One of the saddest moments of my adult life was the day I decided to wave goodbye to my closest friends: Cigarettes. I had to quit this toxic relationship and I opted to say “adieu” instead of “bon voyage” on this occasion because too much was at stake, my life was at a crossroads and something had to give. I wonder if this was a sensible move because at this point, 6 months after going cold turkey, I am still questioning if I made the right decision. The scientific facts proclaim from the rooftops that cigarettes are evil, cancer-causing nasty wastes of money, but what about the other, less tangible considerations?
Of all my friends, I can safely say that Ciggy, as I talk about her now in retrospect, named in an attempt to box in and forget, was the one with whom I was the most intimate. She was always close to me, in the physical and emotional sense. A comforting silhouette of her pointy corners bulging out of my bag on a Friday night. The necessary prop to spark up conversation whilst huddled outside, us smokers forced to accept frequent freezing wet excursions to quench a very different kind of hunger.
The break away from my desk, walk down two flights of stairs to inspire the almost-meditational moment of inspiration, fresh perspective to crack a nagging problem. She was there at my lowest ebb, to pick me up after a bad meeting, a familiar arm around the shoulder when the now-ex messes up for the umpteenth time. She was even on my mind first thing in the morning, before coffee and even before MinyHubby. She used to be my everything.
On May 1st, I cut her out of my life, accepting without realizing that I was entering the excruciating path of the smoker’s Via Crucis. It has been 184 days – and counting – living and breathing – quite – well without her, but I still miss her. Past the first days of withdrawal symptoms comes the relentless languishing. I would have preferred enduring the physical and emotional agony of a heartbreak rather than this never-ending ever-ongoing battle with myself. For an entire month, I was drowning in stress hormones.
I went through a series of erratic behaviours, including crying everyday for no reason. MinyHubby is still talking about the month of May with a painful grin on his face. Nothing could console me. No amount of loving support was enough to tame my self-inflicted torments. We were in pre-divorce-crisis-mode 24/7. I believe this all needs to be said because if you are thinking about quitting it is important that you time your rupture accordingly. Throughout all the self-help articles and books that I read in preparation for this life-changing choice, nobody seemed to mention the ultimate-violence we have to go through.
We all know how smoking cigarettes potentially increase risks of heart disease, lung disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis, to name a few. I would not know any better but these arguments have never been enough to convince me to quit. My appetite is definitely back and my taste buds have rediscovered the joy of finding everything delicious. My sense of smell has also improved. I am not quite certain I needed this. I gained 10 kg in three months and was diagnosed a high-cholesterol pre-diabetic. Somehow I expected to gain some weight but not another 20% of my body mass. I certainly did not expect to have health complications.
The shallow woman in me was keen to experience the collateral benefits of quitting such as stopping the aging process & fighting poor skin colour, getting rid of my ever-yellowing tartared fangs. I cannot say that I can flash a pearly-white-smile nowadays after a trip to the dental hygienist but I am less conscious when showing my teeth. As per stopping the aging process, I have indeed gone back in time. Except that being over 40 years old, acne does not suit me.
On a brighter note, my osteopath mentioned that it is not rare to gain up to 25 kg. He also mentioned that after 6 months the body stabilizes and slowly goes back to normal. Let’s hope I am no exception to this rule. I do have more energy now, and was using it regularly, at least until I hurt myself overdoing it at Ashtanga yoga. I was working out at least 90 minutes everyday. I also realised that, without having to sneak outside for some “fresh air” every hour, I had more time, which inspired me to learn Arabic. I got all the support I could have wished for from my husband but also at work, where my boss as well as Asmar and Omar have been celebrating with me every month that I have been smoke-free.
Perhaps the main reason I quit is because I want to have a baby. This is as simple as it gets. My gynecologist and my acupuncturist stressed that smoking increases the risk of infertility. On May 1st, I stopped sabotaging the little chance that I had to have a baby. Come to think of it, it was the best decision that I could have made. Imagine undergoing all this turmoil whilst pregnant! MinyHubby and I took that decision together, very much like the one we took earlier to get rid of my 5 fibroids. I am also confident that eventually the feeling of emptiness will subside as I finally overcome the yearning for something I was addicted to, accustomed with and reliant on for more than half my life.