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Great article, thanks for sharing. Having quit cigarettes many years ago now, I can absolutely relate. I spent the first couple of years fighting myself (mentally and emotionally) on a daily basis, stuck on the fact that I was deprived. Eventually the feelings and cravings subsided, but I still felt like I had lost something. The key and lock analogy were indeed perfect. I didn't feel like myself. I had trouble talking to others. I felt less intelligent. I developed some social anxiety. I often wondered if I was self-medicating through nicotine and if I'd never be the same.

My dependency on chemicals never really went away, but I found a better way to feed it: exercise. Working out gave me that little boost of whatever it is, je ne sais quois, that made me feel more confident, more comfortable in my own skin. It wasn't the same at first (and at this point, I'll never know if I'm back to "baseline"), but for me at this time in my life, it's enough.

It's funny because objectively, life is so much better post-smoking. You don't smell, you don't have mandatory breaks, airplane rides aren't hell, family and friends don't complain, etc etc etc. And yet, while I don't miss smoking, I can distinctly remember all that trouble being worth it at the time.

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