It’s the beginning of a new year that leads many people to think about how to move forward with new and healthier habits. If you’re like me, this means looking back at a smoking habit and figuring out if this is the year you finally quit.
Anyone who has thought about curbing their smoking habit has probably tried numerous different methods before. I know I have. I quit for the first time after my wife and I got married. Then, when she got pregnant, I quit cold turkey for the duration of her pregnancy and the first year of my daughter's life.
But, these were temporary. A stressful day at work, the unexpected passing of my mother-in-law...they all became reasons to light back up. I told myself one cigarette wouldn't matter until I realized it was a habit I just couldn't quit. That is until my father was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Many methods are promoted as easy and effective ways to curb a smoking habit once and for all. But in my experience, it took a variety of different tactics and an overall commitment to put this behind me to finally make it happen. What follows are my guidelines for how I finally quit smoking after years of this terrible and life-threatening habit.
Do Not Tell Anyone You're Quitting
This goes against the vast majority of advice out there about how to finally curb your smoking habit. That is mainly because many people say that telling someone else gives you enhanced accountability.
However, in my case, I tried telling people several times before I successfully quit smoking once and for all. What ended up happening when I told people was that they put unnecessary pressure on me and it put additional pressure on myself. This caused more stress than it was worth and ultimately that stress drove me right back to my cigarettes.
I had to think of this as a decision to take care of my own health. Taking care of myself was, and is, an important and a worthwhile goal and one that can really encourage change in life. When I thought about my internal desire to kick the habit in conjunction with keeping this private decision in mind as I encountered cravings, this was really powerful.
I decided to share my good news about quitting after I had some experience fighting the cravings.
Taking control of my health was the best way to curb the habit. While having supportive friends and family is certainly helpful during this transition process, it did not work as my primary motivation or I might have failed. I wanted to follow through, so I kept up with my inner commitment.
When the inner desire to end the habit is combined with other tools like accountability, such as a friend who is also trying to quit at the same time, the chances of success are greatly increased, as I experienced.
I Learned to Live with The Desire to Smoke
This sounds very basic, but it was an important component of my being able to quit smoking for good. It will be a long time, if ever before I will be able to say that I no longer have the desire to smoke.
Many people assume that they will wake up and there will be one day when they don't want to smoke anymore. You assume that every time you have a craving for a cigarette that you have a weak will and that the desire would be gone only if you were stronger. That wasn’t my experience; I am always a smoker, it’s just that today I am fighting these cravings. I’ve learned to be comfortable with that ongoing desire to smoke.
Avoid Quick Fixes
There are so many different tools and programs out there promoted as an easy fix to stop smoking behavior, but this can actually put you in a dangerous position. For example, many people in recent years have turned to e-cigarettes, but the dangerous nature of e-cigarettes doesn't make it much better for you to be involved in this type of behavior.
Transitioning from regular cigarettes to e-cigarettes can be very problematic for some, so you need to figure out whether or not this is the right choice for you. I talked things over with my doctor to figure out the right tools for me.
Make sure that before you switch over to e-cigarettes you educate yourself about their overall product safety. One reason I chose not to use e-cigarettes is that I read lots of news stories about some of them catching on fire or blowing up. I don’t know about you, but my strongest cigarette cravings come with stress. I don’t need an extra injury or the stress from a fire to make me want to pick up a traditional cigarette. That nagging worry about an e-cig catching fire in my pocket isn’t worth it, either.
I Listed All the Reasons I Didn’t Want to Smoke
Everyone is going to have a weak moment where they consider going back and picking up another cigarette to smoke. This goes hand-in-hand with the tip above about learning how to deal with the desire to smoke. I needed to keep a written list of all of the reasons that encourage me to stop smoking, such as having good health, being there for my loved ones, feeling and smelling good again, fighting off sickness more easily, and the like. This helped me reflect back if I got tempted. This list helped me a few times.
I Found Alternative Ways to Calm Down
Many people turn to cigarettes, and a nicotine habit in general, because of nerves, stress, or anxiety. Since I was giving up one habit completely, I had to be prepared to replace it with something else.
I employed other techniques to help me get rid of additional stress and assist me in these critical moments when it's all too easy to reach for a cigarette and light one up. I had a plan in advance of 5 to 10 activities I could do when I was feeling stressed out, whether it's a quick jog around the block, screaming into a pillow, calling a friend, or finding a kickboxing video on YouTube to watch for a couple of minutes.
All of these are very powerful tools that helped me get to the next level without having to give up on all the hard work I had already done to curb my cigarette habit. This was instrumental for me as I discovered that meditation, exercise and even a glass of red wine and a good book helped erode some of the stress that had caused me to start picking up cigarettes in the first place.
Have you recently quit smoking? What other tools or advice do you have for me to help curb the cravings? What was your experience like? If you did manage to quit, what was the final straw or motivator that finally helped you do it?
I've done 2 good things for myself in the past. I quit smoking 25 years ago, just after my mom passed away. She always wanted me to quit. About 3 1/2 years ago, I dropped about 40 lbs. I was at 246 and today I'm 178. I swam laps pretty consistently for about a year and a half. My goal is always to stay below 180. Most recently I quit driving. Had trouble seeing at night but could read the writing on the wall.
Thank you for sharing your experience! I quitted smoking with the help of vaping. I've been smoking cigarettes for about 6 years and my health became a lot worse. I read somewhere that vaping is also one of the ways to stop smoking as it is much safer, in reality, comparing to cigarettes (the affection from the vape is slower developing). Switching to vapes helped me a lot, it is the best alternative if you can not give up fast and if you have a strong addiction to cigarettes.