quit smoking and change your life

How I Quit Smoking and Drastically Changed my Life

I want to share with you how it was my experience in quitting smoking and how it drastically changed my mind, in a few words.

Of course, a “few words” is a noticeable understatement, but I really will not describe the mechanism in great detail. It’s worth starting with the fact that it was always easier for me to understand something when I clearly understand the mechanism of the subject of my attention. So it was with smoking.

How It All Started

I started smoking when I was 13 years old, it seems. At this age, I didn’t live an active life: I began to gain weight uncontrollably, I could not do anything with it, and I treated my body, one might say, with resentment and hatred. Smoking firmly entered my life (almost immediately) as a way to spur myself on, praise and please, although I still did not understand why. Another 13 years passed, I realized that I smoke more than half of my life and can not quit. It was at this moment that I became interested in the mechanism of dependence and I set out to learn more about it.

First of all, I want to tell all young people: forget everything that you know about nicotine addiction, especially everything that your parents told you. First of all, discard these simplified “you will smoke 1 cigarette and die immediately”, “addiction to the first”, and especially the article on how “it is easy to quit smoking in 24 hours!”.

All you need to know about smoking: this is a double-edged sword. You can boost your nervous system with a cigarette, artificially, without making any effort to do this, but this is, in fact, voluntary disability: you always have to think about where and when you can smoke next time (because otherwise your health will worsen, and productivity will plummet).

The Chemical Mechanism of Smoking

acetylcholine and nicotine

Now more serious. Secondly, what is this nicotine? In fact, in nature, nicotine is a natural insecticide (insect repellent). It turned out that some caterpillars (if briefly) use acetylcholine to work their muscles and eat leaves. Tobacco is a plant with leaves that these caterpillars ate and in the course of evolution, only that tobacco was able to survive to this day, in which, by coincidence, nicotine began to be produced. The main property of nicotine here is that it binds to certain “receptors” much better than the endogenous (“native”) caterpillar of the acetylcholine. As a result, the caterpillar, having eaten tobacco, dies in convulsions.

Caterpillars, acetylcholine and humans

What does caterpillar and acetylcholine have to do with humans? Paradoxically, the most direct. We, albeit very distant, but still relatives, so much so that in some places (in the intestines, for example) acetylcholine performs the same functions in us. That is why a person who smokes a cigarette (especially the first morning) empties his intestines more easily, and in some cases it is so much easier that this is already called diarrhea. It is logical, because getting into the body nicotine quickly binds to the smooth muscles of the intestines and … speeds up the process.

It’s not hard to guess, the intestines are not the only place in our body where nicotine gets and works. Like its acetylcholine counterpart, which is endogenous for our body, nicotine penetrates perfectly through the blood-brain barrier (this is such a checkpoint between the blood and the brain). And here the interesting begins.

You may have heard more than once about people trying to quit smoking on willpower alone. Without going into details when I was looking for information for the last time, about 6% of the respondents tried to do this (having a stable effect), which correlates well with the expected average number of mutations, as a result of which nicotine will not work as expected in the human body . We can assume that those people who have developed a full physiological dependence on nicotine cannot quit on their own, because in principle, motivation works crookedly for them. But first things first.

Nicotine and the Brain

In your brain, nicotine, you guessed it, also roughly displaces acetylcholine. How does our brain answer? Firstly: “Thank you, master, we are doing something right!” Acetylcholine is needed to activate the reward system: it fills our brain with various things (neurotransmitters) that help us:

  • To feel joy and overall hapiness;
  • Concentrate on complex tasks;
  • And overall do a lot of what is useful. 

Secondly: “Why goodness disappear?” And our brain will develop additional “receptors” for the absorption of nicotine, because it got that reflex out quite a lot. This in turn will raise the threshold for the activation of the reward system. In addition, since this cool thing is now regularly arriving, and if something can be required, then why do we need acetylcholine now?

So addiction begins, but what happens when we try to give up cigarettes?

I think this is already understandable: the brain ceases to receive the necessary substance, the reward system is no longer activated and the person becomes dull and unhappy. But the most important thing is that the motivation mechanism is violated. How can such a person give up “on willpower”? That’s right, nothing! “Willpower” just doesn’t work anymore, and therefore there is no sense in hoping for it. The main question arises, how, then, to quit smoking?

Replacement Therapy

We smoothly approached how in most cases it is easy to quit smoking. The correct answer, of course, is not to start smoking. But since you and I are tomboys, and have already ruined everything for a long time, there is one more way out: replacement therapy.

The Recipe

  1. You understand the mechanism of work of nicotine, and therefore what you are trying to resist;
  2. you find any good anxiolytic acting on you (anti-anxiety medication, afobazole helped me);
  3. Most importantly, you find an alternative PORTION source of nicotine (from everything that I tried Nicotinell nicotine patches are great).

Why a portion source? The fact is that over the years of smoking, we get used to the portioned intake of nicotine from cigarettes and substitution therapy should also be portioned.

Method for Nicotine Intake

  • A few days before giving up cigarettes, I started taking valerian extract according to the instructions; I waited a few days until I felt that it began to act; then, one beautiful morning, I abruptly replaced cigarettes with nicotine patches and never smoked again!
  • For about 2 weeks (as I understand it better from 14 to 23 days) I was on such a “diet” and got used to the fact that smoking is not necessary for normal work. Moreover, for almost a week I did not take the valerian extract capsules and only got by using the patches, and began to use it again 3 days before it was time to stop the patches;
  • In the third phase, I stopped using nicotine patches (also abruptly in the morning), but continued to use valerian for another couple of weeks.

When I finished, I almost didn’t feel like smoking. I would still take valerian for a while though (which is much better than smoking, right?).

This is the valerian extract I took

Bottom line: for 4 months now I have not smoked and have no desire. The brain has fully recovered, I think no worse, or even better, I easily concentrate on complex long tasks (even this article I quite calmly write in one sitting, not looking up, which was unthinkable before). And in general, I began to feel better, as a lot of people out there did too.

I wish good luck to everyone who plans to quit smoking and most importantly: start right now, now it’s not so difficult!

Further reading that you might find useful:

  1. Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking: Read this book and you’ll never smoke a cigarette again
  2. Stop Smoking with CBT: The most powerful way to beat your addiction

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