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.