Basically, there were two steps:
1. I put out the cigarette I was smoking.
2. I didn’t light up another one.
It sounds overly simplistic, but it was really just that. Too many people get caught up in “methods” of quitting. NRT patches, NRT gum, Zyban, Chantix, etc. etc. When the method doesn’t work, they seek another method.
What they’re missing is that it doesn’t matter what method you use unless you’re totally committed to quitting and staying quit. The “staying quit” part is what messes up many quits. You quit and early on there are plenty of encouraging words from folks, slaps on the back and so on, but as time goes on, those kudos lessen. It’s at this point where if you don’t understand that a) smoking solves nothing, and b) you absolutely need to do this for yourself, you’ll likely relapse.
So, when my wife was approaching a birthday five years ago and stated she wanted to quit smoking, I was immediately on board with the idea. I had a strong feeling that by quitting together, we’d improve each other’s chances.
This wasn’t my first attempt at quitting smoking (Note that by saying “attempt”, I’m also implying “failure”; if you say “well, I’ll try”, you’re already setting yourself up to smoke again. You’re not committed.) I had quit on four other occasions dating back to 1993, and had stayed quit for as long as four and a half months.
What had happened?
The easy explanation was that I missed smoking. I felt deprived. I had the mindset that by quitting smoking, I was losing something of value to me. So long as I held onto that attitude, I was going to always be susceptible to a relapse. I’d be “white knuckling” my quit. Eventually, something would happen and I’d latch onto it as a justification (excuse) to smoke again. And, if you wait long enough, that something would appear.
The other problem was that I never learned to deal with things as a non-smoker. Smoking had allowed me to ignore or escape unwanted feelings. Not to the extent that alcohol and drugs had before I sobered up in 1982, but it was the same underlying principle. If I was pissed, I’d smoke some cigarettes. If bored, smoke. And so on. The foundation of this reaction was a re-born belief that there were certain “bad” feelings which were to be avoided or stamped out at all costs. I’d forgot an important lesson, that there are no “good” or “bad” feelings. I needed to relearn that.
It was absolutely vital to change my perceptions about smoking. Here was where Allen Carr’s book “Easy Way To Stop Smoking” made a difference. His book takes a number of false beliefs which smokers have and challenges them, one by one. If you read the book and really think about the message, and keep an open mind, you’ll learn that smoking never really did anything for you. It didn’t relax you. It wasn’t a reasonable method to lose weight.
The rest of it was relatively easy. In the initial several days, it was necessary for me to scramble my routine, because there were mental connections between so much of it and smoking. Walking to work instead of driving. Taking work breaks in different places, or simply walking. I took up bicycling again three weeks after I quit smoking, and am now on the verge of having rode 10,000 miles in the past five years. It’s an incredible feeling to get on the seat and do a 40-45 mile ride. This was impossible for me as a smoker.
Once I focused on what was good about quitting, and remembered that everything which I thought was bad was only my “Addictive Voice” trying to get control back over my life, I was well on my way. I’m not home free by any stretch of the imagination. I’m well aware that there is still small fragments of the “Old Smoking Me” which resides, constantly waiting. But today it’s up to me. I’m no longer addicted to smoking and nicotine and the choice can be a permanent one, if I want.
If you are a smoker, it’s time to quit. Quit telling yourself that “well, this isn’t the right time”. When will the right time be? After the doctor comes into the office and tells you that the tests they just ran on you revealed lung cancer? Quit telling yourself that “well, I gotta get this straight first”. Because, as soon as that is straight, you’ll probably come up with something else. Hey, I understand all of that. Fear can be a powerful motivator; it can also be a powerful excuse. I used to try to envision being a non-smoker and quite frankly, it scared the shit out of me. What was I going to do? How was I going to relax? What was I going to do after eating a meal? All those questions went through my mind prior to quitting. Thing is, I didn’t find the answers to those questions until after I’d gave up smoking. The answers are clear to me today; everything I used to do, I can still do today. Quitting smoking actually improved my concentration. It made me better at the few sports I engage in. As for the money thing, the difference had been huge. I’ve now saved over $17,000! That’s a new car.
In short, quitting smoking had led to a new life for me, a better life than I’d ever known. My relationship with my wife is better than it’s ever been. We’ve discovered new, exciting interests which smoking prevented. Every morning when I awake, I realize that I’ve accomplished something incredible.
It’s worth it. Please quit while you can.