Two Weeks. That is how long I went without a cigarette when I decided to quit smoking. All it took was one stressful day. Burdens, worries and tension mixed together with a horrible day and produced the perfect recipe for a relapse. With tears streaming down my face and a thousand things on my mind, I reached for my old friend: a pack of cigarettes.
What happened? I had been confident and determined when I decided to kick the habit. I even made a list of reasons why I wanted to quit smoking at http://www.infobarrel.com/Kicking_the_Habit_1_My_Reasons_to_Quit_Smoking. With that kind of attitude and motivation, what could stand in my way? If I was so set on becoming smoke free, why was it so hard to quit?
Nicotine is one reason. Thanks to the media and regulations by the Surgeon General, we are all very much aware of the highly addictive drug naturally found in tobacco. The longer a person smokes, the more physically and psychologically dependent a person becomes on nicotine. Studies have shown that nicotine can be just as addictive as cocaine or heroin, causing extreme dependence by its users. Obviously, I thought this would not be a problem for me. While I cannot say that I suffered very many withdrawal symptoms during my attempts at smoking cessation (other than a smidgin of irritability), I simply missed smoking.
Routine played a huge role in my suffering from the lack of cigarettes. The act of smoking had become a part of my daily life. Like many smokers, I had specific times throughout the day when I would smoke. The most difficult times of temptation for me were right after meals and when I was driving. It was also hard for me to be around other smokers. I would smell the tobacco burning and watch the smoke rise, all the while resisting the urge to swipe the cigarette out of their hand and take a puff for myself. I thought that having the enticement of cigarettes so close would actually make my self-control stronger. In the alternative, when I had a moment of weakness, my husband’s partially smoked pack was quite handy and I gave in to the urge.
Smoking has also been a stress relief for me and a familiar comfort when having a hard day. Nicotine creates pleasurable feelings, which induces cravings. I specifically used smoking as a get-a-way. When things got a little overwhelming at work, I would step out the side door and take a smoke break. A few minutes away from my desk would be all I would need to clear my head and then return to my tasks. I would also use smoking if things got tense at home. When every appliance in the kitchen was running, the kids were screaming, or my husband was in a sour mood, I would slip out the back door and have a few minutes alone with my cigarette – returning to my home a bit calmer and a more patient mother and wife.
Certainly, I am not an advocate for smoking. There are many, many reasons why I want to and should quit smoking. However, I am under the belief that it is not simply the unpleasant physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal that give rise to failure. Smoking is a complicated addition that becomes a part of daily life. I hope to one day overcome the hold smoking seems to have on me. In the meantime, may my personal struggles help non-smokers be patient with the smokers in their lives and understand how difficult it is to kick the habit.