I recently wrote a long and meandering article on what it is really like to give up smoking and provide a bit more insight into some of the withdrawal symptoms people experience when giving up. I wrote that in the throws of withdrawal and my mind was a fog which has probably resulted in a bit of a rambling mess. Like so many of my articles, I probably wrote it to answer my own questions more than anything else.
But; the quit is done, the withdrawal has well and truly passed and I am writing this breezy article with clarity. Here are the 10 surprising things that happened when I gave up smoking!
I Became Fatigued and Slept A Lot
All over the internet, you will see lots of information about how giving up smoking will boost your energy levels and make you feel like you are alive and skipping through a meadow on a spring morning.
Smoking damages the body and giving up smoking means the body must start repairing itself. Repairing itself takes a lot of time and a lot of rest. You will have bouts of lethargy and sluggishness. If you’re like me you will find yourself having “nap times” like a child.
Fatigue is your body’s way of saying I need sleep. Sleep is fantastic to help pass withdrawal symptoms and heal from smoking quicker. Embrace it, sleep for endless hours and let your body take care of the rest.
I personally found that having sleep headphones helped considerably with cravings as even the time I was drifting off to sleep I could distract myself with meditations. These Bluetooth sleep headphones are ultra comfy and well worth a look.
You Won’t Gain as Much Weight as They Warn You About
One of the key reasons people avoid quitting smoking is the dreaded weight gain that is supposed to result. My opinion from my experience is yes, I am eating a bit more which has no doubt resulted in slight weight gain. But for me to pile on the pounds I would need to really lack discipline when it comes to eating.
While I appreciate that those who give up smoking might find comfort by replacing the cigarette and putting food in their mouths, I also think that you would need to be significantly increasing your calorie intake to gain any meaningful weight.
I haven’t even gained half a stone. All these horror stories of gaining stones in weight must be where those people completely lacked any dietary discipline.
You will feel hungrier when not smoking. It is at that point that your brain needs to mediate whether or not your body actually needs food or if you can wait till dinner. Simple really, learn to control your response to hunger (which most smokers find alien as hunger is rarely felt by smokers) and then stay disciplined. Don’t fall into the trap of substituting food for nicotine. Obesity is probably as dangerous, if not more so, for your health than smoking.
Superhuman Sensory Perception
One thing that is documented is how your taste of food will be restored and how things will taste wonderful again after quitting smoking. This is one thing I haven’t experienced and food still tastes good as it always has done. Perhaps I was lucky enough not to desensitise or damage my taste buds.
Smell, on the other hand, has gone off the charts. My non-smoker friends have all noticed how I am picking up on smells that are beyond their normal capacity unless they focus in on what I am pointing out. How long this will last I don’t know. I am sure my nose will acclimatise and filter smells according to prevalence in time rather than me being able to pick up a distant body of water on the air as I can currently.
In part, this may be some psychology mixed in with the physiology but whatever it is, it feels awesome to be able to smell things with razor-sharp clarity.
Productivity is Gradually Increasing After Quitting Smoking
When you smoke you tend to complete a work task, then smoke, then complete another, then smoke. Work becomes a practice associated with milestones. The quality of the work can also suffer particularly if you’re rushing towards the next milestone because “you need a fag”.
My productivity now flows naturally in fully realised ebbs of creativity. It isn’t broken or interrupted by the need to smoke. My focus doesn’t dwindle as time elapses from my last cigarette. I can work for hours at a time without being distracted.
This is something that has begun to gradually improve since I have quit, mainly because of the fatigue and sleeping that negated any real change in productivity. Now I feel more able and better equipped to get work done to the best of my ability and in a way that is most efficient with my time. As my energy levels normalise this should result in a lovely peak of productivity.
Energy is a Funny Thing
I mentioned my energy levels above and quitting smoking has resulted in short bright patches of energy where I feel like exercising or doing something productive. Much of the give up smoking literature points to a rise in energy levels but on an even and consistent keel.
My energy levels come in the way that hot flushes occur or not unlike an engine tick over and roaring to life before crashing.
Factor in the tiredness and it feels (at least initially) that I am on a merry-go-round of energetic bursts followed by exhausting lows.
These bursts are however becoming more consistent with time and I think that in a few months I will have that nice even energy level that I was promised before I quit.
Not Sure What to Do When Boredom Bites
When I smoked, if I was bored, I would smoke to pass the time. Now I don’t smoke, boredom is a tricky time. The mind could easily wander toward smoking if I let it, but instead, I find myself in a kind of limbo. Sometimes I even pace about unsure of what to do.
As time goes by, I hope to find something to fill these boring moments, but for now, they are a bit weird.
Mental Health Has Vastly Improved
I am not sure on the incidence of mental health related issues and smoking; I am sure there will be a whole list of studies with conflicting results about whether or not smoking is detrimental to mental health.
My personal experience is one of using smoking to cope with stress or mask my stress. I have come out of the quit and can look back and see that the time I was smoking was also accompanied by a lingering dark cloud. That isn’t to say I don’t feel low at times, but I don’t feel the heightened depression that I experienced when smoking now that I don’t smoke.
A lot of that is I have become a lot more docile, relaxed and at ease with myself and the world around me. It is very difficult to identify if stopping smoking has lifted the depression or if stopping has made me subconsciously more able and equipped to deal with the world at large.
One thing I absolutely love is myself now, there is no burden of self-loathing, no feeling toxic, etc. Perhaps it is even as simple as making the commitment to treat my body better has shifted me in the direction of self-appreciation and self-awareness.
I wouldn’t say I am fully content yet, but I am at ease with not quite being content and fully comfortable with the fact that regardless of the outcome, I am happy more often from each moment to the next.
Whether or not you experience this I don’t know. Personally, giving up smoking has liberated my mind from the barrage of torment I used to inflict on myself.
Once the Mind Changes the Body Will Follow
For those of you new to the IW blog or that don’t know me, I am a huge boxing fan. In the sport of boxing there is an old saying that when you work (hurt) the body, the head will fall.
Giving up smoking has healed my head, after all, I am no longer feeding it toxic and addictive chemicals every hour or so. This has had a noticeable impact on my body and my last three things fall under the category of physical improvements.
When I smoked, I noticed that my hair was becoming thinner. I have no thinning of hair in my genetic history, no hereditary baldness, etc. For all intents and purposes, I was to expect a full head of hair till the end of my days.
Then I noticed that although I had a full head of hair, it was malting easily, and once where growth was bushy and thick it had become thin and wispy.
Quitting smoking has allowed my hair to become healthy again, it has thickened significantly and doesn’t shed easily. If there is one benefit that was most unexpected but greatly welcomed it was that my natural hair state returned and I am now hopefully assured of my full head of hair till I die. Had I carried on smoking I think I would have had very thin hair by the time I reached forty or perhaps even baldness.
Alongside my restored hair is a more-healthy complexion. It is something that I was oblivious to beforehand (preferring to think I always look great) but now my skin is better. It has much more colour, circulation is better and I don’t look pale or sick.
Darkening from under my eyes has lifted and I feel like my appearance has improved drastically.
Think your appearance isn’t affected by your smoking? Go on a dating app like Tinder and swipe through. I bet you can spot the smokers from the non-smokers from their photos. Smokers will have darker skin under the eyes, paler skin that looks thin, worn, stretched, winkled. Smokers will also tend to look older than they are, sometimes drastically so.
I mentioned with my hair that genetically I have always been incredibly lucky and people always think I am much younger than I am even when I smoked, but now I not only look youthful again. I feel younger and I am confident that people wouldn’t know my age at all now. When I smoked, especially when my hair thinned, I began to look my age. That was a big wake up call.
The last point is a very personal one, it is also one that I don’t think many people will talk about or admit to. But when was I ever one to shy away from the risky topics?
When I smoked, I began to notice that sexually things weren’t right. This could be a combination of the depression I was experiencing as well as the physical act of smoking.
In short (no pun intended) things weren’t functioning or looking the way I remembered (and knew) they should.
Graphic Detail Warning!
Here are some of the problems I encountered while smoking;
- Erections were not full or as hard as they could be
- Sometimes I had trouble maintaining an erection
- Size of erection wasn’t anywhere near my best
- Lack of confidence and pleasure during sex as a result of this
By quitting smoking I have noticed incremental but positive changes in all aspects. My erections are harder and I have little to no difficulty at all now staying in the zone. As all blokes have done at some point, I know what size I am and I know what size I am currently. It is safe to say that I am well on the road to recovery in this aspect although not quite there. Medical resources say it takes about three months for the circulatory system to restore itself so I am not expecting an overnight miracle.
What I can say is that gradually everything is coming back to a state that I know it can be and this is ultimately improving my self-worth. I am once again enjoying with an almost newfound zest, sex. It is almost like hitting puberty again.
Of course, my partners now are not my partners from yesteryear so they have no expectations in that respect. This to me is a very personal aspect of my recovery from both smoking and depression and something that each day I feel better about. Blokes will rarely talk about personal issues, but my message is that if you’re a bloke that smokes and things don’t tick over like they used to, pack in the habit and record the changes you observe.
Men tend to tie a portion of our self-worth to our penises so it goes without saying that giving up smoking will ultimately restore your masculinity and self-confidence.