Tobacco causes more deaths and more health problems than any other drug. Yet as a society, we still don’t treat it seriously from a recovery standpoint. But there is hope.
With any change in behavior, practice leads to success. If you’ve tried to quit smoking before, but didn’t make it, think of those efforts as practice. If you went three days without smoking, or just three waking hours, identify what led to your relapse and what you can do differently next time.
Mark Twain is credited with saying that quitting smoking is easy because he did it hundreds of times. I didn’t quit hundreds of times, but in the 10 years I smoked, I must have tried to quit at least 20 times. In my early years of smoking, in the days when we were only beginning to learn the dangers of smoking, I’d often quit for an hour or two. I’d throw a half a pack of cigarettes in the trash only to fish them out again two hours later. Then I’d break each cigarette in half , so I had to tape them back together again. They tasted awful when I got to the taped part. This is not recommended. Once, I ran what was left in the pack under the kitchen faucet. They sort of fell apart when I tried to dry them out in the oven. So eventually I went out and bought another pack. I quit for several months until I thought I could smoke occasionally like a couple of my friends. First I started bumming off my friends, then I regressed to buying whole packs. I tried to hide my addiction from my family. When I got caught, I was ashamed, but fell back into full blown relapse.
I learned that when it came to cigarettes, I was an addict. I could not smoke occasionally. I learned I had to stay away from triggers as much as possible. I finally quit for good after I studied addiction and recovery…and after I got sick and tired of throwing away my money and gasping for breath when I climbed a flight of stairs. Smoking never did fit with my values. I was supposed to be promoting health. It didn’t make sense.
I needed a plan.
I read everything I could get my hands on about quitting smoking. I wrote down the benefits of quitting, like breathing better and exactly how much money I would save. I made long lists of alternatives- things I would do when I wanted a cigarette, like blowing bubbles, meditation, taking a walk, looking at pictures of diseased lungs, taking a shower, screaming into a pillow- whatever it took. I made a commitment.
The first week was the hardest. I put a dollar a day in a jar for each day I was smoke free. (That’s what a pack cost back in the old days) Over the next few months, the cravings became less intense and further apart. After 60 days I bought myself a beautiful tapestry with my reward money and hung it on my wall like a trophy. After 30 years, I’m usually turned off by cigarette smoke. But every now and them, I reminisce for about half a second when I smell a faint whiff of smoke.
Then I smile at myself and know: It’s not worth it. I’d rather have my health and the money I saved.
If you want to stop smoking, ask for help from people who will support and encourage you. There are nicotine patches and medications for those who can afford them, and there are all kinds of other support, too. (See the links below.) Treat your recovery seriously, from a physical, psychological, social, and spiritual perspective.
Physically: Drink plenty of water, avoid caffeine and other stimulants, exercise gently, eat healthy foods like carrots and celery sticks, or try out a new recipe.
Psychologically: Read and think about how your life will be better after you stop smoking. Plan rewards with the money you will save. Plan activities that you enjoy in places where smoking is not allowed. Pick a time to quit (or practice quitting) when you will be under less stress. Be kind to yourself.
Socially: Gather your support team of positive, encouraging people. Do NOT tell people who will not be supportive or who might try to tempt you. Avoid smokers and places where smoking is commonly accepted.
Spiritually: Enlist the help of a loving power greater than yourself, whatever, or whoever works for you. Explore meditation and mindfulness.
Quitting smoking is a gift you give to yourself. Because you are worth it!
For more information, go to