Struggling through cigarette withdrawal

As some may know, I have decided to try and quit smoking cigarettes . . . again. It has been about a week without smoking one, and I feel great . . . I think. Since I am using nicoderm patches, I have not completely kicked the habit because my body is still ingesting and metabolizing nicotine. But, Rome was not built in a day.

Staring Day 0 to quit smoking.

Getting my smoke on:

Believe it or not, I was an exception to the rule in starting this habit. Most studies have shown that if a person does not start smoking cigarettes by time they are 18 years old, they probably will not start. However, I started smoking three months before my 21st birthday. So how did this happen?

During my 3rd year of college, I did a semester abroad in Ecuador, which was a very smoker-friendly country to say the least. Since we were told the best way to learn Spanish and to integrate into the country’s culture was through frequent interactions with our host families. I lucked out because two of my host siblings were around the same age as I was so they introduced me to Quito’s club scene really fast. You know, someone would ask if I wanted a cigarette and I would decline. However, some folks would take it as if I was acting holier than thou. After a few times, I was like: f*ck it, why not have a cigarette while hanging out? Then one cig became two, two cigs became four, and so forth. I figured that I would stop smoking upon returning to the US for a couple of reasons:

  • Cigarettes were (and are) more expensive in the US. I think a pack of Marlboros in Ecuador were about $1.50 compared to $4 in VA and $6ish in NYC.
  • Neither my hometown & college friends or most of my family members smoked. I was actually a bit of a pariah to some of my friends when I came back to the States as a smoker.

It seemed like a good plan, EXCEPT I was going to participate in an undergraduate summer research program at NYU right after my study abroad program. You know, NYC = party city. Long story, long. During that summer program, I transitioned from a social smoker to a regular smoker. Then, during my 4th year in college, I associated smoking with stress relief, and that sealed my fate as a hardcore smoker. Also, I had to take a quite a few courses that I “missed” while in Ecuador; take the General and Mol. and Cell Bio GREs; and apply and interview for doctoral programs. To be quite frank, nicotine and caffeine pills is what got me through my senior year. INTENSITY TO THE MAX!

suffering succotash

Cancer Researcher and Smoker

Then in graduate school smoking just became part of my daily routine. I found a group of smokers in my incoming class, and we would plan to have meet-and-greet cigarettes and coffee throughout the day. Also, my dissertation lab was full of folks from Spain, who ALWAYS smoked. I think they smoked more than conducting experiments. DAMN, I MISS THE EARLY 2000s. After doing certain types of experiments – have a smoke. After long meetings with my advisor – have a smoke. (Before and) after my thesis committee meetings – have a smoke. After intense ass lectures (especially Virology and Structural Biology) – have smoke.

Ok, you are in a molecular oncology and immunology doctoral program, but you smoke. My excuse: it’s “fine” to smoke because my work focuses on blood cancers. I could not use that excuse as a post doc, because I used mouse models to study oral cancers caused by drinking AND smoking. I’m a disaster.

Back off, I'm  a scientist T-shirt.

Why quit now?

Recently, I found that the number of cigarettes that I smoke has drastically increased during the pandemic. Plus, I have been smoking more out of boredom than anything else. Yes, I have the standard post-meal, post-poop, post-exercise, post-bullsh*t meetings, post-drama cigarettes, etc. But, boredom definitely has taken the lead nowadays. One day, I had two cigarettes within 30 minutes while watching 90 Day Fiance just because I could. It’s not like the show is THAT dramatic or interesting.

The other thing that has been annoying me with smoking is the cost. Y’all know that I’m cheap. Right now, I probably spend anywhere from $2,080 to $3,328 a year on smokes. I think I am going to deposit the weekly amount that I would spend on smokes into a new Paypal account. The hubby and I would like to travel to Italy next year for Eurovision 2022. Perhaps, the $2K to $3K can get us a couple of dinners and sambuca in Italy.

Also, it is no secret that I have less years on this Earth in front of me than behind. As I enter a new century of life, I really should try to make more healthy decisions. Actually, this should have been the first reason to quit. 😉

Running and smoking:

Many would ask how can you be a runner and a smoker. I think this juxtaposition happened because I had been a smoker for about nine years before making long-distance running a hobby. Long-time followers of this blog know that typically upload my post-NYC marathon medal pictures with a damn cigarette dangling out of my mouth.

Well, to be perfectly honest. Knowing that I had a pack of smokes waiting for me at the finish line is what got me through the last 5-8 miles of my NYC marathon adventures. That also goes for my marathon training long runs. Hey, at least I never left a marathon or half-marathon course to buy a pack of smokes. I have SOME standards. 😉

That’s my story

Well, this was week one . . . we’ll see how the rest will go. Instead of providing weekly updates, I’ll do more milestone updates. I guess that I’ll write the next one in 30 days . . . well technically 23 day to celebrate the 1st month.

Social media plug:

Click to find me on Instagram; Click to find me on Strava; Click to find me on Twitter

11 comments

  1. Good luck with that! I remember a time I took smokes on a long run just for a half time break (and I’d told everyone I’d already given up). When the timing is right you’ll have it beaten.

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  2. I wish there was a ‘snap your fingers’ moment but there isn’t, I ‘gave up’ on many sundays only to start again on Monday. Even when I smoked (I started in my twenties as well) I never smoked in front of my parents. As time passed more people thought I’d given up, when my kids were born etc but I hadn’t. It was just that the times I couldn’t smoke got bigger and I realised in those times I didn’t miss it and so eventually I transferred that to always and could stop completely. IMHO the addiction is in your head. Tell people whose opinion you care about that you’ve quit so your opportunities to light up are reduced. I’d go on holiday with my family for two weeks and not think about it and that told me I could quit. That’s probably a catholic shame thing, but the fear of being caught out worked for me (eventually). Good luck and whatever works is the right answer.

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    • Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve been trying to reduce my smoking triggers. Normally, if I can get through not having a smoke first thing in the moring, I’m good for the rest of the day . . . IF I don’t hit the pub/bar. Yesterday, I had some beers with a friend and having some sugar-free gum helped out. If I can make through the 1st 30 days, I think (hope) that I’ll be in good shape.

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  3. Good luck, shame might not be your thing but it really works for us Catholic’s 😄 btw keep posting those runs around Central Park, it might be normal to you but it’s very exotic and exciting to us in suburban England.

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  4. You CAN do this, I know. To be honest, I’m pretty shocked by your cig’n’medal photos. I mean, it’s your choice, of course it is, but to damage yourself like that when you have the ability to run half and full marathons seems … not amazing. I respect you and your ability to make choices in your life, of course, but I can’t say I won’t look forward to seeing you kick this.

    My smoking/cheapness story: I started smoking at university because it was a way to talk to people – I was very shy and out of my depth. I used to buy a pack of 10 Marlboro Reds from the machine at the university, shared with my friend. Then the price went up and they cost more than £1 and we both stopped!

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    • Different strokes for different folks. Put it like this, I saw it as a testament to my fortude of not smoking for 8+ hours. Although my marathon wave typically starts around 10 am, there’s usually a 3-4 hour wait in the marathon village before starting. For obvious reasons, you are not allowed to smoke anywhere in the marathon village. I’m sure there are ways to sneak around this rule, but I did not want to risk getting disqualified from the marathon before even running the marathon . . . especially having to wake up at 4am to catch the 6am ferry to the village. Also, it takes about 45+ minutes to grab your personal belongings and exit Central Park after crossing the finish. Those pictures probably are less celebratory and more avoiding a meltdown caused by post-marathon exhaustion, nicotine deprivation, and starvation. Actually, maybe starvation is a stretch because I probably would have had my Gatorade, apple and pretzels from my post-marathon goody bag before lighting up.

      Oh yeah, I forgot one can buy packs with different amounts. I think that I remember buying smaller packs during my London and Paris trips back in ’07. In the States, one can only buy packs with 20 smokes.

      The sad thing: In NYC, the price of one pack jumped from $7 to $13 in the mid 00s. Rather than having me spend $13 on a pack of cigarettes, my dad would send 10-pack cartons ($25-$35) of cigs from VA.

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      • OK, I can see that. And my favourite pic of my best friend at her wedding is her in her posh dress, shoes off, glass of red wine in one hand, ciggie in the other! But if you do want to give up, I wish you all the very best with it.

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