By Kimberly Blaker
I woke up this morning and felt the agonizing withdrawal symptoms washing over me. It’s a persistent anxiousness that doesn’t cease until I get my fix.
I slipped on my robe and slippers, poured a cup of coffee, and frantically headed to the garage, where I try to keep the substance from my family. As always, my habit is waiting to greet me.
As I take a hit, a peaceful feeling washes over my body and mind. I can now begin my day feeling alive once again.
Yet as the day wears on, I feel the chemicals drain. Every hour or so, this drug starts calling me, unrelentingly, and I continue to replenish my body with the chemicals I so desperately need.
Every worrisome or sad thought or happy reminiscence drives me to another fix. Even tiredness, hunger and boredom can be eased through this addiction of mine.
Now, as I lie in bed, I reflect on it. It’s my best friend and my worst enemy. I deliberate on how much it’s costing me, not just financially, but the toll it’s taking on my body. It’s stealing the rug from under my feet. It’s draining my energy and making my heart race through life. I can’t catch my breath. My skin is aging, and the substance leaves my body with a repulsive odor. I think about the diseases it puts me at risk for, such as cancer, heart disease, and emphysema. I don’t want to die that way. I want to live a full life.
I tell myself to go to sleep, and tomorrow I’ll start anew. I’ll dry up and go straight. But as I drift closer to sleep, I know tomorrow will go unchanged, for the craving is already creeping in again. I’m dependent in this love-hate relationship. I look forward to my next drag off a cigarette. Nicotine is my life—and will probably be my death.
Three years later
Fortunately, this relationship finally soured and came to a screeching halt. I kicked the habit and slammed the door behind. Through the years, I tried relentlessly to cut my ties with this shadow that seemingly couldn’t be shed; quitting cold turkey, cutting back, New Year resolutions, patches, gum, Zyban. All were temporary at best. But I never gave up.
Today I wake up to the smell of the fresh summer breeze rather than the stench of stale cigarettes that once drenched my body. My skin glows, and my heart is calm. My midnight cough is long gone. Walking up the stairs doesn’t leave me breathless. My energy soars, and I look forward to the once dreaded pleasures of life.
Now I can enjoy a vigorous peddle through the park or a spirited hike in the woods. Best of all, the diseases I could almost feel setting in have mostly erased from my body and mind. I now feel an inner peace I could never leave behind.
Try one of the following nicotine replacement methods or medications, most approved by the FDA for quitting smoking.
• Nicotine Patches: These come in a 16-hour and 24-hour patch and don’t require a prescription. Manufacturers typically suggest eight weeks, though the FDA recommends three to five months.
• Nicotine nasal spray: By prescription only, nasal spray delivers a quick dose of nicotine to the bloodstream. Recommended use is three to six months.
• Nicotine gum: No prescription is required for nicotine gum, which comes in two strengths. It can be used for up to six months, though one to three months is the usual recommendation.
• Nicotine lozenges: These should not be confused with tobacco lozenges. Tobacco lozenges are a form of smokeless tobacco and have not been proven a successful cessation aid. Nicotine lozenges, on the other hand, have been approved by the FDA for quitting smoking.
• Nicotine inhalers: These can be used for up to six months and are by prescription only.
• eCigarettes: Electronic cigarettes and vaporizers have become the latest success story in helping millions of people to quit smoking. While useful for quitting smoking, there is much debate on their safety as they have not been around long enough for any conclusive studies.
• Bupropion: An anti-depressant, also known as Zyban, requires a prescription. It doesn’t contain nicotine, yet affects brain chemicals that lead to nicotine cravings.
• Varenicline: Chantix is a drug developed for smoking cessation. Studies have shown a high success rate with Varenicline. Some studies have found it to have higher success rates than Bupropion.
• Hypnosis: This method is useful for some smokers. Ask your doctor to recommend a hypnotist.