Quitting smoking is one of the most difficult hurdles that a person can come across in his or her life. Not everyone has the willpower to simply put down a cigarette and walk away from the habit. It affects everyone that crosses its treacherous path without discrimination. Even the legendary writer Samuel Clemens once said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” If quitting smoking were easy, there would be no need for products like Nicorette and the nicotine patch. A million dollar industry would collapse.
The only way that you will ever truly quit smoking is by convincing yourself to quit. Friends and family members mean well when they attempt to deter you from smoking. Listen to them and take what they say into consideration. It is wonderful to have a support system; however, the final decision has to be yours. Quitting smoking is a life altering decision. Everyone that you know can talk until he or she is blue in the face but the decision is ultimately yours. Don’t make it lightly or in the end you will fail.
Why is quitting so hard?
Children in kindergarten are able to comprehend the fact that smoking is harmful. Every cigarette manufacturer places a disclaimer on their product that states smoking is harmful to your health. Cancer, birth defects, gum disease, and other illness generate form smoking. And smoking is an expensive habit. The image of a smoker is that of a person with stinky breath, yellow teeth, and oily skin. Yet despite all of these negative aspects, the American Lung Association claims that 6,000 children under the age of eighteen take up the habit every day.
Just as with any other habit, the longer a person smokes, the harder it will be to quit. Every smoker has his/her personal reasons as to why he/she began smoking. What most smokers eventually have in common is the desire to quit. It may not develop at a certain point, but at some stage in a smoker’s life, he/she will consider quitting.
A smoker’s body becomes accustomed to tobacco. It will cause a physical craving when it is deprived. Regular use of any addictive drug lights up the dopamine circuitry in anticipation of pleasure.
Just the scent of a cigarette is enough to cause most smokers that possess the intention of quitting to relapse. Falling back into the habit is easier than distancing yourself from it. Eventually, if the smoker’s will power is strong enough, he or she will get past this stage. From my own experience I can state that ex-smokers tend to be either indifferent to smoking or they do a complete 180 and become aggressively more anti-smoking than people that have never picked up a tobacco product.
Strategies to Kick the Habit
Below is a list of methods that people have found success with:
The Buddy System
People that go to the gym and work out with a friend tend to get more out of the experience than those that don’t. The same concept applies to people that want to quit smoking. Buddies provide a support system for each other. Since both parties are sharing the highs and lows of the experience, it can be helpful to have someone to depend on. In a gym, a friend can inspire you to push yourself harder that you might do on your own. Your friend is also there to pick you up when you fall down.
This is without a doubt the most common method people use to stop smoking. Unfortunately, this is also the method that tends to fail the most. Every smoker wants to believe that he or she can simply place his or her last cigarette into an ashtray and walk away. If it were that easy, there would be no market for products like nicotine gum, nicotine patches, and artificial cigarettes.
One method that occasionally works is to create a psychological and physical distaste for tobacco. When cigarettes become revolting to a smoker, the smoker will abandon the habit.
Purchase a carton of the most revolting cigarettes that you can find. Take the carton and soak it in water. Allow the carton time to dry. The result will be a putrid collection of the nastiest tasting tobacco that you have ever seen. Force yourself to smoke the entire carton. This does not have to take place in one sitting. Smoke the unpleasant cigarettes as you normally would. When your addiction compels you to smoke, force yourself to smoke one of these. After awhile smoking will not appear as appealing as it once was.
Step out of your comfort zone. Humans are creatures of habit. Most people feel a compulsion to smoke under certain conditions. Some smoke after a meal, prior to going to sleep, or as a celebration for accomplishing a task. I once worked at a gas station with a gentleman who took a smoke break every time he finished working on a project like restocking the 2-liter soda display. As for myself, I used to smoke more when I was around other smokers.
The key is to pinpoint triggers and avoid them. Triggers are people, places, and things that remind you of your habit. Try to associate with people that don’t smoke. Spending time with people that smoke will only tempt you into returning to your habit. Avoid going to places where you used to smoke. Take all of your clothes that smell like cigarettes and disguard them. This is an excellent opportunity for you to reward yourself with a new wardrobe. By quitting smoking, you are creating a new life for yourself. Embrace your new life and make the best of it.
Make it a point to leave your cigarettes somewhere in a location that requires a little effort to retrieve them. This will aid you in rationing out the quantity you smoke. If you usually carry a pack in your pocket, you can try leaving your cigarettes in a difficult place to reach within your home. If you have to work to retrieve them, you will naturally think twice before going after them.
Purchasing individual packs as opposed to cartons is another way to deter yourself from smoking. Running to the store every time that you feel the need to smoke will get old fast. No one wants to get up, travel to the store, and wait in line when they don’t have too. Smoking is a leisurely activity. Most people do it for relaxation. Turning the habit into a hassle will help create a physiological distance thereby easing the process of quitting.
Nicotine Gum and Patches
Nicotine gum and patches offer smokers a way to ease themselves out of the habit. They are discreet. No one needs to know that the gum you are chewing is nicotine gum. No one needs to know that you are wearing a patch. Quitting is extremely difficult. It is also a personal matter. Some people prefer to kick the habit in private.
Of course, nicotine gum is also useful in that it satisfies the oral fixation that is created by smoking. The idea is to start off chewing 10 to 30 pieces a day and then work your way down to zero. Eventually you will be able to transition from nicotine gum to regular gum. Chewing gum is definitely a better habit than smoking.
Some gums like Chantix may require a doctor’s prescription.
Rationing out your cigarette intake is a popular way to ease out of the habit. Some people find success through this method easier than others do. The idea is to begin gradually smoking fewer cigarettes until you do not need them any more. You could even switch to Ultra Lights. Try to limit the amount of time that you spend smoking. Instead of smoking an entire cigarette in one sitting, try to limit yourself to half.
A large number of smokers have a tendency to associate food with tobacco. If you usually smoke after eating, try to alter your eating habits. Quitting smoking requires major lifestyle adjustments. Eating fewer snacks and meals will diminish the desire to smoke. As your rate of smoking declines, you should attempt to find a substitute. Instead of smoking a cigarette after each meal, try chewing on a piece of gum.
Keep in mind that reducing the number of cigarettes that you smoke means that while attempting to quit, you are still smoking cigarettes. The objective is to distance yourself completely from the habit. This is extremely difficult to accomplish while you are still smoking. Quitting through reduction requires a tremendous amount of discipline and desire. Perhaps more than any other method, reduction requires commitment. It is easy to fall off the wagon. You have to want to quit.
Signs of Withdrawal
- Aches and pains
- Irrational fits of anger
- Problems with digestion
- Problems sleeping
- Tension in your chest
- Weight gain
I began smoking cigarettes when I was a freshman in high school. A large number of my friends were smokers and I took up the habit to fit in. It didn’t take long for me to become addicted. On average, I would go through a pack of Marlboro Lights a day.
Unlike most smokers that I know, I came from a family that frowned on anything tobacco related. They pestered me beyond belief for fifteen years. I knew the health risks associated with smoking. My brother regularly showed me pictures of damaged lungs from cancer patients. That knowledge did not slow me down one bit. Whenever I would become sick, I would cough and it felt as though someone was scraping the inside of my throat with a jagged blade. I did not care. No logical argument in the world could persuade me to reconsider my decision to smoke.
One day, I simply looked in the bathroom mirror and decided that I did not like the person that was looking back at me. A close friend of mine had recently taken up the habit. This was a person that I respected. He was a clean and intelligent person. I sat down and considered his situation very carefully. Outside of his association with me, I saw no motivation for him to take up the habit. Up until this point, the only person that I felt I was endangering with my habit was me. Now, I had no choice but to accept the fact that others were being hurt as well.
As I stared into the mirror, my hands shook because I wanted a cigarette so badly. At that moment, I despised everything about myself. I was so caught up with tobacco that I let it assume control over my life. When I finally gave in and opened a fresh pack, the addictive aroma that a smoker finds appealing motivated me to realize how selfish I had been.
Not all of my friends were smokers. As I mentioned previously my family was not fond of the habit either. As I inhaled the scent of tobacco, I thought about the numerous times that I smoked around them. Even though I did everything that I could think of to refrain from blowing smoke in their direction, they were still subjected to the distasteful scent of tobacco. It clings to smokers like cheap cologne. While smokers find the scent enchanting, nonsmokers find it revolting. All of my nonsmoking friends sacrificed their sense of smell every time they were close to me.
It took several weeks after my realization for me to begin to seriously considering the possibility of quitting. I announced to my friends that I was on my final pack of cigarettes. As soon as I finished it, I would be finished. Announcing my intention to quit filled me with an unexpected sense of pride. When I reached the end of my pack, I made a big deal out of smoking my last cigarette. Two days later, I walked to my local gas station and purchased a pack of Marlboro Lights. I felt horrible.
A year passed before I was ready to try again. This time I didn’t just want to quit, I wanted to quit with a vengeance. I hated the feeling of not being in control. After the crashing failure of my previous defeated attempt, I decided to keep my decision to quit to myself. I was going to quit and I was going to do it on my own terms. The next time that I went to the store, I bought a carton of Camel Non-filters. They were the strongest cigarettes that I could find. I took them home and dunked them in a bucket of water. They sat on top of a table on my back porch for a week before I decided it was time to implement my plan. No matter how badly I wanted to smoke a Marlboro Light, I forced myself to smoke all of the Camel Non-filters.
Don’t get me wrong, that was not the end of my addiction. When I finished that carton, I intentionally separated myself from everything that I felt could compel me to return to the habit. I cut my self off from certain friends and I threw myself into my job. The first month or so was the worst. Everything I saw made me want to smoke. At this point, I was running on shear willpower.
The carton of Camel Non-filters was not the final nail in my smoking career but it provided me with the motivation and strength to endure those first smoke free months. There were times at the beginning when I was close to smoking a cigarette. Eventually the allure of smoking dissolved into nothingness. I no longer have a desire to smoke when I smell a cigarette. It has been over ten years since I smoked my last cigarette and I have no intention of taking up the habit ever again.