If you’ve been smoking for a while, you might wonder if quitting’s even worth it. Maybe the cravings and nicotine withdrawal just turn you off to the whole idea. You wonder, "The damage is done, so does it really make a difference?"
Absolutely. Your body has an amazing ability to heal itself, and it happens quicker than you think -- less than half an hour after you put out that last cigarette. And keep in mind, you’re more likely to succeed if you have a plan to handle those cravings, especially in the first few weeks.
In less time than it takes to watch a sitcom, your body’s already getting better. After 20 minutes, your pulse and blood pressure start to drop back to normal. And your hands and feet warm up to their usual temperature.
By the end of a work day, you have half the amount of nicotine and carbon monoxide in your blood. Why does that matter? Carbon monoxide is a chemical in cigarettes, and it crowds out oxygen in your blood. That causes problems from your muscles to your brain because they don’t get the oxygen they need.
But as the chemical’s levels drop, your oxygen gets back to normal.
On the flip side, it’s likely you already feel some early cravings and doubts. That’s normal. But they usually last just 5-10 minutes. To get you through, try to find ways to distract yourself until the feeling passes. You could try making a craving playlist, chewing gum, or sipping water.
Halfway through your first day, your carbon monoxide level is back to normal. And your heart will thank you. Now it doesn’t have to pump so hard to try to get enough oxygen to your body.
If you smoke a pack a day, you’re twice as likely to have a heart attack as a nonsmoker. But go one full day without a cigarette, and you’ve lowered your chances. That’s huge.
With 2 days down, treat yourself to something tasty. By this point, your senses of taste and smell get sharper as your nerve endings start to heal.
This is also about the time when the toughest withdrawal symptoms show up. You might feel anxious, dizzy, hungry, or tired. You might get headaches or feel bored or depressed. It’s normal, but it also makes it a lot harder to keep from lighting up.
Stick to your plan. Go to a movie or a store where you can’t smoke. Lean on your support network, whether it’s friends or family who are rooting for you, an app, or a free call with a quitting hotline, like the National Cancer Institute’s quitline (877-44U-QUIT).
If you have asthma, your symptoms may get worse around this time. That can be confusing, but it’s part of the process and won’t last much longer. You’ll likely see improvement by day 3. You can talk to your doctor about how to keep your symptoms in check.
2 Weeks - 3 Months
During this time, you make huge strides. You can do more because your lungs are stronger and clearer, and your blood flow has improved. You can exercise without getting as winded. And your risk of a heart attack goes down even more.
You’ve also made it through the hardest part of withdrawal.
Even so, you’ll probably still get cravings. Everyone has different triggers for wanting to smoke. You can’t stop all of them, but you can stick to your plan. Ask for help if you need it. Think about the money you’re saving. Or try 10 deep breaths, nice and slow.
You’ll also have more energy.
At the end of year 1, treat yourself. You’ve reached a milestone. And your risk of heart disease is now half of what it was a year ago.
When you start out, it seems like a long road. But at 15 years, the headaches and discomfort of those first few weeks are a hazy memory. They can seem unbearable at the time, but you can get through it. The rewards are very real and clear.