Life has been rough since quitting.
There are moments in the day when I can't seem to find the right distractions. It is in those moments when anxiety and depression seem to dig their demon claws into my brain, and no matter how hard I try to ignore them, I just can't seem to find that light at the end of the tunnel. And no, I don't mean the light of a lighter or a match. Because for me, starting smoking again is not an option. However, I've begun to realize that quitting smoking hasn't been the fairy tale I've often read about online or heard from friends and strangers. So many times I've heard of how people have ''instantly felt better after quitting smoking'', or their biggest struggle being ''the fight against cravings''. That has not been my experience. Cravings are manageable for me. I don't experience them often (not as often as I did in the first few days, anyway), and when I do, a breathing exercise (or simple deep breath) or drink of water seems to be all that is required in order to beat away those gnarly little temptations.
The biggest struggle for me are the physical and mental symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, of which I admittedly and stupidly didn't realize I would be encountering. Several years ago I quit cigarettes but found myself in the grips of an equally damaging and troublesome foe. Electronic cigarettes. Vaping was just as much a crutch as tobacco had been, but I convinced myself with little white lies that it was ''better for me than smoking''. I essentially enabled myself to continue my nicotine addiction by convincing myself that I didn't have an addiction at all. Because clearly, quitting cigarettes without a problem and moving to electronic cigarettes meant I didn't have a problem (**sarcasm**). Hindsight has quite bluntly informed me that my logic was flawed. And while I'm now aware of the damage vaping has inflicted, it has done nothing to comfort me through this difficult process.
Since quitting approximately three weeks ago, I have encountered a multitude of unforeseen problems. It all began a few days after quitting smoking when I burst into tears in the shower for no apparent reason. Naturally, before starting smoking at the shameful age of twelve years old, I was not tormented by depression or anxiety. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I began smoking for the cliche reason of "I thought it was cool". Small town problems I suppose, but that is hardly relevant. Being twenty-seven now, and having been a habitual smoker/vaper for about ten years (wow... That puts things into perspective.) means that I have likely spent the last ten years unknowingly suffering from anxiety and depression, a little problem that nicotine has likely concealed from me. Regardless of whether that is true or not, (because I genuinely have no way of knowing) it doesn't change the fact that this feels like new territory for me. And in a lot of ways, I can confidently say it is new territory for me. (This newfound and sometimes crippling depression and anxiety.)
I've always dealt with minor anxiety (social anxiety mostly, as well as my own minor brand of ironic hypochondria), and occasional sadness, but nothing abnormal, and nothing I would consider labeling as ''depression''. In fact, I've always had a small temper, but other than that, I've been quite happy and content. It is because of this that I'm almost certain that my recent outbursts of uncontrollable crying, panic attacks, hyper-hypochondria, and general unhappiness (all of which conveniently started reaching extreme levels after I quit smoking) are due to quitting smoking. To make matters worse, I've felt a constant "lightheadedness'' since quitting. A few google searches have done an amazing job at convincing me that I could be anything from anemic, to suffering from depersonalization... But I have a feeling this is a symptom of nicotine withdrawal due to it's timing. However... It has been three weeks, and this feeling has not gone away. In fact, it was the source for a lot for a lot of my anxiety during my second week as it does impact my memory negatively and it seems to suck a lot of the joy out of fun activities simply because my head doesn't feel clear. Sometimes it even leads to dizziness. I think at this point I'm just getting used to it, which while concerning, is significantly better than having a panic attack over it like I was during week two.
The hardest part of all, however, is finding ways to convince myself that these feelings of anxiety, depression, and lightheadedness will eventually go away. Especially when I read many posts from people around the internet claiming their withdrawal symptoms disappeared after a couple of weeks, yet here I am on week three, and these problems don't seem to be getting better. In fact, some days they feel as if they're getting worse. For now I'm getting by, by reminding myself that i wasn't a normal smoker. In fact, vaping allowed me to smoke more than I'd ever smoked before, sometimes so often that my electronic cigarette didn't sit on my desk for more than two seconds before I picked it up again for another vape. My nicotine addiction actually worsened with electronic cigarettes as they enabled me to smoke anywhere at any time.
The one glimmering beacon of hope, however, and the only positive thing that has pierced through the sea of negative mental and physical side effects is the fact that I am on week three. And despite these new issues that have risen and attempted to suffocate me, nicotine addiction will never suffocate me again.
And that pretty much sums up my progress so far. I am happy to share my story with the rest of you wonderful people and hope life without nicotine has been kinder to you than it has been to me. <3