A Weekly Account of Quitting Smoking

Although it’s one of the best things you can do for your health, quitting smoking is by no means easy. Unfortunately, quitting smoking is not just a matter of deciding to never pick up cigarettes again. You’re going to be dealing with many withdrawal symptoms, not the least of which are nearly irresistible cravings for nicotine.
Although the difficulty of quitting smoking has been compared to the level of difficulty of quitting hard drugs like cocaine, it’s still doable. You’ll just have to know what to expect during the weeks after deciding to quit smoking so you can manage your expectations accordingly. Many ex-smokers also say that the longer you quit smoking, the more of the following you’ll experience.
Week 1
It’s well-known that the first week after you decide to quit smoking is the hardest. The funny thing about nicotine is that it doesn’t last long in your body at all. So for your brain’s cravings for nicotine to be satisfied, it has to get regular doses of nicotine. A few days after you’ve stopped smoking, your brain notices that it’s not getting its nicotine fix anymore and it lets you know that. This results in strong cravings for cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Withdrawal symptoms such as nicotine cravings can actually kick in during the first 30 minutes of quitting smoking. But during the first week after quitting smoking, you’ll find yourself fighting the hardest against relapse.
Other nicotine withdrawal symptoms that manifest during this period include nervousness, anxiety, and depression. You may also find yourself having difficulties focusing. You may also feel mucus accumulating in your throat, which is a normal result of your respiratory system recovering from years of being exposed to toxins. Other ex-smokers even report suffering from exhaustion after exertion for short periods of time as well as insomnia.
The good news is that although these symptoms are strongest during the first week, they don’t last much longer after that.
Weeks 2 to 4
After that difficult first week after quitting smoking, your body will start to feel normal again. You’ll likely experience some positive changes during the second to fourth weeks. Two weeks after quitting smoking, you’ll feel much more focused. Your memory may improve and you’ll no longer feel lethargic, as you did during the first week after your last cigarette.
Your body will probably still be producing a lot of mucus, and you might start coughing, too. Don’t be alarmed by the coughing, though; this just means that your body is healing itself by re-growing the cilia along your respiratory tract. The coughing should clear up by the end of fourth week. If it doesn’t clear up by then, you might want to consult a doctor just to check if the body’s healing process is moving along properly.
You might experience cravings during these weeks, but they won’t be as strong as they were during that first week. The cravings should decrease in intensity by the third week, but they’ll still bring some negative emotions like stress, frustration, and anxiety. At this stage, ex-smokers recommend being vigilant about avoiding your triggers, which may cause even more stress. This may result in nicotine cravings that are more difficult to resist than usual.
Week 5 and onward
If you’ve managed to make it 5 weeks without nicotine, congratulate yourself. As a reward for your hard work, the cravings become significantly less intense. In some cases, they might even completely stop coming.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can be complacent. At this time, you must even be more careful about relapsing. You may start to become wistful about smoking and the rush it brings. You may even miss it enough to have just one cigarette ‘for old times’ sake’. This is especially true if you spend a lot of time in the company of smokers. Such emotions and thoughts make you more vulnerable to relapse.
If you find yourself missing smoking at this point, remind yourself of the difficulties you faced in the first few weeks of quitting smoking. Don’t throw all your hard work away just for ‘one last cigarette’. Some ex-smokers say that the nostalgia for smoking can last for a lifetime, but it’s definitely a small price to pay for all the health benefits you’ll reap from quitting smoking.