Monday, January 26, 2015

Why can't I stop crying since I've quit smoking?

Intense, non-stop crying can be a sign of depression, which is also a nicotine withdrawal symptom. It can also be a sign that you need to learn how to deal with your emotional connection to smoking. Most likely it is a combination of both.

Not only is quitting smoking a physical journey but it is an emotional one too. Often quitters under estimate the strength of that emotional connection. Smoking offers the illusion of being able to go through life with the least amount of pain and the greatest amount of pleasure because it enhances positive emotions like pleasure and happiness and suppresses negative emotions such as stress, anger, sadness and loneliness.

My last challenge to ending my relationship with cigarettes was learning how to deal with anger without smoking.

I had been quit for about three months when I got into a fight with my father. I had never been so angry at him before. He was an alcoholic and a prolific drunk dialer. He had been a  real estate broker for most of his life and I was now selling real estate. I'm sure in his mind he thought he was being helpful when he decided to drunk dial the manager of the office I was working at and identify himself as "Santa Claus". Lucky for me his call was intercepted by a sympathetic secretary.

I blew up and headed straight for my local convenience store and bought a pack of my favorite cigarettes - Marlboro 100's. I wasn't kidding myself about only going to smoke "just one", I knew I was going to chain smoke the whole pack and I did.  As I smoked each cigarette what I was really doing was "smoking at" my father and suppressing my anger.

This relapse only lasted a few weeks. After having cancer I knew it was stupid of me to go back to smoking. I had been trying so hard for so many years to quit, that I made the decision that no matter what I was not going to smoke ever again. That meant I had to learn how to deal with not only my anger but all of my emotions.

Almost all smokers start as teenagers, so at an early age we learn to associate smoking with emotions. They help us celebrate the good times and commiserate during the bad. No wonder it feels like we are losing our best friend when we quit.

There are four ways of dealing with emotions: express, suppress, escape and release. With anger I needed to learn how to release it in a healthy manner without smoking, instead of using nicotine to suppress it. I did have help with this from a professional therapist who I had been seeing to deal with the stress of going through cancer treatment.

The best place to start is to talk with your doctor about cessation medication to lessen the withdrawal symptoms. The use of bupropion, which is an anti-depressant, may be a suitable choice. It can also be used in combination with nicotine replacement products. Next, if professional therapy is not an option, join a support group such as nicotine anonymous, or on an online group such BecomeAnEx.org. It helps to share your emotional journey with others who can relate how they are dealing with the same issues.

Realize that smoking has been numbing you to the full range of the emotions of life and without smoking you are just beginning to experience the richness of life. Nicotine is not a best friend but a saboteur and an enemy who doesn't want the best for you but only wants your money.


6 comments:

Health Highlights said...

Quit smoking is a physical and mental battle. Most importantly leaving the habit of cigarettes, there are an extensive variety of medicines that can help a smoker, including hypnotherapy, herbs, needle therapy, and contemplation.

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Anonymous said...

Wow ... I am on day 17 with the help of the patches that I wear around 10 hrs a day. I have becoming teary the last few days and my past emotions sure do rise to the surface. I cry and cry ... Turn up the music and it all goes away ... Scream .. cry ... Yell ... Tell myself not another puff
Amen to our freedom

VJ Sleight, Queen of Quitting said...

Congratulations on being smoke-free for 17 days!!!! That is quite an accomplishment. It does get better, just hang in there and soon you will feel like a non-smoker most of the time.

smoking actress said...

I'm on day 4 of not smoking. I am extremely emotional - I can't stop crying.
I'm an actress so smoking aids my nerves before, during and after a show. If I have to play a very emotional character smoking helps to bring me back down to earth. I haven't decided to quit yet. I finished my packet amd thought "maybe I should give my lungs a little break." Now I'm contemplating to be a social smoker. I don't drink much so on a night out I usually replace my beer with a cigarette. It's also an ice breaker for me - I'm an introvert when I'm not on the stage, so on social occasions when I don't have anything to say, I light a cigarette, or I give or ask for a lighter and so a conversation would start. I feel extremely naked without it. I prefer smoking over drinking as it still leaves me in control after a long night out. And as an actor I'm surrounded by smokers.

VJ Sleight, Queen of Quitting said...

Congratulations on being smoke-free for 4 days!! What you are going through is normal for someone who hasn't had a cigarette in a while --- both emotions and withdrawals become more intense. When nicotine hits your brain, it releases a flood of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter -- every time you smoke, that flood of dopamine changes your emotions. When your brain isn't getting that flood of dopamine, your emotions can feel much more acute. There are medicinal and therapeutic ways to help with your discomfort but you mentioned you're not sure you really want to stop using nicotine. Quitting can feel like losing a best friend and you list many ways in which a cigarette is your companion. So my advice is:
1. Think about how being smoke-free will make your life better, weigh those benefits against your reasons to continue to smoke. To be successful your reasons to be smoke-free need to be more important than your reasons to continue smoking. it doesn't sound like you are there yet. Smoking has a big hold on your life. Decide if you want freedom or want to continue to be enslaved.
2. If you decide to continue being smoke-free, speak with your doctor or pharmacist about cessation medications -- they will take the edge off so you are not uncomfortable. They will never give you the same "high" as a cigarette, that is not their purpose, which is just take the edge off.
3. Work with a Tobacco Treatment Specialist on some behavior modification and CBT that can help you deal with using a cigarette as a prop in your life.
Good luck in your journey. You may find that with some help the reasons why you feel you need a cigarette will fall away as you gain more self-confidence as a former smoker and grow beyond the identity of being a smoker.