Friday, October 12, 2012

How to stop smoking and live to tell the tale

So you want to quit smoking. Let me guess, you have tried before but just couldn't stick it out. Maybe you have even tried it many times. It is amazing how something so tiny and nondescript as a cigarette can cause you to have such strong feelings of panic and irritability when you don't have one. I remember those feelings all too well. Once, a long time ago I decided to stop smoking. I was on my last pack and I made up my mind to quit, psyched myself up, then courageously ripped the remaining cigarettes to pieces and threw them out the door into the yard. A couple of hours later I was outside on my hands and knees, searching in the dark for a bit of cigarette large enough to smoke. If I had flushed them instead it would have meant a trip to the store to buy more. I psyched myself up many times to quit smoking but it never seemed to help. I tried cutting down. I tried quitting but taking a puff or two just when I felt I had to have it to survive. I tried substituting candy, sunflower seeds, gum, food, you name it, but nothing worked. I even tried switching to snuff and chewing tobacco to stop smoking. All that accomplished was to get me hooked on that as well as cigarettes. Then I had two habits to kick instead of one. Actually I did quit smoking many times for varying amounts of time. Once I quit for 15 months and then went back to my habit. What a fool I was that time! Probably there is nothing in this world that is more addicting than nicotine. Eventually I did stop smoking for good. Now I have been tobacco free for nearly 9 years!  


How did I do it? I found a way that made it possible, although still difficult. I recalled how my mind would play tricks on me every time I tried to quit tobacco. If I suffered through all or most of a day without a cigarette my mind would tell me things like "Good job! You did great and you deserve a reward, have a cigarette"! When I had managed to go for several days or even weeks without a cigarette my mind would say "Atta boy! You have now kicked the habit. You can now safely have a puff or two, even a whole cigarette won't hurt you because you are cured of the habit! Go ahead and smoke one, just to see if they still taste good". Of course when I did what my mind (and heart) were telling me to do I was instantly hooked right back on the nasty habit again. I was actually hooked the whole time, I was never "cured" like my mind led me to believe. Let me tell you this. Once an addict always an addict. When you quit you can NEVER touch cigarettes again. Just one puff will be your downfall as it was mine. You MUST make up your mind to that before you take the next step.  Does the story above sound familiar? It has been played out millions of times by millions of people. Nicotine is a very addictive drug and your mind and body will play any trick they can to get their fix. Common sense goes right out the window where nicotine is concerned. Don't underestimate nicotine and its paralyzing hold. It is not only a powerful drug, it is also a powerful poison. I read one that the nicotine contained in just one cigarette was enough to kill an adult, if your body could absorb it instantly. Fortunately it absorbs more slowly so we live to suffer longer, and get more addicted.   


So how did I stop smoking? I decided to be the one that played mind games on myself, instead of letting the nicotine do it. Here is the kicker and what gave me strength to pull through. I never quit. Yep that’s what I said, I never quit. So why did I say earlier that I did quit? Because I did. Pretty confusing huh! Actually I did quit, by not quitting. Even more confusing now I know but let me explain. One night as I was getting ready for bed I decided once again that I would like to stop smoking. I decided that this time I would do it relatively stress free and if I didn't succeed it was no big deal. I would just try over and over until I did succeed. I did not psyche myself up like I had before. In fact I didn't even tell myself I was going to quit smoking. I didn't tell myself that I couldn't have a cigarette. I didn't make promises that I didn't know if I was brave enough to keep. I just decided to make an attempt and do my best.  What I did was just go calmly to bed, after smoking a cigarette, slept well, and woke the next morning craving a cigarette. I told myself that I could have one if I wanted it, but I didn't have to have it right then. I could wait a minute or two. Also I had a few of the nicotine patches left from previous attempts. I put one of those on and went about my business. Soon the craving increased, but for once panic didn't set in. Why? Because I hadn't stopped smoking yet, I had only put it off for the time being. Well, to make a long story short I made it all the way through that day tobacco free! The next day I again put on a fresh nicotine patch and postponed having a cigarette. Surprisingly I made it through that day too. The third day, same thing. Fourth day, I cut 2/3 from one of the patches and wore that instead of a whole patch. Smoke free again. Fifth day, another 2/3 piece, then sixth and seventh days I wore the 1/3 piece I had cut off the other patches. Then I went off the patches completely. I stopped smoking with a total of five nicotine patches that I trimmed to last for seven days! 


So what about fixing the craving? For the first couple of weeks I allowed myself anything to eat, chew, or hold in my mouth that I wanted. But after that I cut back to regular meals and sometimes a snack. I did not allow myself to substitute the usual candy or sunflower seeds like I had before. Why? It is simple and its another mind game you have to play with yourself. Anything you substitute for tobacco BECOMES tobacco to your mind. You are only feeding your craving when you stick something in your mouth to take the place of cigarettes. Trust me on this, if you eat candy, chew gum, or whatever, you are constantly reminding yourself of what you really want in your mouth, a cigarette. Don't do it. After the first couple of weeks you can make it without the substitutes! Is it easy? Of course not, it is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I kept part of a pack of cigarettes in the house until just a couple of months ago. I had never really quit. I had just postponed smoking for 6 1/2 years. Finally I threw the aged yellowed pack in the trash. Now I have finally quit smoking, and you can too! Probably the most important element of quitting cigarettes is simply that you have to WANT to stop. If you do desire to be tobacco free, you can be. Make the choice and do it with less stress like I did. Remember that even though you may not be able to stop smoking, you can certainly postpone having a cigarette, indefinitely, it worked for me!

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