Sure, the rest of us are happy about you single-handedly paying enough state taxes on those smokes to support three state highway patrol cruisers and their occupants for a month. But, even so, we are concerned about your lungs… and your liver… and your pancreas… and your children… and everything and everyone else your smoking habit is damaging.
What’s that you’re saying? You would like to quit, but that old debble nicotine has got you in his clutches? You can’t go through nicotine withdrawal again? The memory of when you did that for five whole hours still gives you waking nightmares?
Please believe us when we say we understand. We began quitting 35 years ago. It took us 15 years to complete the process, and we had only a half-a-pack-a-day habit. We grit our teeth at the thought of a three-pack-a-day addict climbing down off the Big Camel for the last time. He’s got to feel like Ray Milland in “Lost Weekend” or Jack Lemon in “Days of Wine and Roses.”
Nicotine Addiction: You Never Outgrow Your Need for a Fix
Even after a couple of decades without the tobacco crutch, we still sometimes revere the memory of that after-dinner smoke, the one that tells you “this is the wrap-up for a beautiful repast.” Without that period at the end of an edible sentence, we kept on eating and eating and ballooned up many, many pounds, a common outcome of quitting. Tobacco, you see, is a very effective appetite suppressant.
But tobacco is also a killer, plain and simple. Not just the tobacco leaf itself, but the dozens of additives the manufacturers add to the stuff for various and sundry purposes, such as keeping it burning while you’re not sucking on it. You’ve heard the morbid statistics about smoking, but it never hurts to reemphasize them:
* All of the annual deaths resulting from motor vehicle accidents, firearms discharges, alcohol, drugs, AIDS, and homicide combined amount to only a third of the deaths caused by smoking tobacco (ref: Action on Smoking and Health).
* One in five deaths in America, 400,000 annually, is attributable to smoking, according to the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention.
* Second-hand smoke causes heart problems and lies behind at least 3,000 deaths annually.
Combine that figure on second-hand smoke with the fact that smoking makes you smell like an ashtray and gives you breath that smells like a dying squid, and you might see why your co-workers want you to get as far away as possible, maybe to the next company down the street. We can’t figure why your wife and kids tolerate you, unless they’re smokers, too.
Get Rid of Smoking Reminders: Ash Tray, Bye Bye
If you’ve got the desire to quit, you want to know how to do it; otherwise, why are you reading this? Any program to stop smoking must be tailored to individual needs and will require you to do some independent research on your own. For instance, for some people, hypnotism works, while for others, it’s acupuncture; for still others, neither. Some think the electric shock treatments of aversion therapy are the cat’s pajamas; others think it’s sheer craziness. Some want to taper off, others would rather quit cold turkey. But there are some general principles everyone should follow:
* Go into your program in the full knowledge that this is not going to be easy. Nicotine is the most addictive drug on the planet, period!
* Before Day 1, get rid of all ash trays and destroy any cigarettes you have left. You need no temptations, no reminders of what was.
* Get your mind in the proper frame to hang with the program, great though the temptations may be to fall off the wagon and return back to the good old days of all those yummy carcinogenic tars and nicotine. Whenever you think of how good you would feel after a cigarette, also think how kissable you’ll be when you’re permanently off the habit. Whenever you think how nervous and irritable you are without a cigarette, also think that it was the damnable cigarettes that caused this problem. Whenever your quitting presents you with a success, say, visiting friends without having to run outside every ten minutes to light up, celebrate. Congratulate yourself and maybe even give yourself a present (as long as it isn’t a libation or coffee, which only encourage smoking). Your thinking must be “cigarettes – bad stuff, negative outcomes; smoke-free – a longer, happier life and no more burn holes in the furniture.” Reaffirm often, “I am a non-smoker.” You are re-defining yourself.
* Take a clean sheet of paper and draw a line down the center. On the left, list all the things you like about smoking. On the right, list all the things you don’t like about smoking. (Don’t forget to include your yellow skin, teeth, and fingers on the right, unless you like those things.) If you can’t think of a lot more reasons to quit than the reasons you like smoking, you may not be ready yet. But if that right side outweighs the left by a good margin, which it should, keep it handy to glance at whenever you’re wavering in your commitment.
Aids to Quit Smoking: Form the Chewing Gum Habit
* Use some aids. We went through three tries at quitting before we hit on nicotine chewing gum. It worked! The patch may accomplish the same thing – satisfying the craving for nicotine while breaking us of the smoking ritual. Be sure to consult your doctor first, though. We gradually tapered off the nicotine gum by combining it with regular chewing gum at first, then simply chewing gum every time we had the desire to light up.