Another (Very Belated) Anniversary: Two Years Smoke-Free

I keep missing this particular anniversary not only because I’m crap at remembering things like birthdays and anniversaries and such, but because Chantix made it such a non-event. But it occurs to me that I’ve now been an ex-smoker for two years.

Part of me will always be a smoker.

Image shows me sitting on a Mexican hotel balcony, in a black straw hat and black Peacemakers tank top with their logo in blue rhinestones. I'm gazing off into the distance and lifting a cigarette to my mouth. Jesus, I was skinny - so skinny my stepmom thought I had an eating disorder. Nope, that was the smokes.
Moi in Mexico with cigarette, October 2005.

I loved that person, I’ll be honest. Sometimes, I miss me. I’m still me, only… different. Cigarettes were a crutch that hid a lot of anxiety, and with that fix gone, the anxiety came roaring forward. Sometimes, I wonder if I should go back to it. But that’s a fleeting temptation, especially now.

Don’t congratulate me on having the courage and strength to quit. Thank Chantix. I’d been smoking since I was eighteen, with one break of three years where I quit for someone else (don’t do that – you lose them, you get the cigarettes back – not a fantastic trade). I’d promised myself I’d only smoke so long as I didn’t have a smoker’s hack. Once I developed that, it was time to stop. In 2012, I began hacking most mornings, so I decided the time had come. I hied me off to the help center, where our great physician’s assistant wrote me a scrip for Chantix. I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t have bad side effects. The most violent dream I had was one where I was Batman and punched the Joker in the stomach, which I figured was justified and therefore not bad violence. I took the pills for a few weeks. I kept smoking. I smoked a bit less. And then, one day, I had half a cigarette, saved the other half for the next day… and never smoked it. That was in the middle of our Mount St. Helens trip.

I’ve been tempted a fair few times since, but not overwhelmingly so. Something about Chantix just sort of shut those receptors in my brain down. They don’t crave nicotine except in moments of extremely high stress. And then, it’s just for a moment. I think the craving is habit, really, rather than the sheer chemical need of physical addiction.

That’s why I’m saying, don’t congratulate me like I did something hard. I decided to quit, took a few pills, and just quit. It’s not like the epic battles others have fought. It feels like cheating. Hey, I’m happy to cheat – I know how addictive this shit is.

At first, my lungs had no idea what the fuck was going on, and struggled mightily with this untainted air they were expected to breathe all the time. That got better with time. I can’t say my lung capacity has increased since I was a smoker – I’m one of those genetic freaks whose lungs stayed pretty clear no matter how much tar I dumped in them. But the hack is gone, which has definitely made mornings more pleasant. My voice hasn’t changed much, but I don’t get hoarse as often.

When I first quit, I was hungry ALL THE DAMNED TIME. Not even kidding. It was like all those years of suppressing my appetite decided I owed them food right now. I’ve gained an amount of weight I’m ashamed to admit to, because my frame hides it fairly well and people hate me. I was scary-skinny before and my main ambition in life (outside of writing) was to gain some weight, so I can’t count that as a bad thing at all. Just, if you’re quitting, be forewarned: that weight gain and appetite increase stuff is absolutely true for a lot of us. Watch out. (If you’re in the Seattle area and need an exercise partner, let me know. We’ll go burn calories. My new ambition is to turn my food into muscles. I haven’t got many yet.)

I can now stay still and focused for very long periods of time. Needing a smoke used to propel me outdoors hourly. Now, I am only dictated to by my bladder. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I get a lot more stuff done. On the other, I don’t get as much exercise, and I don’t go outside as often, which means I miss things like meteors and animal antics. The fact I will now be able to fly cross-country without wanting to leap from the plane so I can slay the nicotine demon is a definite bonus, though. I’ll take it.

It’s only in the last few months I’ve been noticing some really odd changes. My sense of taste suddenly seems to have increased to an amazing degree. I mean, I could taste food and appreciate it before, but now it’s like a fireworks finale in my mouth. It’s like majoring in music, and hearing notes in symphonies I never suspected were there. I love it.

My sense of smell has also gotten way better. I’ve used the same dish soap for years, but couldn’t really smell it. All of a sudden, boom, there it is. It’s like, aha, that’s why people make a fuss about lavender. Okay. Alas, I’m more sensitive to all odors, including the ones left about the house by the elderly felid, but I’m coping.

I totally recommend quitting smoking just for the recovery of those two senses. They are marvelous.

On the whole, yeah, I’m glad I quit. I needed to quit. I can now funnel money into things like books and sewing projects (not to mention food), rather than burning it. I like the idea that quitting has increased my chances of not getting some terrible diseases.

I won’t go out preaching to the world that everyone should quit. You love your smoking? Fine by me. You want to quit? I’ve got pom-poms and will be in your cheering section. Do what you need for you.

But I’ll tell ya, if you want to quit and can tolerate Chantix, go for it. Easiest thing ever.

Image shows me sitting on water-smoothed slabs of granite, with the river rushing beside me.
Moi on the rocks in the Snoqualmie River. Look, Ma, no smokes!
Another (Very Belated) Anniversary: Two Years Smoke-Free

4 thoughts on “Another (Very Belated) Anniversary: Two Years Smoke-Free

  1. 3

    Chantix or no, I will congratulate you anyway. You recognized a problem and sought help. That’s often the hardest step.

    Hurling pumpkins in Burlington today. I just won’t be hurling them very far.

  2. 4

    And a very heartfelt ‘Congratulations To You!!’ Dana. I can’t recall exactly when I (finally… took several attempts) quit either. One of those patch thingies did the trick for me, otherwise my experience is very close to yours. Gained a bit of weight, got my sense of smell and taste back, wondered what it would feel like to start getting some regular exercise again (like all things, it’s difficult at first and then you come to wonder how you ever lived without it), lost the weight and am trying to get it back in the form of muscle. I never……NEVER…..thought I’d end up being a runner, but I’m at about 20km per week and trying to figure out how to find time to do more. So, congrats again and continue to enjoy your new life.

    BTW–just saw a blurb on the Wx channel about a volcano in Japan ….. have you seen it yet?

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