Warning: This article was written under the duress of quitting smoking, so expect strong language, inflammatory accusations, and easily provoked crying. Also, this piece is not intended to disparage all the wonderful, supportive people who are there for us addicts in our times of need. We love you and know you’re coming from a good place, even when you say the wrong things.
Generic health websites are great resources for freaking everyone out, but the truth is, most of them feature a lot of nonsense, much of which is repurposed as small talk advice, which is passed on to smokers trying to kick the habit. Giving impractical, thoughtless tips to withdrawalers suffering psychological torment and physical pain in degrees unfathomable by the human imagination is a sure-fire way to find yourself super murdered. So heed the following:
Myth 1: “You’re feeling dizzy because your brain isn’t used to all that oxygen!”
THOUGHTFUL RESPONSE: Another side of anoxia? Believing tripe like this. (Hahaha! Slow hypoxic burn, ya’ll.)
Although the truth is more complicated, here’s the gist: Quitters are dizzy because their brain’s neurochemical patterns are drastically altering after the loss of a major dopamine source. If smokers had previously been so oxygen deprived to the point where inhaling it made them crazy high, they would’ve been dead already.
WEBSITE FALLACY: If you are a regular smoker, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms.
CORRECTION: You WILL experience many withdrawal symptoms if you are a regular smoker. Setting people up for the hope that they may find quitting easy is insane, because when they don’t find it easy, they feel like failures. Feeling like a failure leads right back to smoking.
So what should smokers expect? To feel awful, understand this is totally normal, and know they’re not alone. If anybody finds quitting easy, that’s a bonus. Oh, and another thing: nobody finds quitting easy.
LET’S USE OUR JUDGMENTAL INDOOR VOICES: “Don’t use food as a crutch when quitting.”
OUTDOOR VOICE: First of all, fuck off, I have at least 20 pounds on you thanks to not heeding advice like this, most of it in my hips, giving me the swaying power of a sexy human wrecking ball. Gaining weight totally sucks, but eating crap to temporarily ease discomfort is a far superior alternative. Packing on the pounds is the secondary sex characteristic of quitting tobacco, so stop vice-shaming all of us self-improvers.
BIASED “FACT” FROM DRUG COMPANIES: Smokers who don’t use Nicotine Replacement Therapy are less likely to stay quit in the first six months.
NO SHIT SHERLOCK RESPONSE: The studies all end around six months, which is the length of time drug companies recommend using NRTs before weaning off. Let’s see those quit rates after a year. Who stayed clean after all nicotine sources were removed? Was it Joe the Schmo who did it cold turkey, felt horrible for a few weeks, and moved on with his life? Or was it the person who slapped the patch on, felt no withdrawal symptoms, and then got hit with them a half year later?
All NRTs do is move the withdrawal period to a time in the distant future. Or they act as surrogate cigarettes. Don’t believe me? Listen to WTF’s Marc Maron lose his mind when he stops using the nic lozenges he’s been suckling on for over a decade.
URBAN LIE: “Things will smell better and taste better!”
REPLY: Listen, I have known a lot of smokers in my day, and nobody ever told me that food tasted remarkably better after they quit. Sure, removing the smoke element from our clothes, walls, pets, and hands makes things smell better, but only by comparison. Not intrinsically. Which is what this LIE implies.
YOU DID NOT JUST SAY THIS TO ME, LANCE ARMSTRONG: “Cravings only last for ten minutes, so before you cave into your crave, do some deep breathing.”
DOES SOME DEEP BREATHING, PICKS UP HATCHET, SWINGS IT AROUND IN LARGE CIRCLES ABOVE HEAD: Some cravings last 10 minutes, and I can tell you how they end: when I light up. Otherwise, THEY LAST ALL FREAKING DAY LONG, you condescending snot weasel.
Listen, I understand that when you’re not a smoker, you may experience the urge to spew bullshit WebMD/LiveStrong information at people who -- even though they look like complete idiots for smoking in the Age of Everybody Should Know Better By Now -- comprehend more than you think. So I suggest that when these cravings to lecture others strike, follow your own advice: Count to 10, do some deep breathing and promise yourself that someday, things will smell better.