Emotional Loss Experienced from Quitting Smoking

31 Dec 2001, 23:40#1

Joel's Reinforcement Library

Understanding the Emotional
Loss
Experienced
When Quitting Smoking


In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified five distinct phases which a dying person encounters. These stages are "denial," "anger," "bargaining," "depression," and finally, "acceptance." These are the exact same stages that are felt by those mourning the loss of a loved one as well.

Denial can be recognized as the state of disbelief: "This isn't really happening to me," or "The doctor doesn't know what he is talking about." The same feelings are often expressed by family members and friends.

Once denial ceases and the realization of impending death is acknowledged anger develops. "Why me?" or "Why them?" in the case of the significant others. Anger may be felt toward the doctors, toward God, toward family and friends. Anger, though, doesn't change the person's fate. They are still in the process of dying. So next comes bargaining.

In bargaining, the person may become religious, trying to repent for all the sins that may be bringing about their early demise. "If you let me live, I will be a better person, I will help mankind. Please let me live, and I will make it worth your while." This stage, too, will come to an end.

Now the patient, becoming aware he is helpless to prevent his impending fate, enters depression. The patient begins to isolate himself from his surroundings. He relinquishes his responsibilities and begins a period of self mourning. He becomes preoccupied with the fact that his life is coming to an end. Symptoms of depression are obvious to anyone having contact with the patient in this stage. When the patient finally overcomes this depression he will enter the last stage, acceptance.

The patient now reaches what can be seen as an emotionally neutral stage. He almost seems devoid of feelings. Instead of death being viewed as a terrifying or horrible experience, he now peacefully accepts his fate.

As stated above, these stages are not only seen in the dying person but likewise in the family members mourning the loss of a loved one. However, on careful observation we can see these same stages in people who lose anything. It doesn't have to be the loss of a loved one. It could be the loss of a pet, the loss of a job, and even the loss of an inanimate object. Yes, even when a person loses her keys, she may go through the five stages of dying.

First, she denies the loss of the keys. "Oh, I know they are around here somewhere." She patiently looks in her pockets and through her dressers knowing any minute she will find the keys. But soon, she begins to realize she has searched out all of the logical locations. Now you begin to see anger. Slamming the drawers, throwing the pillow of the couch, swearing at those darned keys for disappearing. Then comes bargaining: "If I ever find those keys I will never misplace them again. I will put them in a nice safe place." It is almost like she is asking the keys to come out and assuring them she will never abuse them again. Soon, she realizes the keys are gone. She is depressed. How will she ever again survive in this world without her keys? Then, she finally accepts the fact the keys are gone. She goes out and has a new set made. Life goes on. A week later the lost keys are forgotten.

What does all this have to do with why people don't quit smoking? People who attempt to give up smoking go through these five stages. They must successfully overcome each specific phase to deal with the next. Some people have particular difficulty conquering a specific phase, causing them to relapse back to smoking. Let's analyze these specific phases as encountered by the abstaining smoker.

The first question asked of the group during the smoking clinic was, "How many of you feel that you will never smoke again?" Do you remember the underwhelming response to that question? It is remarkable for even one or two people to raise their hands. For the most part the entire group is in a state of denial - they will not quit smoking. Other prevalent manifestations of denial are: "I don't want to quit smoking," or "I am perfectly healthy while smoking, so why should I stop," or "I am different, I can control my smoking at one or two a day." These people, through their denial, set up obstacles to even attempt quitting and hence have very little chance of success.

Those who successfully overcome denial progress to anger. We hear so many stories of how difficult it is to live with a recovering smoker. Your friends avoid you, your employer sends you home, sometimes permanently, and you are generally no fun to be with. Most smokers do successfully beat this stage.

Bargaining is probably the most dangerous stage in the effort to stop smoking. "Oh boy, I could sneak this one and nobody will ever know it." "Things are really tough today, I will just have one to help me over this problem, no more after that." "Maybe I'll just smoke today, and quit again tomorrow." It may be months before these people even attempt to quit again.

Depression usually follows once you successfully overcome bargaining without taking that first drag. For the first time you start to believe you may actually quit smoking. But instead of being overjoyed, you start to feel like you are giving up your best friend. You remember the good times with cigarettes and disregard the detrimental effects of this dangerous and dirty habit and addiction. At this point more than ever "one day at a time" becomes a life saver. Because tomorrow may bring acceptance.

Once you reach the stage of acceptance, you get a true perspective of what smoking was doing to you and what not smoking can do for you. Within two weeks the addiction is broken and, hopefully, the stages are successfully overcome and, finally, life goes on.

Life becomes much simpler, happier and more manageable as an ex-smoker. Your self esteem is greatly boosted. Your physical state is much better than it would ever have been if you continued to smoke. It is a marvelous state of freedom. Anyone can break the addiction and beat the stages. Then all you must do to maintain this freedom is simply remember - NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!

Joel


Video discussing this issue:




Another important thread addressing more serious mental health concerns that may occur after quitting isNormal depressive reaction or a real organic depressive episode

Last edited by Joel on 04 Mar 2011, 00:55, edited 3 times in total.
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31 Dec 2001, 23:48#2

Original comments that were here can be found in the Freedom archive atEmotional Loss Experienced from Quitting Smoking


I am adding videos here and in the next post that relate to the normal kind of depression symptoms that is often encountered when first quitting, as well as videos discussing the more serious problems that some people encounter after quitting that are discussed in the stringDepression: a normal reaction or a real organic depressive effect?.


Last edited by Joel on 08 Oct 2012, 19:00, edited 2 times in total.
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31 Dec 2001, 23:51#3

See note above about original posts found in this string.


More related videos:


Last edited by Joel on 08 Oct 2012, 19:02, edited 1 time in total.
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31 Dec 2001, 23:53#4

See note above about original post from this string.
One more related video:






Last edited by Joel on 08 Oct 2012, 19:05, edited 1 time in total.
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01 Jan 2002, 00:07#5

I just reassembled this string from an older version, that was initially titled "Depression accompanying smoking cessation." I thought it important to clarify from the start that the sadness felt by many people when first quitting is not an organic state of depression but rather just an emotional adjustment period that accompanies many normal life transitions. Also, the original string had a lot of posts just bringing it up for specific people who we saw were experiencing such adjustments on a specific day. I edited out those responses, which were usually just a thumbs up sign. ()

Understanding these reactions in advance can often help alleviate the sense of panic that some people feel when first quitting--when feeling a specific emotional or physical reaction and thinking that this is the way they are going to be the rest of their lives if they quit smoking. The way a person feels the first few days is not what if feels like to be an ex-smoker, rather it is what it feels like to be a smoker in the first few days of a quit. All of these reactions are temporary--don't get panicked by them.

You will very likely find your life as an ex-smoker to be calmer, happier, healthier and longer than it would have been if you sustained smoking. To keep all these benefits once they become the norm simply entails knowing to never take another puff!

Joel
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04 Jan 2002, 05:57#6

For Clazz, the entire string has a lot to offer.
Hope this helps. Hold on tight, you will
learn to get used to the new you. Take
those baby steps and see smoking for what
it is! Keep your reasons for quitting handy
and recharge your resolve. Before you know
it, you will find what is best for you. We know
for sure, smoking isn't one of them.

Hugs,

Joanne
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11 Jan 2002, 09:24#7

The excitement and challenge of the first week is over for many of our newbies. With this wonderful article by Joel you can almost see in the words and posts of some of our members that they're dealing with the various phases of the emotional loss associated with ending their extremely abusive relationship with nicotine, tobacco and smoking. Barking at loved ones, or even at folks trying to offer support. Telling yourself that you loved your addiction or being dishonest in thinking that you can get away with a wee puff of your drug.

It's all part of healing! As long as you recognize what's happening and see your actions and thoughts for what they truly are, there's a great chance that you'll each arrive at that very first day where you never once THINK about WANTING to smoke. It's a glorious day when a long history and emotional attachment to tobacco, cigarettes and nicotine has declined to the point where you don't miss it even once! Not once! Now for the bad news!

You can search every quit smoking message board on all of planet earth and you won't find a single thread celebrating this very first wonderful WANT-free day. How could there be? In that it's a WANT- free day it's never noticed until it's over and even then you're not exactly sure what every single thought was, that you had for the entire prior day. It's a lot to recall! My quit emotionally evolved to the point where I had my first WANT free day by about day 60, quicker than most but later than some.

Understanding the emotional healing we go through and being honest about our remaining feelings toward every aspect of our dependency won't alter any of our thought generating memories but it can make us look at each through truthful light. By doing so, I believe that we can put the above phases behind us quicker than if we simply allow our thoughts and memories to fade naturally over time.

For example, all of our memories of the aaahhhhhhh sensation which we felt within 8 to 10 seconds of a new puff, may at first blush seem warm and alluring ("I like smoking") but for the most part they simply represent a drug addict sensing the replenishment of their missing drug as they temporarily elevated their blood serum nicotine level, released new dopamine, and returned to comfort zone. Was that really the high moment of our lives - being tanked up on nicotine again? I hope not!

This journey leads to comfort for all and we each arrive there by taking our quits just one day at a time and by not taking any new nicotine into our bodies! This is doable! If all of us Oldbies can do it then so can you!
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17 Jan 2002, 03:45#8

For all in the early days of their quits this one will explain a lot of the feelings. They are normal and they will pass. Just hang in long enough to get to the other side. Quitting often does involve some emotional turmoil but nothing compared to the emotional toll smoking can extract on you, your family, friends and other loved ones if cigarettes reach their ultimate goal...they will kill you!

Ride out these feeling and you will eventually look back at this time as one of the happiest or at least most important times of your life, the week you finally took control of your smoking.

Good luck everyone.

Joel
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19 Jan 2002, 15:50#9

Wow! This is all great material and very helpful! Thank you, Joel - what you do for people is so wonderful!!! Also, your library gave me that extra incentive to quit prior to the day I actually quit puffing!!! Thank you so much!

I'm not certain if this is a good thing or bad thing.. or any thing for that matter haha, but I will share in case someone else has gone/or is going through the same situation. I was diagnosed with severe chronic depression in 1997.... I went to therapy and received medication, etc. I have recently relapsed (around late summer or early fall of last year) and really thought that there would be no way I could quit smoking on top of dealing with depression (I quit cold turkey with my boyfriend on Jan. 1, this year.) But I have found the courage, from somewhere, to stay smoke free. I did not experience the depression side of quitting, but ironically, my boyfriend did (he seems much better with each day.) I don't know if I just didn't notice the depression from not smoking because of my on and off again depression in general, or if it just wasn't a problem for me. Bottom line here... if anyone is suffering from depression prior to your quit, you CAN make it without a cigarette!!! I am living proof because I never, in a hundred years, thought I could do this... and honestly, it has made me feel proud because I am going through this while battling my blue moods... it is very rewarding and knowing I'm winning the war with evil cigarettes is giving me more strength to fight my depression!!!
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19 Jan 2002, 18:32#10

Thank you Georgia for pointing out that all important fact; that even a person who is depressed can still quit smoking. While a person who is in fact suffering from clinical depression may to some degree be self-medicating himself or herself with cigarettes, he or she is using a drug that carries a 50% mortality rate--nicotine. This is just unacceptable for any medication. The fact is there are far superior treatments out there that do not carry any risk anywhere close to this. I will bring up a string that covers this issue quite thoroughly. Thanks again for giving us a real life example of how people can get through such physical conditions and still keep their resolve intact to never take another puff!

Joel
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27 Jan 2002, 12:08#11

From: Joel. Sent: 8/6/2000 8:56 AM
For all in the early days of their quits this one will explain a lot of the feelings. They are normal and they will pass. Just hang in long enough to get to the other side. Quitting often does involve some emotional turmoil but nothing compared to the emotional toll smoking can extract on you, your family, friends and other loved ones if cigarettes reach their ultimate goal...they will kill you!

Ride out these feeling and you will eventually look back at this time as one of the happiest or at least most important times of your life, the week you finally took control of your smoking.

Good luck everyone.

Joel
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18 Apr 2002, 19:22#12

I totally ran out of time and never got to address this issue last night. I like people to be as prepared as possible and this information is very important to minimize some of the fears that are normally experienced when these symptoms occur. It is crucial that people realize these early reactions are temporary, not what life is like as an ex-smoker--just what life is like for a smoker in the early stages of a quit. Once they get over the first few days, physical and psychological settle back to a more normalized state and will stay on that tract as long as the person always stays nicotine free by knowing to never take another puff!
Joel
Last edited by Joel on 10 Apr 2009, 05:48, edited 1 time in total.
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26 Jul 2002, 09:24#13

For Ruth Ann. Those cycling emotions, the ups and downs and all arounds. What made me feel good about your posts was your laughing spells. It sounds like a good sign. A long and intense relationship has ended and this article by Joel does a fantastic job of helping us better understand where we might find ourselves and why. You're doing great! Baby steps, just one day at a time! We're here if you need us. John : )
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31 Jul 2002, 05:45#14

Welcome to Freedom Beth W! We've been waiting on you! This journey of adjustment can bring tears, hope, anger, courage, frustration, a sense of awakening, fear of the unknown, a feeling of having more time, impatience, impatience and more impatience, healing beyond your imagination, reflection, brief periods of challenge, moments of wonderful realization, and in the end, a new deep and rich sense of calmness. It can have it all! If you don't like the quit weather just wait three minutes and you just might see it change! This is a fantastic journey of escape, renewal, and learning! The tears are just fine, and for the guys too! It's ok to cry and even better when they're happy tears! You're doing fantastic! Baby steps - just a few minutes at a time! John : )
Last edited by John (Gold) on 16 Mar 2009, 23:16, edited 1 time in total.
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08 Aug 2002, 19:53#15

The process described in this article applies to any emotional loss. I think it's important to realize that it doesn't apply only to the loss of a highly addictive chemical because adding nicotine relapse to any other emotional loss has the potential to deprive each of us of self-esteem. Why would we want to make our depression phase possibly worse than it already is? My healing and freedom are two of the best things about my life. I refuse to let go of either! Protecting my quit is protects both my body and mind. John
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27 Oct 2002, 22:01#16

The Emotional Journey

Denial - "Who am I kidding, I can't quit!" "My cigarettes are my friend!"

Anger - "It isn't easy and it isn't fun but I'm doing it!!!" "Get out of my way!" "No one seems to appreciate the tremendous sacrifice I'm making." "I've giving up my entire life here, and for what!!!"

Bargaining - "A little reward, just one little puff!" "I've earned it!" "I'm stronger than all those other quitters at Freedom!" "They won't know!" "Even if I do relapse, I think I can do it again!" "But I won't need to, I can handle one puff!" "I'm different!" "Anyway, I'm sure it can't be as addictive as they're all saying!" "They're just trying to scare me!"

Depression - "Looks like I'm going to make it but how can I possibly function without smoking nicotine?" "I don't feel like smoker and I'm no comfortable ex-smoker either." "I feel lost." "I feel so alone."

Acceptance - "Hey, this isn't so bad and great tasting coffee too!" "I sort of like all this extra time and the fresh air!" "Not a single crave yesterday!" "Amazing!"
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24 Jan 2003, 05:43#17

Felt much better after reading this as I have felt depressed and irritable all day. I have had a constant argument inside my head with my junkie thinking all day , luckily I won !
I am NOT going to lose my quit. I have worked so hard for this and Im not going to throw it away. On reflection, I have had a couple of bad days this week, but tomorrow is another day , Im just taking it one day at a time, and no matter how bad it got today, I DIDNT SMOKE !!
Stll strutting my stats _

One week, four days, 6 hours, 0 minutes and 40 seconds. 337 cigarettes not smoked, saving £67.50. Life saved: 1 day, 4 hours, 5 minutes.
Poppy
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25 Feb 2003, 23:47#18

What a just AWESOME article. I just finished reading it again for the 2nd time for a little bit of "I will not smoke today" reinforcement (not that I needed much lol, but I still like to read a little bit each morning..it makes me feel secure for the entire day), and you know what ? I think what this article is all about is one of the reasons for so many non-educated quitters lost quits. They don't understand these emotional changes, perhaps get stuck in anger, in which case they've got everyone begging them to smoke again...or the depression does them in and they just don't KNOW that these are normal phases that can be worked through. Everyday I think that it's too bad that Freedom can't become the Official Way to Quit Smoking for everyone. That this information isn't more out there and putting those NRT businesses (everytime I see a commercial for NRTs, it infuriates me with the utter LIES !) OUT of business. Yikes! I'm getting OT here, sorry.

That's just me. Enthusiastic, excited, hopeful and ultra passionate about just about everything. And that includes smoking out (no pun intended) liars and especially loving my quit.

Love & Light,
Lazuli
~ Quit Proud For 1 Month 6 Days 8 Hours 1 Minute 31 Seconds!
1120 Forlorn Gag-a-rettes
still sitting on the store shelves, unloved, unwanted & Definitely NOT smoked ! ~
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20 Mar 2003, 03:26#19

Is it just me, or is this part of this misleading?

"Once you reach the stage of acceptance, you get a true perspective of what smoking was doing to you and what not smoking can do for you. Within two weeks the addiction is broken and, hopefully, the stages are successfully overcome and, finally, life goes on."

It sort of, to me, makes it sound like you will have gone thorugh all the emotions, from denial to acceptance, in 2 short weeks.

This is not necessarily the case….

For you Gold Members (or even Silver… Bronze….whatever…): How long did do you think it took you to work through each stage? I know each person's quit is different… But I was just curious….

I completely agree with the stages by the way - and I LOVE this piece of reading… It's very true.

CF

3 weeks, 5 days without a single puff
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20 Mar 2003, 03:33#20

Just wanted to add one more thing (I seem to post and then remember something else I wanted to say)…. I did see in one of the "one day at a time" threads that that's where one day at a time comes in…in the stage before acceptance… you have to take things one day at a time…and maybe the next acceptance will come.

I LOVE THAT concept.



CF

3 weeks, 5 days without a single puff
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20 Mar 2003, 03:38#21

NOT to be a pain with 3 posts in a row but I found some really good threads pertaining specifically to this bridge between depression and acceptance in the Depression Board as Bill suggested...

Thanks.


CF
3 weeks, 5 days without a single puff
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20 Mar 2003, 03:40#22

Hi ComicForces:
From the year I've spent here, I've watched people completely walk away from smoking once physical withdrawal was done. One week. Ten days. I personally was well through the progression by six weeks to two months. I'm one of those who finds it useful to take an antidepressant.... did you know an absurdly high percentage of mental patients smoke? And which came first? The mental illness or the smoking. The new thinking is that the smoking may be the cause of some of this.
But at the high end, watch bronze and silver celebrations. Occasionally you will find a Silver who is still struggling.... very, very occasionally. Go back into the Milestones board and read what people say in their celebration posts. Double green. Bronze. Silver. You'll get a good idea of the spread involved.
But more to the point..... how long will it take for you? That seems to largely depend on attitude, on a shift in your belief system from being a "quitter" to being an "ex-smoker". Acceptance, the last stage, depends on how long it will take you to stop grieving the death of our "good friend"......
You can do this! You are doing it! And it will get better..... I'd have relapsed months ago if not.
BillW One year, one month, one week, four days, 5 hours . 12127 cigarettes not smoked, saving $2,395.10. Life saved: 6 weeks, 2 hours, 35 minutes.
Last edited by BillW Gold.ffn on 10 Apr 2009, 05:49, edited 1 time in total.
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20 Mar 2003, 03:51#23

It was not meant to be misleading. The part you quote was:

"Within two weeks the addiction is broken and, hopefully, the stages are successfully overcome and, finally, life goes on."

The fact is that within two weeks the addiction is broken. By that I mean the body no longer has any need for nicotine to alleviate physical withdrawal symptoms. The second part said, "hopefully," the stages are successfully overcome."

I wrote this piece for my clinic graduates who generally do overcome most of these emotional adjustments quite quickly. I spend a lot of clinic time making sure that people work in developing a proper attitude. I spend quite a bit of time destroying all kind of denial strategies, rationalizations and mind games that people often play with themselves when they quit on their own.

If not for this focus, some people could have dragged out the emotional stages, in fact some people can go through them the rest of their lives if they are not careful. People who hang on to the idea that they are depriving themselves of smoking or just working on the basis of quitting out of fear from smoking can prolong the emotional ties and thus extend the emotional withdrawal for an indefinate time period.

I think the vast majority of our Freedom members follow the course of most of my clinic graduates too--working on sustaining the kind of focus and attitude to accept the fact that they are glad to be free from smoking. Attitude can make a huge difference in the length of the time period of emotional recovery.

I will bring up a few other articles addressing these concerns. Hopefully people will read them and understand them. Take noticed I said "hopefully." For how hard people work at seeking out and utilizing different tools provided to them is hard to predict. The only thing we can predict with any certainty is that anyone can stay successful ex-smokers forever if they always keep in practice their own commitment to never take another puff!

Joel
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23 May 2003, 08:06#24

Last edited by OBob Gold on 16 Mar 2009, 23:21, edited 1 time in total.
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30 Jun 2003, 22:17#25

An Intense, Dependable and
Destructive
Relationship Has Ended

A long and intense relationship has ended. Although extremely abusive, destructive, costly, and deadly, you depended upon nicotine laden cigarettes (5% of the dry weight of each cigarette) to replenish your falling blood serum nicotine level (cut by roughly half every two hours) to keep you from experiencing chemical withdrawal and it never ever once let you down (unless the cigarette was wet, the matches wet, the lighter empty or the pack was empty). The basic chemical bond and the endless need to feed caused you to accumulate a mountain of psychological baggage as you selected and developed patterns and cues for feeding your ever declining nicotine reserves.

Once beyond early chemical withdrawal, look upon the remainder of this temporary journey of adjustment as you would moving beyond the end of any other long and intense relationship. If you were a pack-a-day smoker averaging 8 puffs per cigarette then you sucked up to a nasty smelling but dependable butt 160 times a day, 58,400 times each year. How many times did you say your name last year? How many times did you hug the human you love most? Is it any wonder that it takes a bit of patience and time to adjust to engaging life as "you" again?

Baby steps! The next few minutes are entirely doable and there is only one rule - no nicotine, not a puff! Everything you did while dependent upon nicotine you can do as well as or better as "you!" I know it's hard to believe right now but before long you'll see that it's much much easier being a comfortable and relaxed ex-smoker than it ever was feeding that endless need for more!

Breathe deep, hug hard, live long! John
Last edited by John (Gold) on 16 Mar 2009, 23:24, edited 2 times in total.
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