October 12, 2012
How I quit smoking
It is possible to quit smoking. Even the most addicted person can do it, it's just a matter of wanting to quit. It takes willpower and discipline. You can start now, but it may be beneficial to consider other strategies. In this article, I explain how I quit smoking.It is possible to quit smoking. Even the most addicted person can do it, it's just a matter of wanting to quit. It takes willpower and discipline. You can start now, but it may be beneficial to consider other strategies. In this article, I explain how I quit smoking.
It was a cold morning in December 2011. I remember making the decision to quit smoking after 13 and a half years of the habit. I have now been smoke-free for over a year, and I feel completely liberated from tobacco, 100%. I read a lot on the internet about quitting smoking. I asked many ex-smoker friends how they did it, consulted with a doctor, and researched all possible chemical treatments available, but luckily I didn't spend money on any of these things. After quitting three times, I believe that quitting smoking is not a systematic process, as many authors of books and articles claim. Let me explain: there is no infallible system that works for everyone. Each person has a unique situation and body. My best recommendation is to always visit a doctor who will inform you of everything. Over the years, I realized that many people do not consider themselves smokers even if they smoke one or two cigarettes a day. A smoker is someone who smokes, and it's not necessarily the person who smokes more than another. Smoking just one cigarette a month gradually makes you a smoker. There is no "oh, for me, tobacco is not a problem, I can quit and nothing will happen," because you will soon be smoking again and will have the urge to smoke. Smoking is smoking, and denying that you are a smoker only puts you on the side of pathological smokers rather than someone who smokes a cigarette every time a bishop dies. Anyway, I wanted to share my experience of quitting smoking that really worked, but before that, I would like to point out my previous attempts and failures.
The first time I quit smoking, I opted for the famous cold turkey method. You simply cut off the tobacco supply and tough it out. I think that was the worst week of my life, and I remember it vividly:
Starting with the symptoms. You feel like you can't breathe if you don't smoke, unbelievable. I also had repeated bouts of nausea during the day, cramps, and restlessness. Damn, I looked like a drug addict.
I wasn't exaggerating. The cold turkey method is very violent. I remember having an automatic craving just two or three hours after realizing that I had actually quit smoking. Combine that with work stress and the stress I had at home during that time, it was really tough. It seemed like it would never end, and every day was a struggle, but I made it through the week.
The effectiveness of this experience took a turn for the better after two weeks. With almost all ex-smokers, I came to the same conclusion: the smell of tobacco bothered us. It may sound paradoxical as ex-smokers, but it wasn't due to anxiety, but it was genuinely uncomfortable when breathing. It was as if the body was rejecting something that it once craved.
Unfortunately, I didn't stop being a smoker; now I'm just another passive smoker in the crowd. Wherever I go, someone is smoking, and although I can tolerate it perfectly, I find it bothersome to inhale tobacco smoke from others, especially in places where smoking is not allowed.
At that time, quitting smoking in Spain was quite an achievement. If I had to describe what Spain was like in 2005, it was like watching a movie about a Pirelli branch on fire. Walking into a bar, you could only see people's lower bodies through the layer of smoke that filled the air. Smoking was allowed in every bar, and people (myself included) smoked one cigarette after another. There wasn't a single bar where you couldn't smoke a cigarette or a cigar. There were even taxi drivers who smoked inside their taxis. Quitting smoking during this time was very tough. Nonetheless, despite all these bad things, I quit smoking and lasted about eight and a half months. I saved quite a bit of money and bought an Xbox and a bunch of other things with the extra cash.
My relapse was a unparalleled foolishness, due to my total ignorance on the topic and the fact that I had been around smokers for too long. I felt perfectly fine one night when I was out partying, and I thought, "how much harm can one cigarette do? I'll enjoy that pleasure." Well, you know the rest of the story. One cigarette a month at a party, one more cigarette at a farewell, three on New Year's Eve, five at a birthday, a pack on vacation. You end up smoking again.
Second time quitting
My second time quitting was less chaotic. I remember feeling unwell one afternoon, like I had the flu, and smoking only made me feel worse. I quit smoking for three months, using the same method but with less violence. I started smoking again when I felt better. I went back to smoking because I wanted to; it was premeditated this time. I knew I couldn't quit because I wasn't really in the right place, and quitting smoking was complicated.
My third and hopefully last time quitting smoking
If there's one thing I've learned throughout all this, and what really worked for me, is realizing that quitting smoking is 50% personal decision, 30% commitment, 10% method, and 10% opportunity.
You will never quit smoking if you don't really want to
There's no such thing as "I'll try to quit smoking today" - you'll only truly quit if you want to do it definitively. Half measures don't work, slowing down doesn't work, "I'll do it next month" or "tomorrow", etc. It's today, or nothing. Quitting smoking is a personal decision that you only truly understand when you recognize that you have the problem and want to quit at all costs. Look within yourself and you'll know whether you really want to quit or not, but don't deceive yourself or become a masochist by getting into treatments if you're not sure you want to quit. Where you falter a bit, you'll relapse and start smoking again.
You have to commit to yourself, not to others
This is another point I learned is important. Before, I used to tell everyone "I'm going to quit smoking." Everyone would get happy, encourage you, but then every day they would ask you the same thing: "how many days have you gone without smoking?" The mere question already gives you cravings. It's better to keep quiet and only talk about it when asked.
The last time I quit smoking, I changed tactics: I didn't tell anyone that I was committed to quitting smoking. However, I openly said before that it was in my plans to quit smoking and I was figuring out the best way to do it. The problem with committing to others is that if you fail, you'll make them sad or they'll pity you, and you'll feel bad about yourself on top of that. It's like a chain reaction. However, if you only commit to yourself and fail, at least no one else has to know. It's better that way. The worst part is that they won't believe a word you say afterwards. You have to commit and be consistent with what you want. It's pointless to do something if you don't commit to sticking with it.
Don't disappoint anyone but yourself.
Plan a method and stick to it uncompromisingly
- Once you're clear that you want to quit smoking, prepare a plan because you'll definitely need many things to deal with what's coming.
- Start by quitting smoking in your home. At least a month or two before D-Day. Air out your home periodically. Wash all your clothes, even the ones you thought were clean, because they're not. Take as many showers as you can, because this will eliminate more nicotine from your body. If you have nicotine on your fingers, hair, skin, etc.
- Clean your home thoroughly, remove all traces of tobacco as it will be a nuisance when quitting and later when you're feeling better, you won't want to smell anything tobacco-related around you. Throw away your pillows because even if you don't smell tobacco, they still reek of it. When you regain your sense of smell, you'll realize this issue without a doubt.
- Throw away all ashtrays. All of them. Or keep the ones you want outside on the balcony and remember, no smoking inside your home, none at all.
- If you share a home with other smokers, ask them to quit smoking inside the house, to use the balcony, or to smoke outside altogether. This is important because otherwise, it will be like not quitting at all, and you'll experience more cravings than a human being can tolerate when you get home and find yourself in the same environment as a bar. If there's no way around it, find another place to live.
- If you had plans to start any type of sport, this is a good time to start exercising.
Plan and Follow a Method Intransigently
If you have decided to quit smoking, prepare a plan because you will need a lot of things to tackle what comes next. Start by quitting smoking at home, at least one or two months before the D-day. Air out your home regularly, wash all your clothes, even the ones you thought were clean, because they are not, bathe as much as you can to eliminate more nicotine from your body, and clean your home thoroughly to remove all traces of tobacco. Get rid of all ashtrays, and don't smoke inside your home, not even a single cigarette. If you share a house with other smokers, ask them to smoke outside or on the balcony, but not inside. If it's not possible, consider moving out to another place. If you have plans to start a sport, this is a good time to begin exercising.
Seize the Opportunity to Reach the Point of No Return
Don't wait too long to quit smoking, but don't spend ages planning it either. Seize every opportunity such as holidays, time off work, or exam-free periods. Don't let extra stress interfere with your plan.
I've tried to quit smoking dozens of times, and from my experience, the best way to quit is when you're sick. Yes, when you have a cold or the flu. Your body is weakened, and you won't want to smoke because you have to get better. You can get through the critical first two or three days without smoking. The first three days are the worst, and some people may feel this way for a week or more, but the more determined you are to quit, the faster the anxiety will pass, and you'll start to notice that you don't need to smoke.
Remember this: when you start, there's no turning back. If you return to smoking, you fail. If you fail, everything you've built will come crashing down. Of course, you can start over, but if you go back to smoking in the first month, then you never really wanted to quit. Your willpower must be stronger than your urge to smoke.
Smoking may be a pleasure, but the world changes completely when you quit smoking. Food tastes richer, your health improves, you recover more quickly from colds and flus, you sleep much better, you smell better and your sense of smell becomes sharper, your clothes stay clean for longer. As I mentioned at the beginning, this article only tells my experience. I know that every ex-smoker has their own unique story. My message to those who are considering quitting smoking is: don't hesitate!
Best of all: you'll have more money!