Well well well, look what we have here…
This naturally calls for a blog post! Here are some thoughts and reflections on smoking, as well as some tips for anyone trying to quit.
I was a regular smoker for around 14 years and during that long stretch of my life, I quit more times than I can remember. Smoking is a habit and habits die hard. Not only that, habits are part of who you are; they define the routines of your life, they fill in the gaps and give you some sort of playbook that you can follow.
How you have your coffee, how you go about your morning routine, the pauses you take at school or at work, the things you do to decompress… they are all habits. Without realizing, you rely on those habits to operate on a daily basis.
Smoking was an integral part of my day. A lot of my routines were designed around having a smoke. But more than that, in my mind, smoking was cool. I felt it defined my style in the same way that a video game or a pair of Converse would. It was not just a habit; it was part of my identity.
So when you quit smoking, you have to leave behind a part of you; a part of what defined you. You have to change your routines, your habits. That’s not an easy thing to do. The older you get, the harder it is to change too…
So now that I’m 100 days in, here are some tips and thoughts on it. These are based on my personal experience; ultimately, different people will deal with it in different ways.
1 – The cravings never go away
And that’s OK. You gotta realize that something that was part of you for years won’t just dissipate into thin air. You have to accept that there will be moments when you will crave for a smoke and believe that you have the force of will to turn that craving down.
2 – Identify the thing that made you quit
For me it was the realization that I wasn’t actually enjoying 99% of the smokes I had. Mind you, they weren’t suddenly unpleasant either; it was simply that they were just routine, to the point that I would be having a smoke while doing something else (i.e., playing a game on my phone, watching a video, or whatever). I would finish a smoke without even realize I had started it. The actual enjoyment of inhaling and exhaling smoke probably disappeared from my life years ago and all that was left was the habit.
Acknowledging this made it a lot easier to control cravings.
3 – Track your progress
I have a bit of OCD… I keep a record of a lot of things in my life. I use Wunderlist to keep track of movies I watch… on a year by year basis! I have an Excel doc with all the Flights I’ve ever taken (204, in case you were wondering). Oh and did I mention my list of DVDs to buy?
The screenshot above is from an app called Kwit. I haven’t tried other Apps, so I don’t have much for comparison, but in what I’m concerned, Kwit has definitely done the job for me. It helps me keep track of my progress and realize (and celebrate) when certain milestones are achieved (and write blog posts about it). Thanks to it, I know I’ve saved more than $1,200 since I quit, which is another good incentive to keep it going.
Whether you use Kwit or something else, consider having something that allows you to easily measure your success (and give yourself a pat in the back every now and then).
4 – Consider using nicotine patches
The first few times I tried quitting, I just went cold-turkey. Big mistake. I remember having a lot of trouble sleeping and having my mind just wonder into thoughts of having cigarettes. Smoking might not be an addiction as life-wrecking as alcohol or drugs and it’s certainly more socially accepted… but it’s definitely an addiction nonetheless. When you try to quit it, the full meaning of the word “addiction” becomes very real.
In Australia, nicotine patches are just as expensive as a pack of 25 cigarettes. For me, though, that was absolutely worth it. My cravings were severely more manageable because of it. I progressively moved into weaker nicotine doses so that my brain could re-train itself on living without it and, eventually, I just stopped using them altogether. It made all the difference. You can read more about how nicotine works here.
Final one: know that you can do it.
For some people – like me – it takes multiple tries. Know that each of those tries will get you closer to quitting definitively. The first step is to believe that you can do it; the tricks and techniques you’ll use to re-adjust your life will fall into place.
I’m definitely not an expert and the above is just based on my own experience. There are many other useful tips out there that you can follow. Try out different things and eventually you will get there.