Posted by: Susan | January 14, 2009

The Best Way(s) To Quit Smoking

I was reminded yesterday that it was exactly 6 years ago at 10:00PM that I stubbed out my last smoke.  After 30+ years of hard-core smoking and God-knows-how-many quit attempts, this one stuck.  Overall, I think I’ve been pretty good about not nagging those who still smoke and not proselytizing now that I’ve found the Truth and the Way.  So now I’m going to let it all out with one – and only one – post about my tips for getting this particular monkey off your back.  With a little preachy stuff about why you really should do it.

For some reason lately I’ve thought of that anti-drug commercial the late Carroll O’Connor made after his son died tragically of a drug overdose.  I can hear his voice saying with great passion, “Get between your kid and drugs any way you can.”  The anguish in his voice and face was painful and real, and it takes that kind of single-minded thinking to get yourself off the cigs, too.  Not to mention the pain and anguish of your loved ones when you die or are incapacitated by a smoking related illness. 

There is not one positive thing related to smoking.  If nothing else, it ages you terribly.  Everyone knows what it does to the heart and lungs – pretty vital in the organ department, those – but it also damages the discs in your spine.  Multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, cancers of the digestive organs, visual disorders, blindness – all are linked to or made worse by smoking.  And smoking related illnesses are not fun or pretty.  I still miss the friend I lost to pancreatic and lung cancer a few years ago.  My own mother, a chain smoker, didn’t live to be the age I am now. 

But the good news is that if you stop smoking, much of the damage you’ve done to your body can be reversed or at least stopped.  So don’t give me that argument that it’s too late, you’re too old, it’s not worth the effort.  That’s just bullshit, frankly, and is nothing more than a lame excuse.  Believe me, if I can do it, so can you.  So can anybody

And here are some of the things that worked for me.  As we say in support groups, “take what works and leave the rest.” 

  • There is no one perfect way to quit smoking.  Do what works for you.  People will tell you that you must (or must NOT) use NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) or must (or must NOT) go cold turkey.  Don’t listen to them for even a nanosecond. 
  • Get a quit meter.  This little app sits on your taskbar and keeps track of how long you’ve been quit, how much money you’ve saved, and how much time you’ve saved by not smoking.  You can get one here.  I was so excited about starting my meter that I actually quit earlier than I had planned.  You can even hot paste your current meter reading into an email or forum posting or wherever you want to.
  • Cold turkey or gradual withdrawal?  I opted for withdrawal, and if that is your preferred method, these are some of the tricks I used:  drop the after-meal cigarette.  Easier than you might think.  Stop smoking while on the phone.  Don’t smoke in your car.  Push back the first one in the morning.  Do it in 5-minute increments if you have to.  When I had it pushed back to 10:00 at night, I knew I had it made.
  • Join an online support group.  There are scads of them and you may have to shop around a little to find one that suits you.  In a group, there is always someone who has been right where you are and lived to tell about it.  And there is always someone who is going through what you’ve already conquered, so you can see your progress.  And it always helps to help others along the way.
  • Check out Quit Buddies, the work of a slightly demented ex-smoker, full of tips, facts, fun, and diversions.
  • Keep your hands and mouth busy.  I learned to knit the first time I quit.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to smoke while knitting.  Licorice sticks, coffee stirrers, gum, candy, carrot sticks, straws…anything you can stick in your mouth as a substitute.  Preferably sugar free.
  • Use every crutch you can find.  I am a firm believer in NRT because these aids really can make the whole process so much easier.  Yes, they’re pricey, but you’re worth it.  I personally used the lozenge because I was a fairly light smoker at the end and didn’t want nicotine pumping into my body non-stop, so I just used it when I felt the need.  Also speak to your doctor about antidepressants and other medications that are available.  I’m not even up on what all is available today.  Just one word of caution about antidepressants…kicking them can be just as hard (if not harder) than getting off the smokes.  So make sure you know what you’re getting into.
  • Deep breathing really does help with the cravings.  And remember, the craving will go away, whether you smoke or not.  Drink lots of water, too, to flush the nicotine out of your system in the early going.
  • Do not assume everyone you know will be supportive of your efforts.  The first time I quit, my best friend at the time, a smoker, was less than enthusiastic.  Fast forward 15 years to when she had quit and I hadn’t, and she was now more than willing to encourage me.  I am convinced that 99.9% of smokers would quit if it were entirely painless, and many of them will be jealous that you are succeeding where they believe they can’t be.   People like this are as toxic for you as the nicotine is and should be avoided if at all possible.  If not possible, just pretend they are speaking to themselves in a mirror when they are trying to convince you that you can’t do it.
  • Beware the false sense of security that you will inevitably develop at some point in your quit, typically at three weeks and again at three months.  You will feel like you’ve got it licked, you’re a non-smoker, and you can have “just one” every now and then.  But you can’t.  Knowing this because of my earlier repeated quit attempts, I told myself I had to behave as a “recovering” smoker, just like a recovering alcoholic.  I would have to be on guard for the rest of my life.  I was wrong, though, it only took about six months and then I didn’t have to worry about it any more.  (Your results may vary!)
  • If you slip, don’t beat yourself up.  Reset your meter and get right back in the game.  The longer you wait, the harder it will be.
  • You may gain weight, but don’t believe the nonsense that your metabolism will change so much you can’t take the weight off.  Nonsense!  It took me a while, but I finally did it. 
  • Realize this is work and it requires effort.  But your progress adds up so quickly you won’t even believe it.  You’ll have good days and bad days, and pretty soon there won’t be very many bad days, and one day you’ll be safe and a pain in the ass like me!

I can’t imagine smoking a cigarette now and truly can say this is the single best thing I have ever done for myself in my entire life.  Now if I can just persuade even one other person to give it a shot, it will be even more worthwhile.  You will be forever grateful for the sense of freedom you will have as you regain control of your life.

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Responses

  1. hey Susan, I’m going to add this page to my favorites. And you didn’t get too preachy either

  2. If you have decided to quit smoking, first you should choose a method to help you overcome the habit. There are various ways to quit smoking like cold turkey, slowly cutting down, nicotine substitutes, zyban, hypnosis and acupuncture.


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