Trying to Quit Smoking

Trying to quit smoking

Posted by 01/25/2006

In which the author describes some of the mental struggles involved with quitting smoking.

I haven't written anything for a while. In the meantime I've left a new job and returned to an old job - and I may have quit smoking, although I don't want to say that because I fear it will jinx it.

As with most things, I have to over-analyze the process and try to think of broad generalizations that could possibly apply to all people and all situations - even though this is not possible and probably not even constructive. Particularly with smoking because the only generalization I can think of is that it's different for everybody.

But with the idea that maybe something I say might resonate with someone else, here a few things I can say:

  1. Do the same things you did before - A big thing I like about smoking is the time alone. Sitting outside, enjoying a cup of coffee. And I've found it's important to give myself the exact same time alone, doing pretty much the exact same thing (without the cigarettes)
  2. Try a substitute - Some people have good luck with Nicorette™ or Nicoderm™. None of those have worked for me personally, but that's because I'm addicted to the whole process. What has worked for me so far is the occasional fake (i.e. no-nicotine) cigarette, because it has all the bad effects and none of the good effects of a real cigarette. The whole experience is one of breathing in toxic fumes which taste bad and feel harsh. There is no fun in that. And it only takes a few puffs to realize. But it quells the "crave monster", as I like to call it, for a bit.
  3. You are the same person - When someone quits anything, even something like coffee, they feel like a completely different person - but to the outside eye they appear exactly the same. So it seems important to remember that it's the same with cigarettes. You will not actually be a different person, it will just feel like it. All your stock responses, turns of phrase and mental pictures of the world are still there.
  4. Don't be a whiney-ass, nobody cares about your suffering - Everyone is going to interact with you as if nothing has changed. They will expect you to act mostly the same, and will not really understand the mental turmoil going on. And if you tell them, you will realize what a whiney-ass you are. This is difficult, because the person they are expecting to interact with is the smoking person. And you're no longer that person. Except you are, you just don't realize it.
  5. Go ahead and lie to yourself - Sometimes you have to say to yourself that you can have a cigarette at noon, or you can have a cigarette tomorrow. This gets tricky cause it's a lie, and it is dangerous cause it's possible you will actually follow through with it.
  6. No 'all-or-nothing' thinking - I haven't done it yet, but I'm thinking it's best not to have an all-or-nothing attitude if you do break down and smoke. It doesn't actually mean you have to smoke 2 hours later.
  7. It will get even more difficult - not easier - In some ways the first week - or even the first day - is the most difficult, but in other ways it actually gets more difficult later because boredom, and depression set in after the initial excitement of quitting - and those are actually more difficult to deal with.
  8. Try hard to have fun - even though you can't - In the depression stage try to do something you know is enjoyable. It will remind you that life is worth living. You won't actually enjoy it because there will be this nagging voice in your head insisting you are being deprived. But it's still worth trying.
  9. Avoid work - If you can, take 2 weeks off work. Do nothing. Or keep busy. Whichever is easier and makes the time go by quickest.
  10. You probably have lung cancer - If you have any labor in breathing, or any pain in your chest/lungs - assume it is lung cancer, or emphysema. This will put the fear of death into the equation - which is a good motivator. It can also, however, lead to #7 (depression) - so you have to later say to yourself "it's probably nothing".
  11. You will try clever ways to talk yourself back into smoking - This isn't the first time I've quit smoking, so I've learned from experience some of the seemingly logical arguments for smoking the brain will come up with. I have to be wary of the "it's safe to smoke now, since it's been such a long time" cigarette - or the "how about I only smoke one cigarette a day - starting now" cigarette. I've fallen for that before and regretted it.
  12. If it gets so bad you break down and smoke - know that it will get that bad again just two hours later - Even though I believe in #6 - I also know that if I reach a point where it's so bad I have to smoke, and I smoke, it's likely that I will reach the exact same mental state 2 hours later, and if it was bad enough to smoke the first time, it'll be bad enough to smoke the second time, which means I just go through the exact same trauma all over again.

That's all I can think of for now. Tomorrow I may very well smoke again.

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