Lifestyle

How I Finally Quit Smoking

When you choose to give up cigarettes, you are simply getting rid of another thing that is preventing you from being your greatest self.

Dec. 17, 2017, marks six years since I gave up my daily pack (often more) of Marlboro Lights. I loved smoking but hated being “a smoker.” Sometimes I even lit a cigarette with another cigarette.

When I was drinking and using drugs, my nicotine use was at an all-time high. You could find me chainsmoking on any given night. Had I not given up booze and illicit drugs (three months prior), I would not have successfully quit smoking.

When I decided to quit, I knew I would need a lot of resources and support to make it stick. One excellent resource all about smoking cessation with specific tips, practical help and success stories is verywellmind.com. I’m a big fan of structured approaches, and this website helped me map out my quit. (The full URL is verywellmind.com/nicotine-use-4157297).

I picked a quit date ahead of time and then spent a month mentally prepping. So in November of 2011, I chose Dec. 17 as my quit date because it was the last day of my final exams. Over the course of the next month, I researched and started preparing to quit.

This is when I printed out a contract and signed it after I wrote down all the reasons why I wanted to quit and taped it to my mirror. This “benefits card” helped immensely — a visual reminder of what I would be gaining by quitting cigs: healthier, breathe better, running stamina, whiter teeth, saving money, role model to younger sisters, fewer wrinkles, etc. Not only did this prove to be useful in smoking cessation, but, in my experience, it also works for any other behavior or addiction that we want to let go of.

Another valuable resource in preparing to quit was the BreatheFree Program. It outlines 10 tips:

  • Promise yourself: Make a personal pact with yourself to quit.
  • Set a quit date: Make it at least one month from today.
  • Think of the three biggest reasons why you’re quitting: Write them on a card you’ll carry with you and look at several times a day.
  • Be assertive: Eliminate smoking in two or three situations that usually prompt you to smoke.
  • Cut back: Reduce the number of cigs you smoke to a pack a day or less.
  • Go cheap: Switch to a less-desirable brand of cigs.
  • Need a light: Discard your matches and lighter.
  • Misplace your cigs: Carry them in a different place than usual.
  • Role-play: Spend a little time each day imagining yourself in a stressful situation where you’re not smoking.
  • Take the BreatheFree Pledge: See below.

BREATHE FREE PLEDGE

As of _____________________, my official quit date, I pledge to commit to breathing free! My reasons for quitting smoking: _____________________ ___________________________________. I have found a friend I’ll call daily:

____________________________________. I recognize this may be one of the greatest challenges of my life, but I also know that breathing free is the best decision I can make to protect and improve my health. Upon signing this

contract, I make a commitment to myself to breathe free and free myself from the limitations placed on me by my addiction.

I don’t know what will happen or how difficult it will be, but I can get help from _____________, and I have decided to tell my friend about my decision to choose one of the following:

  1. Walk for 30 days and then add nicotine patches (21 or 22 mg if I smoke a pack a day or so) and bupropion (100 mg twice a day — a reduced dose of Zyban).
  1. Walk for 30 days and then use nicotine patches (or nicotine gum or nicotine oral inhaler) alone.
  1. Walk for 30 days and then use varenicline (Chantix) alone.

I also know that staying smoke-free (not having “just one”) after the initial breathe-free period is important, and I have asked my family and friends to support me and not smoke around me. I’ll also continue to talk daily to my friend for at least six months, and then I’ll become a buddy to others.

By committing to a life of breathing free, I’ll ensure a healthier future, and I will protect the well-being of my loved ones and everyone around me, who will no longer be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke. I know that I’m not only motivated but also committed and willing to make the effort to become a nonsmoker.

I deserve to give myself the healthiest life possible and breathe free!

This pledge worked really well for me.

I also took a quiz to find out my smoker personality, which helped me understand why I smoke, (i.e., the psychology of the behavior). I learned that my smoking behavior was highly compulsive, habitual, and also a means of procrastination and avoidance. So replacement tactics including filling my time with constructive (rather than destructive) things and basically facing reality.

I was shocked by how much time smoking took — five minutes here and five minutes there adds up to several hours over the course of a week. At first, I relied more on caffeine and food than I had before quitting, but my feeling is, one vice at a time.

In addition, I learned that I smoked in social situations to relieve the anxiety I felt around other humans. Going outside to light up gave me something to do and occupied my hands. The only remedy I found to get over social anxiety is really just exposure therapy, and I’m still not all that big on large social gatherings, but I can do them.

I highly recommend taking a quiz to understand the psychology behind your smoking. I like the one on health.com (the full URL is health.com/health/ condition-article/0,,20210711,00.html).

When my quit date came around, I started the nicotine patch, and I used those for three months to wean off more gradually. I loved the ritual of slapping that patch on every day. I felt like they really helped make the transition a bit smoother, if only psychologically.

It’s also worth mentioning that I was on Wellbutrin at the time, to help treat my depression, but it is also used as a quit smoking aid (along with Chantix and some other meds.) I was already on it, so I can’t speak to how much it reduced my nicotine cravings. If you go that route, just do so under the care of a good doctor.

When you choose to give up smoking, you are simply getting rid of another thing that is preventing you from being your greatest self. Know that. You are worth the time and energy it takes to quit. If even just the thought of giving up smoking overwhelms you, look back at the list of all the gains you’ll make by subtracting this one habit.

Written by Sasha Tozzi

Editor’s note: This post is not a substitute for medical attention or care. Please consult your physician before making any changes to your health regimen.

Sasha Tozzi is a holistic health coach, yoga teacher, writer and humanitarian. A woman invested in her own long-term recovery, she writes about hope, healing and daily miracles on her website, sashaptozzi.com.

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