Inspire me to quit smoking.
October 4, 2012 1:37 PM   Subscribe

How did you (or someone you know of) beat smoking with clean living?

Over Christmas, I hit my highest weight ever, 220lbs (I'm 5'7). Since February, I have lost 40lbs by cutting out sugar and junk food, drinking loads of water, and exercising at least four or five hours a week (combination of Zumba, hula hooping, free weights, and yoga). And I'm really enjoying it. I work out with an amazing and supportive group of women. Even though I'm only halfway to my goal of 150, I really feel happy and energetic lately.

Except for one thing...I still smoke cigarettes. I have been smoking since I was 15. I know it's smelly and nasty and expensive and I need to stop now, but the thought of never having one again makes me panicky. I have quit before for a couple of months at a time, but I always start again.

I need some inspiration. I'm loving the active life but I know that it would be a million times better if I quit the bitch sticks. So I'm looking for personal anecdotes, blogs, or articles about people who quit smoking and changed their lives with exercise and eating clean. Reading blogs and the stories of others has helped me clean up my life in terms of eating and exercising, so I figure maybe it'll help for smoking too.

Plus, winter is coming up and I'm so done with smoking outside, since I live in a place with lots of precipitation and wind.
posted by futureisunwritten to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Read Allen Carr's easy way to quit smoking.

Carr was a 5 pack a day smoker who tells you how he did it. I have been trying to quit for a few years and his book was the magic bullet. I read it after finding out how many of my friends quit with the book.

The great thing is that all you have to do is follow the directions in the book, and one of them is to not try to quit till you finish the book.
posted by Blisterlips at 1:45 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I took Chantix/Champix and was shocked when it worked. The fact I was smoking through taking it avoided that "never have another one again" panic; I quit on Day 21 when I literally just couldn't be bothered to smoke anymore, and it was a very smooth transition. I recommend it, and recommend the full two-month course even if things are going great.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:47 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Alan Carr. He does a good job making you feel like a piece of shit for smoking. I tried lots of things and Carr's book was the only thing that worked. (3+ months smoke free.) Good luck!
posted by peacrow at 1:53 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

My first move was to avoid smoking until noon. That's the easiest time frame to make the effort. After a few days, smoking in the morning was impossible. Then I just had to wait a liitle more every day, until I only smoked a cigarette at night, every two or three nights, etc...
posted by nicolin at 1:55 PM on October 4, 2012

I smoked 2 packs a day for years. I tried to quit smoking several times. It was always very VERY hard - and I never succeeded.

Until I tried Chantix. I took the pill for 3 months, and without even trying, I was down to about 1/3 a pack a day. Then I set a quit date about month out from there, and it was SO EASY. I couldnt believe how easy it was. I continued to take the pills for another month after quitting. I took it for 5 months total.

By the time I stopped taking the drug, I didn't even feel like a smoker anymore. I mean, it wasn't like I was trying to quit and struggling - it was like, it is like now, I am just not a smoker.

I don't know if Chantix will work for everyone - but, wow, it really worked for me.
posted by Flood at 2:06 PM on October 4, 2012

the thought of never having one again makes me panicky.

A friend of mine told me that she decided that she just wasn't going to smoke now, and that she could have a cigarette "later." Of course, later is really never, but it's a good way to ease into the mindset of quitting. (For some people)
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:19 PM on October 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Never smoked, but I know a few people (more than I could count on one hand) who've quit using Allen Carr's book. One lady I know read the book on a flight from Europe to North America, and hasn't smoked since.

Exercise should make a nice substitute for smoking. Maybe every time you feel like a cigarette, you can walk around the block, or jog, or do jumping jacks, or push ups - whatever works for you, and suits your current fitness level.

Best of luck - it sounds like you're in the right frame of mind to give it up for good.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:32 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: I quit smoking, started running, and started eating healthy all on the same day, exactly one year ago last Wednesday. What compelled me to do it was the realization that I was not getting any younger and my lifestyle as an obese and sedentary smoker was not going to be sustainable for as long as I wanted to enjoy being alive.

For me it was relatively easy to convince myself that I was no longer a smoker. I had a sincere desire to become healthier, and smoking had actually become a habit that I didn't really enjoy much anymore. But the running was what gave me the strength to not smoke a cigarette in times of weakness, and of course there were plenty of those times. Measurable improvements in my running distance and stamina came relatively quickly, but the wall I'd hit every time I'd run would be obviously due to the health of my lungs. I'd lose my breath before my legs became physically exhausted so it was somewhat easy to say, when I wanted a smoke, that if I have this cigarette I won't be able to run for another 30 seconds tomorrow morning. And adding distance and stamina while dropping pounds became just as addictive as smoking, although in a totally different way.

There's a link in my profile to my Tumblr where I mostly blog about running and hiking, if you're interested in checking that out, but it's probably more motivating to me than it would be to anyone else, and there's nothing in it about quitting smoking because I started it after I had successfully become an ex-smoker. My best advice to you, since you're already exercising and eating healthy is to step up your exercise to the point where the cigarettes are preventing you from progressing the way you'd like to. That was an incredibly strong motivator for me.

Yesterday I was sitting in traffic behind a person who was smoking in her car with clouds of smoke pouring out of her window, and for the first time that I can remember I actually felt completely sorry for her and her addiction, without even the faintest twinge of envy, nostalgia, or even appreciation for the simple pleasure of a smoke while driving. It was just complete Yuck. Which was kind of neat.
posted by Balonious Assault at 2:36 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I used the nicotine patch - I made a deal with myself that I could have a cigarette whenever I wanted BUT I had to take that patch off for at least an hour first. Well. By the time the hour would pass, I'd be all over my idea of having a smoke.

Then, after I was all phased off the patch, what kept me quit was that I NEVER want to quit again ...
posted by hilaryjade at 2:40 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Several years ago I was you. Now I am future you! I hadn't been smoking as long as you, but other than that we're a lot alike. I've been smoke-free for almost six years now, and working out regularly for nearly as long.

I don't know if I can tell you how to do it; I just quit one day and it finally happened to stick. But I can give you a little motivation.

It's awesome that you're already working out, because that will go VERY a long way in helping you quit. You've already formed healthy habits and you know you're capable of sticking to them. If you know you can do something, you're 90% of the way there; the rest is time.

And when you're smoke-free for a while, you can feel the difference in your body, especially when you're working out. If you've been smoking for years, you can't really appreciate the difference yet, but you will. It's like Dorothy landing in Oz and everything's in color, but in your lungs.

Also, I've found it really interesting, almost eerie, how exercise seems to hit the exact same spot in me that smoking used to: it mellows me out and just makes me feel better about the world for a while. There will be a day, sooner than you think, where instead of I need a cigarette you'll think I need a run or I need a yoga class. And satisfying that craving will feel like lighting up a long-anticipated cigarette times a hundred.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:43 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

This isn't 'clean living' per se, but it sounds like you're open to whatever might work so I will suggest the electronic cigarette as a half-measure--my understanding is that it's basically nicotine liquid and water vapor (disclaimer: I don't think they are officially approved by the FDA but I would think it would have to be better than actual cigarettes). I know several people who were moderate/heavy smokers for 10+ years who decided they wanted to quit but weren't willing/able to do it cold turkey. Everyone I know who has used this has either quit altogether or cut down significantly (my boyfriend, for one, used to smoke at least a pack a day--now he doesn't even take the electronic cigarette to work and only puffs on it occasionally in the evening--and for what it's worth some of the flavors smell really good! You can smoke them inside too. I haven't pressured him to quit altogether--because the e-cigarette doesn't bother me at all--but I'm confident he could fairly easily if I did bring the hammer down.) Just throwing it out there as an alternative I have not seen mentioned here--if the thought of never having one again really does makes you panicky, this might be a good baby step. (Feel free to memail me if you want more info/vendor suggestions.)
posted by lovableiago at 3:00 PM on October 4, 2012

By the way- that paniky thing? It's a brain trick. Carr explains that feeling and gives you ways to get out of it.

Oh and I tried chantix, and I know it helps- but it made me super nauseated, so I had to stop after a week.
posted by Blisterlips at 3:04 PM on October 4, 2012

I'm probably in the minority here because most MeFites are all about "avoiding negativity" even when said negativity yields good results, but I strongly recommend aversion therapy. I quit smoking almost completely in less than three weeks using this technique. (By "almost", I mean I cut back to one or two cigarettes each month, which became intermittently less frequent. Currently I smoke maybe one cigarette every year.)

The way the plan works is thus: you can smoke as many cigarettes as you like, but for each cigarette you smoke, you have to do something (either that day or the next) which causes you physical pain or discomfort. In my case, for every cigarette I smoked, I had to jog one additional mile the following day.

What makes this method more effective than other approaches (at least in my opinion) is that you don't have to deal with "falling off the wagon" problems common to other strategies which rely on cutting back - where you have one bad day which causes you to smoke more than you're allowed to on a given day, become discouraged because of your cheating, and think "Why do I even try?" In this plan, there's no limit to how many cigarettes you can smoke - as long as you're willing to "pay" for each one.

Two disclaimers if you try this:
1) You need enough willpower to be able to hurt yourself in some way. If you are not the personality type that can do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal, this probably won't work for you.
2) If you're a masochist or have masochistic inclinations, this method will absolutely not work for you, and you should avoid it at all costs.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:27 PM on October 4, 2012

What Metroid Baby says here: "exercise seems to hit the exact same spot in me that smoking used to: it mellows me out and just makes me feel better about the world for a while. There will be a day, sooner than you think, where instead of I need a cigarette you'll think I need a run or I need a yoga class."

This will be so, so, so true! This is definitely where I am after two years as an ex-smoker and it's a really rewarding feeling to know that you can feed your body something healthy (exercise) instead of unhealthy (cigarettes) when you are stressed or unhappy or bored, etc.

Also--I don't know your age, but I started to notice obvious smoking-related wrinkles when I was 28. That's what finally motivated me to quit for good, and I did it within the year. YMMV.
posted by stellaluna at 3:36 PM on October 4, 2012

I've been quit for nearly four years, and I have Carr's book to thank. Read the book and do what it says. It *will* work.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:42 PM on October 4, 2012

I thought Alan Carr was a miserable, joyless bastard. For me the trick was to not drink for a couple of months, as that was my main smoking trigger. Been 1.5 years now.
posted by Sparx at 6:22 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: A persistent positive incentive for me was that quitting smoking was essentially turning back the clock on aging. A one-time bonus to be sure, and of course I was glossing the fact that I could only turn back the clock because I had artificially accelerated it with daily consumption of poison in the first place but hey - when your thirties are hitting their stride and you're getting those unpleasant glimpses of the fact that the aging process is, in fact, progressive, universal, and irreversible... Take what you can get. Nothing will give you a leg up on aging like quitting a serious cigarette habit.

Leading to the general advice that you need positive incentives for quitting. All smokers carry around the laundry list of the bad things cigarettes do to you. I found it more effective to also develop clearly stated, positive gains - for example I sing and quitting made my voice stronger, better and made singing easier and more pleasurable.

If you've gone two months you already know the drill of quitting. Really, you've been through the worst of it and pretty much seen everything the addiction can throw at you - so all you really need to learn is to not fall for the lure of trying to just smoke "a little" or "just this one time."

Or (if you're not gradually backsliding into the habit by way of denial, but rather more consciously returning to the habit in response to some particularly long stressful or difficult period) you need to learn not to fall for the idea that it's too hard "right now" (objectively it is almost certainly easier two months in - no matter what personal stresses are in play - than it was during the first two weeks). At that point, honestly, you're talking yourself into going back to it.

So learn to recognize when the addict is talking. The addict is the one that talks about "never having one again". Think about what this really means. It doesn't mean anything. Nobody ever has to deal with "never again". You only ever have to deal with right here right now. When you see that you realize what the addict is really telling you - that you will have to feel the way you do that moment - wanting, not feeling right not having, disappointed by the prospect of not giving in - forever. And of course this is a lie. The feelings will go away and the longer you go the more quickly on average they will go away, the less frequent they will come, the weaker they will be. When you get around the vicinity of a year, mostly the feelings fade away as quickly as if you gave in. Before you'd have time to get your coat on and get outside they're already gone. You get distracted for half a minute and literally forget that it was on your mind: hours later you remember you were on the verge of a bad moment over it and you can't remember what exactly even got your mind off it. I spend a tiny fraction of my time thinking about cigarettes in any way shape or form (positive or negative) that I did when I was smoking.

Once the addict has scared you with the nightmare myth of eternal dismal pining after it then it sweet-talks you with the "just this one time", with the "it's just too hard right now but it will be better when...", with the "I've got a lot more control over it now, I'll be able to keep it down to just a few..." Personally I counter this with a lot of "if not now, when" and "one day at a time" (this AA cliché is ubiquitous because it really is just true: most of the time when you're really suffering you're trying to fight tomorrow's battles today, and you know, duh). Mostly I keep reminding myself that smoking is never going to be in any way shape or form an element in successfully not smoking. Any thought that suggests otherwise is a lie and not, frankly, a very clever one.

2-3 months is prime time to lose it because while overall it is much better than the first couple weeks it becomes a bit of a slog as you realize that you are still going to be dealing with strong, persistent cravings with the capacity to derail your mood for a good part of the day are going to be around for a while. When you ride these out for a few more months though you get into another phase where things start to get distinctly easier. There are still frustrating points, but they get significantly less frequent and you start to get into this mode where even the worst spells just don't have the staying power like in the early stages. You just start to forget about it and when you develop real faith that this state will come around again if you just give it time you are most of the way there. The bone-headedly simple key is of course not to give in: every time you cave you teach the addict that if it just harasses you long enough it will get what it wants. Conversely every time you rise above you teach yourself that if you just hold out everything will come back around to OK again.

You can do this: and I can assure you that it is manifestly worth it, and not an "I have given up this bad bad thing in my virtuousness and self-denial" way but in an "Oh my God I feel so much better in so many ways and I seriously don't miss that nasty bullshit" way. You just have to give it enough time.
posted by nanojath at 11:21 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd have to chime in with "Read Alan Carr" too. It's only been four weeks for me, but it has been surprisingly easy after 30 years of smoking.
posted by ComfySofa at 3:39 AM on October 5, 2012

I thought the drug name sounded familiar from this thread when I came across this article in The Toronto Star (on the front page today) linking champix with some suicides. It sounds like it has worked for a few people above, but I thought I'd just link the article as something to be aware of.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:47 AM on October 5, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everybody. I have heard about Allen Carr's book for years and know people have used it successfully. For the price of half a pack of cigarettes, I downloaded the book and am giving it a read - why the heck not?

Your stories and words of encouragement are exactly what I need. I did a boot camp class last night that involved 45 minutes of intense cardio and felt amazing. The fact that I could feel even better than that is so intriguing to me. I'm closer than ever to replace one addiction, smoking, with another "addiction." The former makes me feel like crap and the latter makes me feel like I'm on top of the world.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:36 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Coming up on a few years for me.

I took a few weeks off from drinking, which was the main irresistible trigger for me.

But what really helped me, what changed it from countless attempts to quit and cut back was when I realized that every time I had just one, I pretty much reset the clock. YMMV on that. My best friend quit smoking, but he used snoos as a crutch and still uses those. Still smokes occasionally.

I realized for me I had to be completely nicotine free. The longer I went with that mindset, the longer I said I DO NOT WANT TO GO THROUGH THAT SHIT AGAIN, the better it was. Then my lungs started healing and I was able to breath and move better. I directly moved the money saved from not smoking into another hobby.
posted by PlutoniumX at 9:29 AM on October 5, 2012

I looked for other activities that painfully burned my insides like cigarettes did. Those were:

Every time I wanted a cigarette, I cycled long and hard through my city until I was dying.

Every other time I wanted a cigarette, I drank soda water far too quickly. The burn of the carbonation was satisfying.

Clean living. Ish. Three years and counting!
posted by tapesonthefloor at 6:24 PM on October 8, 2012

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