Friday, April 4, 2014

32 Days After Switching To e-Cigs - The Experience and The Journey

It has now been 32 days since I have switched to e-cigarettes and thought that I should do an update on how things are going and what my experiences are thus far in my quest to quit analog cigarettes.

Since things seemed to be going so smoothly in the early days, and of course we hear that it is the first three days to a week that are the most difficult, at the one week mark I thought that I was home free. Well, not so fast!

There are things that aren't told to you when you switch to e-cigs. As I said in my earlier post, I had braced myself for the difference in 'feel' between an analog cigarette and an e-cig, but what I did not prepare myself for was the withdrawal that I would feel from the other 4,000 chemical. Because I am still getting the nicotine from the e-cig, I thought it would be smooth sailing. Well - not really. The withdrawal from the formaldehyde and rat poison surely took me off guard. Who knew? Nobody talks about it because nobody thinks about it. But the truth is that after years - or in my case, decades of smoking, you body gets use to the poisons ingested from the cigarettes. And well, it is only logical that once you stop - your body says - HEY!!!

Ok, so I made it though that hump. I think at this point my body is over the lack of butane and carcinogenics in an analog cigarette. But the brain still wants a 'real' cig every once in awhile.  And even though I am still getting the nicotine, my brain is smarter than the average bear and on occasion will say - "Hey! I want a REAL cigarette!!!"  Fortunately it was easy to shut that voice up! I could mentally say "NO" and mentally smack that 'need' right out of my mind - just as quick as it arouse.

What was interesting, and something I did not read anything about during my months of research was that at the one-week mark, my throat was sooo sore! I though for sure I had strep-throat. It actually hurt to swallow - to the degree that I feared that I would not be able to continue with the e-cigs and that I would have to revert to the analogs again. Something I did not want to do!

So I went on forums and started searching for this specific issue - and it seems that it is normal and par for the course. Because of the Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin - specifically the PG (see previous posting for more information on these compounds) - the throat can become dried as it adjusts from the smoke with a real cig to the vapor in an e-cig. It is normal, and suggested to find e-liquid with a higher VG percentage. The one I use is USP grade (99.7% pure) vegetable glycerin, so I knew that the PG sensitivity wasn't the issue and I would not need to look for another supplier. I learned that the majority of people experience a sore throat into the first week and that it only lasts a few days. It is strongly suggested to drink lots of water to keep you throat moist. So, I drank gallons of water and sure enough after four days the sore throat went away and it has not been a problem since.

What is irritating is the physical memory. What I affectionately refer to as phantom-cigarette-syndrome. I cannot tell you how many times I caught myself with my hand hitting the bare table where my cigarette pack once lived - in a failed attempt of mindlessly reaching for 'the pack'. Quite honestly, it would freak me out. It was as if I had no control over my own hand. I didn't even know I was doing it until I felt my finger tips on the table! And I have to say that is probably the worst part. The physical memory issues were driving me crazy. My hand actually craved the feeling of a pack of cigarettes!  I had even considered keeping an empty pack on the table - to hold during the physical cravings. I decided against it. It seemed that I would only be enabling the physical withdrawal and opted to push through it. To experience the loss my body was feeling - it all of its various shades. Problem is that you must keep your hands busy, so I found that I was eating everything in sight! And the last thing I need is to gain more weight. So after a couple of weeks of chips and countless packages of licorice, I have switched to celery sticks. (Until I run out and then I am back on the licorice! lol)

After a month I cannot say that this issue has completely resolved itself, however, it has lessened quite dramatically. I only on occasion find myself reaching for the pack - what is interesting is that now - usually - my mind will detect the urge before my hand motions, where as before my hand would already be on the table before my mind ever realized what had occurred.  So I consider this progress.

Speaking of progress, I have to touch upon the bucket-loads of crap that I was coughing up in the beginning. Truly, it was alarming amounts of tar that my lungs were expelling every day. Quite simply, the disrespect I had shown to my vital organs is shameful. As I said in the first posting - the first few days the coughing was quite intense. And much like other symptoms, this has lessened over the month. I am still coughing from time to time - but nowhere near as much as in the early days. I imagine that by the end of the second month, the majority of the coughing will be over.

I downloaded an app on my tablet - Cessation Nation - it is an app for those who have quit smoking. And to date the stats are as follows:

32 Days since my last cigarette.

1276 Cigarettes not smoked.

Heart rate and Blood pressure have dropped - 100%

Carbon Monoxide levels in my blood have dropped - 100%

Sense of taste and smell have improved - 100%

Circulation has substantially improved - 34%

Smoke related sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath have decreased - 11%

Risk of Heart Disease, Heart Attack and Stroke have dropped to less than half that of a smoker. - 8%

Risk of Stroke has decline to that of a non-smoker - 1%

Life expectancy gained - 5 days.

So, clearly there is still work to be done. But in 32 days I have come a long way and am super proud of myself! What I can say for certainty is that my vocal chords are healing and feeling better every day. Yes, my voice was affected by the smoke and poisons.  My lungs are getting stronger every day. I have gone from using my asthma inhalers up to 10 times a day - down to maybe once or twice a day  and there has even been the odd day here and there where I did not need them at all! My sense of smell and taste has improved vastly. Food tastes differently. I don't require as much seasoning and spices to taste the food. In fact, I can taste the authentic flavor of the food - and not all of the crap I put on top of it to give it flavor. I have never been a heavy salt user - but I notice that my use of salt has even declined.

Not to mention that my home no longer contains dirty ashtrays all over the place. My home and furniture no longer smell of smoke. I no longer smell of smoke. And my skin is looking better every single day!

I saw my doctor at the two week point and told him the good news, I could not believe how thrilled he was! His was super excited and told me how proud he was of me.

I have even converted a friend of mine who happened also to be a life-long smoker. Yesterday she received her starter kit and has began her own journey in switching from analog cigarettes to e-cigs.  YAY!!

If you or someone you know is a smoker of traditional cigarettes, I strongly encourage you to research e-cigarettes and think about making the switch over for yourself.