Five Things Nobody Told Me Would Happen When I Quit Smoking

We all know what happens to us after we extinguish that last last cigarette, right?

How could we not?

Turn to the web, and there’s everything you could possibly want to know about quitting smoking.

Five minutes of glancing over resources like the NHS SmokeFree website and we know, for example, that:

  • Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels reduce by over 50% after 8 hours
  • Carbon monoxide and all traces of nicotine are eliminated from the body after 48 hours
  • Risk of heart disease drops to half that of a smoker after 1 year.

Thanks to countless forum posts and blogs, we can -sort of- prepare ourselves for the onslaught of anxiety that plagues so many people when they quit smoking, and at any time we can reach out, share experiences, and ask questions of those who have already done it.

So, when I finally quit smoking last year, there should have been no unexpected surprises lying in store for me, should there?

All I had to do was read up before hand, arm myself with as much knowledge as possible, and then simply go through the motions, just as described by health experts and all those who had gone before me.


Yeah, not exactly.

You see, even with so much information available to me online, things still happened to me and around me that I had absolutely no idea were about to happen when I extinguished that final cigarette.

Here’s just five things that nobody told me would happen to me when I quit smoking.

1: I would quit other bad habits like coffee

For more years than I care to admit to, coffee and cigarettes were an inseparable double act that played an integral role in my life.

I simply could not get my day started without the persistent one-two punch of coffee-cigarette-repeat.

If I went out visiting with friends, a coffee would always trigger a need to excuse myself for a few minutes so that I could go and get a nicotine fix.

The worst part?

I had no idea how closely entwined these two had become in my life.

When I decided to quit smoking, I assumed that the only thing that would change was that cigarettes would be removed from the equation whenever it was coffee time.

As far as I was concerned, I would just go on drinking the good stuff as normal, and think no more of it.

Needless to say, it didn’t exactly go down like that.

Not long after I smoked my last cigarette, I realised that drinking even a single cup of coffee would trigger a nicotine craving that was almost crippling in its potency.

It got worse.

When I continued to drink as much coffee as I did when I smoked, the caffeine would start to make me jittery and anxious in a way that it never had before.

This prompted me to research the benefits of quitting coffee, and the positive effects that doing so that other people had enjoyed.

The more I read, the more it seemed like a good move. So I packed away my coffee machine, and haven’t looked back since.

Today, I still indulge in the occasional mocha as a rare treat, but gone are the days of pouring a whole pot of coffee down my gullet just to get the day started.

A rare treat.

In fact, I don’t drink coffee at home at all any more,. I actually found this incredibly easy, and today I feel much better, much calmer, and far less anxious than I ever did during my caffeine junkie days.

2: I would learn a lot more about myself

I didn’t quit smoking as part of some epic journey of self-discovery.

I didn’t intend for quitting to be about anything more than getting a healthy pair of lungs again and spending less time coughing my guts up n a morning.

Yet as I went through the withdrawal process and began to live my life smoke free, it would prove impossible not to notice certain things about myself.

By far the biggest thing I noticed -and trust me, this changed everything- is the reason why I smoked in the first place.

As I mentioned in the video below, I realised that I never smoked because I liked smoking.

I smoked because I needed to change the way I felt.

This was the same reason why I used to drink alcohol, and the same reason why, when I quit smoking, I started comfort eating and gained so much weight that none of my clothes fit me any more.

Subconsciously, I suppose I’d always known this to be true, but it was only be putting out the last cigarette that it became clear to me:

If I wanted to remain free from addiction and avoid self-destructive behavior, I had to learn to live with my own emotions, and to get to the root of what was making me feel so bad about myself that I would willing poison and pollute myself.

Trust me, I’ve still got a long way to go before I get there, but just having this moment of clarity served as a big turning point in my life.

Now that I know why I self-destruct and poison myself, I can’t start to do something about it. This is all part of my journey.

3: I would become more grateful for simple things

If you had told me just a few short years ago that there would come a time when the simple act of stepping outside and breathing in lungs full of fresh air would overwhelm me with a sense of joy, I would have called you crazy.

Yet there I was, not long after I stopped smoking, writing here on Medium about how a breath of air had made me grateful for both the air itself, and my entire addiction.

You see, it wasn’t just that I noticed a lot more about myself once I quit.

I also noticed a lot more about the world around me.

Now that I was no longer walking around in a constant fog of my own filthy habit, I started to notice the way food tasted. I mean really tasted.

I started to appreciate the smell of things.

I started to notice how much more time I had on my hands now that I wasn’t caught in the routine of smoking. Just having a few extra minutes in my day to clean up or dedicate to finishing a work project may have been simple to some, but to me they were big things.

I was -and still very much am- incredibly grateful for all of them.

4: I would start to enjoy a healthier stomach and bowels

You might want to go ahead and file this under the category of Too Much Information, or for the particularly squeamish among you, just skip right ahead.

Yeah, what I’m about to tell you isn’t exactly pleasant, but it is true, and it was an entirely unexpected benefit of quitting smoking.

For the longest time, I had what I’ll politely call a bit of a dodgy stomach.

There would be occasions when my stomach would -and bare with me here, I’m trying to be delicate- kind of bubble and rumble, like there was some sort of festering swamp of ooze boiling away down there.

Then, at other times, (spoiler alert, here comes the gruesome stuff), I would unexpectedly find myself immediately desperate for the bathroom.

I would have to stop what I was doing there and then and run like hell to empty my bowels, and if I didn’t make it, tough luck.

Yes, it really was as disgusting as it sounds.

All that time, I thought that there was something wrong with me, but even after changing my diet, dismissing it as an unfortunate consequence of my prior drinking problem, and going to the doctors three or four times, the problem persisted.

Then I quit smoking, and subsequently coffee, and guess what?

The problem disappeared pretty much over night.

To this day I couldn’t tell you what it was about my nicotine and caffeine addiction that caused the problem, only that I’m eternally grateful that my stomach and bowels have been much, much healthier ever since.

5: My productivity would greatly increase

Looking back, this one should have been obvious, but it simply never occurred to me that once the craving for a cigarette went away, my ability to focus on the task at hand would greatly improve.

I could stay with something for much longer without having to get up and go smoke.

I could concentrate for longer periods without my brain and body starting to drag me away, tugging at my sleeve and saying ‘come on, it’s time to go smoke!’

Add in all that time that I began saving by not smoking, not having to look around the house for a lighter, and not having to clean out filthy ashtrays, and I suddenly gained a new lease of life as far as work and achieving my goals was concerned.

I could work better for longer, achieve more, and start to feel so much better in myself that I began wondering why I hadn’t quit smoking much, much sooner.