I smoked for twenty years and I quit smoking cold turkey six months ago. I always admired people who could just decide they wanted to stop smoking, or anything for that matter, and just do it. These people must have a stronger will than me, because I have never been the type to be able to just drop a bad habit and never look back. But I did, and this is the story of how I finally quit smoking cold turkey.
I can remember when I was a teenager I heard a statistic that said if a person hadn’t started smoking by the time they were 18, most likely they never would. I never had any desire to smoke as a teenager, but suddenly most of my friends started smoking when we were 20 years old and I got addicted to nicotine. As the years rolled by and we grew up, most of them quit smoking, but I couldn’t and I didn’t want to. I loved smoking, even though it was a nasty habit and if I ever did want to stop, I always reasoned that I could find a patch or something to help me quit smoking.
I considered myself a “considerate” smoker, if there is such a thing. I didn’t smoke inside our home, never at work, and always kept my cigarette butts contained in a place and didn’t throw them everywhere outside. I could go all day at work without one. When people I didn’t know very well figured out I was a smoker, they couldn’t believe it. I didn’t smell like a smoker or look like the type of person that smoked, whatever that meant.
I knew the risks. My own daddy couldn’t stand the fact that I smoked and warned me over and over that I needed to stop before I ended up with lung cancer. It’s always the lung cancer you hear about when you smoke. I always reasoned that it could never happen to me and I honestly had no intention of ever quitting. I liked smoking, and when times got really stressful, I needed it.
My Last Cigarette
I had my last cigarette on November 30, 2016, only I didn’t know at the time it was going to be my last cigarette. If I had known, I definitely would have savored that moment and that cigarette. I probably would have smoked a few more. My husband and I were pushing it time-wise to get me to my heart catheterization appointment. I inhaled that last cigarette really fast and looked forward to this procedure being over with so I could have another cigarette to release the stress of having to go through this.
A couple of hours later, I was receiving the news that I would be having coronary artery bypass surgery the next day. I wasn’t going anywhere for several days and there wasn’t time for me to sneak out and enjoy one last cigarette because I was busy being shuffled around for lab work, CT scans, meeting with the anesthesiologist and generally falling to pieces, not sure if I would live through the surgery. This is the part about smoking that you don’t hear enough about. Smoking contributes to heart disease. I probably would have had this surgery on down the road at some point in my life anyway because of genetics, but smoking probably accelerated that surgery time by at least 20 years.
Because of oxygenation issues after surgery (due to my smoking), I had to stay on the ventilator longer. The suckiest part of waking up in recovery after heart surgery had to be breathing over the ventilator because I felt like I was strong enough to breathe on my own, and then having to be suctioned out while I felt like I was slowly choking to death and there was no way for me to communicate to the nurses because I had a tube down my throat and my hands were strapped down. It happened a couple of times in recovery before I was finally able to be weaned off the vent.
The crazy part of all of that was that I couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital and have a cigarette, even after all I had been through! Then I had a random cardiologist that was on call one morning to come look at me and he told me in a not-so-nice way that I could absolutely smoke again if I wanted to, but that he would see me in a couple of years to do this all over again. And THAT is what did it for me. I do not ever want to have an open heart surgery ever again.
What It’s Really Like to Quit Smoking Cold Turkey
So what was it physically like to quit smoking cold turkey? I’m guessing it’s kind of like an addict going through detox, only on a smaller scale. I was agitated, to say the least. When my cravings got really strong (and it was usually always at night), I couldn’t sit still. I squirmed in bed. I know it helped at first that I was confined to my hospital bed for five days straight and couldn’t physically get up to smoke. But as I healed and got stronger, the cravings never really went away and I even DREAMED about smoking. Six months later, I still do. The first time I had to be around someone who was smoking, I nearly crawled out of my skin that night because I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sit still, and wanted a cigarette so bad. I could even smell a cigarette a mile away if someone was smoking nearby. I had a short fuse and was just a little snappy at times. I even considered vaping because I could still get that hand to mouth action I craved without it being too bad. How stupid is that reasoning? Seriously?
So were all the withdrawals and mood swings and insomnia worth it? Yes, but it sucked going through it, plain and simple. It was hard, but I can finally be around someone that is smoking and not have it make me feel like I’ll go crazy if I don’t have a cigarette. Do I still want to smoke? Yes, I really, really do, even though I know how bad it is, but I won’t. I still even dream about it. I’m not even going to sit here and say that I feel better, because other than just not having that constant smoker’s cough and being able to breathe a little deeper, I can’t tell a huge difference so far health wise, even though I know my body is probably thanking me. Maybe someday I will feel differently, but I still miss smoking and quitting is hard and there is no easy way to do it, period. It’s work.