A Day in the Life of an Ex-Smoker: Quit Day

A Fictional Account of the First Day of Smoking Cessation

woman breaking cigarette in half
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The fictional account below details what a new ex-smoker's quit day might be like.

I open my eyes and instantly feel a pit in my stomach. Today is the day I am supposed to quit smoking. Well, to be completely truthful, it is five days past my quit day, which was supposed to be on my 45th birthday. I've promised myself that I would finally end the madness of nicotine addiction once and for all and it's not going to ever happen if I don't get started.

The problem is, I'm not sure I'm ready. I mean, I absolutely want to quit, and know I need to quit, but maybe it would be better to wait until this coming weekend, instead of trying to quit on a work day. How am I going to get moving and function without that first cup of coffee and the cigarette that goes so well with it?

No, I'm just trying to back out...again. I've got to hold fast to my plan. Today is the day.

I've smoked for 26 years and have wanted to quit for more than half of those years. I'm done dragging my feet. I have got to get this monkey off of my back before it kills me. I first planned to quit on my 30th birthday, for pity's sake! This addiction is a ball and chain that won't let go until I take a stand and make it happen.

The coffee is started and already I'm craving a smoke. I haven't been up 15 minutes and my insides are in a knot. How am I ever going to do this if I can't make it a few minutes without feeling like garbage?

How can I hope to quit smoking permanently if I can't make it through one hour, let alone one day?!

I think about what Molly, a friend who quit over a year ago told me yesterday about dealing with the early days of smoking cessation:

"Keep your mind firmly planted in the here and now. Focus on this minute. Don't worry about tomorrow or even later today...just deal with right now. Nicotine withdrawal isn't comfortable, but it does get better, and it's easier if you stay in the present."

Okay, breathing, breathing...While the coffee is brewing, I head for the shower, which does help beat back the urge to smoke. Afterward, I put my first nicotine patch on and get dressed. The skin under the patch is a little itchy, but it only lasts a few minutes.

I pour a cup of coffee and pack my lunch for work. I'm moving, but feel like it's in slow motion. I know the patch is kicking in because that clenched feeling in my belly is easing up.  My mind is still stuck on smoking thoughts though,  like a broken record...

"I need a cigarette, I need a cigarette, I need a cigarette."

I'm wishing I hadn't flushed the rest of that pack down the toilet last night. I was so excited and confident then! Good thing I did toss them though, because I'd be lighting up right now if I had a cigarette within reach.

I fix a slice of toast and drink down a glass of orange juice. Breakfast is usually just coffee and cigarettes, so this is a real departure from my normal routine. Surprisingly, it helps me feel a little better and I head out the door to start my day.

No sooner do I turn the key in the car's ignition than a little voice in the back of my mind quietly suggests I drive directly to the convenience store for a pack of smokes. I try to ignore my thoughts and take a different route to work. I notice every single store that sells cigarettes along the way but I manage to drive by them all, going to my destination without stopping.

It's barely 9am and I'm already feeling exhausted. Thankfully, work is not a place where I smoke much, so while I'm feeling a little jumpy and out of sorts, I'm able to settle in and get busy. I do have to say, I am proud to have made it this far!

"Time for lunch and a smoke."

Immediately after this thought surfaces, my heart sinks. I can't smoke at lunch today. I feel a flash of anger, again wishing I'd delayed my quit date for a few days. The mental negotiation has begun again, but instead of letting it take hold, I grab my coat and head out for lunch with co-workers, something I usually avoid because I don't smoke in front of them.

Okay, lunch wasn't too bad. My nerves felt a little raw, but knowing I couldn't smoke in that setting actually helped, and I feel another surge of pride. I'm doing this! Half of the first day is done.

The rest of the afternoon goes by without much trouble. Junkie thoughts pop up frequently, but I find that getting up for a glass of water or to stretch my legs helps. That all changes when I get in the car to go home.

Almost as soon as I start the engine, the background noise in my mind shifts into a dull roar.

"Why did I quit smoking? I LOVE smoking! I can't imagine being happy and fulfilled in my life if I have to face it without cigarettes ever again. This is too hard. I'm going to buy a pack before I get home."

Somehow the "me" who knows better than to listen to the mental chatter stays in control and I make it home without caving. I'm feeling panicky and miserable though. The car is clearly a huge trigger for me. Not surprising; I smoke while driving all of the time.

I walk in the door and immediately boot up the computer to search for cessation help. I find plenty of reading material and spend the rest of the evening researching.

Turns out everything I've been experiencing today is normal and part of what everyone goes through when quitting tobacco. I am so relieved to know it's not just me being weak! They say it will get better and that a list of reasons to stop smoking is a good place to start your quit program, so here goes...

I want to quit smoking because...

  • I live in fear of a smoking-related disease catching up with me.
  • I have a bad cough that has become chronic - people know me by my cough.
  • I am short of breath when walking a short distance on level ground.
  • I worry about starting a fire from cigarette embers.
  • I hate the smell and the mess of smoking.
  • I am ashamed of my addiction, and that makes me feel like I have less worth as a person.
  • I hate that I am setting a bad example for my children.
  • I hate that I am paying cigarette companies my hard-earned money for a product that is designed to kill me.

I spend so much time daydreaming about what it would be like to be not only smoke-free, but to be able to live my life without even thinking about cigarettes.  Between the time I spend smoking and the time I spend thinking about when I'm going to smoke next, my whole day revolves around cigarettes. I am living in a self-imposed prison and I am so sick of it.

One Day Down and Feeling Proud

Day one is coming to a close and while it wasn't easy, I made it through without lighting up. I'm going to repeat what worked today again tomorrow - one hour (or minute, if necessary) at a time. I'll add to my list of reasons too, and learn more about what to expect in the days and weeks ahead.

Next: A Day in the Life of an Ex-Smoker: Two Weeks Smoke-Free

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