It was quite difficult at first. I had basically been smoking at least two packs a day for the previous seven years, and like releasing a beloved family dog into the woods because it tried to eat the neighbor’s baby, it’s hard to let go.
A quick look around the internet will find you dozens of websites with information about quitting. They really hype the benefits (you will feel better, you will save money, you won’t smell like Russia!) and also warn you of the difficulties (you will gain weight, you will have intense cravings, you will act like a miserable boob to everyone within earshot). But I have also discovered that there are some other fascinating side-effects from smoking cessation that they don’t mention. I’m still struggling with things like:
You Are Constantly Hungry
Everyone knows that you gain weight when you quit smoking. I gained a few pounds, but you can’t really notice, because with me that’s like throwing a few handfuls of sand onto the beach.
The experts usually chalk that up to the fact that you are so used to the hand-to-mouth motion that when you take the cigarettes away, you simply keep doing that motion, but replace cigarettes with food.
I gained weight because I’m hungry ALL THE TIME. I don’t mean that in the way that I get hungry every few hours, I mean that I am literally hungry every single goddamn moment of my life. When I eat, I eat until I’m full, then I’m hungry again five minutes later. I’m concerned that if left unsupervised, I will just continue eating until I burst like that guy in Se7en.
The reason for this is that nicotine spurs the release of blood sugar; so that every time you have a cigarette, you get a little pick me up of energy. When you get that 50 times a day from cigarettes and then suddenly yank that away, your body wants to replace that with food. All day long.
You Discover that the World Smells Like Shit
One of the great benefits that is repeated over and over about quitting smoking is that you fully regain your sense of taste and smell. This is not as wonderful as it sounds.
You see, when you smoke, you can only end up smelling things that are intensely powerful, either good or bad. It takes actually standing next to a bakery oven to smell freshly baked bread. Likewise, if something smells bad, it has to really smell awful for it to register. When I smoked, there seemed to be an equal amount of good and bad out there in the world; there was balance to the Force, and that was fine.
Now, I am discovering all kinds of new smells, and the vast majority of them are horrendous. Public transportation, bathrooms, Czech food, perfume stores, city parks, KFC, all of these things smell terrible. There are actually far more horrible smells in the world than good ones, you non-smokers have just gotten used to it. But let me tell you, the outside world stinks.
You Discover that You Smell Like Shit
I shower every day, I brush my teeth twice a day, and I wear deodorant and clean clothes like a normal human in the West ought to. This should be enough to keep me smelling pretty, or at least stop me from smelling like I rolled in the compost heap.
It doesn’t. When I smoked, I would constantly just smell like…smoke. Now I don’t, I simply smell like all other manner of foul body odor. The first two weeks after I quit, I was showering three times a day because I thought I was filthy. Again, this is something that non-smokers don’t realize because they’ve simply gotten used to the way they smell. But when you quit smoking and finally find out what you actually smell like, you kind of want to barf all the time.
You Can’t Sleep - Ever
Most people use the term “Insomnia” pretty loosely. Most people I know claim to have insomnia when it takes them more than 20 minutes to fall asleep for two consecutive nights.
If I could fall asleep in 20 minutes, I would be thrilled (when I woke up, of course).
One of the possible side-effects that you don’t see mentioned that often is serious insomnia. As in you are completely exhausted, can barely keep your eyes open so you lay down in bed, turn the lights off and get ready for sleep to overtake your as it should. But it doesn’t. You’re still exhausted, mentally and physically, and you can’t fucking fall asleep for fucking hours.
It takes me about 4 hours to fall asleep now, and I usually sleep for around 5 hours. The insomnia supposedly fades after a month or two, which is good, because I’m slowly approaching complete zombification.
Smoking Keeps Your Regular
Spoiler Alert: I am going to talk about poo.
I used to really enjoy pooping. I had a nice schedule: when I woke up, sometime in the late afternoon, and again before bed. I would grab a book or magazine and just chill out with some time for myself.
That has gone to shit.
Something that hardly anyone ever mentions about smoking is that it helps regulate your bowels. Now, I have no clue when I’m going to have to bomb the harbor. Maybe this is what it’s normally like for you never-smokers, but for me, this is a big deal.
I still wake up in the morning and head to the bathroom…and nothing happens. Then, all of a sudden, half-way through breakfast I’m flinging my Honey Nut Cheerios to the floor and running for the toilet. I hardly even have time to grab my book.
While it has added a level of adventure and unpredictability to my life, I somewhat miss the old way.
While all of the above issues are not bad enough to make me return to smoking cigarettes, it would have been nice if I was warned about these things ahead of time. In other news, I want a cheeseburger.