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Can Smoking and/or Nicotine Stunt, or maybe Dull Happiness?

March 2017
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I finally quit nicotine after so many years on stop-smoking aids I lost count (mainly the nicotine gum but I found the lozenges made it easier to actually quit after more than a decade of the gum with occasional relapses with cigars).  I called it quits a little more than two weeks ago now and it’s not all bad.  The withdrawals sucked, but after a while I kind of mellowed out and all has been well.  This gets a little interesting though.

I want to concentrate on something that occurred to me on the way into the office this morning.  We’ve been riding outdoors quite a bit lately and I’m beginning to realize just how much my hard work over the winter is paying off.  Riding is feeling very good right now.  What’s been really nice, though, is the little endorphin rush after each ride, followed by the sense that all is right in my world.  That’s exactly what I was feeling on the drive into my office this morning.  My first thought, at feeling that rush of “everything’s okay” was, “Wait a minute, we shouldn’t be this high on life right now, we don’t want our highs to be too high so our lows won’t be so low” – this is an old recovery trick.  Once I learn that I can control my “highs”, I can learn to control my “lows” as well.  After that, it’s almost all good times and noodle salad as long as the balance is maintained…  Unless, of course, you like being a walking manic-depressive horror story.  If that’s the case, well, good luck with that.

My second thought was more important though.  My second thought was, Why am I feeling so good?! 

That was when the epiphany hit.  I’m off nicotine.  I used that shit to dull my bad mood swings and anxiety for decades.  If it was good at that, and believe me it was, then it must have been dulling the good vibes as well – because I genuinely feel really good the last few days.  My recovery is progressing along excellently.  I’ve never been so in love with my wife.  I feel like the luckiest dad in the world.  Work is work, but it’s going well… and I’m putting in some great miles on the bikes lately.  I should feel this good – everything is working.  On the other hand, when I was on nicotine, whether in the form of gum, lozenges or tobacco, as well as I did in life, it never felt as good as what I had this morning, out of the blue.

The only thing that makes sense is that the nicotine was dulling the good at the same time I was using it to mitigate stress.  I believe this because I don’t have anything else left to quit.  I don’t have anything fogging up the works if you will.  Too often we hear about the benefit of nicotine, smoking or stop-smoking aids, but how often have we heard about the equal and opposite reaction?

Maybe I’m slow to the party, but I just figured it out.

UPDATE:  A couple of people misunderstood the time line of my quitting nicotine…  I quit smoking cigarettes more than 15 years ago.  I’ve done stints, on and off, with cigars and even chewing tobacco but quit all of that years ago as well.  I have, however, been stuck on nicotine pills and gum – stop smoking aids, for years.  I figured the lozenges and gum were better than actually smoking.  It was, too – it’s just tough to come off of them too!  I hope this clears up any confusion.

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19 Comments

  1. So... says:

    That’s super cool! Nicotine is the hardest substance to quit. Five years up this Feb and it’s been great to not have to reach for that cigarette.

  2. Dan says:

    It always surprises me when I hear of a cyclist that smokes. You’ve shocked me on this one!! Keep at it my friend! You’re also, probably, finding out how good food tastes too.

  3. Tony says:

    Congrats on kicking smoking. You will find that is a gift to yourself that keeps on giving. Good job!

  4. mellowdave says:

    Addiction is a complicated thing, regardless of the subject. I find it interesting that so many of the cyclists I known are recovering addicts in one form or another, whether it’s substance, or activity. So many folks have refocused their lifestyles around cycling for the better. I know this is true of most endurance sports, running, tri, etc, but I tend to focus on cycling myself.

  5. hilary says:

    Well done for quitting the nicotine. I gave up drinking in November 2015, smoking in Feb 2016 and am just a day off the nicotine gum, the nicotine aids are really tough to quit I honestly don’t know if I will make it this time to come off it, This is my first attempt. But it is great to read this and encouraging.

    • bgddyjim says:

      You’re doing a lot better than I did Hillary. I quit drinking in November 1992 so it took me a long while to get off of the nicotine.

      • hilary says:

        thanks for replying! I have relapsed – on cigarettes, just a few but very annoyed with myself. am going to go back on the gum till early may- when I will have finished my assignments for university. I am not ready to quit the gum yet. It is good to read your journey with nicotine replacement- I thought I was the only one who struggled with this- giving up smoking and drinking was actually easier than getting off this- well maybe not but this week has been an absolute hell. I am making a plan to cut down the gum and be ready to give up for early May. Think I have realised that I need to replace my addictions with something and make a plan around that. Thank you for sharing your journey

  6. fitnessgrad says:

    Personally i have never been a smoker, nor do I have any reason to be or any feelings toward it that would allow me to want to try it. I have family members who smoke and some who have quit or possibly have decreased the amount of cigarettes they smoke on a regular. I know that is hard to quit is what they always say and I can believe it, because we all have our own addictions per say, none better than the other possibly. It isn’t like they don’t know the health toll it can have on the body and they are reminded of it with every commercial that strikes the TV (which I am happy they continue to bring awareness to it) but some commercials seem to go off the deep end at times.
    All-in-all congrats on overcoming smoking 😀

    Shay-lon

  7. Gail says:

    I am a content and comprehension reader. It’s a disease, though I am able to pick up sarcasm quite easily, thank GOD! You’re opening line was: “I finally quit nicotine after so many….” You did not write “I finally quit smoking after so many….” I gotcha right away! 😉

    All drugs will dull the senses. Nicotine is a bugger! I’ve never struggled with it myself, but I watched others. I have also watched as their lives got much better without it. They noticed it as well. I think your supposition is dead to rights.

    Anyway, I don’t care if it’s alcohol, marijuana, nicotine or cocaine. They are all drugs that mask life and it’s experiences. I think when you’re in the thick of it some people think it enhances their experiences. I write that because that’s what one family member told me when I reacted in a negative manner about some drug use her husband was doing. Fast forward: She’s divorcing him and moving on. Guess it wasn’t so life enhancing after all.

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