I've done it. The nicotine replacement therapy is over! I'm officially smoke-free and free to start commuting by bike again. Like I mentioned in a previous blog, it was impossible to bike anywhere while wearing the patch. You're not suppose to exercise on the patch, and I found that even the least-strenuous ride caused my heart rate to rise. In turn, nicotine flowed more generously through my system leading to dizziness and nausea. For me this meant riding only in the mornings, prior to putting on the patch. But no more will I have to pick crud from my eyes as I saddle up and pedal away.
It's a challenge to quit smoking successfully. And even though I'm done with nicotine replacement therapy, I still have a long road ahead of me. The first few days off the patch are the most difficult. Although my psychological habit is broken, I'm still addicted to nicotine. Not until the last of the nicotine is out of my system will the physical addiction and withdrawal be over. On average, that takes about three days.
Also, on some level, I still consider myself a smoker. I know that there will be times of stress ahead of me. In frustration or anger, I'll want to reach for a cigarette. I know I'll still be faced with temptation in social settings when friends and family members light up. For now, I try not to stare wistfully at the smoke that trails from their fingers. And I'll always romanticize my smoking days as a time when I was invincible and infallible. It's a hard moment in your twenties to realize this isn't true.
Actually, it's thanks in large part to biking that I even considered quitting. My restricted lung capacity jolted me into an awareness of the damage I was doing to my body with each puff. Going for a 20 mile ride and reaching for a pack of American Spirits upon my return started to feel counter-intuitive.
However, the physical aspect of quitting is a lot different from the psychological challenges. Simply put, unless you're are mentally prepared and committed to quitting you will not succeed. For me it took committing to a more healthy life-style to see that I could commit to quitting. The challenges of not only trying something new but sticking with it made me realize that I was mentally capable of giving up another nasty habit.
While the process of smoking cessation was incredibly inconvenient, so too is dying of lung cancer. I may have hated the self-inflicted morning rides. It sure was difficult to maintain my cycling mentality in the face of nicotine patch side-effects. But after only ten short weeks, I can once more start to enjoy the freedom that biking offers with 50% more lung capacity to boot.