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It’s Possible to Stop Smoking For Good

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(Original version posted November 19, 2013)

The Great American Smokeout is coming once again. On the Thursday before Thanksgiving, smokers get the opportunity to quit, knowing others are facing the same challenge. If you smoke, Thursday could be a practice run. Or it could be the day you quit for good. All those other times you tried, but didn’t make it were practice.  If you go three days without smoking, or just three waking hours, that’s practice.

I know it’s not an easy habit to break. That’s because smoking isn’t just a habit, it’s an addiction. If you do something twenty times a day, there will be many potential triggers to contend with.

Mark Twain is credited with saying that quitting smoking is easy because he did it hundreds of times.

During the 10 years I smoked, I must have tried to quit at least 20 times. Back in the late 70’s, I’d regularly quit for an hour or two. One day, I threw half a pack of cigarettes in the trash only to fish them out again two hours later. Then, after smoking one, I broke the rest in half , so next time 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.

Every effort and every relapse taught me lessons. 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 loved nature. I was supposed to be promoting health. It didn’t make sense. I had to have faith that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.

I needed a plan.

I read everything I could get my hands on about quitting smoking. I wrote down the benefits of  quitting including how much money I would save. I made long lists of alternatives- things I would do when I wanted a cigarette, like blowing bubbles, 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 living room wall like a trophy. After 30 years, I’m usually turned off by cigarette smoke. But every couple years, upon smelling a faint whiff of cigarette smoke, I reminisce for about half a second.

Then I shake my head with a shudder and remember how thankful I am to be smoke free.

If you smoke and want to quit, it can be done.

The American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking Program teaches the four Ds:

Delay

Deep Breathing

Drink Water

Do something else

The cool thing about the four D’s is you can use them to help break any habit, or addiction, as one tool set of tools in your tool box.

For more information, go to

www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/

www.lung.org/stop-smoking/

Let me know if I can help!