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My shameful secret



I have a shameful secret that I never shared with anybody... I find staying quit harder than the original quitting. This has bothered me for months. To this day, I feel that I could easily and happily go right back to smoking 2 packs a day with no problem.


The weird thing is that I am NOT romancing the cigarette. My rational brain knows perfectly well that there are an endless number of reasons NOT to smoke and zero reasons TO smoke. But here I am 11 months quit and I don't feel any better. I don't feel FREE (as some people claim)! I don't have more energy. I don't revel in my non-smoker status. Plus I gained a significant amount of weight and can't get rid of it. I won't smoke, but I am not a happy camper. And my life in general has been stuck in a boring, unfulfilling rut for the last year or more. I don't think that's because I quit smoking. But never-the-less, I have been feeling bored and boring and useless and adrift and disappointed and the fact that I quit smoking doesn't cheer me up at all.


But Babs started a thread the other day that really got me to thinking. It's titled "Nicotine Replacement Therapy" . In it, she explains that she is not referring to alternative sources of nicotine like gum or patches. She is referring to replacing smoking's role in your life. As she said: "Most people who have an addiction--whether it's to smoking, food, drugs, alcohol, people, sex...whatever it is...they can't just "put it down" without a replacement. There has to be a plan...there has to be an alternative." She went on to suggest several things that people can do to replace smoking. But those things didn't work for me. I mean, yes, when I was suffering from strong nicotine cravings and had to distract myself, exercise, music, yoga breathing and things like that were life savers. But to just fill the "emptiness" I'm feeling since quitting? Not so much.


I am happy to report that I think I finally figured out what I've been missing-- I'm missing my right brain. Meaning being in touch with the creative, emotional, imaginative, "big picture" side of my brain. I have read many, many posts from people who get very emotional when they first quit smoking. They rage, they cry, they get their feelings hurt. They pick arguments with spouses and yell at the kids and they NEVER used to behave that way! I believe that smoking helps to tamp down our emotions. Somehow, the nicotine itself is biochemically soothing. And the act of stepping away from a stressful situation (like the constant bickering between your kids) for a few minutes to smoke and clear your mind and collect your wits really helps keep your emotions in check. Without the chemical nicotine and the smoking ritual, our emotions get totally out of whack unless and until we can find some other way to deal with them. Or, as Babs said, until we find a "nicotine replacement".


For me, I realized that rather than continuing to try to tamp down my emotions the way I used to do with cigarettes, I need to bring them out into the light and defang them. To do that I need to get in touch with my right brain by being creative. For me, cooking, gardening, and art are my favorite forms of creative expression. I still cook sometimes (after all, one has to eat, right?) but I have let my gardening and my art work go for a couple of years now. That was a mistake. I miss those pursuits. I need those pursuits. So I am going to resurrect them.


As a first step in the right direction I cleaned up my "artist's nook" this weekend. As with any disused room it got filled up with junk and dust and cob webs. So I got in there and cleaned it up and set up my easel again. That felt good. And today I read some of my "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" book and then painted a picture. Note that I am NOT an artist and I don't try to be one. I just mess around with paint or charcoal to relax and let my mind wander and to get in touch with my emotions. My main inspiration for this approach is called the "Point Zero" method. It's very freeing! Check it out on

. And finally, I uploaded some images of my artist's nook and my "emotive art :D " for you to see. Remember, these paintings are not meant to be "good" or "bad". They're just meant to wake up the right side of my brain and be fun. You can view them here


I hope that if I get back to regular exercising and back to regular creative pursuits I can finally climb out of this rut I have dug for myself in the last year. Obviously, what I have been experiencing is not just related to quitting smoking-- there have been some other major changes in my life lately that have also had an impact-- but I am tired of being where I am and I'm ready to make some changes.


As Babs said, I need to find my own, personal "nicotine replacement therapy." Thanks, Babs!

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Thanks so much for sharing this. I am a newbie. I can relate to what you have written, and I am grateful to you for being so brave. I have actually been thinking about the things you wrote about. It is difficult to describe, and I think you did a pretty good job. I may be off the mark, but some of this might relate to smoker's identity. Smoking, as I see it, very gradually rubs out parts of our personality. While smoking I still thought of myself as I used to be...creative, active, outgoing. But, in truth, smoking took a lot of those things away. I wasn't those things anymore. And add to that LOTS of stressful life events. I really became someone who was just coping and surviving. Not really living. Just existing. Now I am in the reverse. I am delighted to not be smoking...more than I can say. HOWEVER, I now have to face the fact that not only do I have to build a quit, I have to rebuild all those lost aspects of ME. AND...I have to reshape some parts of me. I used smoking to tamp down a lot of my emotions. Even before I quit I started to be more honest, and that has really upset the apple cart in a lot of relationships. Some may not survive. But I have to protect not only this new quit, but the new me who is emerging from the smoker's cocoon.


Wow...it's so positive what you did for yourself...getting back into your art. It's lovely. Maybe you will have to push yourself a little to keep up with it...but consider the VALUE of doing this. It has high value...helping you now and in the future.


I hope you won't mind if I say what you have shared has helped me by way of a warning. I can see how I might linger in the doldrums without too much wind in my sails...and then a year from now, think, so what, I quit smoking, big deal? I don't want that to happen so right now, today, I am going to make it a priority for me to nurture and support my identity...who I am, my values, hopes, dreams, what brings happiness into my life...and on and on.




PS You have REALLY INSPIRED ME to start my exercise program today. I have been feeling "blah" - not wanting to push myself...but this is a big goal for me because I want to be fit this summer. If I start now I can reach that goal. If I don't...come summer I'll just be sad. It helps me if I set up a chart and log in my time doing something new...so am gonna go do that right now! :wub:

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I think what's you've said is very profound and may help manyothers.  There is indeed a gap left, both time wise and mentally from smoking and I agree wholeheartedly, something must fill it or we miss the "commitment" to something, it's odd.  


I want to say though Chrys, I did fill the gap at around 8 months and I do feel free but I watched some 9 and 12 monthers still having the odd battle and that's ok. I will never forget I was a smoker and that I sometimes need to choose to be a non smoker again...that's addiction and I have come to accept that, not like it...but it's only thoughts and I recognise all the emotions and reactions as the addiction thoughts and so maybe mine is easier now because I did have other creative outlets.


Be kind to yourself my friend and it will come. There is no time limit on this and nor should you put one on yourself. The fact you know you won't smoke is great and I acknowledge you've had that the whole way through...so don't pressure yourself that you should feel XYZ by now...it comes in it's own time.



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Other than not having craves, and being happy that I quit, there is no revelation. I am seeing better skin, more lung power, other physical changes for the better. I am still the same but I don't smoke. I am heavier and quicker to anger or crying. But I can't figure out if this is from the nonsmoking , menopause or general malaise.

Maybe the nonsmoking reveals some emotions that finally can be dealt with. I am going through a mid life crisis myself and maybe it is intensified by giving up my last crutch in a pattern of other things I gave up over time.,

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I think this is an absolutely brilliant post and cant believe i have just seen it! way to go you and your nook looks fantastic and almost spiritual


so happy for you and I hope this post gets highlighted I thinks its pure brilliance xx

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You have inspired me to get on with my healing room, just got to get my stuff over from UK mmmmm the logistics, a challenge but where there is a will there is a way watch this space, it will be all your doing lol

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You know, I think that an awful lot of us finally quit smoking because we were facing some serious life issues. It could be the illness or death of a close friend or family member. It could be a health scare of our own. It could be the start (or end) of a relationship or a job or a new home. Maybe we just graduated from college or are about to retire. It just seems that very often something happens in our life to shake us up and make us decide "That's it! I don't want to live this way any more. I need to make some changes in my life and the first one is I am going to quit smoking!" 


For sure, that's what happened to me. My older brother was diagnosed with stage IV cancer from out of the blue. I quit my job and eventually took early retirement to help care for him. Then he died, leaving my 92 year old mother living alone. And my sister had some type of emotional melt-down and is no longer speaking to me. So I lost both of my siblings and my job (and my income) and took on more care of my mother all within one year. Then I quit smoking.


Quitting smoking was something concrete that I could do to improve my life and my health. It was something that was totally in my control. I quit to help me transition to a new phase in my life-- retired. I didn't have to be afraid of retirement--I was going to quit smoking and get healthier and more vigorous and have a wonderful time in my senior years! I wasn't going to die young like my brother did!


Well, I did quit smoking but I didn't do anything else to improve my life. I didn't get fit (I am less fit because I gained weight this past year). I haven't figured out how to have a happy and meaningful existence in retirement. It turns out that quitting smoking alone-- while very important, difficult and laudatory-- is not enough.


I think that I figured out that it's now time for me to turn my attention and my efforts away from quitting smoking and towards other things I need to do to "get back to where I once belonged" (as the song goes). As I said, waking up my creative side will be a helpful step for me. Getting back to regular exercise is imperative. Probably getting a part time job would be a good thing, too. 


I'm glad that my "confession" helped other people realize that in addition to quitting smoking, there are some other things they want to do to enhance the quality of their lives. When you are feeling relatively confident in your quit, do try to implement some of the other life-enhancing plans you have been thinking about. Just the fact that you quit smoking means that you really want to have a happier, healthier more fulfilling life. So go for it! The time is now!

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This is exactly where I am now in my quit, last year to get it into check took a lot of time and energy and now I am so ready to move along onto the next phase of life, I am ready to get out of the lifeboat after being rescued and now reaching the shore.


This year is full of exciting possibilities, the slate is wiped clean and its time to reinvent myself or as you say get back to where you should be


I wish you all the luck in the world, your new plans sound exciting


Thanks x

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This is great information in anticipation for what I am doing in 4 days.  I have heard that quitting can leave a huge hole in your life.. one that has been taken up constantly by the act itself and the obsession of when, where and how can we plan ahead for the next light up. 


I am not really sure what to expect.. I have been smoking almost 50 years so I have no idea what talents I may discover and hobbies I may find.  I have no idea who or what I am without cigarettes but guess I'll find out.  It's kind of exciting in a way.. just hope underneath the smoke there isn't a crabby b**tch.  LOL

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Very interesting reading this post, I can understand that once we are over the initial phase of getting the addiction under control, there is much more work to be done. I hope I'm up for the challenge!

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