Trying to Quit? The Cigarette Habit Is Still One of the Most Difficult, but You Can Be Successful
Make quitting one of the positive things you do while in quarantine.
I haven’t smoked for 40 years, but I had to quit more than once.
I started smoking because they were always around me. Cigarettes. My friends would offer me one to be polite, and for years I refused. But the road to a habit like smoking is slippery.
Gradually, I began to say yes, and before I knew it, I was buying my own.
My aunt, who had never been sick a day in her life, died of lung cancer. The cause? Cigarettes. She picked up the habit before they were deemed the lethal killers that they are.
I watched her die slowly and suffer from chemotherapy treatments that only made her sicker. At that point, I was buying two packs a day and knew it had to stop.
I remember holding my red and white Marlboros box in my hands, removing the wrapper, packing them down and thinking:
“I have to quit or I’m going to die.”
I joined SmokeEnders at the age of 25 and was one of the youngest members of the group. It is now an online course, but this was well before cell phones and personal computers. I found the group setting helpful.
They promised that they’d help me break the habits associated with smoking in 28 days, BUT I could smoke the entire time. Day 29 would be my first day as a non-smoker. The technique worked for me.
For a year.
The problem was I was still around smokers, so I began to slip back into the habit of bumming a cigarette. I was smarter the second time around and reached for some of the most helpful SmokerEnders techniques, added a few of my own, and then quit for good.
I am now the quintessential ex-smoker: I have no tolerance for cigarette smoke or smokers. Call me harsh, but there’s no middle ground with cigarettes or cigarette smoke.
Here’s what I did and what you can do to make yourself a happy ex. It will take time and patience, but it will also help make not smoking a habit.
Decide you want to quit.
This may sound stupid, but you can’t want to want to quit. You have to want to quit. It’s going to take everything you’ve got, so be committed.
If you want to quit but still like it, well, that’s an example of wanting to want to quit.
And it won’t work.
No judgment here. You can’t help that you want to want to quit. Hopefully, someday you will. And hopefully, it’s before you lose your health. Because you will.
Then it’s gone for life.
Pick a date.
Make this your anniversary date. Circle it on your calendar, enter it into your cell phone. Now it’s in writing.
You are going to need help breaking the habit. There’s more to this addiction than the cigarettes themselves.
I got to enjoy the process of packing down the box and opening a brand new untouched box. Smoking gave my hands something to do. And I learned how to blow smoke rings.
The caterpillar in “Alice in Wonderland” had nothing on me.
Call a helpline.
Quitting is simple but far from easy. You’re going to need support and some guidance. Call the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to talk to someone or find a support group. They even have an app. if you’d like some tips and inspiration.
You don’t have to go through this alone.
It’s super hard to quit, and according to a 2015 survey of smokers, 70 percent of smokers want to quit, 55 percent have tried, and 7 percent were successful. What the successful group had in common was that they tried more than once.
So if at first you don't succeed, well, you know the saying.
Buy a different brand.
This is an important step in breaking the habit. This alone is stepping outside your comfort zone and it’s a big step. You’ll be that much closer to quitting if you can do this.
Everyone has their brand. I so loved my Marlboros, the ones in the red box. Yes, I even liked the color.
Buy a different brand. Buy a soft pack. Remember, smoking is more than a physical addiction. Even though nicotine is what got you hooked, buying the same brand embedded the habit deeper.
You may even buy your cigarettes at the same store. If the clerk knows your brand, this is most likely the case.
Smoke one less cigarette a day.
Again, this is a baby step toward breaking the habit. Move slowly and be patient with yourself. This is still a change from your habit of being a “regular” smoker.
It took time to become a smoker, and it will take you time to become an ex-smoker.
One cigarette a day is seven a week.
In a month, it’s over a pack.
If you want to give this step more punch, write down why you smoke every time you have a cigarette. There really are no good reasons to smoke, so it will force you to think about it.
And if you only do it once or twice, it’s better than not at all.
Save your smoked cigarettes.
They’re ugly to look at once you’ve smoked them and they smell even worse.
You’ve got to admit; ashtrays are ugly and smelly.
Buy a large, glass jar of some sort and fill it two-thirds of the way with water. Throw your smoked cigarettes, matches, and even ashes in the jar. Then put a lid on it. Literally.
Consider this an inside view of what you’re doing to your lungs. When you are having a moment of weakness, remove the lid and take a whiff.
And also consider that cigarette butts cannot be put in landfills because they do not biodegrade. They even have formaldehyde, one of the chemicals used in embalming fluid.
Floss/Brush after eating
Carry a toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss with you, and clean your teeth after eating or drinking alcohol. Both are triggers to smoke. Buy a minty toothpaste so your mouth feels really clean.
If you need to do something with your mouth, buy a pack of gum.
Meditate or Just Breathe
Smokers say that smoking relaxes them.
Cigarettes are full of stimulants, so it’s obviously not the smoke that’s doing the relaxing. It’s the breathing, and you don’t need cigarettes for that.
Close your eyes. Take a breath, inhale, hold in, and exhale. Envision the clean air entering and exiting your lungs.
Try exhaling for a second more than you inhale. This will help relax you.
Buy a tip jar
Cigarettes are expensive. The cost varies by state from $5.72 to $13.95 (New York) a pack, that’s $2,087.80 to $5,091.75, respectively.
By default, you’ll be starting a savings plan the first day you don’t buy a pack. Put the money you’d be spending on cigarettes in the jar and watch the savings grow.
Reward yourself! Buy yourself something with that money.
And pat yourself on the back for depriving the tobacco industry of their income.
Forgiveness is key
Quit and re-quit as many times as you need to. Start over. Forgive yourself as you would a friend who was trying to quit.
You wouldn’t demean him or her for slipping up and tell them to forget it; you’d encourage them. Be your own best friend and do the same.
Quitting cigarettes is a big deal, but the benefits last a lifetime. It’s not just living longer; it’s living better. It will improve the quality of your life. I know I wouldn’t be living the life I am today if I hadn’t quit smoking.
I’d have a smoker’s cough for sure.
The steps may sound simplistic, but they worked for me and it’s not that I had or have great willpower. I just didn’t give up until I had quit for good.
You have to want it real bad. And I did.
Don’t give up the fight.