I think the most significant misconception is that if you stop smoking, you will simply recover from your related breathing issues. While this is true to some extent, you will continue to suffer from the permanent damage done to your lungs and their passages as a result of long-term smoking, even if you have quit smoking for a long while. This is the case with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
The keyword in regard to COPD is “Chronic” meaning the effect is permanent. The symptoms are shortness of breath, rails and rattling with every breath and marked decrease in oxygenation transfer to the alveolar within the lungs due to tissue damage and obstruction. You can find this surface information on any reputable website. If you are a smoker, you probably have built up an immunity to the Public Service Announcements regarding smoking and its long term health effects. However, what you may not yet know is what it is like living with COPD from someone who has it.
Breathing is a struggle every minute of everyday. Imagine an old injury that always hurts when you move a certain way. Now imagine that ache with every inhaled breath during your day and as you bed down for sleep. Imagine now having to use an inhaler before bed to ensure your pulmonary passages do not completely close on you during your sleep. As you lie down for sleep, your breath sounds like sandpaper being rubbed on wood and you can’t cough this away. Another fun fact, when you can’t breath during your sleep you have nightmares about suffocating and/or drowning. You wake up gasping for air and in a cold sweat.
They irony is that even with this awful existence, you still crave cigarettes. The knowledge that you are slowly choking the life from your body does nothing to quell that need to keep your habit. What I have described is only the early stages of COPD and gets much worse. I quit smoking many times before I finally took serious steps to quit. I haven’t totally stopped yet, but I have cut down on my smoking significantly as a result of the breathing problems I have developed. My physician warns I am at risk for permanent damage to my lungs and COPD if I continue. The early symptoms of COPD in which I have described is what I live with daily. I can quit and recover to some degree, but I will never breathe through healthy lungs again.