Quitting Smoking
October 19, 2004 6:43 PM   Subscribe

quitting smoking -> my favorite girl is ready to try to quit, and we are wondering if the nice people here have any tips, suggestions, fool proof methods ...?
posted by specialk420 to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
All I can tell you is one simple thing, but in a way it isn't that helpful. Make sure you want to quit, and are ready to do so. If you are, it will be much, much easier.

Sorry, I lied above...I do have some other thoughts. One is that I once read that you need to learn to stop saying you are "trying" to quit (if you say that at all) because, trying suggests the possibility of failing. You aren't trying to quit, you *have* quit. Think of yourself as a non-smoker, not a smoker who isn't smoking. It is a powerful addiction, and it will help to be philosophically ready to do it too!

One of my former co-workers, who still smokes told me once that he had quit successfully 3 times. I had to point out that a smoker, sadly, has never quit successfully!

Oh, and get some nicorette, just in case you need it. I went one day without it, then two, etc...But I felt a lot better knowing that I had it in case I turned into a bear.

Good luck, and one more thing...I quit with my current wife. We found it incredibly helpful to have a "quitting buddy" who knew what we were going through other couples we have known found that they couldn't quit at the same time, as quitting brought out some nastiness.
posted by Richat at 7:11 PM on October 19, 2004

Tell her to read The Easyway to Give Up Smoking by Alan Carr, which explains the psychology of smoking and somehow makes the whole business of giving up a lot easier than you'd expect. Nearly everyone I know who has read gave up and more importantly stayed off the fags--me I haven't smoked for a year and a half and I am 100% certain I will never smoke again.
posted by dydecker at 7:13 PM on October 19, 2004

Nicorette inhalers (little plastic tube things with menthol and nicotine in a sponge) made quitting a snap (after about 15 years of pack-a-day) back in 2000 when I lived in Australia. Not sure if you can get them where you are.

'course I've started again, a bit, these days. But that happens, and it's well under control, so I'm happy enough.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:34 PM on October 19, 2004

What="favorite girl"? Do you have others?
posted by ParisParamus at 7:36 PM on October 19, 2004

i quit about three months ago, cold turkey. that lasted about... 52 hours. heh. after that, i got nicoderm (the middle level, because i smoked 1/2 a pack a day) and used that for a couple of weeks. you're supposed to wean down after that, but whatever. i was fine after two weeks.

good luck! it's easier than she might think -- so much of it is force of habit (wanting a cigarette after sex, after eating, first thing in the morning) that using the patch helped with. if you can break those psychological triggers, it's easier to quit. i took a different route to the train after work, i would go up on the roof of my office's building instead of downstairs where i smoked during lunch, etc.

but i still dream about smoking sometimes.
posted by sugarfish at 7:49 PM on October 19, 2004

Response by poster: cool. thanks for the suggestions - i can only imagine how difficult it is to quit ... stavros. did you send in your absentee ballot yet?

What="favorite girl"? isn't it a much better term than "girlfriend"? and she definitely is my fave.
posted by specialk420 at 7:49 PM on October 19, 2004

Get a tooth pulled - a molar, preferably.

Worked for me. Three years this month.
posted by majcher at 8:05 PM on October 19, 2004

Patches are a god-send. But use them properly. The first time I tried to quit using patches, I cheated. Some days I thought "hey, I've got band practice tonight, I won't wear my patch and I'll just scab a few smokes this evening"... then I thought "I've got a big weekend coming up, I won't use my patches, I'll just buy one packet of smokes".

Suffice to say, after about 5 weeks of this, my cravings hadn't reduced and I was still on the strongest patches, unable to lower my dosage.

Now that I am trying to quit again (sorry, Richat, now that I have quit) I'm using the patches properly. Every day I put a patch on, first thing, and I'm not sneaking any smokes at all, and after four weeks I'm on the "2nd-step" patches and I'm very rarely thinking about cigarettes at all. Its always good to buy a new packet of patches before the old one runs out, so you avoid thinking "well, I'm out of patches...do I buy more patches, or do I buy a packet of smokes?".

A good tip is to look at behaviour that really inspires cigarette cravings, and avoid it. For me it was heavy drinking. When I got drunk, I could suck down half a packet of cigarettes in a couple of hours. So while I've been quitting, I've been going easy on the alcohol as well, to avoid extreme cravings.

And, as others have said, you have to want to quit. We go through phases. Sometimes we think we enjoy smoking, we're happy with it. Other times, we feel shitty with ourselves for smoking, and want to quit. If someone else is putting pressure on you at a time when you're happy to smoke, trying to quit won't work. On the other hand, if you make an effort to quit at a time when you know you want to, you'll have more success.

I've also found it a bit easier to quit now it's getting into the hotter weather (in Australia). Winter is a smoking time - I always enjoyed standing under the shelter with a smoke and a coffee watching the rain. In Summer, smoking cigarettes feels like a bit of a pain in the arse, so for me, it feels better not smoking them and it's easier to quit.
posted by Jimbob at 8:11 PM on October 19, 2004

Everytime you go a day or an hour without smoking, reward yourself in some way. If necessary, pat yourself on the back and compliment yourself. You feel like an idiot, but it helps. If you fall back, start all over again. Don't convince yourself that because you fell off the wagon once means you've failed. Just do it again, now. And try to last longer this time.

Didn't do it with smoking, but it helps for other stuff so might for this.
posted by stoneegg21 at 8:15 PM on October 19, 2004

I quit four years ago. Some tips that worked for me:

Make quitting your highest priority. You might gain weight. It's okay; you can lose it later (I did). So if not smoking a cigarette meant that I was going to eat instead, I ate instead.

Figure out your "triggers" and try to avoid them. My were certain social situations, driving long distances, and working on websites. Obviously I couldn't avoid them, but I could prepare by having sugar-free peppermint bubble gum (my savior) for car trips, peppermint patties for computer work, and I actually did become considerably less social during that time but that was more for other reasons. It helped the quitting, though.

When the cravings come, and they will come like gangbusters, just wait. Distract yourself. The craving will go away, and you won't even notice it was gone. This was like a small miracle the first time I realized it had happened.

Cravings will probably never entirely go away (I had a whopper leaving Philadelphia airport to drive to Atlantic City last weekend, a combination of being back where I was last a heavy smoker, driving, and heading towards gambling and drinking) but it only takes a couple months to really retrain yourself not to give in.

Looking back, the most striking thing about quitting was how sad I was about it. I crushed out my last cigarette one evening. The next morning I woke up dreadfully morose with a deep, profound sense of loss because I was never going to smoke a cigarette again.

I still dream about smoking, too.
posted by jennyb at 8:18 PM on October 19, 2004

Acupuncture. Dr I had when I lived on Long Island was learning. The method was what he said was used for heroin addiction. 2 needles in the scalp line above the temples 3 in each ear and on in the big toe joint of each foot to which was attached an electrical device that he increased the power until I had a metallic taste in my mouth. Left this on and the needles in for about 10 minutes.
I had had my last smoke before going into his office. This was Jan 1999 and I have not smoked since and have not had a single urge to smoke again.
Went back to his office about a month later and had a "tune up". The whole theory has something to do with the endorphins in the brain. All I can say the high was quit nice for about an hour after the treatment.
posted by mss at 8:24 PM on October 19, 2004

Here is what worked for me (after 14 years of a 3/4-1 pack a day habit), with the caveat that my brain is perverse:

1) The patch, for the physical cravings.
2) For the psychological side, I constatly confronted how much it sucked that I couldn't smoke. Everytime I wanted a cigarette, I thought about how great it would be, how much it suycked that I wasn't smoking anymore, how stressed out I was and what a great release it would be, etc. In short, the opposite of the positive thinking that most cessation programs recommend.

I don't know if this would work for anyone else, but I've only had three slips in the past three years, the worst ending after a single pack, and all revolving around times of extreme stress.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:37 PM on October 19, 2004

I've heard that the patch can give you some wild nicotine dreams, though. (I've never personally used it)
posted by LimePi at 8:43 PM on October 19, 2004

Response by poster: mss. cool. we've heard acpuncture is good as well... you sound like you (fg in question) are cut from the same cloth - ill pass on the acupuncture suggestion.
posted by specialk420 at 8:55 PM on October 19, 2004

I quit a couple of years ago. I think I was able to do it for a few reasons.
1. I wanted to quit and had been planning on it.
2. I convinced myself that the moment after I said "I quit", that I was no longer a smoker (this, however trivial sounding, I think is the most important part).
3. I had the flu and was unable to smoke for a couple of days at the beginning anyway.
posted by soplerfo at 8:56 PM on October 19, 2004

LimePi - I get "16 hour" patches - you put them on in the morning, take them off before you go to bed. Avoids the nicotine dreams, and also reduces your nicotine dose a further 33% - you wouldn't smoke in your sleep normally, so why wear a patch while you sleep?
posted by Jimbob at 9:48 PM on October 19, 2004

I'm on my fifth month without after nearly 30 essentially uninterrupted years of smoking. Among the things that have helped:

1. Avoid all smokers. Completely. Ruthlessly. Don't even look at smokers. And hold your breath when you're forced to walk by them (as they congregate in doorways) so that you don't smell their smoke. Have friends that smoke? You don't anymore. It should be as though there are no smokers in your world.

2. Don't buy anything from stores that cell cigs. Nothing. Not liquor, not gum, not a newspaper. Nothing. If you can't find a gas station that doesn't sell smokes then fill up with a credit card at the pump to avoid interacting with the cashier. Again, you're living in a world without tobacco.

3. Deep breathing. Take a deep breath. Hold it for three heartbeats. Exhale as much air as you can. Repeat a couple times. Part of the pleasure of smoking is the deep breathing, which lowers blood pressure and heart rate and is generally calming. You can get the same effect without the cigarette.

4. Carry something with a pleasant or comforting smell and sniff it when you're stressed. Lavender, essential oils, a favorite cologne, etc. Helps to overcome the association of the smell of tobacco smoke with pleasure and comfort.

Good luck.

Speaking of nicotine dreams - I have smoking nightmares where I find myself dreaming that I'm inadvertantly smoking and then I wake up in a panic that I've started again. In a way they're encouraging because that I won't even let myself (subconciously) smoke in a dream indicates my resolve to quit. Anyone else have these dreams and if so do they eventually go away?
posted by TimeFactor at 10:11 PM on October 19, 2004

I've not quit, yet, but I'm working my way down to very few cigs, so's when I quit (30th birthday present to myself) my body won't be so used to the pack-a-day dose I was up to this summer (after three years of 7-10 smokes/day and a pack a day on weekends). My plan for weaning down has been: start at say, one cig per hour, for the first day. Every hour, on the hour. Next day, the interval was up to one hour ten minutes. Then an hour twenty. Etc. I'm currently at 5:20, and already noticing the improvement in breathing.

I'll likely use a patch once the birthday rolls around.
posted by notsnot at 10:42 PM on October 19, 2004

My doctor put me on Welbutrin about 2 months before I quit. It’s expensive and insurance wont pay for it unless you happen to be obsessive-compulsive or depressed. I just smoked less and less until I was down to 3 cigs a day (from a pack a day for 20 or so years). It was tough to give those 3 up but taking the drug for another month along with an occasional nicotine gum helped me quit those little bastards 2 years ago. And my nicotine dreams have me picking up old cig butts and smoking them. Yum.
posted by jabo at 10:46 PM on October 19, 2004

When I went on Zoloft, my smoking reduced to one-third of my previous habit without me trying or even much noticing. That probably has as much to do with me smoking as self-medication as anything else, though. Anecdotally, I've heard of people going on antidepressants to quit smoking. There are side effects, consult your doctor and whatnot, but it might be worth considering (very carefully and with the trepidation due fucking with ones brain chemistry).

jabo raises a similar point about Wellbutrin and it's worth mentioning that the 'Loft would cost me $80/mo without insurance (excluding appointments) which is pretty cheap compared to a hearty smoking habit.
posted by stet at 1:59 AM on October 20, 2004

I quit smoking about 3 months ago, even though my boyfriend smokes a pack and a half a day. Some things I did:

1. As notsnot suggests, I cut down gradually.

2. I also switched to hand-rolled cigarrettes. This helped for a couple of reasons - firstly, it made it more difficult to smoke, so I stopped smoking the mindless cigarettes that I wasn't really craving. It also made me lose my addiction to the chemicals in the pre-rolled stuff, which I think I was addicted to in addition to the nicotine.

3. I bought tons of fruit and kept it around for whenever I needed to satisfy my oral cravings in a public place. Citrus fruits were especially helpful, and hey, they're coming into season right about now.

4. If I got into an argument with someone, I'd be incredibly tempted to smoke, but I'd just remind myself that the "not smoking" would last a hell of a lot longer than the feelings behind the argument.

5. This one is bitchy - I'd think about someone at work who I don't like who smokes a lot and think about how I was more strong-willed than she is. This is a dirty, petty mind trick, and I swear I don't go around thinking I'm all superior to smokers (like I say, my own boyfriend smokes). It was just a mean thought about a person I don't like that helped me get past a craving or two occasionally.

Now, even though it's only been 3 months, I almost never think about smoking. I'm pretty sure I have it beat this time for good.
posted by hazyjane at 9:02 AM on October 20, 2004

Zoloft IS Wellbutrin, in a smaller dose than usual.

Patches are great.

Final piece: Exercise! I had my worst cravings in the evenings after work. Exercise killed that with a simple ride about on my bike. Felt great.

At first I reduced my coffee inake, but after a day or two, discovered the hot coffee actually helped quell the craving in the morning--Exactly the opposite of what I expected.

Also, I got used to not smoking in the house before I quit.

I did not gain weight, instead I started loosing weight, perhaps because an easy bike ride was a major increase in exercise for my lazy self.
posted by Goofyy at 9:09 AM on October 20, 2004

I used Allen Carr's book that dydecker recommends above, and it's dead right about all the mechanisms of smoking and how to stop them. Once I had genuinely decided that I wanted to stop, it actually wasn't that hard. The key thing for me was to pay careful attention to my smoking habits and how ridiculous they were for a couple of weeks before I stopped.

Unfortunately, I didn't pay enough attention to one key point: once you've quit, if you smoke even one cigarette, you're restarting the cycle that got you hooked in the first place. After 2 years of being a happy non-smoker, divorce-related stress led me to start bumming an occasional cigarette off of friends late at night in a bar. No big deal, I didn't enjoy those cigarettes and the next day I was back to being a non-smoker. Then I started bumming more cigarettes, and eventually I was buying packs, smoking a couple and throwing the rest away. Now I'm back to my old 1-2 packs-a-day habit, and I feel like a complete idiot. That entire story can be found in Carr's book.

So whatever you do, make sure that you clearly understand that quitting smoking means never smoking even a single cigarette, ever, just like non-smokers do.
posted by fuzz at 9:14 AM on October 20, 2004

Zoloft IS Wellbutrin, in a smaller dose than usual.

I think you're thinking of Zyban. Zoloft is Sertraline, an SSRI. Wellbutrin and Zyban are Buproprion and interact with dopamine.
posted by TimeFactor at 9:25 AM on October 20, 2004

What got me (and several other friends) to quit was the treatment offered here.

It's two shots of atropine/scopolomine, a scopolomine patch and then two weeks of belladonna tabs.

Prior to this treatment I was a nearly pack-a-day smoker for ten years. I had quit for a few months here and there using the gum, the patch and I tried going cold turkey.

I've been smoke-free for over two years now, and I hang out in bars with smokers without issue. In fact, the night after my treatment I went to see a band at a bar with a smoker and I stood next to him all night and didn't really care about the smoking.

For me now, smoking is something other people do.
posted by tomierna at 11:18 AM on October 20, 2004

This approach will not work for everyone, but worked for me, and works for people who are 'all-or-nothing':

1) You have to DECIDE to quit smoking. Flirting around with the concept of quitting is not going to work. If your not ready, your not ready. You will know when you are truly ready.

2) Quit cold turkey. You will feel really wierd for about 3 days. Simply tell yourself your sick. Psychologically trick yourself. Act like your sick. Take a few sick days. Stay in your pajamas, eat chicken noodle soup. Just pretend your sick. Stick it out. It's alot easier than trying to ramp down and hold on any longer.

3) Quit drinking alcohol for at least 1 month. You are setting yourself up for relapse if your think you can drink and not smoke.

4) Do ANYTHING you want except smoke and drink alcohol for awhile. Eat, sleep, chew gum, exercise, nap, yell, bite your nails, masturbate, shop, etc. Don't worry about gaining weight, being lazy, or looking nervous. Get through it by any means necessary.

5) Get a empty jar with a air-tight lid. Fill with already smoked cigarettes. Pour some water in jar. When you get a craving to smoke, open jar, and take a big whiff. You won't want to smoke after that.

6) Never, ever, ever have another smoke, EVER. As soon as you have one, the guilt will be gone, and you'll be up to a pack-a-day in no time, I guarantee.
posted by jasondigitized at 11:42 AM on October 20, 2004

As a failed ex-smoker, I have some advice that worked great for me (had I just kept up with it).

First, you might be worried that cravings will make it impossible to stop. Cravings only last for a couple of minutes. Seriously. They're your body's natural reaction to being deprived of something that's physically addicting (the nicotine). Just stick 'em out. In five minutes the cravings will pass and you're back to good again.

Second, hard-core physical cravings will pretty much cease after three days. After that it's all psychological. Think about that. Three days and it becomes very easy. Those three days will suck, but only for a few minutes at a time (see above).

Third, you will need to address the big issue, which is that most smokers do a large percentage of their smoking under certain conditions. For me, I smoke when I'm at the computer. For others, they smoke when they drink. Whatever it is, know that those are the times you will be most susceptable to cravings. Now, you're probably not going to be able to cut that part of your life (computers, bars, whatever), but you need to find something else to do when you feel the need to smoke under these situations.

Some people chew gum, some eat fruit -- I didn't want anything that had to do with food (too easy to gain weight and say, "Well, I'm turning into a fat slob, I shouldn't have quit.") Instead, I wanted to focus on something positive that I couldn't do before I quit. Exercise worked beautifully.

Whenever I felt the urge to smoke while working on the computer, I would get up, go into another room and exercise for 5 or 10 minutes. When you're a smoker and you exercise, your body is constantly reminding you how bad the smoking is for you -- you get out of breath faster, tire more rapidly, stay sore longer, and lack the motivation to continue.

After you stop smoking, exercise suddenly starts to feel good for a change. It becomes a positive feedback loop -- the more you exercise, the stronger you feel, the happier you are that you're not smoking, etc.

My one word of warning is watch out for stress. Stressful situations are what will get you right back to smoking again.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:27 PM on October 20, 2004

I have a foolproof method for quitting smoking:

Don't smoke any more cigarettes.

It is exactly that easy and that hard. I am gravely skeptical of things that purport to make it easier (or harder, for that matter.)
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:40 PM on October 20, 2004

stavros. did you send in your absentee ballot yet?

I'm Canadian. Although I've contributed enough in tax money to the Australian economy over the years that I should be able to vote.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:31 PM on October 20, 2004

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