Thursday, 1 October 2009

2 years smoke-free

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I've actually achieved this, but today marks the second anniversary of my having given up smoking. Some time before that I'd bought nicotine patches, didn't say a word to anyone, didn't make any promises that I may not have been able to keep - not even to myself - and put them in the bathroom cabinet for "one day", if that day ever came.

It was on September 30th, 2007, when I realised I only had enough cigarettes in the pack to last until the end of the day that I figured either I had to rush out to the shops, or it was about to become a new month and here was an excellent excuse to use those patches.

The patches I've regretted ever since and I still say they caused a mild infarction.

Otherwise, after 2 years, the mixture of negatives and positives from giving up is, frankly confusing and somewhat comical. In a sense, I am very disappointed, because I certainly do not feel any better. For other reasons, actually, my health has seriously deteriorated in the last couple of years, so I suppose have to figure that it would have become MUCH worse, if I'd not given up.

I still get breathless easily, which, curiously never used to happen when I smoked. I still have a spontaneous, hacking, dry cough whenever I try to sing, take a deep breath, etc., that I also never had before. This year, I did volunteer myself for a lung function test because of these things and I was found to be absolutely normal. I'd told the nurse honestly how much I used to smoke and she had said, "Well, you got away with it." Which I figure is a good reason to stay stopped.

How much of my 55 lb weight gain is to do with stopping smoking, I don't know. The after food craving I've managed to lick with mostly only will-power. I've NOT to used extra food and especially not sugar as a substitute.

Two years on, I'm still getting cravings, although they are [too] slowly diminishing. First thing in the mornings is the worst and I still need a "fix" of strong, fresh, black coffee to kill that one, but I've also managed to reduce my coffee intake from 3+ to only 1 or 2 cups per day.

That's probably because the Prozac is helping too!

Worst of all though, is that without the barrier of my own personal "smoke screen", all my other allergies and intolerances have become much more acute. Things I didn't used to have negative reactions to, now bother me terribly. This is, I feel, also worsened by there being more pollution in the UK, closed housing with insulation, heating, synthetic carpets, etc., compared to the tiled floors and open doors and windows I was used to in Tenerife. There's a factor that my fibromyalgia / chronic fatigue syndrome / multiple chemical sensitivity is probably getting worse with time and age, but the worsening did also markedly coincide with smoking cessation.

Whenever I go out and might have to wait around for buses, trains, doctors, etc., I make sure that I have entertainment in the form of music, radio, book, magazines (games might be next, if I can ever figure them out at my age), as well as something healthy to nibble and water to drink. I feel like I'm taking a toddler out with all the supplies I need to drag along, but I still just CANNOT sit anywhere with nothing whatsoever to do. That is the surest way for me to reach into my bag absent-mindedly, expecting to find a packet of cigarettes and a lighter lurking at the bottom and for me to become exceedingly tetchy when I find that there are not.

On the plus side, I can enjoy other people's cigarettes. I find it strange that this doesn't upset me or cause cravings, but I actually find it "satisfying". It's bloody good value too and I'm making all sorts of friends at bus stops when I sidle up to strangers and ask, "Can I 'ave a whiff of your smoke mate?" :)

Looking back at the progress report I wrote last year, I'm seriously under-impressed to discover that, seemingly, nothing much has really changed or improved in the last year. I'll have to wait until I've had 5 years smoke-free and see if I enjoy a huge improvement by then. I won't hold my breath!

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