In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote the book “On Death and Dying,” in which she identified five distinct phases that a dying person experiences. These stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Funny how these death stages relate so easily to quitting smoking.
Obviously, anyone who is a smoker is in the first stage, denial. By and large, this denial is ignoring the fact that cigarette smoking has been identified as the most common source of preventable morbidity and premature mortality worldwide, according to the American Lung Association.
As for the second stage, for the last three days my anger and irritability have been palpable. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I think people were avoiding me today. I have to attribute this newfound isolation to my erratic behavior of the past three days. So maybe I made rude comments to more than one professor, I’m sure the American Cancer Society would tell me that quitting smoking is worth getting a low grade in the end.
As for the third stage, let me put it this way: Right now all I want is one more. Just one measly cigarette. I’ll even settle for a meager puff. I know that once I have one I will probably want another and then another … but I still cannot get rid of the “just one more” mantra I have adopted within the past 72 hours. Kubler-Ross pinpointed this as the “bargaining stage.” So how do I get past this?
In the American Cancer Society’s “Guide to Quitting,” it says withdrawal symptoms of an ex-smoker will peak two to three days after quitting. Well here it is, day three, and I think I have hit a peak. I could go get a pack of smokes right this second. I would probably enjoy that, too. Yeah, I would totally enjoy that. But then in a week, or maybe a month, or maybe a year I would be right back where I am, except I’d have to do the work all over again. The insomnia, the night sweats and the headaches – I would have to go through it all again. And it’s already day three, so I can’t stop now.
The insomnia is still kicking my butt – the same butt that I know has been getting a bit larger with the new upgraded candy intake, but that’s another article for another day. I’m sure many of the other negative withdrawal symptoms would be cured if I could get a full night’s rest, and I hope that comes in time.
On the upside, the surgeon general says that the 72 hours since my last puff is apparently all the time it takes for the nicotine to completely leave any smoker’ body. In addition, after 72 hours a smoker’s bronchial tubes relax, making breathing easier. So who can argue with those results?
I’ve met my first goal of making it three days, though it hasn’t been pretty. Many smokers wait for the perfect time to quit, but the truth is there is no perfect time to quit. Maybe these past three days would have been easier if I wasn’t going to school right now. But if I wasn’t going to school, I would probably be going to work, or any number of places. The truth is, there is no perfect time to quit, and no better time than the present.
One of the hardest things these past few days has been going to the same places I went when I smoked – be it the Rite Aid down the street or to one of my classes. I can’t avoid my everyday activities and the best cure for this was to meet the challenge head-on.
Some of the things I’ve been doing recently, like eating more candy than I thought was humanly possible, are probably not the best ways to get over this addiction, but they have been working for me. When you decide to quit, find what works for you and stick with it … even if your butt gets a little rounder as a result. The latter is a much healthier option, anyway.
Michelle Nicoletto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.