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How long does it take for your body to heal/recover after smoking cigarettes?

By February 13, 2009 - 2:19pm
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I quit smoking nearly 10 years ago after nearly 20 years of smoking almost a pack a day.

I read somewhere that it takes the body a very long time to "heal" itself after all that poison in the system which is a bit disappointing after all the work it takes to quit.

does anyone know if the body ever really recovers from a 20 year smoking habit? I was under 35 when I quit.

thank you

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EmpowHER Guest

Hi Alysiak...

I quit smoking after 29 years and countless attempts to stop. I was a heavy smoker and in my last few years, moved to cigar smoking to get a more intense 'hit' of nicotine (yup, I inhaled those cigars). I used to go through intense panic, misery, irritability and self hatred every time I tried to quit. I thought that I would be a smoker for life because I didn't have the 'willpower' to overcome these symptoms and that I was depriving myself of 'feeling good' (the feeling I got when I smoked a cigarette).

I think the first thing to realize about your partner is he's addicted. Nicotine is one of the most highly addictive substances known to to humans. Researchers figure that two cigarettes is all that is needed to hook someone on nicotine. The good news is that nicotine leaves your body fairly quickly (unlike other addictive substances).

Each cigarette contains enough nicotine to keep your nicotine levels in the body for up to forty-five minutes. After that the levels drop in half, and after more time, the nicotine level drops even further. This is the signal to the smoker that he 'needs' the cigarette: the levels in his body are dropping, he is feeling slightly anxious and nervous so he lights up another cigarette and tops up the levels again...until they once again start to drop causing him to feel anxious and nervous again which then causes him to light up again.

One cigarette leads to the next cigarette and they all become an endless chain to sustain the levels of nicotine in the body. The smoker, when he lights up, feels relief of the anxiety and nervousness (nicotine levels are being topped up) and tends to associate this with 'feeling good' in his brain. He thinks it's relaxing him and making him 'normal'. He tends to associate the nervousness and anxiety of not smoking (nicotine levels being depleted in the body) with how it would be if he was to quit and cannot see beyond that to the day when there is no more nicotine in the body to send out the pangs of withdrawal. He also feels psychologically that he is giving up something precious if he were to quit smoking because he associates smoking with feelings of relaxtion and cessation of anxiety.

Willpower doesn't really have a lot to do with quitting smoking if you're past the point of seeing cigarettes as precious. Once you understand that the stress and anxiety that you associate with living are actually caused by cigarettes and the nicotine levels dropping in your body, one can stub out for the last time and not REGRET IT.

Once one can understand that he or she is spending money to feed a nicotine monster (addiction) inside them that is slowly killing them and that it has nothing to do with feeling good, or coping in life or stress relief, (otherwise everyone would be doing it, doctors would be prescribing it, we would be teaching our children to do it, etcetera) they are on the road to letting it go for good.

Once they have an epiphany and let go of the psychological illusion that smoking makes them feel good, cope better and relaxes them, they can stub out and not even have to use will power because the DESIRE is no longer there. There is nothing to regret and no inner battle: you see cigarettes for what they are.

Hope this helps.

PS - I quit after 29 years, and have been smoke free for 1 1/2 years. I tried every 'stop smoking method' including patches, gum, zyband, cold turkey/will power and 'cutting down'. None of them were successful until I understood the addiction.

March 21, 2009 - 6:59am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

i like your comments, i too av smoked a long time but unfortunetely had to use champix to stop i have been stopped 4 months but the tab have made me ill. i still would like a ciggarette but i feel this is not because of the cravings but because i no it would be nice like chocolate we desire it.i do feel though i have lost a great pleasure something i enjopyed an sometimes i feel i have nothing to look forward to sad are nt i julie

July 28, 2009 - 5:09am

Hi Alysiak,
As a former smoker, who quit cold turkey after a serious smoking addiction, I am afraid to say, that in my opinion, unless someone wants to quit, there is nothing anyone can say or do that will make them.
I think that unless you threaten to leave him, he probably will not quit, because the desire has to come from within. I am sorry...I know that this is hard to hear, but I feel very strongly that it is true. I feel so strongly about this that I would NEVER date a smoker again and I would never take even one puff of a cigarette again myself...that is the hold these evil sticks of tobacco and chemicals have on people.
When I smoked, I was defensive about it, I wanted people who smoked to stay smoking, if someone quit, I was disappointed!
My mother still smokes(about two a day) and she will not even listen if anyone tells her how bad they are, she doesn't even really believe that they are!Addiction is a scary thing.
I hope that your husband wakes up one day and realizes that smoking is bad and evil and kills, but he may not.....if he does, it will be because he decided it for himself. Smokers who love smoking don't really listen, sadly.
It's especially poignant in your husband's case as he saw his mother and friend suffering and dying from lung cancer. And if that won't stop him, a pamphlet certainly won't. It's denial.
Unfortunately, it really comes down to you deciding if you can live with someone who smokes. It's so hard when you love someone and they do something that is bad for them but won't stop. I feel for you.
Maybe someone else has a story of the influence of a loved one making them quit smoking???

February 16, 2009 - 10:25pm

My DH has been smoking for longer than I've known him. He knows I'm super sensitive to the smoke, so he's required to go outside. I've asked him to breathe out for a couple of minutes before he comes back in because I'm so sensitive that I can smell it even all the way upstairs. As a distance runner, I'm not terribly thrilled about living with a smoker.

He was with his mother when she passed away from lung cancer. His brother and sister-in-law quit smoking when his mother was diagnosed, but not my DH. His best friend later died from lung cancer, but even that didn't phase him.

I applaud you for making the decision to quit smoking. My mother-in-law had quit cold turkey, but it was already too late for her. My brother-in-law, a pharmacist, has tried to help my DH quit, recommending various methods. But, I think one has to have the will to quit, and some have a stronger will than others.

I don't know what it will take to help my DH take that step toward better health. His overall health is the pits, although he's not overweight. He claims to have been cutting back, but I am often awakened at night by the incessant in and out through the front door, sometimes less than every 15 minutes.

He won't read anything, ignores articles I give him, won't even take the supplements my BIL and I get for him. He simply doesn't have the will or the desire to quit.

How do you get through to someone like that?

February 16, 2009 - 5:54pm


I would love to help be a part of your success story in quitting smoking! I worked for the past 7 years as a Certified Health Education Specialist, providing "Preparation for Cessation" workshops and one-on-one consultations for smoking cessation. The smoking cessation consultations were the favorite part of my job, because most of these individuals were fun, smart, spontaneous, gregarious...many of the personality characteristics that most likely influenced their decision to start smoking (most of them said they started smoking when they drank at bars/parties...the place you see many of these gregarious folks!).

I just wrote a SHARE article that you can read here (inspired by you!), regarding the top 5 effective strategies to quit smoking, and asked other EmpowHer readers if they would also like to join in and quit smoking together!

February 15, 2009 - 6:18pm

Please do! I would love to hear how it's going! Actually, another reason why I quit is because I didn't want my dogs to inhale the cigarette smoke!
I KNOW you will do it! 99% of it is just WANTING to suceed!
Congrats on getting this far.

February 14, 2009 - 2:52pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for the information and sharing about your addiction. I am always interested to hear success stories. Luckily, I live alone and my dog doesn't smoke. Most of the people that I hang around with are currently stopping the addiction as well so I will be in good company.

Cold turkey didn't work for me. I just do not have the will power although, it is in my heart to be a non-smoker. I will certainly fill you in on my struggles and hopefully/ultimately my success.

February 14, 2009 - 2:26pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

use the PATCHES....they worked for me...i quit using patches 2-years ago! i gradualy tapered off patches too over time...remember not to do this too quickly though...take your time! i now am so happy that i quit...i feel better in every way...much better. will-power + patches-for me are the best method of all.

May 17, 2010 - 5:14pm

Hi Miscortes,
For me,personally, I quit cold turkey. I had had a night of drinking and smoking and felt horrific! Also, I had done a lot of reading on how smoking affects your looks and I am super vain! I didn't want to get those lines around the lips and naturally, I was horrified at the idea of having a tube in my throat and a voice box! I also read that smokers go grey about five years earlier on average and loose that glow to the skin. Vanity helped greatly!
So I just stopped that day...it was hard for the first three days. I decided to get super fit too so instead of replacing the cigarettes with food, I replaced them with hiking and working out. I was determined to breathe clearly and easily and it happened very fast. I also lost a lot of weight.
I craved cigarettes, naturally...still do sometimes. I even have nightmares that I started again! But I have not had even one puff in ten years.Now I find them to be horrific. I wouldn't even date someone who smoked. I think that for me, they were a way of life...I had been in this messed up club but now that I was out, I would never go back!
I found cold turkey to be the best method for me. There was no procrastination and no excuses. I was my own boss....it was rather empowering. I never had another puff, as I was an addict and know that I might go back on them again! So the only answer was to avoid them completely.It worked! I know what it is like....it can be very painful to try and quit but it is SOOO worth it!
Good luck! I feel for you!

February 14, 2009 - 2:11pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to rlyons)

Hi, I quit cold turkey 5 weeks and 1 day ago. I smoked since I was 16 and I am 51 now. I have a question that I can't get a clear answer too.... I am feeling better and better each day but during the day atleast maybe twice a day for a few hours I get really down and a little depressed where all I can think about is cigarettes, I don't want to give in and I don't think I will give in but what I am wondering is, will this subside more and more and is this normal for 5 weeks? or will it be this bad forever?

July 29, 2009 - 7:42am
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