apparent that I had used smoking primarily to tamp my personality and emotions way, way down, and when I quit, it instantly became a rickety rollercoaster ride, dealing with myself at full force. I am still, more than a decade after quitting, dealing with my lack of a smokescreen, particularly in regards to anger and sadness. As a smoker, my first response to sharp anger flares or any type of deep hurt was to go somewhere else and smoke until I was 100% back under control and could, in my mind, 'move past it' (read: tamp it down and completely ignore it). Now I have to stand there and deal with it. I am really, really grateful for this switch.
posted by involution at 3:38 PM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm six or seven months from my last and sometimes final quitting.

Watching people smoke (in a dignified way, a la Mad Men) is almost like watching porn for me -- meaning that it is a huge trigger. At the same time, it makes watching movies like Looper where smoking is going on all the time DELIGHTFUL.

What I miss, like involution, was the way I used smoking to deal with stress. I carry my stress around quite a bit longer, now, I think. So I am trying to develop healthy ways to cope. Also, smoking gave me a break from writing, reading, or grading, but I could continue to write, read, and grade, which suited my workaholic tendencies.

The reason why I think I'll not start smoking again is that I have severe gum disease. Anything that exacerbates, like smoking it is looking for an abscess with the resultant excruciating pain and antibiotics.
posted by angrycat at 3:59 PM on January 13, 2013

I quit cold turkey 8 years ago this month.

After a couple of years you will never, ever again regret quitting.

Maybe some people get cravings occasionally, but for me it's the opposite, I now can't stand smoke, it makes me feel ill. In fact I've become the most obnoxious anti-smoking asshole that I used to loath - I will tell you to go smoke somewhere else.

I put on weight after I quit, lost it, got fit, put it back on but stayed somewhat fit. I feel much healthier. Minor colds don't turn into weeks of hacking and coughing. Me, my cloths, my house and my car no longer smell like shit.

Quitting is only as hard as you make it for yourself - really it's not that hard. I felt so betrayed by nicotine for the years I believed it was almost impossible to quit - when it turned out to be not that big a deal after the first few days. Good Luck!
posted by Long Way To Go at 4:05 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

The universal thing that I think many smokers underestimate (I know I did before I quit): You will no longer smell terrible to everyone around you.

Honestly, as an ex-smoker, I notice it every single time I'm in close quarters with someone who recently smoked, and I HATE it. Even if I like the person, I always wonder if I'm involuntarily crinkling my nose or slightly moving away to cleaner air.

A few years from now, you'll be an ex-smoker. You'll be on an elevator when a smoker gets in. You'll crinkle your nose and wonder "What IS that awful smell?" And you'll realize with satisfaction that you no longer smell like that to other people.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:16 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

On re-reading your question: quitting smoking brought how ridiculously stressful my life was and how extremely ill-equipped I was to deal with it into painfully sharp focus. I watched as a lot of people around me quit, then immediately hit a stressful event and go right back to smoking to 'deal' with it. Rinse, repeat. It weirdly helped that I was felt like my whole life was a gnawing ball of stress (I am also in a constant, messy mud-wrestling match with chronic clinical depression), and thus could safely conclude that smoking wasn't going to in any way help me out of that hot mess. Aside from, you know, possibly killing me. Which, while sometimes terribly appealing, seemed a little harsh. Even in my worst depression, I could still acknowledge that death by smoking was an extra-super-shitty way to go.

Blessedly, my rational brain could fully acknowledge that sucking down cigarettes never magically rid me of any stress, much less prevented further stressful events from cropping up. And, in terms of STAYING quit, I could and can at least love myself enough to A) not commit a ridiculous form of slow and miserable suicide, and B) never, ever put myself through the pain of quitting again. Because it SUCKED. But if you're anything like me, you're definitely going to need to find a radically different way of dealing with stress and misery (mine, unexpectedly, was running. I was already in therapy, which has also greatly helped in dealing with the long term fall-out of quitting). Unfortunately, my life is still a gnawing ball of stress, and I'm still working on how I deal with it. Apparently that's just the way this whole 'being alive' schtick rolls. But again, I'm tremendously grateful that quitting smoking forced me to also 'quit' a number of pretty crappy character flaws and incredibly dumb ideas. I wouldn't give that up for the world.
posted by involution at 4:42 PM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

This may or may not feel helpful to you but it took five years for me to stop craving cigarettes. I used the patch to help me quit the worst of my addiction then went back to social smoking. And through this, I was overweight and didn't exercise much. After I quit again, I never went back to regular smokes. I started doing more physical things -- hiking seems a common theme here. Did a lot of that -- outdoors exercise!

I had two tricks for hanging with smoker friends and not smoking. At work, I would occasionally join the smokers and bring a bottle of kids' bubbles. I'd focus on blowing really large bubbles and it would sate the hand/mouth thing and really calm my work nerves. Now, I was 23 and in a creative field and my friends were amused so maybe this wouldn't work for you but I'm a big advocate of bubble therapy.

The other more bar-friendly trick was to shuffle a deck of cards. Kept your hands busy plus you're always up for a hand of gin or some "between the sheets."

Anyway. Ten years on and I love really good food: craft beer, amazing cheeses.... Can't imagine killing my palate with cigarettes. Some of my smoking friends who are into homebrewing seem to also like ridiculously hoppy beers. Now, I'm not saying all hopheads have a screwed up sense of taste but sometimes I wonder if they like crazy hopped beers because they can actually taste them.

You'll smell better (to others), you'll smell and thus taste your food better, you'll have delightful lung capacity that can really take you somewhere, you'll have more money in your pocket. You'll miss out on some of that instant cigarette-in-the-cold camaraderie but that is really dwindling as smoking becomes less prevalent. And you'll find other ways of making a friend.

Now, when I'm stressed at work, I try to take a brisk walk around the block. Sometimes I take someone wih me. It's almost the same as a smoke break and I feel better.

Best of luck. You can do it. It gets easier.
posted by amanda at 5:59 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

How quitting changed my life:

- my lungs, chest, *cleared.* That's how it felt
-I used to get bronchitis a couple of times a year and the cough would last for weeks. Now I get bronchitis every few years and it last about 5 days and it's over.
-I used to have to think about cigarettes pretty much constantly. Did I have any? was I running out? could I wait a few minutes longer to light up the next one?

in other words, Freedom. Physical and emotional freedom.

At first, though, I felt completely at a loss. When my mother quit smoking she said, "I feel as if I've lost my best friend."

But this passes. I stopped thinking about cigarettes completely after about a year. I disagree that you will always crave a cigarette. This is true for some people but not for all.
posted by DMelanogaster at 7:58 PM on January 13, 2013

Quitting and its consequences seem to vary a lot . . . I remember my father telling me that he had cravings for years after he quit and once tore the house apart looking for a cigarette when one of his kids was sick. Then there's my partner, who quit in October 2008 when he had a stroke at age 40. He decided in the hospital that he was going to use that time to detox and hasn't smoked since. I've commented to him that it seemed much easier for him than it was for other smokers I've known, and he said it wasn't that hard because he realized that the choice was quit or die from another stroke. So that was just it for him.

As for aftereffects, he had a lot of coughing fits for several months after he quit, as if his lungs were clearing themselves. He got into cycling seriously the following summer and noticed that his lung capacity was much, much better than it had been when he smoked. That first few years after he quit, he'd have a huge coughing fit after every long ride, but that doesn't happen any more, so I think his lungs are healing. He's also mentioned to me that he was so happy to not have to go into "smoker's exile" and stand around in the cold smoking with the one other smoker at work. He is also chagrined at the amount of money he spent in 20 years of smoking and really glad he isn't spending it anymore.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:39 PM on January 13, 2013

Be prepared to crave it pretty much forever, and have a plan in place for more healthy displacing behaviors when the cravings do show up. That said, the frequency of craving *does* decrease over time, although every now and then, something will trigger it, even if you haven't smoked in years.

Just dropping in to say that this is by no means universal. I smoked quite heavily in my twenties and early thirties, and quit cold-turkey about 7 years ago. Best thing I ever, ever, ever did. Before I quit, I was terrified of this 'craving forever' thing. Within about a year? Nup. No cravings. Nothing. Gone.

I can honestly say that for the past 6+ years, I have never wanted a cigarette, even in my deepest, darkest, most drunken hours. So there's that.
posted by Salamander at 11:32 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

For me, it was not so much about the positives that would accrue as the negatives that were coming if I didn't stop. I still miss nicotine. But I see women my age and a little older who are long-term heavy smokers, and it's bad enough that nothing would make me go there. It really does deform you physically. Plus I think (and this may partly belie my frequent assertion that nicotine is a good drug) that some heavy smokers I know are somewhat mentally deformed; they are nervous and are not dealing with it that well and it's exacerbated for them by the cycle of topping up the nicotine and then withdrawal. Kind of similar to alcohol in that sense.
posted by BibiRose at 6:40 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

...typically with smoking, a person can lead a higher-stress life than is healthy. They can basically overload with stress, because the nicotine masks how much stress they're really under.

Typically this is not right. Typically the only stress that nicotine actually relieves is the stress caused chemically by not having consumed nicotine recently.

Once you've gone through physical withdrawal and come out the other side, you will most likely find yourself able to take your stress down about as much as a ciggie would have just by taking a breathing break that lasts about as long as a smoke.
posted by flabdablet at 7:38 AM on January 14, 2013

I've never been a smoker, but I can tell you that quitting will open up a wider pool of potential dating partners. Most all of the non-smokers I know simply will not consider dating a smoker.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:07 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I quit about 6 or 7 weeks ago.

Last week I noticed that the spicy almonds I like to eat seemed really spicy - moreso than normal. Then I realized that I was actually tasting things much more vibrantly than I did as a smoker.

As far as life changes go, that's about it. I've had the urge to buy more cigarettes a couple of times, but I knew if I caved, then I'd go back to smoking every time I got in the car, so I didn't.
posted by tacodave at 3:31 PM on January 14, 2013

Most people who have smoked for a while have dropped one while driving, or dropped one between the couch cushions etc... Those moments of panic wont happen anymore.

A couple days after you quit, your sense of smell will return. It's a really amazing feeling, too! I felt like I had a bionic nose. I remember the moment distinctly: I was at work and somebody was making popcorn in the break room which was maybe 40 feet away, and I smelled it! I actually said out loud "I smell popcorn!" like I had made a major discovery.

Odds are that you will at one point fall off the wagon. The good news is that the first few drags will taste awful. I remember thinking "wow, this tastes like burning paper" and putting the cig out. If you have more than a few drags you can easily fall right back in to the habit as I did for a few weeks. If that happens just remember how good it felt to be able to smell things again, and quit again.
posted by I_Zimbra at 4:13 PM on January 14, 2013

I think there are two key ingredients to quitting bad habits, including smoking.

1. Commit to it. Once you are mentally at one with the narrative of 'I am a non-smoker (or whatever it is); I am a person who makes intelligent decisions about my health' you will find ways to continue with the effort. If you're not quite ready, your choices will reflect this. Figure out how to get in the right mindset! This can be the hardest piece but it is critical. Tap into whatever factor motivates you, even if it isn't the logic that smoking = bad health. A friend of mine stopped smoking for beauty. Another stopped because she knew the anguish it would cause her family. Another stopped because he was looking forward to becoming a dad. Another stopped because the habit was inconsistent with his image of his ideal self.

2. Design a system to support your efforts. Do not underestimate the power of placebo style sh*t. Get it ready. Start taking fancy supplements. Buy a book on breathing exercises or download yoga podcasts so you have usable strategies when you feel weak. Even buy some patches or e-cigarettes as a crutch. A very dear friend of mine was a hardcore smoker and quit only because she signed up for free patches that made her feel sick about having a cigarette, and carried straws to chew on. Time will give you results, but until then, your goal should be to live as you wish to be living day by day. One day, the good habits will have totally replaced the bad, and you won't have to think about it.

Good luck!
posted by pearl228 at 1:02 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Quit over 20 years ago, and for me a lot of this stuff I'm reading upthread about taste and smell improving didn't happen. One thing I have observed, however: the convenience store. I go into places like 7-11 maybe once a year now. When I was a smoker, I'd be in there almost every day.
posted by Rash at 1:41 PM on January 15, 2013

I don't know how much of my experience is germane since I've had to deal with drug induced (Champix) mania and the crash and burn from that along with going through what looks to be my menopausal year. This past year has been a doosey emotionally and physically which I'm still trying to recover from. I was hoping to end a relationship, have my business up and running and ... but(t). I'm five weeks shy of one year smoke free after smoking for thirty plus years. This is my first, and hopefully last!, try at kicking this habit.

I think the hardest part has been dealing with my emotions. I've discovered is that all the things I do are attempts at divergence to lessen psychic pain. I don't know if the anger I have felt this past year is due to mania (I felt incredibly euphoric, but also was constantly anxious/irritable), menopause, or the quitting, just no way to unpack it really, but I know I'm not the only ex-smoker who felt that initial irritant smoulder into an incredible rage. Despite understanding early on that a cigarette wasn't going to make the underlying feelings go away that precipitated the need to light up I very much felt that if this didn't get better like it did I would be smoking again since I couldn't handle the raging and constant anxiety. Even though this is a sock I can't bring myself to write out how bad it got other than to say, it was really really bad.

My sense of smell came back almost immediately, all the smokers out there became huge foam cigarettes, but my taste buds have been on a rotating strike; some foods just aren't the same, some taste flat and others are MUCH tastier. Some of it might also come down to the meditation I started to do which made me more mindful of everything. Btw, I've been told by other ex-smokers I know to give it at least a year for things to settle down.

I don't know what to suggest since I found anything helpful didn't actually help me; I quickly got sick of anything mint flavoured, having to chew chew chew, or drink water. And even though some of it is a lot healthier I was still stuck with an understanding that I would be creating a new (bad) habit to nix an even worse one, so I toughed it out and stayed away from putting anything in my mouth.

A trigger I wasn't even expecting was the sweet smell of fruity cigarello's (brown with the white plastic filter?) and then it takes everything I have not to float behind the wisps of smoke with my nose. And, every so often, I take a deep breath when I smell fresh smoke coming off someone's cigarette. I go through tough periods where I can't stop thinking about having one and other times where I realize I haven't thought of it for weeks on end. It does get easier, but I don't think I'll ever be really free of it.
posted by redindiaink at 8:07 AM on January 24, 2013

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