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My body feels like electrified concrete. My mind isn't working. I've eaten about half a pound of Jelly Belly's already. Even the licorice flavored ones.

What's it like to quit smoking, you ask? Remember the worst flu you've ever had -- body aches, lethargy, stomach cramps, nausea, headaches, sore throat, coughing that makes your lungs feel like they're on fire. Then imagine the angriest you've ever been, and try to picture being in that state for a solid week. When people try to cheer you up, it only makes it worse. Everything makes it worse.

Concentrate on physically clenching every muscle in your body all at once and hold it for as long as you can. Just when you think you can't take it anymore, hold it for another week. Now, combine all of those into one cohesive army that's constantly attacking your body and mind, and the whole time, you know that smoking a single cigarette will take all of that away in less than five seconds.

I've smoked one to two packs of cigarettes a day for 24 years, and just this week I decided that enough is enough. So I loaded up on junk food, attempted to seal myself off from society and quit cold turkey. Here are a number of observations I made about the world while in the throes of nicotine addiction.


MTV is Not Targeted Toward Adults Suffering Nicotine Withdrawal

To catch you up a bit, I had a series of habits that had me scheduled to die before age 50. I managed to quit drinking over a year ago and wrote about the terrible recovery process. My doctor says for my liver this was the equivalent of diving from a car one second before it flies off a cliff and explodes into a ball of fire below. So step two in my goal to live to see my children some day graduate from college was to stop smoking those 30 or 40 cigarettes a day.

Luckily there are many saliva-augmenting alternatives

Anyway, I had been planning a completely unrelated column where I would come back to MTV after having not watched it since I was 16, trying to see teen culture through adult eyes. I thought this would be interesting, considering that it kind of annoyed me even when I was perfectly within the target audience. Having grown up when MTV was in the Pauly Shore era, I was eager to see how they the channel's on-air personalities had evolved the science of being incredibly fucking annoying now that they were in their Jersey Shore phase. Somehow my editors wound up scheduling my MTV marathon on the same day as my first day smoke-free. In my state of mind, this was like somehow getting into a boxing match while laying on an operating table getting open brain surgery.

I reached out to Cracked's own Dan O'Brien for help:

I can't say much more on that subject because my "all-day" MTV marathon lasted two hours. Let me just put it this way and move on: If you can't be like Elvis and shoot your TV with a revolver when it pisses you off, then cramming your dick into the screen really is the only thing that relieves the hate. Yes, tell me how you "didn't come here to make friends," MTV reality show star. Say it into my balls.

Brown Jelly Bellys are Like Shit Landmines

As any ex-smoker or attempted ex-smoker will tell you, the "hand-to-mouth" part of the habit is every bit as hard to break as the chemical nicotine addiction. When I smoked my last cigarette and tossed the rest, the time that elapsed before I subconsciously reached for the pack was three minutes.

So you have to do something that lets you replace that hand-to-mouth action until you can de-program it. For me, it was candy. Goddamned piece of shit candy.

Let me tell you why this Jelly Belly jellybean situation is fucking bullshit. There are four flavors of Jelly Belly that are brown: Cappuccino, Root Beer, Might As Fucking Well Be Root Beer and Spiritual Abortion. I could buy a full pound of just the cappuccino ones and eat them for all three meals. But I cannot express enough what kind of mind-fucking, soul-crushing, trust-obliterating sense violation it is to bite down on what you expect to be cappuccino and ends up being any of the other three. And it happens every fucking time.

75 percent chance of eating a human shit flavored Jelly Belly.

Because they not only made them all brown, they made them almost the same exact shade of brown. True Jelly Belly fans will point out that the cappuccino ones are speckled whereas the others are not, in which case I point out that I'm quitting smoking and will fucking car bomb you if you don't stop being such an enormous goddamn embarrassment.

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I cannot use this as an excuse to smoke. This is the trap the addiction sets; I've fallen into it before. "Wow, nicotine withdrawal makes me act like a raging asshole! I'd better smoke again just for the unselfish benefit of those around me!" Uh huh. Nice try, cigarettes. This won't last forever. I have to remind myself of that. But if I smoke, then I have to go through all of this again. No fucking way. Even if everything is making me want to punch the world. Like cyjackers.

"Cyjackers," you say? "Why, that word doesn't even goddamned exist, John. What the fuck are you talking about?"

Although it might make a great series of young adult novels

Good question. The term came from my local news, who tried their precious little hearts out to do a story on technology, but ended up just looking like a bunch of drooling rock fuckers, desperately trying to scare old people and connect with teens. It was a story on identity theft, which began with the words:

"They call them 'cyjackers,' and they can steal your ..."

No. No, no, no, no, no they fucking don't. Nobody in the history of humanity's combined technology has ever, ever, used the word "cyjacker" in any context. Nobody in the long, festering existence of mankind's numerous languages has ever put those letters in that order to create that term with that meaning. Ever.

You made that up, you fucks. Holy shit, how long as it been since I quit? THREE HOURS?

Luckily, when I heard them say that, the closest thing I could throw at the television was a dry dishrag that bounced off with a light "fluff" sound before I unleashed a barrage of cursing that made me thankful my kids weren't here. Not because I didn't want them to hear the cursing, but because there's a good chance I would have thrown one of them at the TV as well.

Video Game Sports CPU Opponents are Cheating Assholes

I have to keep myself distracted. When it comes to killing time during withdrawal, active is better than passive. I need something to keep the brain and hands occupied. Time to turn off the TV. Besides, all of television is a secret plot by Big Tobacco to irritate ex-smokers into smoking again. I'm onto their game.

Avoid 'Friends' marathons during recovery

Hey. Game. I'll play a game instead. I'll play a game that has never made me angry: NHL 2011.

I'm not a huge fan of hockey, but the game NHL 2011 for the Xbox 360 is one of the best sports titles I've played in years. However, since I don't really know the rules of hockey very well, I modify the game just a bit to correct what I see as some fundamental flaws in the game: namely, that it's kind of hard to score. I start by turning off all of the penalties. And boosting my team's stats as high as they will go to turn them into supermen. And increasing their height and weight to turn them into freight trains. And reducing the other team's stats to their lowest settings. And making them all tiny so my guys can mow them over. And crippling their goalie. And making them all prone to injury.

My entire roster looks exactly like this.

But even with all of these modifications, the computer scored a goal in the final 18 seconds of the game (I had pulled my own goalie so I'd have six skaters) making it 121 to one. The only thing that kept me from flinging my TV out of the second story window covered in my shit was the fact that my landlords were downstairs cleaning up the wreckage of my last shit-covered TV.

I have nicotine patches. Holding off on them, because they make me sick. Really, I feel like I'm keeping things on an even keel so far.

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Cashier Small-Talk

Got to get out of the apartment. Get some fresh air. While I was on the highway, I smelled a whiff of smoke, my whole body seizing at the scent of it. I realized that the guy in the car in front of me was smoking. A bit drifted out of his window, shot back toward me at 60 MPH, and my withdrawal-ravaged brain almost shit itself.

Later, I was in line at Walmart waiting for the person in front of me to pay and get the fuck out of my way. The cashier was some dorky guy who was obviously still in high school, and he was one of those people who attempted to make small talk with anyone who walked by, but he was just absolutely horrible at it. One of those guys who was probably pretty used to having rocks thrown at him. By his parents.

I picture all parents as Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds.

As he slid one of the customer's boxes across the scanner, he looked down, smiled and said, "Oh, strawberry waffles. Somebody's gonna have a great breakfast tomorrow!"

The woman, who happened to be on the same social level as the dork, replied, "I know! It's amazing what they can do with food these days."

At this point, I was piling my stuff on the counter, and he looked over to see the strawberry syrup I was about to buy so that I could make banana splits for my kids. He must not have seen me rolling my eyes because he said, "Hey, strawberry syrup! You guys should get together and-"

"Please. Please, please, please, just ring the shit up. I know you're trying to be nice, but I just quit smoking, and I just want to get this shit home. There is absolutely nothing interesting whatsoever about strawberry waffles or strawberry syrup or anything that a strawberry has ever been a part of. Please. Your mouth is forming a lot of words about strawberries but all I'm hearing is, 'I'm abusing my power as your cashier to make sure you won't get out of this checkout line unless you literally murder me. Go ahead. Grab this pair of scissors here next to the register and end my life, John, I beg you'."

Make it count

I don't actually know if I said any of that out loud. Did I mention that the worst cravings aren't on Day One? They can come anywhere from Day Two to Day Five. And then they continue from time to time until the day you die.

Using the patches now. There's no shame in it, pretending that you have to overcome chemical addiction with pure willpower or it somehow doesn't count is another bullshit trick of the brain. Oh, sure, you need willpower -- shitloads of it. But a nicotine substitute like the patch lets you scale it down in steps, training the brain to do without it. You use the tools available to you; you don't bring a dildo to a knife fight.


End of Day One. Trying to sleep, but I was an insomniac before all of this. Withdrawal makes it worse. You can't sleep with a patch on -- you wind up having these vivid, lucid dreams. Your body isn't used to night time nicotine because obviously before you weren't smoking when you were asleep (NOTE: IF YOU DO THIS, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM). So I had plenty of time to mentally give a hearty "fuck you" to all of those people and factors who helped me get to this point in my addiction:

My old middle school friend, Brady, who talked me into my first cigarette.

The mullet-sporting bowling alley worker who sold that pack to two 13-year-old kids without asking for ID (I handed him the money because I was tall and "looked the most 18").

My dipshit parents for not punishing me when they found out.

The cigarette machine at the gas station back in the days when cigarette vending machines were a thing and any kid could start a heroin-like addiction as long as he had enough quarters.

Movies for making it look cool. Denis Leary for making it funny.

Seriously, fuck you, Denis.

The asshole who made this GIF, reminding me that if I stay smoke free, I'll be 50-years old before my body is fully repaired. And high school health teachers for not cramming that information down my throat until I puked statistics.

The tobacco companies who've made it rain slow death on the human species for several generations.

And Johnny Depp for smoking those annoying clove cigarettes, but we digress

But I save the biggest fuck-you for myself. My stupid, teenage self for happily jumping into these killing addictions without one second of thought to the future. And then the older versions of myself in all the years since, finding excuses to never change despite family and friends begging me to quit all of this shit.

So I'm sorry, MTV, it's my own face I should be shoving my balls into. And I'm going to do that right now, on camera:


Update: John resumed smoking a few months after this article was posted.

For more from John, check out Having Fun With 419 Scammers and 5 Things Nobody Tells You About Quitting Drinking.

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