5 Things I Learnt from 100 Days of Not Smoking

Today marks 100 days since I quit smoking, and while the basic tenet of not smoking is “Don’t fucking smoke!”, I think there were some surprises and/or revelations that I’d like to note down in case I get complacent down the line.

1. You don’t have control

In ten years of being a smoker, I must have told myself hundreds of times that I could cut down to just one or two cigarettes a day, that I could quit ‘whenever I want’ or even that once I quit, I could then maybe steal a few puffs from other people’s cigarettes and not really smoke again.

Nope, none of that worked. I’d always fall back into the habit. However much I love smoking (and that’s a lot), the Golden Rule is the Golden Rule for a reason:

Not another puff. No matter what.

I have a screenshot of this on my phone that I used to look at for the first month or so whenever my brain tried to convince me that maybe I could have one puff without worrying about it.

I don’t need to look at it anymore, but I still repeat it to myself whenever I see a cigarette and think, “That looks nice.”

2. Once an addict, always an addict

This is a corollary to the first one. My addict’s mantra is that since I don’t know where to stop, the only solution is not to begin.

While the cravings have now mostly gone away, and my brain chemistry does not factor nicotine into everything it does, I have to be aware of the fact that I’m always five minutes away from my next cigarette. Each and every cigarette I’m confronted with is tempting to a greater or lesser degree.

There were times in the past when I fooled myself into thinking that I was no longer an addict, but that is and will probably always be bullshit.

3. Quitting is not a golden ticket to health

This one’s fairly obvious to people who don’t smoke, but when I was smoking, I convinced myself that if only I could quit smoking, I’d start doing all the healthy things and, I dunno, run or something like that. That did not happen.

Also, there was this constriction I used to feel in my chest when I woke up in the morning that I’d always assumed was because of my smoking. Turns out I’d just been sleeping wrong for fucking years.

4. Not being a smoker is nice

While I have not miraculously turned into a model of health since I quit smoking, it is, generally, nice to not be a smoker. I can taste better, there isn’t the physical drag of diminished lung capacity, and my mind isn’t constantly wandering to when I’ll next get a chance to smoke.

The worst thing about being a smoker, for me, was being under the invisible hold of something that literally turned my brain against me – a passenger that would make me want to do something to myself that was so bad for me. It’s nice not to feel like that every single day.

5. The feelings, all the feelings

Theoretically, I knew that smoking numbs your reactions to things that happen to you. Since I quit, I’ve just felt more. (And not purely as a consequence of withdrawal – this is afterwards.) This is not, to be sure, a good or bad thing. It’s mostly like the return of taste – there are a lot more flavours to emotions that I can now experience.

It was difficult for a while, but you get used to it, your brain gets more able to manage it, and then it starts feeling normal. You should know – I’m sure most people reading this aren’t gibbering wrecks just because they don’t smoke. It’s fine.

5b. Coffee

This isn’t a full point by itself, but I’ve become a lot more sensitive to the physical effects of coffee since I stopped smoking, and that sucks, because now I can only drink it a couple of times a week.

And I like coffee, dammit.