But what exactly happens to your body when you quit smoking?
Almost immediately – merely 20 minutes – after you stub out your last cigarette, the nicotine, carbon monoxide and other toxins begin to leave your body and your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal. As a smoker, you will have been warned about the terrible physical withdrawal symptoms once you stop ingesting nicotine. This is true, but claims of the intensity of physical withdrawal from nicotine are exaggerated. Nicotine is physically addictive, yes. But the symptoms of withdrawal come and go, lasting only about five to ten minutes at a time, until your body is rid of the toxins.
Dealing with the “biggy” when you quit smoking
After only three days, the nicotine will have left your bloodstream, but the third day may also be the most difficult day after quitting. Feelings of anxiety, irritability, dizziness, hunger and sleepiness may set in. You may experience headaches and feel down. This is par for the course, but stick to your guns.
For the next couple of weeks, you will begin to face the “biggy” – your emotional addiction to smoking. It is this subconscious compulsion that causes most smokers to fail in their attempts to quit. Keep reminding yourself that smokers are sold a lie. We are told that nicotine will boost our mood, reduce our depression, irritability and appetite, and enhance our concentration and short-term memory.
Nicotine is made out to be the all-round feel-good substance. Nonsense. The idea that smoking delivers positive outcomes to your life is a commercially driven myth. All a cigarette does when you smoke it is top up the toxin deficit to your bloodstream that occurred since you last lit up. And it’s an illusion that smoking makes you feel good. It only makes you feel a little better than you did the instant before you lit up. It makes you feel, for a really short while, the way non-smokers feel all the time – though without the hacking cough and collateral health risks that drive up the cost of your healthcare, medical aid schemes and life cover insurance.
Seeing through the ruse
At about three weeks, you may experience strong urges to light up. Since your body has been clear of nicotine for several days now, this is an emotional craving triggered by various factors. You have been conditioned to believe that smoking helps you concentrate or relax, but quite the opposite is true. When you begin to see through the ruse, your emotional dependence should begin to ease. You will begin to realise you’re not giving up anything, but gaining a whole lot – improved circulation and lung function, not to mention a reduction in the risk of various cancers, coronary heart disease and stroke.
By LINDA CILLIERS