Yep, I admit it, I was a smoker. And not an occasional, have-a-smoke-at-a-party smoker, but a full on, pack a day, gotta-have-it-or-I’m-gunna-die smoker. As terrible as this sounds to admit it, I started smoking when I was a freshman in high school, at the tragically young age of 14. It didn’t take long until I was a full-on addict, and it became part of my daily routine. At first, I thought I was cool (*heavy sigh*), but after a while, I started to hate it.
I hated how much it controlled my mood. I hated how expensive it was, and that was probably $3 a pack less than it is now! I hated how my lungs ached after a night of chain smoking. I hated the phlegm and coughing that never went away. I hated the shame of smoking, and usually tried to hide the stench with too much cheap perfume.
I wanted to quit, so badly, but at the same time, I loved smoking. I loved it more than my health, more than financial stability, and more than every other reason I hated it. I loved smoking.
Two things happened that made me finally quit my 12-year, pack-a-day habit.
First, I really wanted a baby. My husband and I had been married for 3 years, I had graduated from college, I was in my mid-twenties and my biological clock was ticking, quite loudly. I didn’t want to be forced into quitting after I got pregnant, or worse, get pregnant and not have the will power to quit. I had strong motivation to quit smoking, but still had absolutely no idea how to do it.
Then my best friend, also a fellow-smoker, decided to quit smoking one day. There were no patches, pills, or hypnosis involved, just 5 pages of one book. While she was at Hasting’s one day, she picked up the book, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, by Allen Carr. Here is how that conversation went:
My friend: “I quit smoking a few days ago.”
Me: “What?! How?!”
My friend: “I dunno, I just read a few pages of this book on quitting smoking, and it just made sense. So I decided I wasn’t going to smoke anymore.”
Me: “Umm… I don’t understand.”
My friend: “Well, you can buy the book and see for yourself.”
Me: “I don’t really have a lot of extra money right now to be buying books.”
My friend: “If you have money to smoke, you have money to buy a book.”
Six months later, I finally decided enough was enough and I ordered the book. Three days after that, Amazon delivered the book to my door step. Three days after that, I quit smoking. That was on May 15, 2009, and I haven’t picked up (or smoked) a single cigarette since.
How did it work?
I am not entirely certain, but as my friend said, it just makes sense. Allen debunks all of the theories that we create to support our smoking habit. He strips down the excuses and barriers that are holding us back, and helps us change our perspectives. The first part of the book actually encourages you to keep smoking until you’ve read the entire book. That was a huge comfort to me, and probably the reason why I picked it up to begin with. And how thankful I am that I did, because today, I am nicotine free, and can’t even imagine a world in which I would smoke.
Allen gave me the will-power and the encouragement to quit smoking, but I will admit, it was challenging for the first couple weeks. You don’t give up a 12-year habit without some disturbances in your daily routine. Here are some things I personally did, to help fight the cravings during those first few weeks.
Tips to Reduce Nicotine Cravings
- Hold a pencil, straw, or other long slender object in my smoking hand. At times, I even pretended to take a drag off of it, and believe it or not, it helped!
- Chewing gum or eating beef jerky. Smoking has such an oral component to it, so instead of eating copious amounts of candy to distract myself, I would chew gum or beef jerky to distract myself.
- Mints: This tip is actually from my brother, who also quit smoking. He would suck on mints when he was having a craving, as it sort of mimics the pulling motion of smoking.
- Deep breaths: Whenever I had a strong craving, I would take 10 deep breaths, in and out through the nose, which would ease my anxiety and clear my thoughts.
- Go walking: Exercise is great for the mind and spirit, and incorporating healthier activities, like walking, made me feel great about myself.
- Positive Affirmations: Positive self-talk can be tremendously beneficial. When I was quitting, I would tell myself, “I am not a smoker. I do not need a cigarette.” It sounds cheesy, but it really did help me view myself as a non-smoker, and made the transition easier.
- Rewards: Any time I am trying to eliminate a bad behavior (such as smoking), I reward myself for accomplishing my goal. During those first couple weeks, I would reward myself with a treat every evening I didn’t smoke (which was every night :). It was small rewards, like a bowl of ice cream, or a relaxing bath. Find some positive rewards that motivate you, and use it as a tool to help you quit smoking.
- Stay away from smokers. I know this is hard to do. When I quit smoking, my husband was still smoking. Smelling a cigarette when you’re trying to quit smoking, is kind of like smelling bacon when you haven’t eaten in a month (or so I imagine). Take the temptation away by avoiding people or places with cigarettes, at least for the first couple of weeks.
I hope that these tips help encourage you to take the leap to quit smoking. I know it seems impossible. I have felt the way you feel. But I know you can do it! You have the will-power, the strength, and the discipline to quit smoking.