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 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.


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.

Anonymous said...

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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.

KRISTY B said...

I stopped smoking 16 days ago . I've been bursting into tears many times a day . I started when I was 15 I'm now 42 . Cigarettes have always been there for me . Know matter what they were the only constant in my life .I never really dealt with emotions in a healthy way till now . So many emotions ! I watched my Grandmother die a painful death because of cigarettes . My Mom is on oxygen because of them and my step dad has went though a few bouts of cancer and many horrific surgeries . I can't believe after watching my loved ones suffer and even the loss of a grandparent that was my world I still was so addicted I kept smoking . Just writing this helped me with this craving . Thank you so much for the article !

Anonymous said...

I am on day three of not smoking and absolutely miserable and cannot stop crying. I feel I want to give up already BC I honestly still enjoy having a few throughout the day. I don't know how I am going to get through this ...or if I even want to (not sure if it's the stress of quitting talking or me).

Fran Cessca said...

7 days Nicotene free after smoking since age 11, now 52. Decided against NRT after reading "Easyway", which has helped. I feel emotional and tearful, esp today with the crying ? I have no real compulsion to smoke but I do have the 'addict whisper' in my head, suggesting it would be a good idea to have gave a roll up and 'ingest some poison' to help me feel better. There's a word for that. Just writing this has helped me feel better .... Gonna meditate and try and get some excercise. I have insomnia; but stopping smoking has made that worse, so hardly surprising I feel emotional. Thanks for thos space 😊

Anonymous said...

I'm on day 2 of not smoking, have run out of nicorette gums, tried to get some this morning but was a couple of dollars short, so I came home.

All I've done since is cry. I've since gathered up the extra $2 I need to get the gums, but I can't stop crying.

I know I need to give up smoking because I can't afford to have a decent life while I'm constantly forking out for cigs. But I feel like my ole buddy is leaving me; like I'm losing the only reliable thing in my life.

I know how ridiculous that sounds ... I'm crying while I write this! Good God, I'm 56 and acting like a bloody baby ...

This will be my fifth attempt at quitting, although my first for about 20 years.

I feel like hitting someone!

NJOY said...

Because smoking was your friend and now you’re experiencing loss, but there is hope with prayer and faith. I recently quit vaping and I’ve endured a few crying spells myself. Keep trucking!

KRISTY B said...

It doesn't sound ridiculous at all . It's been over 4 months since I last smoked and around day 5 I started having emotional issues . I think I cried for the first month on and off . After that all stopped amazing things started happening with my health . Just stick with it and soon you won't believe you ever smoked . All that money, it's really nice to have for other things . I didn't realize how much money I spent . Now I do fun things . Stick with it ! If I could do it you can ! IT DOES GET BETTER !

Jessica said...

Today is my first day quitting. I have never tried in 15 years. This is the first time. It’s not even been 24 hours and I am a mess. I cry through most cravings. I have tried some exercise but I assume this is just going to get worse before it gets better? Someone help me :-(

VJ Sleight, Queen of Quitting said...

Everyone is different. For some people the first day is the worse, for others its the 2nd day. What I do know is that is does get easier. When sadness or depression become severe, please consider seeing your doctor or talking to your pharmacist about one of the FDA approved medications. They can help when taken correctly. Good luck!! It ain't easy but it's worth it!