Grieving and Withdrawal
The stages of grief and loss can be somewhat similar to the stages of quitting smoking. It is extremely common to become angry or even enraged, or to experience intense bursts of anger when you are quitting smoking. When you experience triggers, such as highly stressful situations or experiences in their daily lives, you may become intensely frustrated. This is not the same as typical frustration; anger felt during the quitting process is often extremely intense. This may seem totally out of character for you. It may also lead to inner conflict, and you may have difficulty understanding exactly why you are so angry.
This can be extremely difficult for the people around you. Friends, family members, and partners may find it extremely difficult to deal with you and your angry outbursts. It can be a major annoyance for those around you, but there are ways to deal with it successfully.
Generally, one of two situations occurs when a smoker who is in the quitting process experiences a frustrating moment. Either the smoker will need to resolve the conflict before he or she can relax, or enough time will have to pass that the frustration itself is allowed to dissipate. If you are quitting, you may be unable to rationalize your anger in the same ways that you normally would. You may face the exact same situations that the average person experiences, only to become intensely angry as a result. It can be difficult for smokers to recognize this shift in coping ability. It is this shift that can cause people to feel like smoking is a benefit, rather than a hindrance, to their anger.
Stress, Withdrawal, and Urine Acidity
Stress has many effects on the human body. One of the most common effects is that it tends to acidify urine. This is a normal process, and also happens in non-smokers, but the after-effects are different in people who smoke. When there is nicotine within the human body, and stressful situations occur, urine acidifiers and pulls nicotine from the body, into the bladder itself.
Because of this process, the brain suddenly realizes that it is low on nicotine. This results in an instant withdrawal situation, and nicotine cravings. This leads to even further stress, and emotional upheaval. It also adds to the effects of the withdrawal itself. This ends up causing a vicious cycle of smoking, being in withdrawal, becoming angry, and smoking again.
Solving the Cycle
While most people could get around this by resolving the conflict itself, this is more difficult in those who are experiencing nicotine withdrawal. Even if the problem that caused the stressful situation is fixed, the smoker is likely to still feel anger. It is here that only the addition of more nicotine to the body will resolve the feelings of anger.
Alternatively, the smoker can remain free of nicotine for at least 72 hours. This will completely eliminate nicotine from the body and bloodstream through urine, feces, and sweat. Instead of sitting in the body as nicotine, it is metabolized into other chemicals that, while still somewhat harmful, won’t cause nicotine withdrawal. Smoking another cigarette is actually counter-intuitive because of the cycle it induces. But the calming ability of each cigarette lasts for only a few seconds to a few minutes. 20 to 30 minutes later, the user needs to smoke again in order to stay calm. Repeating this cycle for the rest of a smoker’s life means the smoker is causing harm to themselves just to maintain the cycle itself.
Why it’s Problematic
An additional problem occurs because the smoker feels as if the smoking was justified. The brain begins to tell the smoker that smoking assisted him with calming himself, and is necessary in order for the smoker to remain calm at all. This is a false trick the brain plays within many addictions, both to cigarettes and otherwise. This is also known as an unhealthy coping skill. While it may help for the moment, it is better for the person who is quitting to learn to deal with intense emotions, sadness, depression, and/or anger without using substances to calm those feelings. It also inhibits the potential for personal growth.
As an example, consider if you were living with someone who constantly leaves flicks of toothpaste on the mirror. Staying calm, pointing it out, and sharing why you feel strongly about it will usually be enough to convince the person to be more careful when brushing their teeth. This is how relationships work; clear communication is the way to solve these issues. If you are a smoker who is in the quitting process, this very minor issue will likely seem like a much bigger deal to you than it otherwise would. You become upset because it is the 8th time this has occurred in the last month. This stress leads to nicotine being pulled out of the body, which triggers an instant withdrawal situation. You choose to have a cigarette, which leads to feeling a little bit better. This allows you to get some space from the situation, and begin to rationalize it again. You let it go, because you assume that the issue is resolved. However, the issue hasn’t been resolved at all; you’ve just distracted yourself from dealing with the actual problem by smoking.
You may even quit smoking, only to find that the same situation occurs years later, and it triggers you in the same way that it originally did. Instead of being angry but letting it go, you explode. This is because the original issue was never resolved, and thus, you are releasing years of anger at the same scenario. While you will probably feel ridiculous for your anger, it is only to be expected. You may even start to question whether or not you are having emotional difficulties, based on your reaction. If you had just dealt with the situation when it first occurred, you wouldn’t be so angry now. Think of the years of mild annoyances stacking on top of one another; eventually, the tower is going to fall over.
How Smoking Holds You Back
Smoking stops you from really digging into issues; it distracts you from dealing with your feelings or emotions, and this itself can be addictive. It’s far easier to distract from feelings than it is to deal with them on the spot, although it is much healthier to address the issues rather than distract yourself from them.
The best way to prevent this from ever occurring is to stop smoking, and begin addressing your problems one at a time. By learning these conflict resolution skills and communication styles now, you can prevent further issues from occurring in the future. In turn, this will help to ensure that you never pick up a cigarette again.