I was talking with a co-worker today and I shared that today marked the 20th year since I quit smoking. She asked me to send her a few thoughts on how I did it because she knew someone who was struggling with the same thing, so here is my first real post.
I hope this helps someone.
First of all, nobody is going to quit smoking unless they want to. Pressuring a loved one usually results in them digging in their heels and refusing to change. This is because society views smoking as a habit and it is so much more, for me it was a question of control. I wanted to be in control and it didn’t matter who was telling me to quit. To the non-smoker, it is hard to view cigarettes as a consoler and comforter, but when I smoked and I got bad news, I reached for a cigarette. When I got good news, I celebrated … with a cigarette. I could control my reactions by reaching for a cigarette.
Secondly, it is the smoker’s decision to smoke. As hard as it is, non-smokers have a choice too; do we want to spend our time with them in constant strife or do we try to live in peace. The decision to smoke, has nothing to with the other people. That’s why my dad says ‘I never quit smoking, I just haven’t had one in years.’
Finally, the only thing that family can do is pray … everyday … and plan on praying for a very long time … knowing the answer may never be yes.
However, once someone decides to quit here are a few techniques that can derail the urges, and I had the most success when I developed my own strategy. Again, it’s back to the control question.
The smoker needs to come up with a plan and several contingency plans. The fact that it was my plan was more important to me than the quality of the actual plan. Again, it’s back to it being my decision and in my control.
Smoking creates ceremonies. A ceremony I enacted to help deal with good news and bad news. And when I lit up with no stress or when celebrating, I was remembering the consolation it gave me. I still miss going through the motions of lighting a cigarette … 20 years later, to the day. When someone decides to quit, they need to have a physical routine to replace the missing ceremony. I really liked the cinnamon sticks. They resembled a cigarette and they tasted good. I’ll still suck on one from time to time.
Quitting changes your body chemistry in a very drastic manner. Be prepared for weight gain, moodiness, body aches and general feelings of ‘not-quite-right’ Light exercise helps, but you can’t always go for a walk or do yoga or lift weights. Deep breathing techniques and lots of water are very helpful. Sugary drinks can be the difference between making it through the day without a cigarette and lighting up, but I would make that a last resort after carbonated water mixed with fruit juice, a cup of tea, cold coffee and then going for the Dr. Pepper. Chocolate pie was amazing when nothing else worked.
As with any drug, there is a sub-culture of smokers. People of any status were equal, when they needed a cigarette or a light. Whatever strategy is used, needs to include a social aspect and needs to be away from other smokers. Even being around smokers who smell like tobacco, when they weren’t even smoking, was too much for of a temptation for me. An exercise club or a walking group could help. I didn’t tell the smokers that I was quitting, because even though they said supportive things, I knew they didn’t want me to succeed … because I didn’t want them to be stronger than me when they said they were quitting. However, I did tell my true friends who did not smoke. I felt like I could aspire to be like them.
The thing that helped me the most was I used the urge to smoke as a reminder to praise God through hymns. I was very surprised at how quickly the urge to smoke went away when I praised the Creator. Most of the time, I couldn’t get through a few bars before the urge left. It kind of became a game, how much of the song could I get through before the urge left. I remember being disappointed that I couldn’t sing more of the song. Eventually, I decided to finish the song anyway. That was when the urges became less frequent and less intense.