Hard Habit to Break
July 3, 2010 3:54 AM   Subscribe

Do you have any suggestions for wanting to want to quit smoking? And what's the latest and greatest in smoking cessation these days anyway?

I am a serious smoker. I've been smoking for twenty years and I smoke two packs a day. Obviously, I know I should quit smoking and I know all the reasons why - health, smell, finances, etc.

But everyone says the key to successfully quitting is that you have to really want it, and I don't think that's me. Knowing I should and wanting to are not really the same thing.

I have tried to quit in the past with patches (made me itch and get a rash) and with the Alan Carr book (made interesting reading while I smoked.)

Still, the money is horrifying and there's a ton of very concrete stuff I'd prefer to do with that amount of cash every year besides light it on fire. I'm also not a fan of the smell and would prefer my house not smell this way. In terms of health, I've lost 30 pounds in the past year and have 20 to go; with less weight, I'd like to be a little more active and not being able to breathe doesn't really work with that.

So my questions are:

1. Is wanting to want to quit good enough? If it's not, how do I get more motivated.

2. Can I do this without gaining weight? I've worked so hard to lose these 25 pounds and I'm doing so well, I really really do not want to mess that up.

3. What are some of the more successful mechanisms for quitting that are not patches? Zyban? E-cigarettes? Hypnosis?

4. What do you do about the pattern-ingrained stuff? I smoke while I work; I'm utterly terrified that if I quit smoking, I will also lose my ability to earn a much-needed living.

4a. I have struggled with some anxiety issues in the past few years. Is the loss of my favourite crutch likely to make that worse in the short term?

FWIW I would consider myself heavily addicted. Cold turkey does not feel like an option. My doctor is generally easy to work with, and I do have some cash for buying in quitting aids if they will help.

posted by DarlingBri to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
The fact that you wrote this post means you want to quit enough to really quit.

I am most familiar with the medical methods. Aside from patches, don't forget that there is the gum too, although it's expensive, just compare the costs to what you'll be saving.

Zyban is basically Wellbutrin (an anti depressant) repackaged with a different name. It is meant to be pretty good. I think it could help with the potential psychiatric issues you're worried about, I'm sure others will post with personal experiences.

Chantix is the newer agent. There are some rare psychiatric side effects that you should be aware of, but I know a number of people who have had great success with this drug.

The main thing I would focus on for you is coupling the medical intervention with a detailed plan for behavioral interventions. This will make your plan much more likely to succeed, and you are basically already preparing to do it, i.e., thinking 'what do I do at work when I want to smoke?' You need to have a plan for this since it's obviously going to be a major factor. For example. at work when you want to smoke, you can take a 5 minute walk outside. You can have a piece of gum. You can have a glass of water. You can go talk to your friend who really wants to help you quit smoking and will give you a high five for your resistance efforts. Whatever it is, but have several different plans lined up. You need to have plans like this for work, home, the car, all the places that are 'triggers' for you to smoke. Also, all the *things* that are triggers, like specific friends at work who go smoke with you, or going out to bars and getting drunk. While you are quitting, you make sure that friend is well aware and not going to tempt you, and you don't go out getting drunk, at least until you're a month or two into it. You get the idea. You definitely will not lose your ability to work because of quitting smoking! Being afraid of that is just a defense mechanism to keep you from making the leap to a new healthier lifestyle.

The other thing I've heard will increase success is setting a date, and on that date, when you're really psyched up to quit, you throw out everything that you have that's related to smoking. You want to get rid of all your cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters, so that if you are driven to smoke, you would have to go through a number of steps to get to that point - put barriers in front of yourself to keep you on track.

Also remember that quitting is an ongoing effort, and just because you might have a little relapse doesn't mean you can't keep on quitting. People are more likely to have permanent success when they make multiple efforts.

Finally, congratulations on wanting to quit and your plan to quit smoking! It is the best thing you can do for your health! I see many people suffering from the effects of both smoking and secondhand smoke in my work. I really feel passionately about helping people quit and send you an e-round of applause for your interest in this.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:09 AM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

How aggressive are you? It gets my goat to think of the conversations where asshole tobacco exec's are laughing at you - how they wouldn't touch the stuff themselves, it's for housewives and kids and losers, they don't smoke it, they just sell it to suckers, and the suckers give the execs all their money, regardless of whether they want to - the suckers can't help themselves! They can't stop funding the exec's luxury vacations, no matter how hard they try! So pathetic! Fools and their gold!

Tobacco exec's DO have these attitudes, so get riled up and quit to fuck those guys. Quit for your dignity. Every cigarette is sending those assholes to a beach resort in Hawaii on your dime, while they laugh at you the whole time.

Make 'em stay home in the rain instead :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:14 AM on July 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: 1. Is wanting to want to quit good enough? Yes, and if you don't want it enough the first time, the subsequent quits where you have already experienced the freedom from smoking will give you that desire.

2. Can I do this without gaining weight?
Many do. In one of my quits, I took up exercising that I hadn't done before to deal with some of the issues, such as mood swings etc, and found I didn't gain weight. Most of the weight gain tends to be associated with replacement (eg, substituting chocolate for cigarettes). Try to remember to drink plenty of non-calorific drinks (water, black tea, etc).

3. What are some of the more successful mechanisms for quitting that are not patches? I used the gum on at least one quit (patches on others), and found it very helpful, but I am a big fan of cold turkey. At least once you're past day 3, and week 3, you're not helping to maintain your addiction. (On rereading I see that cold turkey is not an option for you, and that's fair enough - don't let people try to bully you into a method that you don't feel comfortable with).

4. What do you do about the pattern-ingrained stuff? Only way out is through. Try to do some of the things that help you think now - such as leaving the room for a walk outside. Many quitters notice that they seem to experience a brain fog for months, however, others talk about increased clarity of thinking with the extra oxygen. Be aware, though, in the first few weeks, you're likely to be less productive.

4a. I have struggled with some anxiety issues in the past few years. Is the loss of my favourite crutch likely to make that worse in the short term? Yes. Without a doubt, my experience is yes. And it's been the reason for taking up smoking again for me a number of times. Now I maintain a level oof sanity with a daily drug (Cymbalta). I accept, though it took me a long time, that whatever my brain structure / physiological wellbeing was before I started smoking, that this adult me is someone who is always anxious if I am not receiving a drug. I would rather that drug be prescribed with hopefully less carcinagens and less socially unacceptable. Some people have told me that Wellbutrin has been particularly helpful on the anxiety and quitting smoking front.

I quit every season for ten years. I've been quit for 4 years and a half years now. I used to run a rogue quit smoking forum, which I handed over to one of the other members. It's too insular to send strangers in but we all came from Quitnet originally. Some (much) of the conversation is unbearable, but someone there will be experiencing whatever strange symptom you go through, and someone else there will have tips on how to get through, from mouth toys, to anxiety, to extra gassiness.

My biggest tip to you, and this may not make sense on your first serious quit, do not entertain the thought of smoking. If a craving hits you in the head, say to yourself, oh, that'd be a craving, I don't like how it feels, but I accept it. When the thought comes up (and it will), I can have just one, I can quit tomorrow, I want to taste how bad it tastes to inspire my continued quit don't argue with yourself about, just change your mental topic. Refuse to entertain the though. Shout "No!" inside your head. Repeat. It's very unlikely you will pick up a cigarette by accident. I found the hardest thing was arguing with myself to continue the addiction, and when I refused to consider the conversation, it was much less worrying and stress.
posted by b33j at 4:31 AM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh PS I tried hypnosis, and I lasted about a day, but I was young and not really engaged in quitting. I had a friend who tried hypnosis, and she was fine until her partner's head was run over by a tractor (he's fine) and the stress without a backup plan took her back to smoking again.
posted by b33j at 4:33 AM on July 3, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you, these are really helpful and informative. I'd love to hear more.

Just to clarify, I am self-employed and work at home. So when I say "I smoke while I work" I don't mean I take smoking breaks at work, I mean I am actually smoking while I'm sitting there playing with designs and writing copy.

I'm not sure I know how to do either of those things without a cigarette, which is why I was thinking maybe e-cigarettes would be a better option, but I don't know a lot about them.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:00 AM on July 3, 2010

Cold turkey does not feel like an option.

So, don't. I realise it is the popular recommendation, but, after two decades of smoking and several cold-turkey attempts, I cut down, cut down, cut down -- and haven't smoked for three years now. Give yourself a modest goal -- "smoke less" -- and congratulate and reward yourself for smoking less. Do not beat yourself up for days of excess; that will happen, just keep yourself pointed towards your simple and reasonable goal of smoking "less." Eventually you will be smoking less, and then you can move towards smoking less than the previous "less." The addiction will weaken, and you will be on your way.

I stalled at one cigarette with the morning coffee for many months -- it was never more than that, and clearly I was not very addicted by that point, but it was necessary at the time. Overnight I went from about five a day to that one -- when I moved, and with the move I made mine a non-smoking house -- and "I can smoke in the morning" kept things easy; gentle weaning was best. I had to cut out the morning coffee as well for a time when I finally let go of the morning smoke.

I suffered no anxiety or weight gain hassles doing things gradually.

I smoked at the desk a great deal too -- perhaps you want to break up routines a bit; moving house was a huge help for me. Can you work in a park or coffee shop or some such a bit, change things up?
posted by kmennie at 5:14 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Quitting can be a minute-to-minute type thing. The idea of QUITTING FOREVER (EVER...EVER...EVER) was just too daunting. My addiction was telling me that I could never do it, I'd never be able to go the whole rest of my life without a cigarette. And that was the part that finally did it. I couldn't stand the idea that my life could be controlled by an inanimate object.

When I finally quit for good, I had to think of it as a series of decisions, choices not to smoke. "I am not smoking right now." "I am still not smoking." "It's been a half hour, let's see if I can make it another hour." "I will not have a cigarette RIGHT NOW. And right now. And right now." It's a lot easier to quit smoking for 5 minute intervals than to have face the whole rest of your life. This way, you get to achieve a long series of victories, rather than feel like your running a race that will never end. Nine months in I still have to choose not to smoke several times a week, sometimes, several times a day, but it's working.

Also... In advance of your quit date, if you can start to view each cigarette you have as a choice you are making, then it may give you back the ownership of your habit. I know that cigarettes are very addictive. I know what it's like to light a cigarette without even thinking about it. I know what it's like to stand in line to buy them, acutally thinking "I don't really want these and anyway I can't afford them" but doing it anyway. I know it is a physical and psychological compulsion that is very hard to resist, but you don't have to feel powerless. If you give yourself some agency and responsibility before you try to quit, it might make choosing not to smoke one cigarette at a time just a tad bit easier.
posted by Eumachia L F at 5:29 AM on July 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

Poor you! I used to smoke while working (writing) too. I'd have a cigarette after each paragraph I had finished. My essays had a lot of paragraphs. I've heard substituting green tea works for some because it gives you the same kind of focused buzz as nicotine. It didn't work for me, but you can try.

The only thing that worked for me, sadly, was completely cutting out alcohol. This used to be my "trigger", i.e. I could do well without cigarettes, even when working, but the tiniest beer in the evening would convince me that it would be OK to smoke, and I would smoke a pack in the evening, and just go on smoking at my desk the next day... Now I don't drink and don't smoke, and it's OK.
Maybe you have a similar "trigger" that you could give up? For some people it's alcohol, for others it's coffee, they somehow can't not smoke when having a cup of coffee, but they manage to quit when they cut out both.

Apart from the trigger question, I actually found the reverse of Carr's approach helpful. Carr tries to brainwash you into thinking that smoking isn't fun, doesn't have any benefits, doesn't help you concentrate yadda yadda yadda. But as a smoker you just know this isn't true: smoking is often fun, makes it easier to focus, stay slim, etc. And it just feels fucking good! Still, we all know it has negative effects that outweigh the benefits in the long term, and so you have to bite the bullet and avoid doing it. You're an adult, and you have the responsibility to avoid things that aren't good for you, even if they feel goooood. It sounds strange, but admitting the positive effects of nicotine actually helped me quit, while Carr's stupid propaganda tactics made me smoke even more.
posted by The Toad at 6:08 AM on July 3, 2010

Having a relative literally lose his voice forever did it for me. Thinking these two thoughts in close succession also helped: lungs ... pastrami ... lungs ... pastrami ... lungs ... pastrami
I recommend buying the very strongest sugarfree mints you can find to use as a temporary substitute for a smoking break. Huff up those mint vapours and -surprise- it actually improves your breath!
posted by fish tick at 6:15 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

What you need to do is decide that it is time to quit. The addiction will convince you that you don't *want* to quit. When you get that feeling, just remember that YOU aren't thinking that, it is the remnants of the nicotine struggling to get a refill.

So the golden moment isn't realizing that you suddenly want to quit- it won't be that easy. The "ah-ha" moment is when you decide to give it up. When you honestly admit to yourself that smoking is awesome, but also bad and expensive, and you have made the decision to not do it any more in spite of the momentary pleasure. Trying to quit without acknowledging that you are giving something up freely will probably fail.

One thing that helped me quit was going through my desk and cleaning up all the ashes and filth on everything. And washing the walls. It is really disgusting and helped solidify the decision.

I used the patch and it worked very well for me. It itched and left a small rash too, but it wasn't bad enough for me to not use it. I think it is the best option- it keeps the nicotine receptors in the brain full, allowing you to concentrate on kicking the various psychological habits. And it re-trains the brain to be comfortable with not having the constant "hit" a smoke gives. I almost looked at it like leaving a kid with the babysitter the first time. The kid, your brain's nicotine receptors in this case, needs to learn that it will be OK if mommy and daddy leave for a while. Part of this is enduring the screaming for a few minutes.

Another thing that helped me was a big part of my own smoking demon was that anxiety you get when you are out of smokes. There was a switch in my head that made me crazy if I knew I was running low. So I kept half a pack in a drawer. It taunted me, but that was easier for me than dealing with being "out". After I was done with the patches, I decided it was time to throw them away. I couldn't do it. I lit one up, took a drag, and nearly passed out. That was how I knew I could never smoke a cigarette again. They are too good. I had to soak them in water or I would have been digging through the garbage for them.

Also, and this might not be advisable for everyone, the day I took off the last patch, I got really drunk so I wouldn't notice the vestigial cravings. It was fine after that. Good luck!

Quitting smoking is fairly easy. Making and sticking to the decision to quit is the hard part.
posted by gjc at 6:24 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I kept a journal before I quit. I wrote in it how much money I spent everyday, then added it up at the end of the week.

I wrote every time I felt winded, or smelly, or something else that sucked about smoking.

I also did some reading about the health effects, and wrote my findings in the journal too.

After a few weeks, there was a lot in the journal, and all I had to do was read the journal, and I wanted to quit. It helped me when I was quitting too.

I continued to keep the journal while I was quitting - it was a great place to vent my agony with over-coming the addiction.
posted by Flood at 6:45 AM on July 3, 2010

Just for me :

the reason to quit :
the money you save.

the way :
just a sheet of paper with the day out of smoking

posted by bussiere at 6:49 AM on July 3, 2010

I was a definitive smoker. Not one of those namby pamby can't hold one properly let alone smoke one properly smokers. Marlboro Red all the way baby. *hack hack*

40 a day at peak, averaged 20.

Never really wanted to stop - still don't to be honest, but I have.

I try a cigarette now and just think what on earth am I doing - I used to like this? But it's hideous! It tastes FOUL and it smells sooo bad as well?!?

I got conned into giving up - a friend said "Hey, I'm stopping again" (asshole, he picks it up and puts it down like a book)... I say something like 'that's interesting' (muttering 'asshole') and ask him how and why, what the latest motivation is, etc etc.

He just says it's that time again, and that he's going to be using something called Champix this time.

So I said I'll keep you company. I figured, you know, can't hurt, then I can say "tried those pills, they don't work" and so on and so on...

Bloody things worked. Shit. I didn't expect that.

Talk to your doc - 'cause if they worked for me, then they *have* to work for everyone. :)

Good luck ;)
posted by DrtyBlvd at 7:02 AM on July 3, 2010

If it helps for googling, wanting to want to quit is called a "second-order desire."

(It's important in medical ethics when you have, say, a meth addict who's checked in for treatment and is now demanding you release them so they can go get meth. Their immediate desire is meth, but their second-order desire is to get OFF meth. So the ethical question is, which patient desire do you respond to? Gets into informed consent, etc. It's an interesting set of issues and remarkably widespread internal conflict in humans ... I want to want to exercise, but right this instant I'd really rather sit on the couch.)

Anyway, there's a fair amount of work out there on second-order desires fighting with first-order desires -- wanting to want to quit vs. wanting a cigarette.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:08 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about you don't quit smoking for now but stop smoking while you work?
posted by rainy at 7:26 AM on July 3, 2010

I took a year to mostly quit after smoking for 10. I still smoke one cigarette a day. (How? I don't know. And I am genuinely addicted to it and can't seem to kick it. But one a day is better than 20 a day or 40 a day.)

What I did was this:

1. I put myself on a strict smoking schedule and stuck to that schedule for a couple of weeks.
2. I rated how much I wanted each cigarette on a scale of 1-10.
3. Over the course of a few weeks, I looked at the patterns that emerged, selected the least-desirable cigarette, and eliminated that one from my schedule. I did this for a couple of weeks. Then I cut out the next one. And so on.
4. I didn't use any nicotine replacement.

It took six or seven months, I think, to get down to the one cigarette a day. Another thing that helped was only smoking outside.

The point is not to want to quit smoking, but to control your addiction. And once you get going, you have hard data of your results right in front of you, and that will motivate you to keep going.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:30 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is wanting to want to quit good enough? If it's not, how do I get more motivated.

You took the effort to write this post, so I guess you want to quit.

2. Can I do this without gaining weight? I've worked so hard to lose these 25 pounds and I'm doing so well, I really really do not want to mess that up.

Yes, you may gain weight. But you can deal with that much easier than you can deal with lung cancer. Sensible diet and a bit of exercise help.

3. What are some of the more successful mechanisms for quitting that are not patches? Zyban? E-cigarettes? Hypnosis?

Sheer will power is the cheapest an most effective. Finish a pack and say to yourself - 'OK addiction, I'm going 24 hours without feeding you, it's now 9:58 pm, same time tomorrow I will not have had a cigarette', rinse and repeat. After three days of this you will feel elated, proud of yourself and you won't smell. - Serious, the sensation of smelling non tobacco fingers is intense.

4. What do you do about the pattern-ingrained stuff? I smoke while I work; I'm utterly terrified that if I quit smoking, I will also lose my ability to earn a much-needed living.

That dissipates, it's a crock, and you won't miss it. Your addiction is telling you this stuff but it's really crap. After a month of not smoking, well you won't be a smoker so there is no pattern ingrained stuff to worry about. You will be too busy feeling how utterly awesome it is not to smoke.

4a. I have struggled with some anxiety issues in the past few years. Is the loss of my favourite crutch likely to make that worse in the short term?

It's not a crutch, it's a physical addiction, it's not a comfort, it's the opposite -it's killing you. Non smoking is a better crutch.

It's not easy. I was an absolute committed smoker - I tried everything, I hated smoking but I loved it. I walked home from work one day, saw I was out of cigarettes, went into the shop to buy, thought 'No, fuck it, I need to do this' That was almost 10 years ago. One month after not smoking I knew I was not a smoker any more. It was like having a new toy, there was this background sense of achievement that was truly golden.

Smoking makes no sense no matter how you look at it (unless you are a British American stockholder). Good luck, it aint easy but it is so, so worth it.
posted by the noob at 7:47 AM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You sound like I was about 2 years ago (not sufficiently motivated to quit). I rather accidentally quit with an e-cig after that. By that I mean I got one just to use when trapped in non-smoking airports. And when I read how much healthier it was, I decided to use it as much as I could but still have real cigarettes when it wasn't sufficiently satisfying. About a week later I'd totally quit smoking real cigarettes. It was easier since I was in a non-smoking house during a cold, rainy season. It doesn't really feel like I've quit smoking, just changed over to something different (something very much like a pipe). In fact, most pipe-smokers who've tried mine remark it's much closer to the experience of a pipe than a cigarette.
The big forum for discussing them is here and there are a few verbose newbie-guides here and here. And, after trying a few different models, if I were to do it all again this plus a bottle of 18mg strength refill liquid would be my first purchase. Feel free to email me.
posted by K.P. at 8:09 AM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

A good friend of mine took the first step towards quitting by declaring that he was no longer going to smoke indoors. He also worked at home and chain smoked all day, so it was a huge change for him. He just said that from now on, if he wanted to smoke, he had to put on his shoes and go outside, then come back in when he was finished. He made no effort at that point to regulate his intake, he just took it outside. But breaking the pattern of smoking anywhere, anytime was a huge change in his life and made it much easier when he finally did decide to quit. Baby steps, in other words.
posted by decathecting at 8:31 AM on July 3, 2010

I was a heavy smoker (30+ years, I hate to admit) and I quit 10 years ago.
My wife was a heavy smoker and she quit 5 years ago.

The "want to quit" is the biggest ting you have going for you. That desire needs to be strong to battle the foe. While they are many, the rewards of not smoking take longer to reveal themselves than the immediate gratification of a single cigarette.

My method was cold turkey. I had gotten fed up with the yucky taste and bad morning feeling and shot for a date that was less than 10 days away... Halloween.
My wife tricked herself. She had tried the patches (and smoked while using them, albeit less). One evening she ran out of cigs and had to meet her dad the next morning. He did not know she smoked as we had quit "together" five years before. Before she knew it she had gone 24 hours without a smoke. Her logic at that point was: if she had gone 24 hours, she might be able to go 24 more. It then rolled into days, weeks, months, and forever.

My personal feeling is that the patches, gum, hypnotism, methods are a crutch of some kind and they did not work for me, but it doesn't matter, what is important is the final outcome. I don't care if wearing a funny hat helps you quit. If it works, it works.

Try to motivate yourself by focusing on the reason you want to quit. Make it for any reason you want, but I feel that it is easier to make it about yourself than someone else. Trying to quit because you parent or spouse or friend wants you to is not as strong as if it is because YOU want to.

Don't worry about gaining weight, at least not at the beginning. That will be a deterrent to quitting, a reason to not quit. Do not let that stand in your way. Try not to replace the oral gratification aspect with candy or chocolate; if you must, then try to use non or low calorie substitutes.

The smoke-at-work-fu is strong for you. Mine was the driving and computer at home. There are not many ways that you personally can avoid that. Possibly a change in environment.

Smoking is a physical and mental addiction. The best tool you have in your arsenal is the mental power to overcome that addiction.

I wish you the best of luck.
posted by Drasher at 8:36 AM on July 3, 2010

P.S. There are many good ideas, thoughts, and wishes in this thread. There are many people on your side.
posted by Drasher at 8:37 AM on July 3, 2010

I quit cold turkey about 3 years ago. A big motivation was getting older and starting to see the negative effects. I had really bad teeth, hair and skin, and realized I was headed toward being one of those raspy-voiced ladies who looks 60 at 50 and smells like an ashtray.

A few years before I quit, my best friend died of cancer at a young age, not lung cancer, but she was a heavy smoker and it was a bit of a wakeup call. Some of my worst cravings are on days when I really miss her, because in most of my best memories with her we are smoking, hanging out and laughing. Not smoking, for me, is a HUGE part of grieving and moving on.

My daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes about a year before I quit. It's kinda hard to lecture your teenager about minding their health when you are stepping outside for a cigarette once every hour.

I got into bird-watching when I quit smoking, because I didn't smoke in the house, so I would get the urge and go outside anyway. I put up lots of different bird-feeders and got a little obsessed with it for a while but it gave me something to go sit outside for. And now I know a lot about the birds in my area!

I chew a lot of gum! It's nice now that they come in those little resealable packs with cellophane around them, kinda like a cigarette pack. I get the sticks and only chew half a stick at a time, and fold the other half in the paper and stick it back in the pack. This little ritual satisfies the fidgety, need-something-to-do-with-my-hands part of the addiction. For the longest time anytime I got into my car I would reach into my purse for the cigarette pack out of habit. Now I reach for the pack of gum. It takes time to see what will work for you, but after years of doing some little thing once every hour it's really hard for your brain to let go of. If you can replace it with some other little thing, that makes it easier.
posted by cottonswab at 8:45 AM on July 3, 2010

Best answer: I've been a non-smoker for seven months now, and my situation was like yours: heavy smoker, but for longer than you, working from home, and I really have never wanted to quit. I did quit cold turkey, and I don't know quite why it was that this particular time I had the (ever-recurring) inner dialogue about quitting I actually threw the pack away, went to bed, and didn't run out to buy another two packs the next morning.

At the heart of it is my utter dread of hospitals and sickness. I knew that now that I was no longer even a late-summer chicken, much less a spring variety, my smoking was going to make me sick, one way or another, eventually. And probably soon. And I felt guilty about my dog who wants to be right beside me all the time... which means if I'm smoking, she's smoking. And so, I did the thing that I knew I couldn't do, and quit.

I have very few answers for you, unfortunately, and I don't feel like it's a bed of roses after quitting. But I go through most days now without much thought of cigarettes. I can drink my coffee in the morning without longing for a cigarette, and I can drink my glass of wine without automatically looking around for my pack, and it's been that way for months and months. It's mostly big efforts (pushing and striving to do something, and then getting that task done) and moments of relatively severe anxiety (not free-floating anxiety, but concrete anxiety about something pretty serious) that make me really want a cigarette. The rest is wispy enough to easily ignore.

Here are my personal insights from one person's experience, such as they are, which I'm afraid is not much... but never mind. Maybe something will help a bit, or maybe you'll just know you aren't alone in the struggle! :)
  • I wish your doctor *were* easier to work with. Is there any chance of getting someone who is? I think having that bit of willing, even sympathetic, professional medical support for what, after all, is a major systemic shakeup would be very, very helpful. I didn't/don't have this, and I really, really wish I did.
  • Perhaps not so pertinent if you don't quit cold turkey, but I slept. A lot. A lot a lot. I joke that I just slept through the first three weeks... but it's kind of not a joke. I read and slept and walked my dog, mostly. No, you won't get much real work done in the first week, and perhaps not the first month.
  • In the very beginning, I "smoked" ink pens or pencils (just held them like a cigarette, inhaled), when I felt my head was going to explode, and definitely would have used electronic cigarettes if I had known that there was an option for a non-nicotine cartridge.
  • I drank a ton of green tea, a ton of water, ate a bunch of stir fried vegetables, and dosed myself with sugarless hard candy 'til I started getting worried about too much of that. At first I just wanted something to take the place of a cigarette, but eventually I was hungry all the time, and this hasn't really gone away. It's not mental, it's a huge and constant struggle, and I really need medical input here. I wish I could be more encouraging about that, but it's probably something more specific to my own chemistry and I do think that if you are able to, you should...
  • cut back, cut back, cut back, cut back, cut back to nothing, over time, so your body has some chance to adjust to the change (especially true for people who have been smoking for decades, I theorize!), and this might be better than going cold turkey. Again, this is why I wish your medical backup was more in the picture.
  • All the websites I read about quitting have a bunch of people talking about how amazing they feel now that they've quit, how wonderful everything is... and I don't feel that way at all, so I'm feeling terribly isolated even in my quitting - more isolated than when I was a nasty old smoker! Now it seems like there are just smug never-smokers, happily defiant still-smokers, and born-again non-smokers - and I don't fit into any of those pictures. My health doesn't feel better (worse, actually), my mood certainly doesn't feel better, BUT I'm not poisoning my innocent pet, and I'm not coating the walls of my house and infiltrating every porous surface with nicotine, and I've done one of the things that I can do to preserve my health, and it was only going to be a matter of time 'til smoking led to or contributed to a serious crisis with that.
I know that's not a picture of rainbows and unicorns, but perhaps its better for long-term quitting success not to expect too much in the way of magic-beans amazing change -- because if you don't feel like a WHOLE NEW PERSON, younger, faster, hotter, with magic tastebuds, olympic lungs, and a nose that can smell a polar bear from a thousand miles away... well, why not just go back to smoking? I love, love, love, my no-smoking house. I love that two days after washing my curtains they don't smell like something a consumptive chain smoker coughed up. I don't have to feel like the total shitheel I was for smoking around my dog (for a year and five months). I'm really glad I'm a no longer a smoker, but for me it hasn't been as much of a magical transformation as it has for others.

I don't know how it might be for you, but even if it isn't a whole new Wonderful You, in an Enchanted Disney World Only for Non-Smokers (and it may be!), know you are not alone. ;)

Memail me any time if you'd like.
posted by taz at 9:01 AM on July 3, 2010 [6 favorites]

Here's what worked for me. I know this won't work for everyone, but it is what worked for me, 26 years last month, after smoking for maybe fifteen years, give or take. And like others who've posted here, I didn't sortof have a cute little cigarette thing going, it was 30-40 Pall Mall non-filter cigarettes, and sometimes cigars also, and sometimes chewing tobacco.

I didn't want to smoke anymore; all the right reasons, though fact is that money didn't enter into it much, that would never been enough to make me consider setting them down. But I didn't want to die a smokers death, and I didn't want to live a smokers life -- short breath, skin palled yellow, those smokers lines on my face. I loved tobacco but it's a bad trade-off, and I wanted to cut it out.

So. What I did was just totally give up trying to quit, on my own, and every day, along with my regular contemplative prayer/meditation practice, I asked for help, to please set these things down, I acknowledged I wasn't able to do it and asked for help. No timetable, no demands, no nothing, just asked for help.

BTW, I wasn't then and not now sure what god is, or isn't, and I do my best not to have any beliefs about it, or convictions, but rather to just learn what's brought me peace, such as I have peace.

I'm not sure how much later -- Three months? Four? -- one afternoon it seemed right, it felt like it was time. I was working in San Antone that week, it was a Friday, we were headed back to Houston that night, I was putting in an acoustical ceiling with my friend Jessie; I told him I'd be right back, stepped outside, found a private place and hit my knees, said "Hey, if this is real, thanks so much, and I'll do my part." and then headed back into work; we did in fact finish that job and headed back to Houston that night. I threw most of a pack of Pall Malls into that ceiling; best I know, they're still there.

My part? Mints, like TicTacs or whatever they are; I carried them with me for a few months, and would use them if/when I felt "off". And caffeine -- I had to lay off coffee for about a year, and sodas, tea, anything with caffeine.

Weight? Woops. Yeah, I gained weight, first time ever in my life. Out of nowhere, one day my pants are tight, I'm like "WTF?" It sucked, and still does -- never before had I had to ever consider exercise or diet or whatever, always I was trim. I started running, trying to learn a bit about my body, which has been ongoing ever since, and still is.

I didn't suffer, at all. For an all-out smoker such as I was, it was pretty amazing. Is. Maybe the prayer/whatever cleared the ground, did the work in advance -- it seems that way to me. But that's my experience, and not yours, and all I'm telling here is what worked for me, in hopes it'll help you, or someone else who needs to quit, and wants to.

Good luck, DarlingBri.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:03 AM on July 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

A non-smoker responding to the very first part of your question: Are there people whose company you adore but whom you can't induce to visit? It's possible they're physiology can't abide your smoke.
posted by Pamelayne at 9:18 AM on July 3, 2010

Absolutely great advice here. Nthing that you have to want to quit. I think you do. You are seeking out advice. But it's a process. One that can take time. Years for some people (it took me years of continually quitting, going back, going through withdrawal over and over again). One thing I learned was that I really couldn't go back to simply, passively smoking, ever again. Even if I wanted to (and I did - I wanted off this "ride").

I have heard and also experienced the truth behind the idea that each time you quit and go back to smoking - that each attempt teaches you something about the next attempt. Those that have quit once and have never gone back are very lucky, but I think very rare.

Writing things down and keeping track for a while before you quit is one of the best things people have suggested here. It's crazy how your mind (without any concrete evidence = journal) can convince you after a few weeks of not smoking that is was the best thing in the world. That's the nature of addiction. The thing is - even if you do keep a journal for this purpose, your desire to smoke may prevent you from bothering to go back and read the very thing you prepared to bolster you in the face of serious cravings.

For this reason, your resolve has to be cultivated and ingrained in as many ways as possible (journaling, listing the reasons, practical things like not wanting to smell like smoke or "need" anything - to more serious things like looking at the results of long term smoking - people with cancer, oxygen tanks, etc) so that you can make it through the worst time period of not only physical but emotional withdrawal.

It's when the cravings die down to a more reasonable level (different for everyone) that you will be able to brush them off with enough ease to hopefully keep going. That's when smoking/not smoking will feel like a choice and your resolve/reasons for quitting will come into play.
posted by marimeko at 9:26 AM on July 3, 2010

I tried to quit so many times, and failed completely. But this last time I decided I wasn't going to quit.

Don't decide to quit. Decide to finish. Changing my thoughts to "I am done smoking" rather than "I am quitting smoking" made it easier. More final, less temporary. Sounds dumb, but... it worked.
posted by sephira at 9:40 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try an e-cig its what I did was painless
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 9:49 AM on July 3, 2010

I want to clear up what I wrote:

It helps to bolster your resolve for a period of time before you quit as well as after. You seem to be there, ready to quit. The "wanting to quit" is every reason in the world you have for getting ready to quit. Friends of mine wanted to quit due to money, others health. Me? I think smoking undermines everything I do that's healthy. Just like that. It un-does everything else.

It wasn't until I came upon that reason that I wanted to quit. Before it was that I needed to quit. When I wanted to quit (thus the rollercoaster/inability to just go back), I did.

You just have to identify that thing that is totally unacceptable to you. It's different for everyone. I hope this helps. Best of luck to you!
posted by marimeko at 9:59 AM on July 3, 2010

Response by poster: These are some of the most generous answers I've ever seen on MeFi. Thank you so much for sharing all your stories with me. I'm really grateful; thank you.

I ordered an e-cigarette starter kit after doing a few hours of research while reading this thread, more out of curiosity than anything. If I'm not successful quitting with that method, I'll go see my doctor about Zyban.

But one way or the other, this thread has really helped me to resolve that this has to happen, and that it is possible because other people like me have done it.

I'm going to go back over all of your posts while my stuff is in the mail and make a plan of attack - thank you so much.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:18 AM on July 3, 2010

Late to this thread but here's what worked for my husband and me, who both had decades of smoking over a pack a day under our belts, when we joined a 1 week (2 hrs/evening) cessation class:

1. We spent some time talking about how early we all started smoking, and how we were seduced into doing it by the unbelievably deceptive tobacco advertising. We got a good hate on toward the industry, which stays with me.

2. We identified all the ways we acted like addicts -- buying cigarettes before food, standing in freezing cold weather with people we weren't crazy about to smoke, scraping butts together when cigarettes got low, etc.

3. We started making lists of reasons to quit. We each developed incredibly long ones.

4. We made lists of types of "junkie thinking," for example -- I just want one cigarette/one puff. If you think about it, all the junkie thoughts addicts have are really just big lies.

5. We learned a mantra. I still say it to myself when I am even slightly inclined to smoke, and I've never wanted one by the time I am through with it: "I'm wanting to smoke right now, because I am addicted to nicotine. And I know I can smoke, because my drug is legal and available. But right now, I choose to stand up to my addiction, because I want ---- (insert top three reasons to stop. Mine are Better breathing, to arrest lung disease, and a stronger, healthier heart.)

6. Then we all stopped smoking, cold turkey. It is important to suffer when you stop, because you want a strong bodily deterrent to ever having to quit again. This is what made the different for me between effective cessation and a prior tapering quit I had done with Smokenders. Don't taper, stop outright, feel the pain.

7. You will be simply amazed how much better life is when you can taste your food, stop fantasizing about what it will be like to die of lung cancer, don't smell smoke in your house or car or in your clothes, don't have holes and burns everywhere, have lots more money to spend . . .

Good luck! It is so worth it to stop.
posted by bearwife at 10:18 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

The thing that worked for me was that I did not have enough money in my bank account to buy both cigarettes and groceries - so I quit cold turkey.

One suggestion - change your pay cheque so that the portion of your cheque you could spend on cigarettes is direct deposited into a savings account you can't touch for a while. Leave only enough cash in your chequing account for basic food, gas, insurance, etc. If you don't have money, you can't buy cigarettes. See if this helps get over the hump for the first few weeks.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:57 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The thing that worked for me was that I did not have enough money in my bank account to buy both cigarettes and groceries.

Sadly, I have passed that point and made that choice several times. Groceries did not win.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:11 AM on July 3, 2010

When was the last time you read Carr's book? You might have a different take on it now. It is, after all, meant to address the very question you are asking: why should I quit? I know several people who have gone through the book a few times before the last reading finally "took," myself included.

Of course you want to quit. Who wouldn't?

Aside from all the usual reasons, here are some additional ones that I found on the other side (i.e. after having quit):

1. I can go see a movie in the theater of any length I want. I sit quietly and attentively, and can get fully wrapped up in the movie. I never check my watch. I just watch the movie, and when it's done, I putter about getting my things together, and maybe use the restroom on my way out. It's a completely different experience!

2. I'm a freelancer, too. Sometimes I like to spend an afternoon working at the library or Starbucks, just for a change of venue. I can sit inside, and I never have to worry about leaving my things unattended, for as long as I want to work there. Yesterday I spent three hours at the library, all in the same place, and it was great!

3. Non-smokers can smell a smoker from at least 30 feet away. Even if you haven't smoked recently. I used to kid myself that my clothes "aired out" after 10, 15, 30 minutes. This is not the case. You are wrapped in a permanent invisible stink cloud. You don't realize it, but non-smokers inevitably exchange glances when you walk past.

4. I can go out to dinner with a non-smoker, and we can take as long as we like, and order coffee and dessert, and spend hours at the table, and I never have to excuse myself or hurry things along.
posted by ErikaB at 11:32 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to work with someone who quit via hypnosis. He had smoked for a long time, tried to quit and one of his kids got him a session with a hypnotist. The guy's an engineer, very much based in facts, pragmatism, etc., so he was skeptical but he wanted to quit, the session was paid for, he was moved by his kid's effort.

He headed out the the guy's office, realized it was in a crummy strip mall, got more skeptical, found a dingy little office, got more skeptical, met a scruffy hypnotist in scruffy clothes, got more skeptical, sat down and talked to him for what seemed like 10 minutes and the session was done, was about ready to report the guy for fraud, looked at his watch, realized they had in fact been talking for 45 minutes... and never again had any desire to smoke.
posted by ambient2 at 12:47 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's what you do. Stop smoking for a week. Then go sit down next to a smoker and smell them. It will make you want to quit.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:50 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I decided to quit a few years back (it just felt too retro to still be smoking in the face of so much evidence that it's blah blah blah wrong), so when I was about halfway through my last pack, I just quit lighting them. That's the only thing I changed.

I'd still go through all the motions because I think the ritual was what I was most attracted to. I'd pull one out, light my lighter, do that same deep inhale I'd do when I lit one, but the flame never made contact with the cigarette. Then I'd [not] smoke it. I'd have an ashtray on my desk, my lighter, and I had all the ritual components going on like taking a drag normally, exhaling [nothing], flicking the cig every so often even, but it just wasn't lit.

I still felt like I was a smoker since I was going through the motions, so I didn't get all freaked out about the sudden absence and OMG, NOT HAVING ONE IN MY HAND!

I'd find myself getting up to go do something (in the middle of "smoking" one) with the unlit cigarette in my hand, and if I needed to set it down it didn't even matter that there wasn't an ashtray right there! This worked very well for me psychologically because it became painfully obvious that it was far more convenient to smoke that way.

Oh, and I also really liked the way it'd taste when it wasn't lit; it never got nasty, always stayed fresh and perfect. When it got a little icky from use, I'd toss it and [not] light a new one! And I felt a sense of accomplishment when I'd throw one away because it represented something bad/stupid/wrong that I hadn't done for a change. Something I didn't need.

Eventually I just stopped picking them up altogether because... you know, what's the point, really? I think the whole process lasted a week or ten days before I just started feeling weird/self-conscious about still obsessing over them.
posted by heyho at 9:22 PM on July 3, 2010

Best answer: Nearing 7 weeks smoke-free after 30 years plus of 20 or more a day

Never any inclination to quit.Although did manage 4 months on patches 5 years ago.

I let Champix sit in the bedside drawer for a nearly 3 months before finally giving them a go.

9 days later after a determined fight the pills won.I just could not enjoy a smoke no matter how hard I tried.

Another 8 days after that I quit the pills as well.

There were some side-effects of Crazy dreams and headaches.

I also reccommend Tea Tree Oil Toothpicks

Good luck.

You'll never be a non-smoker only an ex smoker.

Never could stand non-smokers!
posted by johnny7 at 5:08 AM on July 4, 2010

I'm in the "process" of quitting, and I've been a pack-a-day smoker for 15 years.

...until, over a two-week span that I quit, I discovered how much better sex is once you quit smoking.

This was a pleasant surprise, and one which has helped keep me on the path. I'm actually down to about 6 a week - and that's enough to keep me from taking a hostage or becoming so irritable that she leaves me for being a straight-up bastard.

Finally - someone - anyone - who loves you, and who will be supportive when you say, "Dammit, I smoked again and feel like a loser," will say to you, "It's cool. Just keep trying. I/we love you anyway."

Those things have all helped me a lot.
posted by Thistledown at 12:13 PM on July 5, 2010

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