These words were actually uttered to me by a couple of individuals as I progressed further into my quit. Insensitive? NO. Uncaring? NO, again. These are just well meaning people, people who never smoked a day in their lives. They are co-workers who have seen me struggle, not with my quit, but with health issues that have surfaced since I quit. Instead of breathing easier after quitting, it became more difficult. Instead losing the 15 pounds I gained the first year, I added 30 pounds to it this year. Did my quit cause these problems? Of course not. Was smoking masking them? Absolutely!
I write this not just for me, but for others who have had problems surface after quitting. Members, afraid to post on the board that they are feeling worse, and not better, like the majority who have quit smoking. Members who are worried that they might "scare" someone into relapse if they wite that they are having other problems. Each time the post, "My Visit to the Lung Doctor" surfaces, I hear from someone else who is also suffering from unexplained symptoms in silence. For some of us, certain problems surface or becoming worse after quitting smoking; depression, ADD, panic attacks, unexplained weight gain, shortness of breath, tiredness, edginess. The fact is, they were all there before we quit but we were so busy satisfying our addiction, we hardly noticed.
Nicotine addiction and smoking is the deadliest addiction there is. No doubt about it. It kills approximately 1200 people a day through a myriad of illnesses. It kills over 400,000 people a year in the US alone and over 4,000,000 world wide. Smoking and nicotine addiction is so powerful, that it has the ability not only kill us, but to mask illnesses that have been present in our bodies all along. Tobacco companies have added many chemicals to enhance the addiction process and many more to make sure that the delivery system in our bodies is more effecient so that our addiction is assured and we keep buying their products. It is not until we quit smoking and no longer have these chemicals in our bodies that new problems arise or old problems appear worse.
That is why we at Freedom insist that any lingering or unusual symptoms you have should be reported to your doctor. After the first month of quitting, it should never be assumed that your symptoms are quit smoking related. And it is also important to know that just because one doctor says you look and sound good.....that does not mean he or she is necessarily correct. If your symptoms continue to be a problem, see another doctor. In each case for me, both the asthma and the immune system problem, were solved not by my primary care doctor but by a specialist. I kept insisting they were missing something and by golly they were! (am now looking for a new primary care physician). How much easier it is to do battle with a symptom or illness if you know what you are dealing with! My problems were NOT caused by quitting smoking but were instead being "masked" by my continued smoking.
As for medications that your doctor may prescribe for a pre-existing illness when and if it is confirmed, don't be afraid to try them. So many of you have written that you don't want to become involved with other drugs but those drugs can change the quality of your life to a degree you never thought possible. In the beginning, it was very frightening for me to use the asthma inhalers. They reminded me of the act of smoking. It was also very frightening for me to use one of the medications prescribed to me for another problem that resurfaced for me this past year. It's used primarily to treat Parkinson's, which thank goodness, I don't have. Ironically this medicine simulates the dopamine receptors in the brain....the same ones destroyed by my 41 years of smoking. Three weeks on this medicine and I'm feeling 100% better. All symptoms are resolving.
From the first day I stopped smoking until now, almost two years later, I've been very proud of my quit. It has been a joy...something that I never thought I could accomplish in this lifetime. I will continue to guard it with my life. Was I healthier before I quit smoking? Maybe on the outside it may have seemed so to my co- workers, who by the way, were extremely supportive in my quit, but with each puff I took I was a step closer to my grave.
So once again I must emphasize just how important it is to see your doctor for newly acquired and lingering symptoms after you quit smoking. Yes, your body is amazing and begins healing almost after the last puff, but never assume that a lingering bad cough or sores in mouth or shortness of breath are from healing or weight gain is from eating too much after quitting, or that tiredness, irritability, insomnia are quitting related. Each one of these symptoms, completely normal in the beginning, can be a sign that there is something else going on somewhere if they persist weeks or months into your quit. Yes, seeing a doctor can be frightening, but not knowing what is going on can be even more frightening. Knowing what you are dealing with is half the battle and it makes fighting it so much easier.
Same thing with quitting smoking. The most important tools you need to quit are determination and information about your addiction and the most important thing you need to remember, once you quit, is that to maintain your health and not end up once again completly consumed by nicotine addiction, you must never take another puff. As Joel says, you never know if you will ever get around to quitting again. You just never know if you will ever get another chance to quit again.
Continue to guard your quit with every fiber you have. Don't let any person, any event, or any newly acquired or uncovered illness ever rob you of it. Your quit is your life and you should protect it no matter what happens It's really simple... all you have to do to continue healing is to never take another puff.
Linda.....after 41 years of puffing away, almost 2 years free!