i had to quit smoking after my heart attack a few years ago and i can offer some advice…
quick background: i loved to smoke. when i quit i was hovering around a pack and a half a day. If i didn’t have a full time job keeping me inside it would have been 2 packs no prob. I was dealing with stress, depression, anxiety and uncertainty about my future at my job, life with my girlfriend and my parents dealing with serious health issues. Smoking was a way i could escape all that, in some small way, for a few minutes. I take xanax from time to time and as wonderful as that chemical is, it’s nothing like the quick, nerve calming hit of nicotine as you take your first drag…even typing this is making me really want one. (and i still live with a smoker…makes everyday its own little struggle). I toyed around constantly with the idea of quitting because i wasn’t naive to the horrible effects of a lifetime of smoking but could never bring myself to it. Hindsight being 20/20, it was going to take something major to get me to quit.
that out of the way, on we go…
First: really think about your ‘triggers’ – when do you want to smoke the most? when are the times or situations where you tend to smoke? Figuring out what those are can be very helpful in helping to curb the habit portion of the addiction. Mine were driving, sitting at the computer at home, talking on the phone, 10min breaks at work, after meals…these are the times when i was almost sure to be smoking. Kaiser sent me a Smoking Cessation Coach to my room while i was still in the hospital to talk about smoking and i was surprised down the road how just being aware of when you know you want to smoke will get your mind in a place where it can start fighting and you can go for your snack/distraction.
the chemicals will be out of your system in a few days and i can’t really speak about the uncomfortableness of that situation because i was still in the hospital and had other stuff/chemicals to occupy my mind. The real fight is going to be the next few months.
and there’s no way to sugar coat it: the first 1-3 months will suck ass but the first few weeks are critical.
You HAVE to be strong. This is why Day 1 or the day before you quit, wash anything that might smell like smoke (especially drapes, bed coverings, pillows) and toss out all your smoking accessories (ashtrays, lighters, etc). Go to the store and get a few diff kinds of hard candy and suckers. Gum too. I like candy more than gum but gum can be easier sometimes. I liked Blow Pops (or the ‘gourmet suckers’ from Save Mart), Wurthers Originals, cherry jolly ranchers. you get the idea – hard candy – not something thats going to melt away right away.
Keeping your mind off the addiction or at least distract from it for a bit is ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL. Even after the nicotine is out of your system those receptors in your brain are going to keep screaming for the chemical. Your body has been smoking for so long it’s not even something you think about…you just light up when you’re body says ‘go’. If you can head those off before they occur, or get ahead of them a little, you can curb the craving a bit. A lot of it is habit. After those receptors stop screaming it’s all habit. The candy is something to take the place of the physical activity of the cigarette. suckers/blow pops are great for this.
Keep some all over the place. At work, in the car, in your purse…when you start to feel those first quivers of addiction grab a sucker. I liked those the best because of the stick – it keeps your mouth and hands busy and comes closest to the feeling of a smoke in your hand. The candy won’t take the place of what you really want – it’s not magic – but it WILL help. It will give you something physical to focus on and give your hands/mouth something to do. Eat as many as you need to. Don’t worry about the sugar or calories or any of that shit. the amounts of sugar you will be taking in is nothing compared to what your cig was putting in your body.*
*obviously if you have other health issues that keeps you from sugar for god sakes find sugarless!
throw yourself into any hobbies you have that didn’t involve smoking. You HAVE to keep busy. If you find yourself sitting around a lot, you will start smoking again before too long. I did a LOT of smoking when i was bored and whenever i had a free moment while i was quitting i would think about smoking. Had i not had a girlfriend who was super supportive quitting would have been way harder and the closest i came to starting again is when i destroyed our relationship a few months later. Spend time with your friends and family. Keep yourself busy. Take up gardening (wrong time of the year tho). The busier you keep your hands AND your mind the easier of a time you will have quitting – you can’t sit around and watch tv/use the computer all day and expect to successfully quit. Consider videogames tho: you have your hands and mind busy and can get lost in the story, forgetting all about having a cigarette for hours at a time. This didn’t work for me because i would smoke at the computer for the most part.
It goes without saying but avoid stressful situations as best you can and avoid those smoking triggers wherever you can. For example stay out of bars: if you like drinking, try to quit or cut waaay back: Smoking and drinking are like peanut butter and jelly. If you used to go out on breaks with other people to smoke at work; don’t. Go take a 15min walk around the block instead. Try to replace smoking with exercise or yoga. You want something that will occupy your mind as well as your body. I really cant stress this enough. When i got out of the hospital i was kept out of work for a month…yeah. that was fun. The desire to smoke was pretty strong at that point and with nothing to do having a cig was all i could think of….and you will think of smoking a LOT. I’m one of those people who NEVER remember my dreams but when i was quitting i would have and remember dreams where i was just going about my daily business but smoking. Thats it. Nothing special. Driving to work, pulling on a Marlboro.
I would try candy and other stuff before eCigs. i had one myself but ended up giving it to Anthony when i quit so i couldn’t be tempted. In the long run it will be easier to just rip that band-aid off in one quick pull then drag it out with a replacement chemical and risk going back to the real thing. Even the zero mg nicotine refills are only addressing the chemical addiction. you are still physically and mentally hooked. Most places are banning eCigs anyway (unfairly i think) so you’re really not much better off. If you are already going to take something like Wellbutrin (i did not) try cold turkey/no eCig first and if you just cant do it, get the best eCig you can afford. Dont get a cheap one. Use this as a last resort, tho.
Pat yourself on the back each night you get in bed and didn’t smoke. If you think of a reward you can give yourself for days or milestones, do so. You will have more money due to not buying them so get yourself something you have been wanting. Or, if you are a visual person, put $5 a day in a jar so you can see your progress. At the end of the week/month buy something fun.
Each day will be slightly easier than the day before but there’s a catch and i’m going to use caps because it’s important to hear and hearing it makes it easier…
YOU ARE ALWAYS GOING TO WANT TO SMOKE*
*you may or may not always want to smoke
Quitting isn’t going to change that. At least not for a very long time. My dad said it best a bunch of years ago when he just up and quit one day – “I will always be a smoker, i just don’t smoke anymore” and it’s the truth. I still want one everyday. I still get pangs when i see someone light up (if you watch Mad Men, stop for a while). I feel those receptors in my brain burn when i smell the tang of cigarette smoke in the air. I’m always going to want to smoke. Living with a smoker still has made it harder but i decided early on a simple truth: if i don’t pick one up, i can’t put one in my mouth.
Eventually you will reach a point where you find yourself thinking “hey, i didn’t think about smoking hardly at all today!” and at that point you are well on your way, all the hard stuff is in the rear view mirror.
Also quick P.S. for when you have a few weeks under your belt: Depending on how much you smoked some of the stuff in your lungs will work its way out in the form of congestion and coughing in the morning. Ive heard it doesn’t happen to everyone but it sure did/does for me. Each morning when i wake up and brush my teeth it’s a horrible symphony of coughing and hacking. Ive read it takes about 7 years for your lungs to completely work the stuff back up the respiratory track but i’m sure everyone is different, there are no constants and there is NO undoing all the damage done.
I hope this helps. If you are quitting, Good Luck! It’s worth the struggle.