After turning to cigarettes to cope with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) and anxiety during high school and college, with nicotine patches as my guide, I am on the path to quitting and improving my grades.
by Henry Greene
I wake up in the morning feeling naked, as though I have just been lifted from the grave. Every morning for the past six weeks the blaring alarm clock has woken me up, telling me that it’s 7:30 a.m., and I have felt this way, lifeless. Normally I would wake up, then remember it, that I've given up cigarettes -- the one thing that has kept my brain, fogged by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) and anxiety, going for the last four years. Then I would stumble around until my hand would find my nightstand's box of treasure, at which point in the routine, I would think to myself, Thirty more minutes before I’m brought to life again.
For the past six weeks, this treasure chest has contained a bounty of silver bullets, my supply of nicotine patches, which I cling to with ritual. I peel off a nicotine patch from the pack, smile at it sentimentally, slam it against my arm as hard as I can, and press my palm back and fourth against it until the patch is inextricably adhered to my skin. And every morning nicotine -- ambrosia that flows sweetly through my veins and brings my body chemistry into an acceptable median -- has resurrected me from the dead.
But today, I have woken up naked, and I will stay naked because I have quit nicotine for good. This first morning without any jolt, I stare at the empty box of nicotine patches. Then I turn 45 degrees and drag my feet out of my bedroom. I make an extra pot of coffee and dump it generously into an oversized mug. Every time a craving strikes me, I tell myself, I’ll take a nip from this mug.
On my way to class, I sit on the train with my coffee and feel the rhythm of my body being jostled back and fourth. I sip at the mug, but not due to a nicotine craving. I do it absentmindedly. It’s only when I pull into the Temple University station that it occurs to me: I haven’t craved a cigarette once.
At first it makes no sense, but soon I reach a startling realization -- today isn’t the day that I finally quit smoking. I quit smoking six weeks ago, when I stopped puffing on cigarettes. I’ve been weaned off cigarettes for weeks -- that was the real challenge. Without the jolt of thick menthol smoke in my lungs, without the burning of a match and the crackle of a newly lit smoke, the chemical called nicotine means nothing to me. Easing myself off of that chemical was a biological battle fought entirely beneath my conscious awareness.
I smile. Clearheaded and smoke-free, I stroll into class, confident that I’ll never pick up a cigarette again. To think of it -- nothing but clearheaded, productive days! I calculate the amount of work I can get done each day with a renewed mind that remains sharp at all hours. Hours and hours of work, now that I’ve quit smoking, I think to myself.