That time I got myself addicted to cigarettes…

Add it to my list of life experiences.

I started writing this on day #3 of attempting to quit in April. Fell back into it and now on day #7 in May. Plan to update this upon making it to 30 days.

Reflecting Back: I would keep the smoking cigarettes to holidays, parties or when out at a bar (if smoking at all). The cross-over into having a cig in your everyday life has no upside. The habit just grows on you and becomes a go to for stress, starts to sound nice with a coffee, after a meal, after sex. Although an initial calm & light feeling, the residual effect is the maintaining of tension and restlessness in your body, which you just don’t want inside you. My god it really does hit the spot sometimes though, especially in bed.

The Background: Summer 2021 to July 2022 I was dating someone who smoked regularly and successfully avoided getting myself addicted for those 12 months. I did however find myself increasingly joining them in having a smoke. They wake up, make coffee and roll one, “sure roll me one too”. At restaurants or bars they take their drink outside with them several times throughout the evening, “sure I’ll join you”. It becomes normal quite quick.

In July 2022 my nervous system went haywire trying to process an emotional up/down of the previous 72 hours. Instinctively I grabbed a pack of cigarettes and just didn’t stop. I would wake up and smoke, exercise, smoke, journal, smoke, exercise, smoke, eat a meal at night, exercise, and continue smoking until the moment I tried to go to sleep. Over the course of the next 2 weeks upon accepting the situation was out of my control and forcing myself to let go of someone, I started to ease off the cigarettes into otherwise normal healthy outlets. The foundation was laid though – I conditioned my brain to associate coping with stress to smoking.

I then spent the next 11 months smoking on/off again, until 2023 when it was now an addiction and although wanting to stop I didn’t, burning through a pack per day. I started to roll my own cigarettes & was smoking even more. One night going to bed, I could feel the sensations of a thick layered substance caked to my insides, accompanied with throat pain. I had a dream that same night I was being hospitalized with lung cancer and couldn’t breathe. 

Now would probably be a good time to listen to my body and quit.

Observations from life as a smoker: Noting the below became true for me once I hit the addiction point. When it was an occasional social indulgence I don’t recall anything other than pleasant feelings, and never thought twice about lighting up.

1. If you’re going to smoke, use raw tobacco and roll your own cigarettes. Why?

  • It makes you put the effort into the reward of smoking
  • You’ll inevitably smoke less (although at times if you’re like me, you start rolling large joint sized cigarettes that last longer and run through a bag at rapid speed).
  • You’ll get really good at rolling. Like seriously fucking good. It is something you start to take pride in if being honest with myself. Left hand free only, in the wind, holding a drink, using my teeth…BOOM. Success.
  • The head buzz is nicer than Marlboro’s and has less of the dizzy; call it a grounding feeling.
  • It tastes better.
  • It doesn’t give off the same chemical smell, actually smells nice. Makes a difference, especially on your wardrobe and in your home.
  • Has a certain sex appeal. It just does.

2. It reduces your attention span, and the ability to actively listen to others starts to dwindle. Your brain is used to the constant stimuli of the cigarette, and when you don’t have it you subconsciously are thinking / feeling the missing stimuli, which in turn distracts you. 

3. You are more prone to mood swings and I swear although our brains are thinking it helps with anxiety, etc. – leaves you with a general downer feeling. For me personally that downer feeling is also driven from the knowledge that we’re doing something harmful to our bodies, can feel those affects, and continue to engage in the same behavior.

4. Your rolling tray never seems big enough to stop you from having tobacco or ash end up on your furniture. Although to be fair my rolling tray is rather small.

5. Each time you fail on a day of quitting, it ends up throwing off the rest of your day from the resulting feelings of failure. Time is our most precious resource. Don’t waste it.

6. Your exercise routine can more easily go to shit; your body is fighting you every time you run or push it and when doing so after smoking excessively, you just do not have the same energy levels.

7. You will eat less, which has nice effects; but I found the lack of motivation to go lift weights or do strength training was leading to changes in my body composition. I was losing weight but skinny fat is not the body I want.

8. You’ll end up with 37 lighters in your house from all the times you didn’t have one on you in the moment.

9. The dentist grabs a mirror and its quite confronting when they say sure, your teeth facing outwards look fine to everyone else, but look on the inside. “I’ll clean this for you but remember its there and stop smoking”.

10. Lighting up cigarettes in your apartment becomes a chore to get rid of the smell, leaving windows open, incense on, freezing cold in the Winter and repeat this for couple days at a time until the smell is gone.

11. Its ridiculously expensive. EUR 8,50 * 30 = EUR 255 each month. Multiply by 11 months and that amount gets me one hell of a holiday.

12. Its a strange feeling to admit to yourself when not fully in control over something in your life. Can you really just stop so easily? Everyday for 3 weeks I said “last day smoking” and by 15:00 I was at the Albert Heijn buying a bag of raw tobacco or a pack of Marlboro golds depending on my level of motivation.

13. You feel pain in your throat.

14. It goes unbelievably well with alcohol, and you’ll no longer be able to have a drink without thinking of having a cig. 

15. If chain smoking, there is something going on underneath in your nervous system and time to analyze that further.

Smoking menthols like there's no tomorrow in Bosnia (July 2022)
Last pack while in Valencia, Spain (May 2023)
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