Day 1, quitting nicotine.

For the first couple of months of what turned out to be my longest stint sober, I didn’t have this blog set up. I didn’t document how I felt each day, moment, or milestone. And I definitely didn’t document every single attempt prior to my “last” day one.

I remember a lot of the early days pretty clearly (hence, my first 30 days timeline post), but I sometimes wonder which particular day was the worst, or how exactly did I cope with cravings on day five?… etc., so I can warn other people coming through those very same train stations.

So, today – Tuesday, August 29th, 2017 is my official day one for quitting nicotine (nicorette gum, to be precise), and I’ll tell you what – there aren’t a lot of blogs documenting this particular thing.

I have been chewing and parking nicorette gum since I quit smoking American Spirit cigarettes one year and four months ago. That’s a lot of gum chewing, and this gum is expensive. 100 pieces = $75 or so.

Here’s the deal – we all, including me, think of nicorette gum or patches as a WAY better alternative to smoking. But, actually, nicotine on its own is very bad. It’s poison. It’s the main ingredient that causes artery clogging and heart stress and all sorts of other things. Nicotine used to be used as a bug repellant. And it’s highly addicting.

As an avid nicorette gum chewer for the last year and change, I think I’ve consumed way more nicotine, in sheer milligrams, than I ever did as a smoker. And my urge to ramp up the number of pieces I chew has been strong. Partly this is driven by my naive sense that nicotine isn’t bad for me. It’s smoking and all it’s other chemicals that are bad for me. I don’t think this is true anymore.

It’s surprisingly hard to google long term side effects of nicorette gum. I don’t think there have been studies done on this. You get a lot of “don’t chew the gum past the recommended 3 months!” results – probably because no one has studied the effects past that point, and that’s the cutoff for the gum manufacturers’ liability.

Here’s how nicorette gum-chewing as affected me:

  • I experienced increased desire for, and dependence on, the gum as time went on.
  • I never prioritized stopping or cutting back because I didn’t realize that nicotine on its own might be really bad for me.
  • Sore jaw, and periodic canker sores in my mouth.
  • Sore throat every morning.
  • Nausea and hiccups if I chewed piece after piece.
  • And, the weirdest of all: sudden muscular and joint pain. I’ve looked it up, and there is definitely a correlation between muscle/joint pain and the nicotine patch (especially the muscles near the patch placement), so i think I just have been chewing too much gum and the nicotine caused muscle pain. It’s a thing, and it’s a thing I had never heard of. I just knew that I had really bad neck, upper back, right shoulder and left hip pain this year. I was blaming it all on my age, my bad posture, and at one point I thought it was a recurrence of my cancer. 1.5 days off the gum and I’m already feeling less muscle pain. 
  • Not as restful sleep as I’d like. I think the nicotine messes with my sleep. It will be really interesting to see how I feel once I get past this initial withdrawal-related restlessness (last night I woke up three times).

Anyway, I’m hoping I’ll feel better and will be happier without the gum, or smokes.

Here’s the honest truth, though: today I keep asking myself “what do people do in between meals to keep themselves occupied?”. I used gum as something to look forward to, as a distraction. And habit. Now what? Do people actually sit at their desks and just work?

On the plus side, there’s nothing like going through substance withdrawal to slow. down. time. Today has felt like it has lasted a year and then some.

More to come on this fascinating topic, I’m sure. Xoxo.


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