Join Date: Oct 2007
Cigarettes: The Emotional Filter
A lot of times when people first quit smoking. They experience what many call " The Emotional Rollercoaster."
And it can make a person wonder, " What is going on? Why are their emotions up and down? Why do they sometimes get angry over things that usally seem so trivial?
I thought I would put up a post to give my perspective on what might be happening, besides the Emotional Loss and the initial withdrawal process of quitting smoking.
If you're feeling this way. I just want to let you know that you're not alone with this. It happens to a lot of people quitting, so please don't think that you're different.
I know when we first quit smoking. That it can be something else sometimes. One minute you feel happy and the next thing you know, you're upset and you really don't know why. Some days feel like a miracle that you quit smoking and other days might just feel like a lot of work.
I promise you that the effort that you're putting into this quit, will NOT last forever. As long as you don't smoke again, you're going to find a comfort and calmness that you haven't felt since before you started smoking. These aren't empty words, they are a promise! I don't know of anyone that could quit smoking, if for the rest of their lives they had to deal with craves and the emotional rollercoaster that can sometimes happen when we first quit.
One of the lies that this addiction plays on us, is that it can make us think that smoking helped with our emotions. The truth is, nicotine hijacked our own natural neurotransmitters in our brain. It did so by mimicing them and then releasing large amounts of unearned dopamine.
One of the biggest problems this created, was that our brains needed to keep a balance. It had no control over nicotine because it was a foreign substance(poison). So it had no other choice, but to turn down it's own sensitivity to releasing dopamine. Our brains were literally being desenstizied, creating a need for a cigarette just to "feel good" or more accurately, feel nicotine normal. We were essentially building a false sense of normalcy without even realizing it.
When we quit smoking, sometimes we can temporarily feel a bit desensitized, giving us the "Blues", with our brains offering up few rewards. Remember though, this IS smoking's fault, NOT quitting's. Smoking DID this to you. Quitting is only the healing process so that you can be YOU again. NOT Nicotine you. This is only temporary and a great way to combat this is to exercise and practice deep breathing. This can manually stimulate those feel good chemicals. Also don't forget to pat yourself on the back often. After all, you are actually doing something that millions of smokers only dream of doing....Freeing yourselves from this addiction.
Another large problem that smoking created, was that when we smoked and experienced negative emotions such as stress, anger, sadness etc. A lot of times it caused a real physiological reaction that pulled nicotine from our bloodstream.
So when we were still smokers and were angry for example. Not only were we angry at something, but we were in the first stages of nicotine withdrawal. The smoker then usually smoked a cigarette to try and calm themselves down. The cigarette relieved the withdrawal and they "felt better". What also happened is that it gave the smoker a minute or two to "calm" themselves and a lot of times , after relieving withdrawal and "feeling better". The initial problem that was bothering the smoker no longer seemed as bad as it initially did.
For years and most likely decades of smoking, we have used the cigarette as the "Great Stress Reliever." Cigarettes became so deeply intertwined into our lives and emotions, that we believed that we needed them to cope. We became brainwashed into thinking that cigarettes relieved our stress, our anxeties, our anger. That they comforted us when we were feeling miserable.
And then one day.......We quit smoking.
At that moment we instantly ripped away "life's buffer", the middle man that "helped" us cope with all of our life's problems. Now it's just us and life. Now it's just us and our problems. Now it's just us and our emotions.
Even though this addiction was a horrible abusive relationship. When we divorce it, we can feel alone, a bit scared and unsure if we will be as happy as when we were as a smoker.
Now of course that belief is based on a false sense of normalcy and memories that this addiction created and in reality, all of the joy, happiness, sadness, anger etc. that we either felt or were able to overcome as smokers wasn't because of smoking. We did so DESPITE smoking. Smoking was only a compounded problem that we had to deal with so we could get on with life.
But with the belief that a lot of people quitting have in cigarettes from years of smoking. They can be hit with a double edge sword.
Because even though they quit smoking. Their subconscious hasn't....yet.
The mechanics of nicotine have conditioned the subconscious over many years of smoking to associate smoking when we feel anxiety. It doesn't really matter what causes it. The subconscious is only doing it's job and it doesn't differenciate anxiety from anger, stress, sadness, craves etc. So even though those memories are lies based from addiction. The subconscious is only looking out for us by saying, " If you smoke a cigarette, you'll feel better."
So imagine what happens when we first quit and are dealing with life's problems without cigarettes.
Here we are trying to quit smoking and we run into a problem and start feeling upset. Now with all those left over conditioned memories, our subconscious is telling us, " Smoke a cigarette and you'll feel better." and we're answering, "No, we quit smoking.", but a lot of times in the back of our mind, we might be believing what our subconscious is saying to us and we end up fighting ourselves not to smoke.
We can become frustrated.....We can become confused.
It's no wonder we can tend to get angrier at something that didn't seem like such a big deal before. It's no wonder we can feel depressed at times when first quitting.
For one, We don't have that "Middle Man", the pause button that we once had to give us a couple of minutes to reflect and two, we're feeling anxiety and we have all these left over memories telling us that if we smoke a cigarette, it will help relieve that anxiety.....BUT we can't, because we quit smoking.
It can be frustrating learning how to deal with emotions and problems without the "middle man". Especially, if you still believe in those false memories that a cigarette helped you to cope with your emotions.
This is why I think when a person first quits smoking, that sometimes it feels like there are a flood of emotions kicking in. In a way smoking surpressed our bad emotions to a certain extent, by actually taking away our focus of how we were feeling, because by relieving withdrawal, we thought that we were relieving these emotions.
No matter how we were feeling though, we allways had to feed the beast and when we felt bad. The beast became hungrier. There was always that middle man to filter all of our experiences. When we take away that " middle man", we start to experience all emotions as us. There is no more filter to them and I think when we first quit we experience them, they feel at a more intense level. This is only temporary and will subside as we learn to live as us again and NOT nicotine us.
It's allmost like having a dam in a river for many years and then one day just taking it away. The river is going to come rushing through, but once the initial flooding subsides, the river will calm itself and return to it's natural flow before that dam was put in.
I Freed myself on 7/7/04