Quit smoking six years ago today!

Yep, I quit smoking six years ago. I am happy about it. Tobacco is apparently one of the most addictive drugs? The percentage of casual users who become addicted is much, much higher than for cocaine.

Periodically I'll hear a story from somebody where they're like, "Man, my uncle quit heroin and alcohol and cigarettes thirty years ago, and the only substance he still gets craving for is tobacco."

To which I have to say, what the heck? Who gets cravings for cigarettes? Basically the moment I'd kicked the physical withdrawal (I smoked a pack a day for five years), I was like...smoking cigarettes is insane.

Now I don't think tobacco is the worst drug in the world. It's clearly not. In fact, it's amongst the least harmful drugs in the world. Nobody ever beat their wife, killed their friend, blew their life savings, or lost their job because of tobacco.

However, it definitely has the worst cost/benefit ratio out of all the drugs. I mean, alcohol makes your worries melt away and helps you forget life's burdens. Heroin gives you the closest thing you can get to pure happiness in a bottle. Cocaine makes you feel like a god. LSD fundamentally transfigures the world and leaves you feeling like you understand all of reality in a new way. MDMA makes you feel an ecstatic communion with all of mankind. Amphetamines let you transcend your body and your mind and commit, fully, to whatever task is in front of you.

Now all of these drugs have negative cost/benefit ratios in my opinion (at least for me), but they're at least fun! And sometimes useful!

Tobacco does what? In the beginning it gives you a tiny rush, lasting no more than a few moments. After a year or so of daily smoking, you feel nothing. Maybe a few seconds of ease. Really, at some point the only thing tobacco gives you is the ability to once more feel normal.

And in return it takes, on average, seven years of your life!

What a terrible bargain; which is why only those famed for their lack of foresight--teenagers and addicts--tend to take it up.

Quitting smoking was great. I'm very lucky I was able to do it. I quit cold turkey. It wasn't very difficult. I had a uniquely easy transition. I did gain twenty-five pounds, which was no fun! But within two years I lost all that and more. I'm sure if I took up the habit again, I'd find it much more difficult to kick.

My body experienced all the typical benefits of quitting smoking: more wind; fewer and less severe colds; my cough went away; my circulation improved (I could feel tingling in my fingers and toes for months after I quit). But one unexpected improvement was that my overall productivity dramatically increased. I noticed, shortly after I quit smoking, that I was hitting my daily word counts in much less time.

I have three theories about this. The first is that when you're addicted to cigarettes, you exist in a perpetual state of withdrawal. Every hour or so, you get antsy and distracted. Removing this drag on my productivity allowed me to do more. The second is that smoking just takes a lot of time. I was spending an hour a day smoking! That's an hour of my life I got back. Finally, the most intriguing theory is that smoking broke my flow. All writers know that only a minority of your writing time is truly productive. It's the 80 / 20 rule. you do 80% of the work in 20% of the time. And that 20% is the time when you sink really deep into the work and get into a flow state. For me, I think that having to get up every hour to smoke was hampering with my flow.

We'll never know for sure, but in any case I'm thankful

How I quit smoking (and why I don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions)

There are so many anti-smoking images on the Internet that I got annoyed and decided to find a pro-smoking one instead. This is as close as I could get.
There are so many anti-smoking images on the Internet that I got annoyed and decided to find a pro-smoking one instead. This is as close as I could get.

I’m astonished that it’s been two years since I quit smoking. It really does feel like yesterday. Sometimes I feel like I misplaced a whole year somewhere (roughly July 2011 to July 2012). Although I lived it and remember it (and plenty of great things happened during it), I sort of shuffled it into the wrong box somewhere, so that when I am mentally recapping my life, I always come up a year short.

For a long time, I didn’t even want to quit smoking. The thing about smoking is that it’s really enjoyable. You get to play with fire and smoke. The thick foggy sensation in your throat feels really good. You can use it to meet people (some of my best friends are old smoking buddies), and it’s also a good excuse to stand by yourself or to break up a conversation that’s getting stale. And, at least in the beginning, it has interesting psychotropic effects.

But it’s about as bad for you as anything it’s possible to do. There are numerous scheduled drugs (marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, and many prescription drugs) that are safer. Also, after awhile, it becomes a bit of a chore. Smoking when you want to is great. But having to smoke twenty times a day is less great. I think that for every smoker, there comes a time when quitting sort of starts to be on the agenda. I’m not actually sure when that time came for me. I moved from, “I’m not even thinking about quitting” to “I guess I’ll quit someday.” But still, I had no concrete plans for quitting and I never made any serious attempts to quit (except for one, in maybe July of 2009, that literally only lasted for twelve hours).

Anyway, what eventually happened is that in late February 2011, I read Jeff Vandermeer’s book on planning your writing career: BookLife. And that book recommended going through and plotting what projects you were planning on taking on in each of the coming months. So I went through and did that, and I realized that almost every month for the rest of the year was going to have a major writing project.* Obviously, I couldn’t quit smoking while I was in the middle of a project! It wasn’t until I had that thought that I realized quitting smoking was even on the agenda.

After thinking about it, I realized that the only space I’d left open in my agenda was right at that moment—I’d left open a three week period because I was about to switch apartments, and I didn’t want to begin a new project right before a major move. And that was the only room I had. If I didn’t quit smoking immediately, I wouldn’t have any room to do it until the year ended.

The next day, I bought some cranberry juice, some chewing gum, and some snacks. And that night I stayed up late (smoking three packs of cigarettes) so I’d be super tired the next day and would fall asleep easier. At about 3 AM, I smoked one last cigarette and destroyed my remaining ones. And then I went to bed.

Honestly, things were not that bad at all. I felt a bit disembodied for the next three days, but I wasn’t shaking and tingling and my heart wasn’t racing or all that. It was a very easy withdrawal. Over the next month, there was a little bit of forgetfulness and some bursts of irritation. But all in all, that was it.

The major thing that I learned from this experience was that if there’s anything I want to do, I should start doing it right now.

That’s why I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t believe in saving up my resolve for one day. Whenever I tip over that invisible threshold that separates a passing fancy from a real desire, I try to immediately begin taking some concrete action towards whatever I want. I’m not going to have any more time or energy on New Year’s Day than I do now. I think it’s really easy to daydream about how you’re going to spend this vast sum of time that you have in the future: all the days that you’ve yet to live. But really, most of that time is already allocated: you’re gonna be sleeping, working, eating, and recreating. Actually, the future contains no more free time than today. So if something’s worth doing, then it needs to be worth spending energy and effort on right now.

Of course, it’s also fine to daydream. I daydream about all kinds of stuff: writing screenplays and long-form essays and starting joke Twitter accounts and learning languages. But I don’t beat myself up because I’m not doing that stuff. The reason I don’t do those things is that right now they’re not as important to me as everything else in my life. It’s fine to let daydreams be daydreams. There’s no need to turn them into resolutions and then use them to torture yourself.



*Looking back at my plans for the rest of 2011, I can see that I actually accomplished almost none of what I’d set out to do: I abandoned the novel I was going to revise and I never attempted the screenplay I was going to write. Which is another example of what I was saying. I’d set aside my whole future to all these activities, but I refused to give them my present. Of course, since I spend my present quitting smoking (and, eventually, writing and revising a totally different novel), everything turned out for the best in the end.

The Best Yahoo Answer Ever

I quit smoking with only minimal side-effects (other than wanting to smoke cigarettes). It’s only after about three or four weeks that I have started to suffer real withdrawal effects, like a pretty durable sore throat or the insomnia that has me posting this at 4:30 AM.

The major effect that quitting smoking had on me is that I’ve become far less utopian about the internet. Any google search, no matter how specific, will bring up almost no honest and sincere information about quitting smoking. Almost every hit is some kind of search-engine-optimization article that parrots every other SEO article in an attempt to drive hits to some kind of nicotine patch or quit-smoking pill. I think that some of these sites were also funded by Phillip Morris as part of their tobacco lawsuit settlement.

There is basically only one large highly-ranked quit-smoking site on the internet that does not want your money, and that is whyquit.com. This is a not unhelpful site…but it is a little idiosyncratic (and also quite ugly and hard to navigate).

The downside of this is that any real information about what to expect when you quit smoking – real concrete stuff like, uhh, what is going to happen and what will it feel like? – is drowned in a sea of copied articles and alarmism that is designed to get you to buy nicotine patches. I’m not saying that good information is not out there, but generally the PageRank of the useful stuff is sufficiently low that it’s not that easy to find. And even the “useful” stuff tends to have kind of a low information density (its blog posts and forum threads stuff like that).

Except for one golden, shining place…Yahoo Answers.

Yahoo Answers, for some reason, has an incredibly high page rank. For some other reason, it has not yet been invaded by people trying to sell you shit. And for some third reason (or maybe these are all for the same reason), it doesn’t have the social component to it that afflicts most blogs and forums, which generally makes comments more about performing some monkey ritual of interpersonal contact than about actually exchanging information.

There’s also an inductive quality to Yahoo Answers that contrasts strongly with the more deductive sort of answers that most internet sites attempt to give you. Most sites basically take conventional medical wisdom and attempt to render it in layman’s terms. It’s a one-size-fits-all strategy that is in many cases exactly as frustrating as the platitudes that doctors tend to hand out.

But Yahoo Answers is about people using the knowledge they’ve acquired in their own lives – when handling problems remarkably similar to yours – to try to understand what is happening to you. A perfect illustration of the difference is this Yahoo Answer I just found, which bears absolutely no relevance to me, but happens to be the greatest answer in the history of answering questions from strangers.

Question: Smoking = sore throat?

OK so I quit smoking 4 years ago and just recently I started again, but not really, more like 2 or 3 a day. I don't need lectures, I know all about it, I quit before and I'm planning on stopping very soon. I just had a little relapse, that's all. Anyway, since I started smoking again my throat has been incredibly sore. I am not sure if it is just coincidence or if the smoking has caused it. When I smoked before, (for 10 years) I never had a sore throat due to smoking, ever.

Has this happened to any of you? Can smoking cause a perma-sore throat? Or maybe is this coincidence (it is allergy season, after all).


Best Answer - The first time you smoked a cigarette, you didn't inhale deeply, you might have coughed like crazy, but you took it easy and gradually began drawing in harder. This time, you had the habit already ingrained, so you didn't work up to a deep draw, you just started off immediately doing the same thing...no surprise that it made your throat sore.

Source(s): RN [Registered Nurse]

I don’t know if this seems as great to someone who’s never smoked cigarettes, but this answer rings very true to me. But can you imagine what a doctor would say if you asked them this question? Or what you’d find if you did an internet search on it? Or if you posted on a forum about it?

Doctor: Umm cigarettes are poison, they are slowly killing the cilia in your throat?

Person: But why didn’t that happen the first time?


Internet Search: Use chantix! It’ll help you quit smoking no problem.

Person: Okay…that wasn’t even remotely relevant


Forum / Comment Thread: Oh man that sucks, I quit smoking myself a year ago. You just got to stick with it!

Person: Yes I know, I’m gonna try again soon…but it still would be nice to know the answer to this question….the one I actually asked.

In my imagination, the entire internet used to be like Yahoo Answers. But I don’t think that was actually the case. I can’t wait until something like Yahoo Answers arises that is about a thousand times better than Yahoo Answers. Because as good as Yahoo Answers is, it’s basically only the barest sketch of what it should be, it’s the Myspace of question-answering sites, and when someone develops the Facebook of question-answering….I am going to buy some stock in it.