What was withdrawal really like?

What was withdrawal really like?

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

15 Sep 2005, 20:35 #1

From the thread Reading at other quit smoking sites

I had an email today from a young woman who had only smoked for a few years, was planning on quitting cold turkey, but who was terrified of quitting because of all of the horror stories she has read about withdrawal symptoms. She sounded pretty convinced that the withdrawals that people experience are so terrible that she would lose her mind I am assuming that she has been getting these stories on Internet based quit sites, considering she wrote about all of the horror stories that she "read" about as opposed to all of the horror stories that she "heard" about.

Along with a few personal remarks, I sent her back a copy of the original post in this string along with the links.

I don't know whether she reads specifically at Freedom or not, but I suspect a lot of people are just like her, almost crippled with fear from even attempting to quit because of the way quitting is portrayed at most sites. It is tragic that people have such a misperception for it keeps many from even trying to quit, who go on smoking and then developing diseases and conditions that are truly terrifying, experiences pain and agony that are truly horrific, suffering with these maladies for days, weeks, months and sometimes even years and eventually end up losing their lives to the smoking induced conditions.

Withdrawals from quitting, even when they are really worse than normal, are not as bad as the symptoms people experience from getting smoking induced diseases and only last a matter of a few days at most.

To minimize the chance of experiencing real pain and agony over a lifetime is as simple as making and sticking to a personal commitment to never take another puff.


I thought it would be good to create a string that people who have quit smoking and who have been off for varying lengths of time could respond to.

I want to caution all who read whatever follows here that just because one or two people write about a possible withdrawal symptom, this does not mean that you will have these same symptoms. See the string Every quit is different  for more on that topic.

Almost more than specific symptoms, I hope this thread develops more into comments about general intensity of effects, contrasting what quitting was like in comparison to what the person thought it was going to be like.

Again, even in the most extreme withdrawals, the suffering that a person may feel from quitting is going to pale in comparison to the suffering the person will likely feel if he or she does not quit and goes on to develop a smoking induced illness. The real way to minimize pain and suffering throughout your lifetime is to make and stick to a personal commitment to never take another puff.


Related video added August 29, 2012:

Last edited by Joel on 29 Aug 2012, 14:13, edited 2 times in total.

Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:10

16 Sep 2005, 00:08 #2

What I thought it would be:

Constant, obsessive thoughts about inhaling cigarette smoke and recreating the buzz of my first cigarette of the day which would last the rest of my life.

What it actually was:

Constant, obsessive thoughts about inhaling cigarette smoke and recreating the buzz of my first cigarette of the day which lasted for about 72 hours, during which I lived in a virtual fog. An occasional refresher after that until now it is so rare I can count on one hand the number of times I 'want' a cigarette in the course of a week.

If you can gut out the first three days you're not necessarily home free, but you've made one giant leap.

I don't know why the fear of quitting was greater for me than the fear of contracting a debilitating disease. Probably because the effects of withdrawal were right in front of me and the effects of disease were distant and remote. Facing and overcoming the fear of quitting was the key for my quit.

In short, it felt as bad as I thought it would, but it lasted for mere moments compared to how long I thought it would.

301 days quit

Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:02

16 Sep 2005, 00:45 #3

I thought it would be easy. It wasn't. It was difficult. I experienced the symptoms you can read about in "what to expect the first week." Headache, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, and cravings. Those lasted three days. After a week, the physical symptoms were mostly gone. After a month, they were gone. I have watched my mother undergo many, many surgeries, two of them horrific, from a smoking-caused disease.

Withdrawal is uncomfortable and unpleasant. But it is also short. And there is a lot of life ahead. What is three days to thirty years??

a year and a few days.

Shinelady Gold3282003
Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:00

16 Sep 2005, 04:27 #4

I really thought that quitting smoking was an impossible task. I thought I was one of those people that "couldn't " quit. I thought it was easier for others, that I was different. I thought withdrawl would be unbearable....
What really happened was... I was becoming increasingly short of breath and was diagnosed with mild emphysema. The doctor told me that only one thing would help me and that was to quit smoking . He emphatically told me that if I didn't quit , I would most definitely get worse. I went home feeling scared, horrified, short of breath, and had no idea how I was going to pull this off. I went on line and fortunately found this site. I started reading here and that night, I smoked my last cigarette. I read enough to realize I was an addict and the only way to rid my body of the addictive substance was to never put it in me again ... in any kind of form.
Was it easy? No. Was it horrible ? No. Did I want to have a cigarette? Yes, of course I did. Did I want to be able to breathe... Yes, of course I did. I had a choice. It became a lot easier after I set my priorities. I have to honestly say that I didn't suffer many real physical withdrawl symptoms. I felt a kind of mental fogginess as I adjusted to my new way of life, but I may have experienced that same feeling in making any kind of new major adjustment. I craved the taste of my cigarettes and I missed what I thought was my best friend...
I had allowed my cigarettes to be a part of nearly everything I did for 38 years. It took a while to learn to do all the same things without a cigarette that I had always done with a cigarette, but I did it...one day at a time until I have now accomplished the following.

Rickrob53 Gold
Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:03

16 Sep 2005, 05:21 #5

I'm nearly 20 months removed from my last smoke of nicotine, and although memories tend to fade with the passing of time, I can still vividly recall those first few days of my quit.

Physically, my withdrawal encompassed restlessness, irritability, a feeling of being on edge, and difficulty concentrating. Day one was a piece of cake because of the excitement of having quit, so these symptoms were easy to ignore. (besides, can't we all go for at least one day without smoking, anyway?). However, these symptoms became pretty intense during day two. From the viewpoint of an outside observer, I probably didn't appear too much different in my actions or behavior than on any other day. But on the inside... let's just say that I was not feeling too comfortable. By the third day the physical intensity had significantly lessened and very soon afterward was gone.

These early symptoms were, of course, brought on by the falling levels of nicotine in my bloodstream and the non-replenishment of it into my brain-which created the craving to have nicotine! By holding firmly onto my resolve to want to be quit more than I wanted to keep smoking, I was able to overcome those cravings for nicotine.

It's all about attitude. And that, I believe, is what makes all the difference between caving in or moving beyond withdrawal into non-smoking comfort. (it doesn't hurt to have a few of Freedom's Best Crave Coping Tips ! ). If you really want to be quit, you can be quit!

The psychological fear and dread of the withdrawal is, in the end, much worse than the actual physical withdrawal itself.

Richard 1 year, 7 ½ months.

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:58

16 Sep 2005, 07:49 #6

I had a headache, I was moody (more than usual) restless, and while I had cravings they were no where near what I thought I would experience. It lasted to varying degrees for about a week. After the first 3-4 days it was more emotional than physical in nature.

The fear of withdrawal for me was so great I don't know that it's even possible for it to be as bad as I thought it would be.

I hadn't gone without smoking for years. I had a great deal of difficulty going more than 2 hours and made sure that rarely happened. I believed I could not go a day without smoking. I truly believed I "loved" it and it was a part of what made me myself in addition to being physically dependant.

This site helped me to hope withdrawal ends. It had for others; maybe it could for me too.....

But then,

I feared that even after I managed to quit I would always want one or feel deprived. So, even if I happened, by some miracle, to make it through the horrors, trials and tribulations of withdrawal, I would be miserable forever and make everyone around me miserable.

It's hard to envision quitting as gaining rather than losing. I could not think of it along those lines when I was smoking. This is an addiction. It's not a lifestyle choice. I passed "choose" years ago. The thoughts I had then I know to be completely untrue now. Then, the thoughts it would be horrible to quit were all too real. I was not thinking clearly. I could not see this then. This is an addiction. I am an addict. There were things I said to myself and believed so I could cling to smoking.

I didn't know how it would feel to be "released" There's no other word for how I felt the first time I got up in the morning and did not have that instant craving. I could not imagine I would feel such complete and utter joy. Peace. I felt a peace within myself I had not felt in 20 years. It took a while for me to even know what that feeling was.

Smoking does not compare.

Quit. You won't lose anything you need and you will gain more than you can begin to imagine now.

Ana - free from nicotine slavery for 182 days, while adding 12 Days and 16 Hours to my life , by avoiding the use of 3650 nicotine delivery devices that would have cost me $551.70

forza d animo
Joined: 04 Apr 2005, 07:00

16 Sep 2005, 11:03 #7

[...] more than specific symptoms, I hope this thread develops more into comments about general intensity of effects, contrasting what quitting was like in comparison to what the person thought it was going to be like.

What did I think quitting was going to be like? Difficult. That is very general but that is what comes to mind first. I knew that when I cut back that I was uncomfortable and smoking relieved the discomfort (withdrawl). I thought that I would always want to smoke and that the discomfort of withdrawl would always be with me. I thought that I would be very irritable.

When I quit smoking, there were times when it was difficult. Times when I had to consciously and sometimes out loud say "No!" to the desire to take nicotine again by inhaling tobacco smoke. But it was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I was motivated by my desire to stay free once I quit.

Was I uncomfortable? From time to time when learning to deal with situations where I was accustomed to lighting up I had to remind myself, again sometimes out loud "No! This is a situation when you used to smoke. This will pass. There was one episode where I had to just sit down with my hands folded in front of me while every nerve in my body seemed to tingle but that only lasted about 30 seconds. The last 355 days were worth every second of that discomfort.

Aside from small outbursts, temper tantrums that I tried to keep private, the irritability associated with withdrawl was not so bad.

After 335 days of nicotine free living, do I always want to smoke? The answer to that is an emphatic "No!" I may think about a cigarette from time to time when something triggers the idea, but I do not spend my entire day wishing I was still smoking. Au contraire mon frere. I spend my entire day just living, unencumbered by the nicotine low level alarm that chimed for me previously approximately every 42 minutes.

The reality of quitting is not nearly as bad as the movie, especially if you know what is coming by learning about you addiction. Education makes all the difference.

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:58

16 Sep 2005, 21:10 #8

I *thought* I "knew" what withdrawal was like, having "tried" to quit about a million times before. Naturally, I thought that this time would be no different. I thought I would be angry, mean, miserable, and constantly craving for a really, really long time. Not forever (maybe?), but for longer than I wanted to, therefore, why bother to quit?

Reality: Yep, I was angry, mean, miserable, and constantly craving...for no more than a week. After that, it was all in my mind. After no more than two weeks, I can safely say that I quit "wanting" to smoke. Were those first few days rough? Oh yes, no doubt. Were they worth it? TOTALLY. Whenever I think I want to smoke, I remember what withdrawal was like. It wasn't as horrible as I led myself to believe, but it was an experience I never want to repeat.

I have not had a genuine crave in months. It has become more natural for me to *not* smoke. When I do think about cigarettes, I only think about how grateful I am that I chose to stop doing that kind of damage to myself.

This educated CT quit thing is totally doable. I wish I had realized it years ago. Fortunately, after 15 years of slow suicide, I got a clue, did the deed, and now have been a free woman for eight months, one week, six days, 3 hours, 7 minutes and 20 seconds. Now I understand the Law of Addiction. Now I know why I can't ever take "just one puff". One=All, and that's all there is to it. As long as I never take one, the rest will collect dust on some gas station shelf.

Amy--Silver+Double Green
256 days of livin' free

Eric Gold
Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:58

16 Sep 2005, 22:21 #9

I quit July 5th on the patch. It was 2 of the most unbearable days that I can remember. It got so bad, that I went on the internet to try and find some new miracle product to help me quit smoking. That's when I found WhyQuit.com. I sat there and read and read for hours. After I got done reading, I ripped the patch off went to bed and woke up July 7th to start my cold turkey/educated quit.
I can say that with the education I got in just that one day and reading the posts at Freedom and seeing all this hope, it gave me hope. For the first time I had a very positive feeling about my quit.
To tell you the truth, I didn't feel a difference between wearing the patch and going cold turkey and with the education I got I knew now that there was going to be a light at the end of the tunnel, so it actually made my quit alot easier.
I had only one bad time to where it felt I might give up. That was about a month into my quit. I had a really bad day at work and I looked over at my co-worker and he was smoking. I got so angry that I started throwing things and I kept saying" I might as well just smoke". Luckily I slowed myself down, grabbed some of that education I learned here and realized what a stupid, self destructing thing I was saying to myself. So I ran around the shop about 10 times and that calmed me down.
Ever since then, I've had no real issues. I've had a few strong craves since then, but those craves just weren't scary anymore. It was more like "huh, I'm having a crave, I wonder why."
Now days, I don't really even think about smoking, unless I see someone smoking in the morning. For some reason when I see this it makes my lungs feel like they're burning and it makes me think of how disgusting smoking really is.
So yes, it has been work, but not even half as hard as I or the doctors and pharmecutical companies told me it was going to be. Now days it's not work at all, I just enjoy not smoking. By the way, I work in a warehouse where people can smoke and 90 percent do. There is absolutely no trigger there for me.
In my early quit, I allways tried to remember that a few craves here and there with the freedom from nicotine is 1 billion times better than the constant craves being a slave to it.
Have a great nicotine free day.

I have been quit for 1 Year, 2 Months, 1 Week, 1 Day, 19 hours, 21 minutes and 1 second (435 days). I have saved $2,614.83 by not smoking 13,074 cigarettes. I have saved 1 Month, 2 Weeks, 9 hours and 30 minutes of my life. My Quit Date: 7/7/2004 12:00 PM

Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 01:30

16 Sep 2005, 22:30 #10

I , like others thought I was one of those people that would die a smoker. I had "tried" so many times before and failed, I stopped trying because I couldn't face failing again.. Then, though a series of events, I decided close to the end of last year to "try" again. I picked a weekend and slept...or stayed in bed for the 1st 2 days ....Since I didn't smoke inside that helped alittle. I was restless ,irritable . I craved sweets , had a headache and my concentration was nonexistant....but as bad as all that sounds...It was much easier than I had imagined. The psychological part was by far the most difficult for me.

After 5 days of no nicotine....through another site, I found why quit and freedom.The education was the difference for me.

For any lurkers out there...The part of the physical withdrawal....the 1st three days... is much easier than you think it is...sometimes your thoughts want you to think it is so tough that you can't do it...No ...it is not easy and yes you really want a cigarette...but if you have ever met anyone who has gone through lung surgery, or is fighting lung cancer....it is so much easier than that!! We all think "it will never happen to me" but it can. I lost a cousine at age 47 with 2 young children to lung cancer...who lived on cigarettes and coke. She suffer alot....So it put those 1st 3 days into perspective....it was nothing compared to chemo and radiation.

Thank You freedom...whyquit...Joel, managers and freedomites. I will be forever grateful...I have now been free from tobacco since December 30th 2004 and have never felt better, I very rarely think of smoking now unless it is to help someone struggling or to be thankful that I am no longer an active addict....but I also know that I am an addict and have made a commitment to NTAP.

Anyone out there thinking about quitting....don't wait...you can do it....If I can any one can...

Pam :) an active addict 35 years...free from nicotine 260 days and lovin' it