The Accidental Non-Smoker

February 20, 2016

I quit smoking this year (yes, even the electronic ones), and like so many of the positive things in my life, this was a complete accident. My last cigarrette was on December 31, 2015. I’ve even kept the pack, which is still half full. I don’t give it a second thought.

I love nicotine almost as much as I love caffeine. I’m something of a stimulant junkie (as much as the law will allow) I think in part because my natural state of being is so low key and laid back that I’m something like half-a-step behind the rest of the world, out of phase.

I started experimenting with an alternative sleep schedule in 2012 and trained myself to where I could work with only 4-5 hours of sleep plus two 20-minute naps per day. This bought me a solid two hours of writing time in the morning before the rest of my house wakes up. But during 2015 I started having more and more difficulty focusing during writing time. Yeah, some of this was clearly due to the hernia pain I talked about in my last post (hindsight is wonderful, eh?), but not all of it.

January 2013 brought with it a much needed job change (coincidentally around the time I started letting this site lag) and with that change came a whole new set of stressors. Don’t get me wrong, the day job is pretty good. I’m lucky to have it and fortunate to be surrounded by good people, but the role challenged my networking and influencing skills in ways I never imagined. In pop psychology terms, for the past three years this introvert has been required to behave very much like an extrovert. I knew this going in, needed the challenge, but man, being something you’re not is exhausting as hell.

In October 2015 I started looking into nootropics, cognitive-enhancing drugs, with a few ground rules: 1) no illegal substances, and 2) nothing I would be embarrassed or ashamed to share publicly. What most of the folks looking into this stuff on the Nootropics subreddit suggest is starting with the main active ingredients in green tea: caffeine and L-Theanine.

I’m not much of a green tea fan, although I’ll drink it when I eat sushi. However, I love coffee, so I had the caffeine part down. I found a well-rated L-Theanine supplement (it’s considered a vitamin) and began to take it whenever I had a cup of coffee. The effects were pretty cool. The caffeine still ramped up my thinking (which is part of why I love it so much), but the L-Theanine cut down some of the less desirable physical effects. Where before I would occasionally be jittery and edgy by the end of the day I found myself remaining relatively calm.

By the end of December I found myself wanting to smoke (both real and electronic cigarettes) less and less. In fact, occasionally smoking either one would leave me feeling slightly nauseous. Recognizing the only recent change I’d made was in taking L-Theanine, I revisited my research and found what I’d overlooked before. Woven in the anecdotal evidence of nootropic value and scientific studies of L-Theanine’s affects were also hints that the vitamin interfered with nicotine. A little more google-fu (okay, not that hard since I knew what I was looking for) uncovered a the abstract of 2012 study indicating as much.

I was looking for a way to combat fatigue and mental strain but found exactly what I needed to quit smoking. I’m still exploring ways of managing my energy, focus, and concentration. Cutting out the nicotine has made this more of a challenge in the short term by making me foggy headed a times, but there’s no safe usage of nicotine at any dosage. I’m okay with the having to work a little harder on the other stuff. I miss the mental boost of nicotine, but hopefully I can find some healthy ways to regain and even surpass what it did for me mentally. Two months since I quit and I’m already starting to feel mentally crisp again.

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