Help me quit smoking!
August 31, 2010 7:29 AM   Subscribe

Help me quit smoking!

The final results of my battle with Michael Bloomberg have left him the victor. I can't smoke at $12/pack, not even out of spite. So my girlfriend and I have both quit; not because of the cost, but that was the catalyst. And we're doing surprisingly well! Everyone is very supportive (I guess that's one of the benefits of being the heaviest smokers out of everyone you know.) The patches are really cutting the withdrawal symptoms, but I still have some questions:

The patches (Duane Reade brand) seem to fall off on the shower/while sweating. All my research says they're not supposed to. Am I doing something wrong? Is there an easier way to take a shower with the patch on? Can I take it off and leave it on the counter upside-down and put it back on after I'm done showering?

I'm good on the physical withdrawal aspect, but I'm missing a ritual. Every time I get out of class, or work, or finish a meal or exit the subway, I need something to do. Something I can do while walking and talking, obviously, so Rubix cubes or knitting ain't gonna cut it.

Is it absolutely backward to start smoking an e-cigarette after I've finally kicked the habit? The social aspect of smoking is what I'll miss the most -- I've kicked my social anxiety and made lots of friends by way of smoking -- and I'm not sure how to do the temporary-escape-from-a-party-with-a-small-group thing outside of "hey who wants to grab a smoke?"

How do you deal with the stomach issues? I'm not going to go into it, but if you've kicked the habit (or tried) you know what I mean. Coffee helps, but I've recently cut down on that as well, so I don't want to start drinking more.
posted by griphus to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
The social aspect of smoking is what I'll miss the most -- I've kicked my social anxiety and made lots of friends by way of smoking -- and I'm not sure how to do the temporary-escape-from-a-party-with-a-small-group thing outside of "hey who wants to grab a smoke?"

I was really afraid of this when I quit, but it was such a non-issue. If you don't go outside with the small group, you stay inside, and have other experiences which you could never have imagined in the alternate reality in which you were a smoker. You're actually free. And you can stand and talk with the smokers if you wanteven without smoking, but you start to realize that much of what seemed to be bonding was really making the best of a shared addiction that required you to stand outside every hour or so. It's not going to prevent you making friends.

I did have an upspike in anxiety when I quit. Taking up exercising - running, specifically - solved that for me, pretty much.

Something to do with your hands while walking? Well, I didn't have far walks. I was way into pistachios and Twizzlers for a while - keeps the mouth and hands busy. But my main thing to do when I would have smoked was sketch in a sketchbook - which won't work walking. What about something that's just distracting, like learning a new language with a podcast?

You might also consider changing your travel routes - you'll be noticing new things and reinforcing that you have some new habits and freedoms in your life. You just need to keep forming new pathways in the brain until the old "I need something to do" pathways start to fade out.

Congrats, though - hardest project I've ever taken on, and yet 8 years later I have not a single regret that I did it. You'll be happier on the other side of this!
posted by Miko at 7:37 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I quit, and the ritual was by far the hardest part for me to give up. My keys to success were: remind myself that I wanted ritual and not nicotine, and coming up with new rituals. I threw myself into spring cleaning my house, which I then pushed into creating new habits, and had a visual cue for myself to remember what I was capable of.

I dealt with the stomach issues with the liberal application of foods full of fiber, and copious amounts of coffee.

Also, I put the money I would have spent smoking aside, and had $500 extra in the bank at the end of the month. That was massive incentive for me to talk myself through the occasional cravings which do start occurring less and lasting less time.
posted by Zophi at 7:38 AM on August 31, 2010


Don't do the e-cig. It's definitely a step backwards. As are any substitutes, really.

Take some gentle laxative/stool softeners like docusate sodium or Miralax.

Read Allen Carr's The Easy Way to Stop Smoking.

Exercise.

I still haven't figured out what to do when exiting places. So far all I can do is push it out of my mind and think about something else. It's hard. Really really hard.

Good luck!
posted by elsietheeel at 7:43 AM on August 31, 2010


What about a stick of gum or some kind of hard candy?
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:45 AM on August 31, 2010


To get the patches to stay on in the shower, tape over them with a large piece of breathable (strongly) adhesive dressing tape suitable for sports use (ie something that will stay on when wet). Fixomull is the most common brand here and is what I've used. It holds the patch on but still allows it to breathe (which my doc told me was important, but I don't know why).
posted by Ahab at 7:50 AM on August 31, 2010


New York state has a free tobacco cessation program. I highly recommend signing up--they offer free medication and the resource of quit coaches who can help you with a personalized quit plan.
posted by Kimberly at 7:52 AM on August 31, 2010


"Ain't Nothing to it, but do it." - Maya Angelou.

Not trying to be snarky, but there is no way to fool yourself or make it easy. You will and can adapt to no smokes. All those times when you used to smoke? With coffee, the mid-morning break, on the street after work, when stressed you are still going to feel that itch, that need. It takes a long time to go away, but it does go away. It will also pop out on you at unexpected moments, even if you haven't smoked for a while. There's nothing to do but to resist the urge to head to the corner store and pick up a pack. You can't and won't just smoke one. When you feel the itch find a distraction if you need to, something to move your mind from the obsession.

Avoid the social situations for a little while. Exercise helps a lot. Don't count the days or make a big deal out of it, just don't do it. It ain't easy, but you can do it. You're in charge here. Not the nicotine.
posted by MasonDixon at 7:52 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


After the first week the addiction is no longer physical..it is psychological. It is your small brain trying to commandeer your large brain....but you need to fully understand the "tricks" small brain tries to play to sucker you back into smoking. Luckily for all of us...our larger brain is smarter than the lizard brain. Read this book by Allen Carr. Stupid title, brilliant book.
posted by naplesyellow at 7:53 AM on August 31, 2010


Sigh: "Ain't Nothing to it, but to do it."
posted by MasonDixon at 7:53 AM on August 31, 2010


New York state has a free tobacco cessation program. I highly recommend signing up--they offer free medication and the resource of quit coaches who can help you with a personalized quit plan.

I tried and it told me I wasn't eligible.
posted by griphus at 7:54 AM on August 31, 2010


Every time I get out of class, or work, or finish a meal or exit the subway, I need something to do.

I like to take a deep breath through my nose and slightly-open mouth, to get a nice cloud of the ambient smells. What's going on, smell-wise? Hot dogs being sold? Nuts being roasted? Some lady with perfume just walked by? Every neighborhood has its own smell -- does this one smell like any others? Do any of the smells feel like they "rhyme" to you? I find that it's a really nice thing to think about as I'm leaving any indoor place, and although I quite enjoy smoking in certain situations, I never really feel like it when I've got a giant smorgasboard of new smells to take in.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:01 AM on August 31, 2010


When exiting the subway or class or whatever, why don't you play a song? So instead of reaching into your pocket for cigs and a light, you reach into your pocket for your mp3 player and play Biggie and Tupac - Where Brooklyn At freestyle. Or some other song you'd prefer. This engages your hands for a few.
posted by mokeydraws at 8:10 AM on August 31, 2010


Have you tried bupropion? It worked miraculously for me. It made smoking seem pointless and a little unpleasant, and I wasn't even trying to quit (it was prescribed to me as an antidepressant).
posted by Wordwoman at 8:11 AM on August 31, 2010


Gum, lots of gum, and twirling a pen. Also, you need to stay away from smokers as much as possible. Don't let your friends smoke in your place (they should be used to going outside anyway). Avoid bars for awhile. If you're used to having a drink and a smoke, don't drink where you can smoke. Just remove as much temptation as possible. Also, look at disgusting pictures of diseased lungs and bring up that mental image every time you're tempted. It worked for me (going on six years now).
posted by desjardins at 8:14 AM on August 31, 2010


I quit for two months. I have since failed, but am about to embark on the The Quit again.

I was on the patch, and it was great. But the biggest times I ever wanted a smoke was during my walking-time.

Here's the ridiculous thing I did: I'd look around and say to the nearest stranger, "Hey, guess what!? I haven't had a cigarette in X weeks, X days, and X hours!" (Or however long it had been.)

I kid you not. Most of the time they'd smile really big and reply, "Awesome!" or "Congrats!"

I made it into a little game— making people on the street smile (or look at me funny) and giving myself a little positive reinforcement, by stating (out-loud) my accomplishment.

You can do it! And so can I! Woohoo!
posted by functionequalsform at 8:17 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


The social aspect: when I quit smoking (9 years ago or so?), I told myself that I was allowed to get up and go outside for 5 minutes whenever I felt like it. At parties, at dinner parties, middle of a workday. You can still have those 5 minutes of respite, or of hanging out with the smokers. Just don't smoke, is all.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:40 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recently quit smoking as well, and although I haven't been anywhere near my pack-a-day habit, I'm still guilty of bumming/social smoking, almost exclusively when drinking.

That being said, gum really does help when you're just walking around and I've gone through an incredible amount lately. I initially wrote off the "five minute break" idea, but it really does help me at work. I had a very clear ritual of smoking while working (5pm, 7pm, etc.) and I need that five minutes to break up the day.
posted by hafehd at 9:01 AM on August 31, 2010


I'd try using some (higher the percentage the better) isopropyl alcohol on the area where you're going to apply the patch first to help remove body oils &c which should help the patch adhere to the skin better.
posted by squeak at 9:21 AM on August 31, 2010


People I know have been cured 100% from smoking with hypnosis. You have to find the right person to do it, one with expertise, but once it's done - it's forever. Some people need a tune-up after the first session - after that - you're free.
posted by watercarrier at 9:28 AM on August 31, 2010


Seconding the Allen Carr--Easy Way To Stop Smoking method. I quit cold turkey after reading that. It's not for everyone, but it certainly doesn't hurt to try.

You definitely have to replace the rituals though. I am very ritual-oriented, and I really felt lost without being able to smoke. Here's some of my replacements:

- I put up birdfeeders outside my door at home, and when I felt the urge to go out and have a cigarette, I would sit out on my step and watch the birds instead. I learned a lot about birds, and it was very relaxing. (I don't do this anymore, now that I have a cat.)

- I chew gum, and I get the kind that come in the resealable packs, and I have a wierd little habit of breaking the pieces in half, and eating one half and folding the other half back in the silver wrapper and tucking it back into the pack. I think that is definitely ritual-related. It's a tactile-hand-fidgety thing. I chewed a LOT of gum at first, but it gets less and less as time goes on.

- Food. 'Nuff said. Now I need an exercise ritual. :(

Other tips:

-I found that cutting back on coffee made a big difference in my anxiety level. Smokers metabolize caffeine at a faster rate than non-smokers, so when you quit it has a bigger effect.

-I read the description of what emphysema feels like at the bottom of this page and it terrified me.

-This doesn't apply to everyone of course, but I used cigarettes as a way to regulate my day and help focus on what I needed to get done. When I quit I had to be a lot more scheduled, and it was tough. It turned out I've had ADHD all along, and treatment for that has really helped a lot with this stuff.

I do miss smoking sometimes, especially the socialization part. I wish I could give you advice but I'm still working on that. I always felt "at home" with the smokers, and still do. But overall I am so so sooooo glad I quit. It is a really stressful habit: financially it's like having an extra car payment, except without the car. It's a hassle finding a place/time to smoke everywhere you go, and I'm not even going to go into the health worries as I'm sure you know!

Good luck!
posted by cottonswab at 9:31 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll second buproprion (Zyban). That stuff really helped with the ritual aspect. Somehow, the desire to smoke during those familiar moments just disappeared.
posted by giantfist at 10:01 AM on August 31, 2010


For the "something to do with my hands" element, I did this: Buy some kitchen matches and a pocket knife. When you want to smoke, use the knife to whittle a match into a smooth, round toothpick-like stick. Then, use the match/toothpick as a toothpick. For me, this method satisfied the need to busy my hands and the need to have something going on with my mouth.

Then again, I'm a hick, so whittling matches while walking down the road is not a bad look for me.
posted by broadway bill at 10:07 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you do move to candy or something like it, allow me to recommend the Dum-Dum lollipops. They are tiny, they have 10 calories each, they come in a zillion flavors, and if you don't crunch them, they take just about as much time to eat as a cigarette does to smoke. Mind you if you replace every cigarette from a pack-a-day habit with one of these, you're looking at 200 extra calories of pure sugar a day, but for the walking-around cig or the I-need-a-break-from-work cig, I think they're a good choice.
posted by KathrynT at 10:48 AM on August 31, 2010


The way I solved the need to do something with my hands was sending lots of text messages--I had one particular friend who, like me, was on a unlimited texting plan, who didn't mind getting tons of messages that just said "I would kill a walrus for a cigarette" or whatever. Maybe you and your girlfriend could send them to each other?
Also, I still suck on Halls sugar-free cough drops all the time. You get around twenty-five for $2 (less if you get the generic brands) and there's no sugar, obvs.
posted by smoakes at 11:53 AM on August 31, 2010


I quit smoking successfully with Nicorette gum. It solved the problem of ritual, even if it was somewhat comical to roll over after sex and grab a piece.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 11:56 AM on August 31, 2010


What watercarrier said -- hypnosis. I never smoked again after my session. The therapist gave me a tape of the session to listen to, which would put me into a light trance. But I only ever needed it once or twice.

The trick to it is, you have to want to quit. I was smoking irregularly: some days a pack, some days three smokes, some days none. I wanted to quit but couldn't make the leap. I had the therapist also include suggestions to keep me exercising and being active; to be careful of my eating; and to be able to smoke... Certain Other Things if I wanted.

I really do mean that you have to want to quit, because hypnosis reinforces your will. I dragged a friend of mine to the same therapist. She was a very heavy smoker... and sure enough, she was able to quit smoking. For like three days. But she admitted that she didn't really want to quit. So she backslid.

Not me. I've been smoke-free for over 25 years. Smartest thing I ever did!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:58 AM on August 31, 2010


Don't do the e-cig. It's definitely a step backwards.

Certainly, if you get the e-cig liquid with nicotine. But there are non-nicotine liquids available, though you'll want to be careful which supplier you use; some of the non-nicotine batches have been found to have non-zero amounts of nicotine.

The e-cig is a great way to engage in the ritual of smoking without actually smoking; it gives you something to suck on, and it gives you something to do with your hands.

Gum would probably be better for you, for any number of reasons, but lacks the communal ritual.
posted by lekvar at 1:41 PM on August 31, 2010


If you do move to candy or something like it, allow me to recommend the Dum-Dum lollipops. They are tiny, they have 10 calories each, they come in a zillion flavors, and if you don't crunch them, they take just about as much time to eat as a cigarette does to smoke. Mind you if you replace every cigarette from a pack-a-day habit with one of these, you're looking at 200 extra calories of pure sugar a day, but for the walking-around cig or the I-need-a-break-from-work cig, I think they're a good choice.

Came here to recommend exactly that. I've started smoking again, but I quit for awhile by replacing every cigarette with a lollipop. Getting off the subway? Lollipop. After a meal? Lollipop. I'd take them in my purse to the bar, and when my friends went outside to smoke, I went out with them and had a lollipop. People definitely poked a little fun, but it totally worked.

I'll also nth the recommendation for Alan Carr's book, and keeping track of how much money you've saved. I had an app on my iPhone (called "Quitter") that kept track of it for me and seeing all the money rack up was really encouraging (I can't even imagine how quickly it'll go with cigarettes at the prices they are in NYC).
posted by cosmic osmo at 2:34 PM on August 31, 2010


My BF also quit with Alan Carr's book. He was smoking about a pack a day at the time. He did relapse after 6 months (not to a pack a day, maybe a half pack) but he read the book again, and got a lot of support from me. It's been 4 years without a single puff!
posted by Rocket26 at 8:27 PM on August 31, 2010


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