Goodbye Nicotine, Hello Nightmares.

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So after 14 years of sucking on those chemical ridden sticks I’m finally free! My name’s Johanna and I’m an ex smoker. BUT… why did no one tell me this comes at an emotional price?

I became a full time nicotine addict aged 17. I’d dabbled in previous years but it was only then that I decided for the next decade and a half I would never leave the house without a pack of 20 B&H (gold in the early years, silver in the latter years and Mayfair in the student years). These sticks became invaluable to me… they were confidence boosters, time wasters, thought clearers, essay inspirers, appetite suppressants, nerves steadiers… my list could go on. But most of all it was 2 fingers up to a world that at the time I didn’t like very much at the time.

So when I made the decision to quit smoking 7 weeks ago (yes, it’s only been 7 weeks so far!) I knew it would be tough and I expected nicotine cravings. Pah! I had 3 days of nicotine cravings, that were mild at worse. I thought I’d struggle with the change in routine, I have always used cigarettes to punctuate my day. Nope that was fine too.

It was week two that I started to feel ‘funny’, like a grey cloud was starting to gravitate towards me. By week three I had a black cloud firmly seated above me. Then the nightmares began too. So every single emotion negative emotion I’d carefully packaged up over the years started to attack me, bit by bit. When I was a smoker a wise lady once told me, that cigarettes act like conductors. We use them to deflect emotions and situations away that we can’t handle. Well I have news for you smokers, you get to feel those emotions when you quit!

I wish I’d been prepared for this. Nicotine is perceived as being a relatively mild drug and never did I realise I was going to suffer an emotional withdrawal. Maybe I’m just a sensitive soul, as i’ve never really heard people talk of these side effects before. Just in case I’m not the only one that’s trying to quit and feels like they’re being beaten up a wicked spirit in your unconscious, I’ve written a few tips for handling this:

1. Exercise… throw yourself into it! I find Bikram yoga is great for keeping me focused and mentally strong. Oh and don’t get me wrong, I was terrified of getting fat post-fags!

2. Eat well. I’ve never had a sweet tooth, well now I do apparently! Apparently that’s more to do with having poor digestion than giving up the fags. I’m not convinced. Try and use fruit instead of sweets.

3. Acupuncture. I cannot categorically say this works but it makes me feel better and I’m still going strong. They use needles on your ears, a method used to combat all addictions.

4. Tell people. When you feel ready. I didn’t say a word for the first week, but you may need some support.

5. Get breathalysed. I breath into a tube each week to prove I’m not smoking. It helps, I think. The NHS have outsourced this now, so the teams are in much handier locations than remote doctors surgeries.

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