I had no intention of quitting cigarettes at the start of the year. I’d been smoking for so long – almost a decade, in fact – that I felt the damage had already been done. Didn’t see the point.
Despite being aware of the harmful effects of tobacco addiction, smoking had been the single most consistent feature not only as a (bad) habit that stood the test of time in a life where everything else is always fleeting, but also as a thread that weaved seamlessly every memory in my adulthood.
Cigs, as far as I was concerned, got me through varsity.
They were ‘there’ for the good times as much as they were there to pacify anxiety. (I’d later learn that this affectionate language about cigarettes was based on a false internal dialogue that framed tobacco as a ‘friend’)
I’d structured my daily routine around the habit. I’d sooner starve than not have a cigarette somewhere within reach. In short, I was very much addicted. So hooked that the idea of giving up cold turkey never even crossed my mind.
But after eight years of not being able to get through two hours without puffing it up, I had my last cigarette in April this year.
WHY I DECIDED TO QUIT SMOKING
The moment I quit was so sublimely simple and quiet that I can only credit it to God’s grace. It was peaceful; I couldn’t believe such a life-changing decision was a calm moment of clarity.
Here’s what happened on April 23rd, 2018; I stepped outside the office to the smoking area with a friend on a lush Monday afternoon this past Autumn. I then realized I hadn’t brought my cigarettes with me.
“Lord I know I’m playing games with these cigarettes but I rebuke lung cancer in my life.”
Neither had she.
“What now?”, I asked her before signalling to the security guard who’s always good with a stash.
The friend then said something that struck me, and instantly planted the idea that perhaps it was time for me to quit. She said she wanted to be able to just hang out outside and catch some fresh air. That it didn’t always have to be about smoking.
I couldn’t believe how that never occurred to me. For me going outside, taking a break, catching some fresh air, always meant smoking. Somehow that realisation shocked me and I knew I’d be having my last cigarette by that midnight.
6 WAYS MY LIFE HAS CHANGED AFTER I QUIT
My Sense of Smell Is Back
Smoking irritates the nasal passages, which leads to inflammation that can affect a person’s sense of smell, according to Dr Ivan A Hernandez. Years of nicotine inhaling also affects the olfactory nerves that are located at the back of your nose, which dulls your general sense of smell.
I had no idea that smoking had been damaging my sense of smell. It never really crossed my mind for the eight years, which is why my only smoke prayers had centred around just lung cancer. Lord I know I’m playing games with these cigarettes but I rebuke lung cancer in my life.
Turns out there’s so much more than just that.
When I dug around the internet for some tips on quitting the day before I took the plunge, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that an improved sense of smell was amongst the many benefits of giving up nicotine. I couldn’t wait to smell the fresh morning breeze with more intensity, which starts happening around week two.
Two weeks after quitting tobacco I could smell food from a superhuman distance, which didn’t help my rapid weight gain.
Here’s a photo someone recently sent me from a couple of years ago that part of me never wants to see again. The difference in my skin tone and texture between then and now is remarkable, and I haven’t introduced any chemicals or treatments to my skin care routine.
I will keep it around though, since it’s a nice addition to the ‘before and after’ collection of snaps showcasing the many ways my skin, eyes and hair have improved along with the cessation of smoking and refined sugar, amongst other lifestyle changes.
The photographer captured me with a cigarette in my hands, puffing away at a team building retreat. I’m shocked now at how dry my skin looked. I could be dramatic, but you can literally see dead cells on my hands. The fingers were stained, skin tone uneven,
There’s More Energy
I added thirty more minutes to my gym sessions within weeks after quitting. It happened very organically. I found myself with more stamina during my workouts, which began about two and half weeks after my last cig. In contrast, cigarettes were quite tiring. That’s quite interesting, because most smokers would report otherwise.
That’s because tobacco can give you a surge in clarity, energy and a sense of calmness. Nicotine, a stimulant found naturally in tobacco products, enters the bloodstream quickly and starts playing games with your brain, which leaves the smoker feeling more energetic and less stressed, according to Vaping Daily.
While that sounds awesome, that energy spike is temporary.
These short-lived effects are soon replaced by negative physical symptoms of agitation and restless as soon as the smoker ‘crashes’ from the high. In fact, energy and mood levels after the smoke tend to reach levels lower than pre-smoking levels. The smoker must have another one to ‘boost’ their energy, which creates an endless, self-defeating loop.
This is one of those things where you only realise how bad things were after leaving the situation. The money you save afterwards is not only a measure of how much the habit actually cost you, but it also serves as motivation for you to continue in your walk towards better health, despite the cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
A fun challenge, if you intend to but haven’t quit yet, is to determine how many packs you buy every week, and then withdraw that money and put it aside for a month. Seeing the hard cash is a thrill on its own!
And then, of course, you can use that money to reward yourself for taking active steps towards an improved life.
Taste Buds Are Working Again!
I read about this one the day before I quit, and I instantly looked forward to being able to enjoy my food more! I did… a little too much. I started to taste food much better around day 7, and of course, it led to me eating more, which led to serious weight gain.
For me though, a bit of weight gain was okay because the intention was to kick a habit that’s not easy to escape by any measure. I went two sizes and kept the weight on until I gave up sugar. After that, the cravings stabilised, so the journey to refined abs resumed! Here’s a recent thirst trap snap I shared of my progress.
The weight loss is taking longer than before because I’m doing it the healthy way, but for me it was all worth it in the end.
I haven’t discussed the actual withdrawal symptoms and severity of cravings in this article because that will be addressed elsewhere in greater detail, but I was pleasantly surprised that insomnia was not on that list.
While I found myself dealing with itchy skin, heartburn, indigestion, chest pains, flu, dizziness, lack of energy, edginess, insatiable hunger pangs and so much more, I was fortunate enough to be able to sleep through even the most severe of the withdrawal symptoms.
A weeks later, I found that my sleeping patterns had improved quite significantly!
I will be sharing many more useful insights on this topic moving forward. But I’m also looking forward to hearing from you and your journey. Get in touch with us in the comments section below!