I quit smoking. Twice.
The first time was in 1987. For six months. All it took is “just one” cigarette. Hooked again.
The second time was five years ago, and I haven’t had so much as a whiff since. Several doctors and nurses I’ve met recently suggested I should write a list of cessation tips to share with others. Here is my tip list.
1. First, remember it’s never too late to quit. As one gets older and keeps smoking, the chance of horrible adverse effects increases, including debilitating emphysema.
2. Before you quit, make a list of all the bad things about smoking: wheezy breathing, hacking cough, bad breath, stained teeth, smelly clothing, filthy ash trays, stinky house, danger of starting a fire, exposing others to your smoke, the escalating cost of buying cigarettes and last but not least, the likelihood of developing diseases. My “bad” list contained 50 bad things. My “good” list contained exactly one item: the pleasure of smoking a cigarette with a cup of coffee or glass of beer. Stick your list on the refrigerator.
3. Quit smoking on a weekend. That is because you will become very crabby for a few days so it’s best to stay away from people. During the first few days you will feel as if you are turning into a werewolf that snarls, curses, kicks furniture and scares any human in sight.
4. I chose cold turkey as my quitting method because I purposely wanted to go through a withdrawal hell so I would never be tempted to take up smoking again, not wanting to re-experience that withdrawal again. If I’d chosen gum or patches, knowing me I’m sure I would’ve thought, “Oh, well, I’ll just have one or two smokes, then I can always get some more patches, like, next week, maybe.” That’s an example of what addiction experts call “stinking thinking.” I recommend cold turkey but choose any method you feel is best for you.
5. Before your last cigarette, get ready to hunker down with your favorite snacks, hobbies or tasks to keep you busy. Such “alternatives” are essential for success. They are things you can do when a craving strikes. When it does, instantly move to another room or another place, away from the place that set off the craving. If you’re in a chair, get up immediately and do something else, such as a brisk walk around the block, doing the dishes, vacuuming and more. The alternative must involve some kind of movement.
6. Be on guard against “stinking thinking.” During the first few days, you will become light-headed and ornery, and your mind will play all kinds of sneaky tricks. In my case, I kept having a foolish obsession to hurry down to the mobile-home-park communal mailbox to mail letters or bills. Even though I had nothing to mail, I kept feeling a jittery mania to get down to that mailbox. And then it dawned on me: the mailbox is 30 feet from the store where I always bought my Basic menthols. The “devil” inside me knew if he could get me down to the mailbox, he could unleash temptations that would push me toward that store, and I would probably cave in, thinking, “Oh, what the heck, why not just buy a pack. Just one pack. I can always quit later. Sometime.”
Those kinds of temptations will plague you for awhile. They are so sneaky and persistent. But outwit them! Be strong and tell that nicotine devil to get lost! Shout it!
7. Kindly ask smokers to stay away for a week or so, or at least request them to smoke outside, away from you.
8. Keep reviewing your bad/good list and keep doing activities (brisk walks are the best).
Meanwhile, avoid any smoking-related things, especially your favorite smoking chair or that cup of coffee or glass of beer.
9. Indulge often in positive projections. Visualize how your lungs are going from tar-black to healthy pink. Think how the chance of disease is diminishing. Picture what you’ll be able to buy in place of cigarettes. For example, a pack-a-day smoker could easily afford a fabulous two-week trip for two to an exotic locale for what is spent in one year on smokes.
10. I wish you the best of luck. I’ve often said if I could quit smoking, anybody can. And please remember, through your first days of struggle, how happy you’ll be you finally, finally achieved the “impossible.” You quit! Congratulate yourself.