In April, 2009, my grandfather, Christopher Dalton, age 56, made “the hardest decision” of his life.
“I made the decision while I was working in my office, and a few of my friends asked me if I wanted to smoke with them outside,” he recalls.” I looked out my window and saw that it was pouring down rain, and I said no, not right now; it is raining. Later, when I saw them outside in the rain smoking, I told myself there is no point to keep smoking. I spend eight dollars per pack and I smoke two packs every day. This added up to nearly $480 per month, just for smoking.”
After 30 years of smoking, Dalton decided to quit right away, “cold turkey.” What happened to his body as he went “cold turkey”?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 46 million U.S. adults smoke, as of 2009. Smokers aren’t the only ones that can get sick from, or even killed by, nicotine. Nonsmokers can experience similar symptoms to those who smoke.
According to the American Cancer Society, if you decide to quit smoking immediately, your body starts its journey back to normal soon after. After only 20 minutes, blood pressure receded to the levels of a nonsmoker. Then, after eight hours, carbon monoxide levels in Dalton’s body dropped by half, and oxygen levels were back to normal levels.
After 48 hours, my grandfather’s chance of having a heart attack from smoking began to drop, all the nicotine in his body was out, and his sense of taste and smell will return to the normal level. At 72 hours, his bronchial tubes were relaxed, allowing him to breathe and talk more easily, and his overall energy level began to rise.
“The first few days were rough as predicted. It was a constant battle not to light up. This consumed most of my brain activity the first few days,” Dalton adds.
After only two weeks, blood his circulation began to increase, and continued to do so for another 10 weeks or so, because as he smoked the nicotine and smoke his blood was very thin compared to that of a nonsmoker. And after being smoke-free for three to nine months, his coughs, wheezing and breathing problems dissipated, and lung strength increased by at least 10% from his levels while he smoked, according to the American Cancer Society.
Dalton also adds, “The following weeks were tough as well. The thought of pleasures received from having a cigarette were almost constant.”
By the one-year point, his risk of having a heart attack related to smoking dropped by half. “The following months began to offer a few moments of peace. The cravings began to lessen to only a few thoughts per hour,” Dalton says.
If my grandpa does not smoke for five years, his chances of having a stroke will be back to that of a nonsmoker, according to the CDC.
After 10 years, his risk of getting lung cancer from smoking will have returned to that of a nonsmoker. Finally, after not smoking for 15 years, the risk of having a heart attack will have returned to that of a nonsmoker.
Since my grandfather made the decision to be smoke free, his health has improved incredibly. He is now riding his bike almost every day, four or five miles each ride, and he is staying healthy any way he can.
“I will never go back to smoking for any reason ever again,” he said. “I used to dread movies or long airline trips where I was unable to smoke.”
The biggest tip my grandfather can give is that no matter how tough the trek may be, never give up because the more self-confidence you have, the easier it will become, and your overall strength will increase.
Some withdrawal symptoms that can be experienced when you quit smoking cold turkey are bad headaches, tremors, and short-term depression, according to the National Institutes of Health. “I was very nervous, unable to consecrate or relax. I always had some type of food or candy in my mouth. I added a few inches to my waist line.”
“After almost 2 years, the thought of smoking still seems like a good idea at times. When that happens, I need to rethink what my life was like then and how much better it is today.”