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Quitting Smoking

I've been cigarette free for 18.2 years. I have -3.2 years to go to be a normal person.

On June 1st, 2006 I quit smoking after about 15 years as a pack a day (up to 2 packs a day) smoker. It was the third time I've made a serious attempt at stopping. From the very first full 24 hours it was easily the most successful. Here's the full story.

I had been planning to use Wellbutrin to help me quit for... well, years. I had spoken to my doctor, and he had said sure, no side effects, I'm not in any risks, just say the word. And I never said the word to start the treatment. I had any number of excuses, all of them sounding really good at the time. (This was one of the most insidious things about nicotine addiction; making excuses.)

I daydreamed many many times of just taking my cigarettes and lighters and throwing them in the garbage. In the end that's exactly what I did the night I quit. The garbage bag stayed there for more than 2 weeks after that first night; I had 2 full sealed packs and a half open pack in the garbage, and I was acutely aware they were there the whole time I was quitting. I think it was reassuring in a strange way. One of the worst parts about previous quitting attempts (and indeed, being a smoker in general) was the anxiety just over knowing I have no cigarettes available. Knowing that cigarettes were available was at once a relief and an additional challenge.

The Decision
I think making the decision was the critical point. I've told people (repeatedly!) that it's as if a switch went off in my head. That was very different from previous attempts, where I went into it thinking "Well let's give this a shot." This time I knew I wasn't going to smoke anymore. This was it, I was done. It wasn't an attempt, I was quitting and I'd just have to deal with it. In planning to deal with it, I asked my girlfriend to bring home some Nicorette just in case the cravings got too much to deal with, but I never opened the package. Over the next few weeks I quietly quit, counting down 3 weeks to an intangible goal of getting past the worst of the nicotine withdrawal without telling anyone. Even my girlfriend didn't realise at first, since I never opened the Nicorette and she was waiting for that to happen as the sign that I had started quitting, and get ready for the inevitable foul moods and unreasonable bitching about everything. Those effects never came either. I think I was too excited about my big secret to really let the withdrawals get to me.

The withdrawals were bothersome, but not too serious. My mood was generally good because I had this big surprise I was preparing for the people who knew me. I couldn't wait to tell them and that would be 3 weeks away. I'd done a ton of research and 3 weeks seemed to be concensus for the worst of the withdrawals, so I set that as the date I would tell everyone; I'd get through that on my own. I decided that date would be an occasion to be celebrated every year. That helped a bit too, planning what I'd want to do for those occasions.

One thing I hated as a smoker were preachy strangers.

"Do you know that you're killing yourself/the planet/Bambi/everyone around you?"

Most modern adult smokers know as much or more than they do about the risks of what we're doing. Seriously. We get it. Most considerate smokers will take some pains to stay out of other people's way (and I met some nice people like that, at airports after 5 hours flights. It was a funny little club of smokers, making a bee-line for the door, no matter what the weather was like.) But saying it's not an easy habit to kick is understating how insidious nicotine addiction really is. It's not an easy habit to even wrap your mind around wanting to quit, even if you know you really do. That's probably confusing to a non-smoker, but any smoker who's tried already probably understands.

Quit Smoking Tips

For Smokers:
I'm not trying to lay into you about "I quit, you should too". But if you're already trying to quit and failed, I just wanted to add another message to the inundation of Quit Smoking material we see. Another reminder to try again. I've been where you are, and I know you can do it. Don't get discouraged by previous failures. It takes multiple attempts for most smokers regardless of the method used to successfully quit! And it really is worth it. The world might not be suddenly become puppys, daisies and rainbows when you quit, but it's certainly a lot easier to breathe, and that leads to a lot of other good things. Maybe the most important thing I can tell you is to remember that the process of quitting has an end. It's finite. Get through those few weeks and most of the time after that you'll be able to forget you were a smoker or that you ever craved cigarettes.

The most important things overall for me were Inspiration, Information and Distraction.

Inspiration has to come from you. You have to be inspired to quit and really know you want to do it, hell or high water. Without this factor you're rolling the dice on making it for an extended period. The fact that you've read this far probably means you have this part already, or are nearly there. For your kids, yourself, whatever reason you're trying to quit, reinforce it and remind yourself of it constantly.

Information comes from everywhere, but the Internet was an invaluable resource. It's easier and less scary if you have an idea of what you're fighting, and what you can expect, and perhaps most importantly, when you can expect it to end. You can use this information to set your goals and plan your timetable and criteria for success.

The US CDC has an excellent resource of lots of information about smoking, from Tips and How To's to Data and info.

Various government agencies also contribute to, filled with resources to help

WhyQuit.Com is a bit aggressive and preachy for my personal taste, but they have excellent inspiration and information resources, articles and stories of people who've fought the habit and won, and their articles definately helped me quit.

Amazon has a HUGE selection of Quit Smoking books, CDs and products such as counters, timers and much more. If you're looking for an assisted method of quitting, chances are you can find one here.
Quit Smoking Products & Nicotine Replacements
Quit Smoking Books, CDs and more

Google. If you're still looking for more info, assistance, inspiration, people to talk to, this is the internet, and there's a site out there with what you're looking for.
Smoking cessation - Buy chantix


Distraction is kind of an abstract, and the most personal part of the process. You have to figure out things that stop you thinking about smoking and be able to find a new distraction if one stops working, or all you can think about is a cigarette.

Try to remind yourself the people around you want to help you succeed. If you have someone you think can help, let them into the process. Let them know what help you want from them. Chances are they'll go to great lengths to help if you're can show them you're serious about quitting.

The actual quitting method is probably the least important. Choose one that you find encouraging, that feels like it would work for you. Get all the information you can on it and other methods, choose one and go for it. Nicotine replacement, happy pills (Zyban), chewing toothpicks, cold turkey or whatever, do some research and figure which one suits you best.

Trying to Help Someone Quit:
If you know someone who's trying to quit and having a hard time be very, very careful about how you support them, especially if you've never smoked. Don't try to bribe them with rewards if they quit; they're fleeting. Find out the reasons they're quitting if you can. Remind them (GENTLY) if they start to flag. I can't stress enough how easy it is push too hard; err on the side of being a comfort and a support rather than nagging them.

Your best bet is to just distract them from it, keep them occupied, do things, but try to do things that don't involve being around smokers. In fact, don't try. MAKE SURE. Don't invite that other friend who still smokes. Don't go places where people are likely to be smoking, or smoking outside (bars, bowling alleys). If there's no other options, rent a movie and stay home!

Do special things or different things than you would usually do where the person would normally have a routine that involves having a cigarette (For example; going to a movie? I would invariably have a cigarette directly before going into the theater.) Plan something else to fill some kind of intermission or break. A snack to fill a few minutes is a great idea.

Above all, don't push too hard, and don't be too dissapointed if they fail. Nothing made me want a cigarette like knowing people are dissapointed in me. This is part of why I didn't tell anyone I was quitting. Just be ready to help them when they try again. It's very likely that they will try again.

If they do get mad at you, all you can do is explain why you're trying to help them quit; more than likely, it's simply that you want them to be around for as many years as possible. Don't take their anger personally. While it might sound like a cliche, in a very real way it's the nicotine talking. Back down, don't try to confront any anger at your trying to help. It's not an argument you can win, and any logic you try to bring won't matter.

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