If you are thinking about quitting smoking, or you are trying for the twentieth time then maybe the story of how I quit smoking will help you. I don’t mean to judge smoking and I should clarify I am talking about cigarette smoking here. But this week I was downtown several times and I was astonished by how much smoke I smelled. Are more people smoking? Or are the dwindling numbers just outside of every building?
There are lots of programs for quitting smoking but perhaps a more personal explanation of what I did will help.
Step One: The Psychology
I started smoking when I was a teenager in the suburbs of Calgary. As a child I thought that John Travolta looked extremely cool with cigarettes dangling out of his mouth. It was a romantic thing to me. It seems so stupid now that I know that tobacco companies were simply paying movie companies to place their products in Hollywood movies.
Why do I even mention this? The reason is because it is a very psychological addiction as well as physical. The suburbs of Calgary were stifling and boring and without a car it was either walking to Macs Milk or taking the number ten bus to downtown …where there was also nothing going on. Cigarettes seemed to solve our boredom dilemma because it was bad and exciting.
I really thought it tasted like crap, but as I kept doing it to appear cool I became hooked on the nicotine.
The first step is to shatter the romantic image of it and focus your thoughts on what is negative about it. I shouldn’t have to point out what is wrong with it but in case you don’t know: It tastes like rat shit, it stinks like hell, it causes cancer, its full of toxic chemicals, it makes your teeth turn yellow, it makes your hair fall out, it makes you tired, it worsens your asthma etc.
Step Two: Study your habit.
Give yourself a week to smoke normally. This shouldn’t be too hard for you. You don’t have to do anything. Smoke and think about those disgusting elements of the habit. Write down exactly how much you smoke and then average it out at the end of the week.
For me the number was 15 cigarettes a day. I was smoking just over half a pack of cigarettes a day!
Step Three: Drop the number
Drop the number of cigarettes you smoke by one every three days. What this does is shift the control of the habit to you without really changing the habit itself very much.
Suddenly you are forcing yourself to smoke. You HAVE to smoke 14 cigarettes a day. Sometimes you only smoke twelve but now you have to smoke those last two. It is not as pleasant when it becomes a chore.
Personally I found that by the time I got down to just one cigarette I didn’t even want it anymore and the cigarette would ruin not only my mood, but also the taste in my mouth and the energy I had for the rest of the day and I was actually relieved when I didn’t have to smoke anymore.
Step 4: Relapses
The hardest thing for me was the social aspect. I really enjoy smokers. I miss hanging out with them sometimes. The conversation is great. But there are other places to talk to people. I had some friendships that were bonded by a love of smoking. But those friendships have continued on past the habit.
I did gain weight and I started drinking a lot of coffee. So I don’t have all the answers and I need a program myself for those habits. But I am still so much healthier and happier without that stinky mistake of a habit. It’s John Revolting!