For those considering quitting smokingSubmitted by Michael Nystrom on Fri, 12/13/2013 - 07:00
Right about the time I was gearing up to quit smoking three years ago, I saw an ad* for a Harvard study looking for people wanting to quit. They gave you free nicotine patches, as well as counseling and support, which sounded great. They had an office in downtown Boston, right by the site of the Boston Massacre. The researcher who ran it looked like Natalie Portman.
One thing she emphasized was to set a quit date, pysch yourself up for it, and keep it. The date I chose was 12/11/10. I thought that was a cool date, and that it would be easy to remember. Then it turned out that the Boston Tea Party was going to be on the 12th, and I knew I was going to see a bunch of Ron Paul supporters, the vast majority of whom smoked. I wanted to be able to enjoy the day, and the cigs, so I changed the date. I moved it to the 13th, which became my quit date instead: 12/13/10.
Now here we are three years later, without a single cigarette. 12/13/13! Woo-hoo!
I had probably tried quitting 20 times before it finally stuck the first time. Then I was quit for 6-1/2 years and ended up backsliding. But here I am again, 3 years on and doing just fine.
Here’s are some process strategy and tips that I remember from the counseling sessions leading up to quitting. I hope they can be of use to at least one person here. Feel free to post any questions / comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Best of luck to anyone considering doing the deed!
- Set a quit date. Set it a few weeks in advance, and burn that date into your mind. That is going to be the end of your life as a smoker, so start imagining that date as your point of transformation.
- Know why you want to quit. Take some time to commit all of your reasons to paper. Think about all the money you're wasting, how you're damaging your health, how your clothes stink all the time (you don't even know!), how your teeth are getting yellow and rotten, how you increase your chances of all kinds of cancer. Just sit down and write, write, write. Let yourself go and you'll be surprised at what comes out.
- Tell everyone you're quitting. Doing this 1) helps put social pressure on you. You don't want to let your friends and family down, not to mention look weak! And 2) it puts your smoker friends on notice that you're making a change. Ask them for their support in not offering you cigarettes. You might even motivate some of your friends to quit with you!
- In your last few weeks as a smoker, observe your behavior to figure out when and why you smoke. What are the triggers that make you reach for a cigarette? First thing in the morning? With your coffee? After meals? When you drink? When you drive? All of those were triggers for me. Become aware of them. Forewarned is forearmed.
- Consider a nicotine substitute - the gum and the patch were both helpful for me.
- Taper down your smoking as you approach your quit date. Maybe switch to lights. But definitely count the number of cigarettes you smoke, and on each successive day, smoke fewer and fewer. This will help make it easier on your quit date.
- Throw out all of your cigarettes especially your hidden cigarettes. The last thing you want is to find a pack in your glove box, or the nightstand when you're feeling an irresistible craving. Get rid of all your lighters and ashtrays. Wash you clothes, clean the house, vacuum out the car. All of these activities raise the cost of you smoking again.
- After you quit, being aware of your triggers, and being able to interrupt your patterns is important. If you smoked with your coffee, drink tea instead. If you smoked after meals, get up immediately and take a walk. If you used to smoke and drink beer, have wine instead. Break these patterns and associations. Make new ones. You're a non-smoker now. Own it.
- One foot in front of the other. Every day, every hour, every minute there is a potential temptation. Be on guard and ride it out.
- Riding out the temptation: Don’t deny the feeling that you’re jonesin’ for a cigarette. That only makes it worse. What you resist persists. Give into the feeling, without giving in to the temptation. Ride that feeling like a wave. You’ll see it swell, rise, then crest and dissipate. It is just a passing shower. It will pass.
- For additional insight & strategies, read this book: The Willpower Instinct - it is really helpful.
Quit date! Yay! From this day forward, you're a non-smoker!
I hope that you will make the commitment to be a nonsmoker once again. If so, let me know in the comments below. I’ll do what I can to offer my support and encouragement.
Good luck! Three years feels great!
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* Because there are so many hospitals and research labs in Boston, there are ample opportunities to participate in weird medical research experiments here. You see them advertised on the subway and in the back of the The Metro, Boston’s little freebie newspaper (which now claims to be the city’s largest). Some pay good money. The best paying one is a sleep experiment where you go live in a lab for 28 days, devoid of any time cues while they do experiments on you, and watch how your circadian rhythm gets all turned around. That one pays around five grand. I considered doing it, until one of the researchers told me that there was a period that they'd keep you awake for up to 52 hours.
She said it so offhand that I nearly missed it. "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Waitaminute, did you just say 52 hours?"
“Yes, but it's not that bad. There are people there who will talk to you and help keep you awake.”
I was speechless. I considered just hanging up the phone then and there. Thanks but no thanks!