New reactions to anger after quitting smoking
Video discussing why many people find themselves encountering exaggerated anger responses after initial smoking cessation
Response to a person on the Freedom from Nicotine board who had recently quit smoking and who found her reactions to relationship issues were more intense than normal.
Dealing with emotional loss has similarities to dealing with anger in regards to smoking cessation and its aftermath. When a smoker encounters a person or situation that angers them, they initially feel the frustration of the moment, making them, depending on the severity of the situation, churn in side.
This effect in non-smokers or even ex-smokers is annoying to say the least. The only thing that resolves the internal conflict for a person not in the midst of an active addiction is resolution of the situation or, in the case of a situation which doesn't lend itself to a quick resolution, time to assimilate the frustration and in a sense move on.
An active smoker though, facing the exact same stress has an additional complication which even though they don't recognize it, it creates real significant implications to their smoking behavior and belief structures regarding the benefit of smoking.
When a person encounters stress, it has a physiological effect causing acidification of urine. In a non-addicted tobacco user, urine acidity has no real perceivable effect. It is something that internally happens and they don't know it, and actually, probably don't care to know. Nicotine users are more complex.
When a person maintaining any level of nicotine in their body encounters stress, the urine acidifies and this process causes nicotine to be pulled from the blood stream, not even becoming metabolized, and into the urinary bladder. This then in fact drops the brain supply of nicotine, throwing the smoker into drug withdrawal.
Now, they are really churning inside, not just from the initial stress, but also from the withdrawal effect itself. Interesting enough, even if the stress is resolved, the smoker generally is still not going to feel good. The withdrawal doesn't ease up by the conflict resolution, only by re-administration of nicotine, or, even better, riding out the withdrawal for 72 hours totally eradicating nicotine via excretion from the body of metabolizing it into bi-products which don't cause withdrawal.
Most of the time, the active smoker more often uses the first method to alleviate withdrawal, taking another cigarette. While it calms them down for the moment, its effect is short lived, basically having to be redone ever 20 minutes to half hour for the rest of the smokers life to permanently stave off the symptoms.
Even though this is a false calming effect, since it doesn't really calm the stress, it just replaces the nicotine loss from the stress, the smoker feels it helped them deal with the conflict.
It became what they viewed as an effective crutch. But the implications of that crutch are more far reaching than just making initial stress effects more severe. It effects how the person may deal with conflict and sadness in a way not real obvious, but real serious. In a way, it effects their ability to communicate and maybe even in someway, grow from the experience.
Here is simple example of what I mean. Let's say you don't like the way a significant other in your life squeezes toothpaste. If you point out the way it's a problem to you in a calm rational manner, maybe the person will change and do it in a way that is not disturbing to you. By communicating your feeling you make a minor annoyance basically disappear.
But now lets say you're a smoker who sees the tube of toothpaste, gets a little upset, and are about to say something, again, to address the problem. But wait, because you are a little annoyed, you lose nicotine, go into withdrawal, and before you are going to deal with the problem, you have to go smoke.
You smoke, alleviate the withdrawal and, in-fact, you feel better. At the same time, you put a little time between you and the toothpaste situation and on further evaluation, you decide its not that big of a deal, forget it. Sounds like and feels like you resolved the stress. But in fact, you didn't.
You suppressed the feeling. It still there, not resolved, not communicated. Next time it happens again, you again get mad. You go into withdrawal. You have to smoke. You repeat the cycle, again not communicating and not resolving the conflict. Over and over again, maybe for years this pattern is repeated.
One day you quit smoking. You may in fact be off for weeks, maybe months. All of a sudden, one day the exact problem presents itself again, that annoying toothpaste.
You don't have an automatic withdrawal kicking in and pulling you away from the situation. You see it, nothing else effecting you and you blow up. If the person is within earshot, you may explode. When you look back in retrospect, you feel you have blown up inappropriately, the reaction was greatly exaggerated for the situation.
You faced it hundreds of times before and nothing like this ever happened. You begin to question what happened to you to turn you into such a horrible or explosive person. Understand what happened. You are not blowing up at what just happened, you are blowing up for what has been bothering you for years and now, because of the build up of frustration, you are blowing up much more severe than you ever would have if you addressed it early on. It is like pulling a cork out of a shaken carbonated bottle, the more shaken the worse the explosion.
What smoking had done over the years was stopped you from dealing early on with feelings, making them fester and grow to a point where when the came out, it was more severe than when initially encountered. Understand something though, if you had not quit smoking, the feelings sooner or later would manifest. Either by a similar reaction as the blow up or by physical manifestations which ongoing unresolved stress has the full potential of causing. Many a relationships end because of claming up early on effectively shutting down conflict resolution by communication between partners.
Hope this helps explain why it hurts so much but also helps you to understand why it is still so important not to smoke.
While most smokers actually believe that smoking was an effective stress treatment strategy (a drug that calmed them down), when it really comes down to it, smoking never truly calmed them down. All it did was administered nicotine alleviated nicotine withdrawal that was induced by stress. The illustration and text below covers this point.
The one true step that people are doing here to control their stress is getting rid of a product that should cause any thinking person a lot of worry and to stop the vicious cycle of drug feeding and drug withdrawal by always knowing now to never take another puff!
In the illustration above you can see on the left how a non-smokers reacts to stress. Without it they are happy and comfortable, when encountering stress they lose this comfort and depending on its severity they can get either mildly annoyed or really upset. The resolution of the stress will normally bring the non-smoker back to the original state of comfort, after a little time of cooling down of course.
Smokers are much more complex. Stress has an affect on all people–it makes the urine acidic. Both smokers and non-smokers experience this phenomena. In non-smoker smokers, the urine acidity has no real visible or perceivable effects–smokers are much more complicated. After the initial stress a smoker will feel like a non-smoker encountering stress, for a few seconds. But then the delineation occurs, the smoker's nicotine level depletes because of the urine acidity induced by the stress, and the smoker is kicked into a drug withdrawal state. The smoker has four ways to deal with the situation now.
First, the smoker can just smoke a cigarette. Well low and behold if the smoker does this he or she will feel "better." He or she will not feel good; he or she just won't be feeling withdrawal for the moment but still be feeling the initial stress. In essence, he or she will feel like a non-smoker under stress, not great, but not in withdrawal either.
The second way a smoker can handle the stress is to solve it and also smoke a cigarette. This results in one happy smoker. No stress now and no withdrawal, life is good at the moment. The feeling of bliss is basically the same feeling a non-smoker has who resolves his or her stress.
But then there are the other two scenarios. The smoker can solve the problem but not smoke. Here is the kicker here, the problem is resolved but the smoker is still in withdrawal, the nicotine level has dropped and problem resolution has no way to stop the nicotine depletion, only a cigarette can do that.
The worst of all situations is the smoker who cannot solve the problem and also cannot smoke a cigarette. This is a miserable situation to ever be in. You normally don't want to be around a smoker in this situation let alone being one yourself. Many smokers find themselves facing this dilemma daily since many jobs and social settings do not allow smoking yet constantly force the smoker to face stresses.
When you quit smoking these last four reactions to stress become a thing of the past. You still face stress, but you no longer have to face drug withdrawals induced by it. In essence you deal with stress in a totally different way when you don't have chronic drug withdrawals exaggerating it.
To stay in the position of being able to handle stresses with greater clarity and minimal discomfort always know that no matter what the stress, to avoid it having any long lasting and life threatening complications always remember to never take another puff!
- Understanding the emotional loss experienced when quitting smoking
- Smoking does not help you overcome stress