Antiquated Coping Strategies - Smoking

NOTE - I don’t know the person in the image above but her story is available here. I use this image because it is reminiscent of my dad’s last few days and because those last few days were like NOTHING I have ever experienced. Take a look at the Poo bear on the table and the pictures of her loved ones. Read her story and the final words from her husband. I could be her in a few years and the post below outlines what I need to do to stop that from being my future.

I started smoking again. I had the choice to not start but I convinced myself that I DIDN’T have a choice and set-out believing that it was a fine coping strategy.

It was embarrassing to lie to my father about it. “I’m going out to work on something in the workshop” was what I’d say, and I’d do something, but it was really a trip out there to smoke. The lie made him feel better, like I was finally taking ownership of my life and working hard to build the panel business and it allowed me to avoid disappointing him in his last weeks here. He was proud that I had turned my life around after Natalie’s death - stopped smoking, started eating correctly, got back to exercising, became a personal trainer, started teaching cycling classes and effectively stopped doing most of the things that were destructive. I was glad that my dad was happy and once I slipped, and it was evident that he was getting sick, the smoking habit took hold because I didn’t want to stop out of fear of what it might be like. I also didn’t want to rock the boat given his terminal diagnosis.

Now I have quit. I left everything as it was until I was able to deal only with the death of my dad and the impact it has had on my self-awareness. This was a request of my family to just try and keep things normal until you know what you are feeling and are ready to make the changes. Strangely, the thing that actually clued me into the fact that it would be fantastic idea to stop was a realization about my girl friend at the time. She’s an amazing women and I think we both knew that the relationship would be a 2 part thing if it was to last at all. There was not going to be continuity in it, a separation / break-up was going to be absolutely necessary because of WHO I am and where I am in my life. BUT, my time with her was good and I realized that I actually wanted to live for as long as I can. There was something about the relationship with her that helped me realize that you can feel connected to someone and this connection can help you see things about your behavior that aren’t working. I needed to stop for myself, not for her, my dad, for anyone. I tabled the stopping until after my dad died.

I don’t want to die. I want to live forever, floating through the universe with a smile and love in my heart. But I will not live forever, and if I don’t fix my bad habits, I won’t live for much longer.

Below is a list of the positive changes that occur when someone stops smoking. I like this list because there are benchmark to achieve and it tells a story about recovery. The body will heal itself from a lot of damage if you do the things to promote recover, but only if you stop the damage as well.

Last smoke plus …
  • 20 minutes
  • Your blood pressure, pulse rate, and the temperature of your hands and feet will all return to normal.
  • 8 hours
  • Remaining nicotine in your bloodstream will have fallen to 6.25% of normal peak daily levels, a 93.25% reduction.
  • 12 hours
  • Your blood oxygen level will have increased to normal and carbon monoxide levels will have dropped to normal.
  • 24 hours
  • Anxieties peak in intensity and within two weeks should return to near pre-cessation levels.
  • 48 hours
  • Damaged nerve endings have started to regrow and your sense of smell and taste are beginning to return to normal. Cessation anger and irritability peaks.
  • 72 hours
  • Your entire body will test 100% nicotine-free and over 90% of all nicotine metabolites (the chemicals it breaks down into) will now have passed from your body via your urine.  Symptoms of chemical withdrawal have peaked in intensity, including restlessness. The number of cue induced crave episodes experienced during any quitting day will peak for the “average” ex-user. Lung bronchial tubes leading to air sacs (alveoli) are beginning to relax in recovering smokers. Breathing is becoming easier and the lungs functional abilities are starting to increase.
  • 5 - 8 days
  • The “average” ex-smoker will encounter an “average” of three cue induced crave episodes per day. Although we may not be “average” and although serious cessation time distortion can make minutes feel like hours, it is unlikely that any single episode will last longer than 3 minutes. Keep a clock handy and time them.
  • 10 days
  • 10 days - The “average ex-user is down to encountering less than two crave episodes per day, each less than 3 minutes.
  • 10 days to 2 weeks
  • Recovery has likely progressed to the point where your addiction is no longer doing the talking. Blood circulation in our gums and teeth are now similar to that of a non-user.
  • 2 to 4 weeks
  • Cessation related anger, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, impatience, insomnia, restlessness and depression have ended. If still experiencing any of these symptoms get seen and evaluated by your physician.
  • 21 days
  • Brain acetylcholine receptor counts up-regulated in response to nicotine’s presence have now down-regulated and receptor binding has returned to levels seen in the brains of non-smokers.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months
  • Your heart attack risk has started to drop. Your lung function is beginning to improve.
  • 3 weeks to 3 months
  • Your circulation has substantially improved. Walking has become easier. Your chronic cough, if any, has likely disappeared.
  • 1 to 9 months
  • Any smoking related sinus congestion, fatigue or shortness of breath have decreased. Cilia have regrown in your lungs thereby increasing their ability to handle mucus, keep your lungs clean, and reduce infections. Your body’s overall energy has increased.
  • 1 year
  • Your excess risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke has dropped to less than half that of a smoker.
  • 5 to 15 years
  • Your risk of stroke has declined to that of a non-smoker.
  • 10 years
  • Your risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer is between 30% and 50% of that for a continuing smoker (2005 study). Risk of death from lung cancer has declined by almost half if you were an average smoker (one pack per day).  Your risk of pancreatic cancer has declined to that of a never-smoker (2011 study), while risk of cancer of the mouth, throat and esophagus has also declined.
  • 13 years
  • Your risk of smoking induced tooth loss has declined to that of a never-smoker (2006 study).
  • 15 years
  • Your risk of coronary heart disease is now that of a person who has never smoked.
  • 20 years
  • Female excess risk of death from all smoking related causes, including lung disease and cancer, has now reduced to that of a never-smoker (2008 study). Risk of pancreatic cancer reduced to that of a never-smoker (2011 study).

    7 Responses to “Antiquated Coping Strategies - Smoking

    • 1
      March 4th, 2012 06:17

      Update - it is now clear to me that I was actually ready to quit a few months ago because what I am experiencing as withdrawal isn’t nearly as bad as what I had been expecting and what I went through before.

      I think about smoking, but not in the “I wish I could have a smoke” way. I think about it in a “I can’t believe what I was doing to myself” way.

      My anxiety is in overdrive and my sleep is of a very poor quality. This is normal. When talking to my doctor about it, they told me to expect things to be pretty choppy for a couple of week. While it may have been unwise to eliminate so many things out of my life at once, the streak has started so I’m not going back.

      The fact that I’m going through the process of my fathers death may actually be a bit of a blessing here. Sure there’s a lot of stuff leaving my body that was suppressing optimal functioning and as things return to normal my energy levels are rushing up and my brain is trending towards a manic-like state. But there are a lot of open loops about my dad and how I’m going to find my path again (or maybe for the first time ever).

      I don’t know why I am feeling what I am feeling and for that reason alone, things are easier than they could be if I wasn’t so motivated to avoid dying of cancer in the hospital.

    • 2
      March 10th, 2012 18:16

      Update - I haven’t craved smoking in a while. It’s funny because you think you’ll notice that you don’t until you realize that you haven’t. It’s getting less and less like something I can’t put my finger on is missing from my life. I haven’t been sucking on mints as much as usual and actually find myself leaving the house without them.
      Life is become its own reward. A few tough days at work this week and today, when it was over, I thought about eating dinner and doing some reading. Somehow the notion of hurting another piece of myself didn’t strike me as a viable way to celebrate closing off the challenge.
      The manic-like state is calming and I have had two dreams this week, one I don’t remember and the other was loaded with symbolism - a friend of a friend was smashing bottles all around me and I was walking barefoot. I took my time and we walked away from all the broken glass without getting cut. I wish I had looked at the person who was throwing the bottles because it could have been me.

    • 3
      March 19th, 2012 10:01

      Update - It has been almost 3 weeks since I stopped smoking. There are no cravings and almost all of the guilt / shame for doing it has gone. I understand why I was doing it and I understand why I stopped. I’ll post more about those things specifically in the coming days and weeks.
      I haven’t snapped at anyone in a a fortnight and on Friday after I taught a class, someone approached me and said “you’ve been a lot more relaxed and fun recently.” When I told her that I had stopped smoking she was startled that it was something that I did. Coping strategy or not, it was very inauthentic and I’m gaining an appreciation as to why some of the people I cared most about are gone. I’m not disappointed in them. In fact, I’m proud to have known them as they were right to leave.
      My skin looks better and there is a glow to it that I’ve never been aware of. Sales meetings and conversations with everyone are easier. Potatoes taste good, white rice isn’t bland and the cuts in my mouth from my braces are healing.

    • 4
      March 28th, 2012 04:49

      Wow, day 28. This is the longest I have gone without smoking since university. My appetite has returned and I can’t seem to eat enough. I’m still really light, possibly a little over 160, but I’ve made it back to the gym and my muscles have started to grow again. I’m not sleeping very much, getting maybe 5 hours a night, but I have plenty of energy. The energy isn’t of the same quality as before, it’s seems concentrated and more pure.
      Along with smoking I cut out most of the sugar from my diet and eliminated all but 2 cups of caffeinated coffee. The consequence to that change is a less jittery / random approach to things - the work I do is on things that I need to do and my mind has become more settled.
      I’m really glad I stopped because quitting is no longer something that I need to do. I’ve been released from my past in that regard and has set my sights on the future without a monkey on my back reminding me of the silly choices of my past.
      It wasn’t hard in the way I thought it was, but it was tough - like I lost a really good friend. But in fairness to all things possible, I did lose a friend, and my dad died, so there was real grief to contend with. It’s all meaningless anyway once you stop.
      Life is long and I may come to regret ever smoking and abusing my body like that, but I could be arsed about it now. I’ve stopped and that’s all there is about it.

    • 5
      April 9th, 2012 13:40

      It has been more than 40 days, I think. You forget to remember and count, and the observations people are making are a bigger reward than the compulsive actions I was taking.
      There are a few habits that still require some effort to prevent; verbal things like “extra large decaf coffee with 3 milk and, actually just three milk” because I have been ordering coffee with sugar for years. I still think about making Crystal Light when I’m cooking a meal; I have replaced that with watered down orange juice or water with lemon or lime juice. And after I teach a cycling class and go to the store to buy dinner, I still walk towards the cookie aisle, then to the frozen pizza section and then to the real food areas.
      My weight has stabilized and I’ve regained my appetite. There’s a good chance I’ll be growing again soon given that my teeth are now aligned enough to chew meat. I’m eating coconut oil and almond butter to boost the calories and exercising a more normal amount.
      The biggest thing that I feel now is connected to the universe. I have established my baseline again and it feels a lot like I remember my life in Ireland right before we moved to Canada. In those final months, the future was all about possibilities. There was a big excitement because we were moving to Canada and in Canada, you can do anything. It took me a while to become socialized to the country, about 30 years :) , but now that I’m young and child-like again, I see the truth I forgot so many years ago.
      I am grateful for everything that has ever happened to me, it has shaped and created the person I have become and opened the doors to the possibilities of what I am being.

    • 6
      May 20th, 2012 04:11

      Lets say it has been 80 days since I stopped smoking. I was talking to a friend at work and mentioned that I don’t smoke anymore and that I don’t crave it at all. I mentioned that quitting sugar was tougher. I know I’ll eat sugar again.
      There isn’t much to say about it anymore to be honest. People are shocked that I used to smoke but people get shocked at a lot of things. I’m proud of myself for stopping though, and that is new. For the longest time I didn’t let myself feel all that good about it because I shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place but that feeling is gone now. I DID achieve a lot by stopping and that is reason to feel good about it.
      My dreams remain crazy, still the night time integrity battle but I’m getting used to them. It’s as thought I haven’t dreamed in years and I’m getting caught up.
      My skin and health seems to be back to normal and my vitality is good for someone of my age.
      My quit date seems like years ago.

    • 7
      July 18th, 2012 22:55

      I’m closing in on 5 months and things are still going really well. It’s the summer, the heat is on and it’s a time of year that I traditionally drink more beer and relax. I will admit that I am missing the beer. Not getting drunk, but having a couple when I get home from work, the gym, where-ever. I don’t miss smoking though, and that is a good thing.
      My dreams have effectively normalized and I’m having a much easier time sleeping now. Both things I am really grateful for. I consider this subject closed. I am an ex smoker and I don’t have the desire to start it again. And I’m really happy about that!