Breaking up with nicotine

For the past 18 months, I have been weaning myself off cigarettes. I quit in 2010, and the habit crept back after a tough time in 2015 which I decided needed fags to make the problem go away. I felt like I was getting ‘back to basics’ and ‘the real me’, and it was a brief comfort. Until I realised – again – that smoking is a bit pointless and doesn’t help in the long run.

Since I decided to give up again, I’ve had a few relapses – nights out, stressful times, redundancy – but on the whole, I’ve been pretty good. I had my last cigarette in October and I haven’t smoked since, which I’m very pleased about.

To be honest, my brief dalliance with the evil weed in 2015 – 2016 was never really that serious. I didn’t want to smoke anymore; I hated the smell, I hated what it did to my handbag (tobacco gets everywhere) and I was never really that dedicated to the cause. I preferred vaping, even though vaping looks faintly ridiculous and the plumes of smoke it creates make you look like you’re on fire.

It wasn’t hard to break the behavioural patterns I’d semi-adopted again – nobody really likes sneaking outside for a crafty fag in the rain – but I did miss nicotine. So I started on those Nicorette sprays. They’re not cheap – £27 for two if you’re not doing that Smokefree thing with Boots – but they work. Oh, how they work. Even just writing about them I’m salivating. They delivered an ultra-fine, nicotine-rich and deliciously minty spray to the back of the mouth/under the tongue, and it was glorious. The rush was immense. It was better than smoking, and I know how that sounds, but it was. Nicorette – if you are reading this and need a poster child for your sprays, I will do it. Just give me a lifetime supply.

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When my six weeks of much-loved subsidised sprays came to an end, I realised – somewhat glumly – I had become addicted to NRT. So, I moved on to gum. Then lozenges. Then gum again. Then mini-lozenges. I varied the dosage and the amount I took wildly, so one week I might be on the 4mg tablets, the next, 2mg, then up and down as my mood dictated. On and on it went. And then I realised I was popping a lozenge in my mouth first thing in the morning, and after meals, and I was getting grumpy and irritable if I ran out. I’d stopped smoking – but I was still addicted to nicotine. I briefly considered the benefits of staying addicted to nicotine forever. Then I decided it was too bloody expensive to maintain forever and I’d had enough.

This week marks the beginning of Lent, and I haven’t had any nicotine since around 8.30am on Monday, so right now my system is going a little bit bonkers. When I last quit in 2010, I used patches, and I definitely don’t remember being this resentful of the process. It is HORRIBLE. I’m tired, I’m having weird dreams, and my appetite is all over the place. I’m cheered that I’m not tempted by the idea of having a cigarette – funnily enough, I now associate ‘pleasure’ and ‘relaxation’ with NRT products, not fags – but I feel miserable that my daily pick-me-up has been taken away. It felt as natural to me as having a glass of water or a sandwich, and doing without the little ‘kick’ that I used to love has been a bitter pill to swallow. The tiredness on Tuesday and Wednesday was immense. I am so bored with feeling like this, and it’s Thursday. I just want to know when my brain will stop rebelling and wheedling with me to take just the one trip to Boots to make all of this go away.

I’ll stick this out, but if you’re reading this and you’ve never smoked, pat yourself on the back. It’s one of the cleverest things you’ve ever (not) done.

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