One year ago today about this time I was miserable. It was Ash Wednesday and I had for the umpteenth time quit smoking. But here I am, one year later, and not one cigarette in the past year.
I started smoking when I was 16 years old. My father was a smoker, and so I was addicted to nicotine even before I actually smoked a cigarette. He smoked Winstons, so I smoked Winstons because he bought them by the carton and it was easy for me to steal a pack for my own use.
I smoked for 39 years (I took a 3 year hiatus in my early 20s but fell back on the fell habit). Towards the end, it was two packs a day. I loved smoking. I thought it was something I did just for me, that was special. Cigarrettes were my friend. For all of the good times and bad times of those 39 years, the one constant was tobacco smoking.
But it was an abusive friendship, no doubt about that.
I am pretty sure I tried and failed multiple times at all the various forms of tobacco cessation. Let me count the ways I tried and failed —
- Neuro-linguistic programming
- Drugs (Wellbutrin)
- E-cigarettes (they look like a cig, but deliver nicotine via water vapor as you “puff” them)
- Cold turkey
- Phase down (cut back 1 cig per day every 4 day)
- Counseling (in person)
- Counseling (phone)
Whenever I would do Cold Turkey, my favorite method of quitting, the pattern went something like this. I would do fine for a day or two. So fine in fact that I would decide to reward myself with “just one cigarette.”
The next day I would be doing so fine that I always figured I should have TWO rewards. Then on the third day, well, I could certainly be “OK” with five cigarettes — one in the morning and evening, and then one after each meal. Surely I could keep to that schedule and that would be better than two packs a day.
But then on the fourth day, it was ten “rewards” and within a few more days, I would be back at two packs a day.
Never underestimate the power of delusional thinking when it comes to addiction.
So how did I finally quit? I learned one simple lesson. Anyone who wants to quit smoking must learn and follow, for the rest of his or her life, this one simple lesson. AND if a person does do this, he or she will never again be trapped in the habit.
You Can’t Smoke Just One Cigarette.
Not One Puff Ever!
Not much of an acronym for the first line — YCSJOC, unless we threw in a few vowels to make it YoCaSJOC, but the second is easy — NOPE!
Why? Because if you smoke Just One Cigarette, you are right back on track to two packs a day, or whatever your most immediate level of nicotine addiction was.
When I went cold turkey last year, I took as much time off from my job as I could. I had to be there for Ash Wednesday and the following weekend, but the rest of the time I pretty much just stayed home and ate anything I wanted. I slept a lot. I felt sorry for myself. Oh woe was me, never has the world seen such misery, lol. But at the time, I was in mourning. I had killed my abusive friend. Never again would I smoke a cigarette.
Two websites were particularly helpful to me. The first was the About.com Tobacco Cessation website, with (among other pages that could be cited), it’s summary of the benefits of quitting smoking — After the Last Cigarette. This shows the health milestones you achieve at 2 days, 2 weeksto 3 months, one to nine months, one to two years, five to 15 years. They also offer a free e-course.
The second was Smoking Cessation Through Faith and Prayer, a program maintained by a Catholic psychologist. In particular, I used his description of Progressive Muscle Relaxation to deal with the body aches and pains and mental stresses, and his prayers and litany for stopping smoking. He has a PDF of a prayer card that you can print and carry with you.
It’s not an accident that they call the first week hell week because it isn’t easy. But within just a few days, I was feeling better. You work your way through the physical addiction in that first week, and after that, its psychological. Yes, cravings continued for a while, but they lessened in their intensity and it was easier to dismiss them. When I got cravings I would either prayer or repeat mental statements like “I love myself, I will not kill myself with smoking.” Or I would call someone who had encouraged me to quit and say something like, “Remind me why its important that I not smoke.” I also called the Oklahoma Tobacco Cessation Help Line and spoke with one of their counselors a couple of times, and that was helpful.
A year later, I do not live a life of craving for cigarettes. Smoking is part of my history, but the emphasis is on history, lol. Every once in a while, I’ll get a little urge, but it’s hardly even noticeable. The desire to smoke has been replaced by a fear of smoking — I worry that if I smoke Just One Cigarette, that I will be back on track to the two pack a day habit and I do not want that. I devoutly don’t want that. Why? Because I feel so good. If I had known how good I would feel, I would have quit 20 years ago. I had not realized how much stress smoking was causing my body. All that stress is gone and my bank account certainly does not miss that expense.