Qutting smoking
December 14, 2017 6:00 AM   Subscribe

How did you quit smoking cigarettes successfully, and for good?

I've been smoking for thirty years. After this latest bout of bronchitis -- coughing so much I cannot sleep except in 30 min snatches, coughing so hard I vomit several times a day -- I begin to think I don't want to do this anymore. So I've been prescribed Welbutrin, and some nicotine patches. I'm supposed to take the Welbutrin for a week, then starting using the patches and quit the following week. That's in five days, the actually quitting part, and though this is something I want to do, at the same time the thought makes me want to smoke ALL of the cigarettes now while I "can". I feel panicky even at the thought of being crutchless. How the Hell am I going to get through my days and nights?

Aside from the patches and Welbutrin, here's what I thought of:
  • eating continuously (I'm already fat, so whatevs)
  • asking the gym at work if I could walk on a treadmill for five minutes in my street clothes and sensible shoes when I need to during the day (because if I go outside, I'm going to want a smoke)
  • wearing a button at work that says, "Please bear with me. I'm quitting smoking." with a picture of a bear (because I'm worried about seeming hostile and weird)
  • using my own treadmill at home much more than I do
  • getting the house professionally cleaned (so it doesn't smell so smoky).
What do you think of that? Any other ideas? What helped you personally?

Do you think I can do this?
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Health & Fitness (58 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The Easy Way to Quit Smoking by Allen Carr helped me!

I smoked a pack a day, around 20 years. I read the book (smoked while I read it) and quit Sept 4th 2014. I have no desire to smoke again. I wish I had read the book 10 years earlier (read the reviews!)
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:04 AM on December 14, 2017 [8 favorites]

This is anecdotal but maybe reassuring - my husband started Wellbutrin for depression, not smoking cessation, but it made cigarettes taste so terrible he quit smoking even though he didn't want to. It might help a lot!
posted by something something at 6:09 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wellbutrin and the Allen Carr book really helped me as well.

I also highly recommend the "Kwit2" app - it's been over 3 years since I last smoked and I still get periodic "way to go" type badges. After 20+ years of smoking, this is the very first time I actually made it, and I definitely attribute it to this app.

Good luck!!!
posted by A hidden well at 6:22 AM on December 14, 2017

Wellbutrin + patches have been a winning combination for pretty much everyone I know who smoked addictively then quit, and Wellbutrin on its own was enough to prompt a pack-a-day-smoking friend of mine, who had no prior intention of quitting, to decide 'eh, you know, I don't really need these' and just kinda... stop. Which was great!

Couple things to know, going in:

- Some people have a skin reaction to the nicotine patches. If you start getting redness, itching, or a rash, definitely stop using the patches immediately. If they're helping you, try a different brand, and apply it in a different area, but don't apply a patch on irritated skin. You could also switch to gum (although I do have a friend who kind of just traded cigarette addiction for gum addiction, so, proceed with caution.)

- Wellbutrin/Zyban can give you some freaky dreams. It can also lower your seizure threshold, if you have any prior history of seizures/epilepsy. It might also make you super thirsty, but drinking water is an alternative activity to smoking, so, there's that.

- Try to think of oral/fidget distractions you might enjoy that aren't food. Some people like toothpicks, and they make flavoured ones (tea tree, cinnamon, mint). Pens, coffee stir-sticks, straws, fidget cubes or toys. Knitting! Something to do with your mouth/hands will be welcome. This is particularly true when you're standing around and talking to someone; phones or fidget sticks are good for those times, because it can feel weird not to be holding a cigarette. Hard candy and gum do work but it can be hard on your teeth and jaws -- if you have TMJ or jaw issues, take care, because chewing every time you want a cigarette can make your jaw sore pretty quick.

If you like scents at all, maybe buy yourself a nice cologne/perfume/essential oil blend as a motivation/reward? You'll actually be able to smell it on yourself if you quit!
posted by halation at 6:26 AM on December 14, 2017

I chewed the hell out of the gum. I liked it better than the patches specifically because I could "reward" myself with the gum and get some nicotine whenever I wanted (i.e., a hit on demand rather than low-level-all-day.) I chewed much more of the gum than recommended and kept chewing it for about a year, which is longer than recommended. I basically gave myself permission to chew as much as I wanted as long as I wanted. This allowed me to break all of the other habits of smoking. Then I weaned myself off the gum, which took months but was easier for me than trying to stop smoking. YMMV.
posted by Mid at 6:39 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I smoked for 30 years, albeit at a lowish level (~10 a day). When I quit I got to about 10pm, then "remembered" I had two or three in a pack in the car. I smoked them. But the next day I stayed away from places I might smoke and I didn't buy any. It helped that there are lots of places you can't smoke these days. Then when the kids went to bed and I really fancied one, I had none. And I didn't go to the shops and buy some. Years passed.
posted by hawthorne at 6:47 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I also liked the Allen Carr book. I also quit when very sick and I mentally associated that illness with smoking. That actually helped a ton.
posted by pazazygeek at 6:56 AM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I used the e-cigs available at most convenience stores (i.e., not the whole vape culture store). Vuse, to be specific.

It gives you the sensation of smoking (unlike gum or patches), which is probably half the thing you're addicted to, unfortunately. Still gives you the nicotine hit. But no carbon monoxide. Granted, whatever's in the "juice" is probably just as bad for you, but you'll notice a very quick change in your breathing/coughing/bronchitis.
posted by kuanes at 7:03 AM on December 14, 2017

A friend did well with Smokenders. Good luck.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:13 AM on December 14, 2017

It really helps to have a mini-stroke. As you are lying there in the ER, the department ER chief is telling you that he is going to decide in a few minutes whether to life flight you out to the nearest brain trauma center by helicopter or take you there by ambulance. Then you and your insurance can spend about $100,000 on medical bills as you flit between the ER, a brain trauma center, another ER, and then a regular hospital as the doctors try heroically to stabilize your skyrocketing blood pressure and try to keep your brain bits from dying off.

Frankly, I never took quitting cigarettes seriously until this happened. I spent two weeks chained to different hospital beds, listening to people die around around me. At one point in the brain trauma center, a nurse told me I was the only person on the floor who had a viable brain stem. Can you imagine that?

It helped that for two weeks, I literally could not get out of bed. I was attached to too many machines that were keeping me alive. So that helped me quit smoking.

I never smoked again. It took me about a year to stop obsessively thinking about not smoking. The best advice I can give you are two things.

1) Think as each craving as a wave. The cravings tend to last for about a minute. Just mentally ride that wave until it passes.

2) Identify what were your smoking patterns. For me, I had a habit of smoking first thing in the morning when I waited for my dog to do his business in the yard, after each meal, and also my 10 AM and 3 PM little work breaks. So I changed my habits. Instead of going outside with the dog, I stayed inside and got breakfast going. After each meal, I immediately cleaned up and did the dishes. And during my little work breaks, I took a little walk instead.

You can do this! It's so worth it.
posted by HeyAllie at 7:19 AM on December 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

e-cigarettes, 25 years up to two packs a day. I tried most of the ways before, but that one gave me the control I needed for dealing with the anxiety about not being able to smoke, which was a huge huge issue for me. I also started with the plain old convenience store kind, though I did move on to a slightly fancier (now probably prehistoric, this was 5 years ago) rig after a couple weeks.

I probably used the e-cigarettes 1-for-1 matching my cigarette consumption for 6 months, though I was dropping down the nicotine level of the juices I was using over that time. By that point my rig was getting a little worn out and increasingly a pain to work with, and the habit of going to convenience stores had fallen out of my normal routines, and by the 9-month mark I always carried an e-cig but didn't use it every day, and by 12 months I was completely off.

It helped to understand my intense anxiety that quitting would be painful and that not having cigarettes to control my anxiety was scary. That's really the core of why I smoked (I loved smoking, though, too), so it felt really obvious to me that if e-cigs worked at all they would get me off analogs. And I told myself I could use the e-cigs for as long as I wanted/needed, no pressure, and there's a bunch of reasons I felt and feel that they are way safer than analog cigarettes in a general harm-reduction way, especially since I had already smoked so much for so long it would take years and years of e-cigs to even enter the bad-for-you competition.

I think it's possible to make the same arguments for a different form of cessation support, depending on the hows and whys of your own smoking. I also have an agreement with myself that I have simply paused smoking and I can start again when I'm 70 (either we're all going to die long before then or there won't be any cigarettes anymore), but honestly the smell of cigarettes is so so so unpleasant to me now that maybe I'd vape again but I have no interest in getting up in that stank ever again.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:29 AM on December 14, 2017

Yes, you can do this! You have a great reason - sick of being sick. When I quit, the single most helpful thing was the website whyquit.com . Especially:
stop smoking benefits
tip sheet
For days - before, during, and after my quit - I read and reread the articles in the middle column on the front page of that site. I printed out the ones that resonated most and highlighted passages. I also used Nicorette for a few days after quitting.

Other things that helped:
1. Wrote down my reasons for quitting, printed it, read it over and over.
2. Ate soft peppermint candies all day, no judgement (I think I got a cavity from that but it was worth it!)
3. Let people around me know that I had quit and my horrible mood and attitude was because of that, not them. (I also did my best to just isolate myself for the first few days)

Don't be too concerned about going outside for a walk, in case your gym won't let you use the treadmill in street clothes. You will be triggered for a full year, and then occasionally after that. It will happen constantly for the first few weeks, but after that, every change of season brings a new set of rituals and routines that you developed around cigarettes. But cravings pass. The quicker you disassociate "going outside=smoking," the better. Go out, enjoy the weather, work off some energy, and remember that cravings pass within seconds. Another one comes, and it passes.

Soothe yourself and be good to yourself. Congratulations for wanting to quit and good luck!
posted by hiker U. at 7:33 AM on December 14, 2017

Patches, gum, Wellbutrin, vape— none of those helped me much at all.

But Chantix and a health concern made it surprisingly easy for me, you start the drug before you quit and since it fills your nicotine receptors, smoking quickly becomes unappealing.

I wish I’d tried it sooner. Most common side effect is weird dreams, I had them but didn’t mind at all, others report it to be intolerable, ymmv.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:34 AM on December 14, 2017

My quitting experience included a few counter-intuitive things that may help you if the advice above--Allen Carr, Wellbutrin and nicotine patches, which I concur helped numerous friends quit--doesn't work. And sticker rewards (this was pre-apps) in my calendar gave me a boost and timing how long the cravings lasted definitely helped me wait them out.

First off, at work I still went outside at regular intervals just like I did as a smoker. I liked the way it marked the completion of one task and gave me a little time to gear up for the next. And I still got to spend time with my smoking buddies. Now and then I definitely sniffed the smoke wafting from their cigarettes with longing, but I never took a puff, in part because I knew I was setting an example.

Second, my then 95 y.o. father-in-law, who quit around age 70, told me he still had cravings and that I should just accept it as part of life; in his view, monitoring the cravings (how often? how long? how intense? when will they end?) gave them more power. He recommended just enduring them as a body weirdness, like a twingy knee: they just are. It helped.

Third, I tracked the money saved and spent it mindfully . At first I had a desktop program that left a little counter in my system tray that told me money saved at the current price-per-pack, time since my last cigarette, and new days of life earned. Then I started actually throwing the money into a big jar on my dresser as part of my ending-the-day ritual: another successful day of not smoking, another $x. It stacked up really fast and paid for some non-food luxuries I would not have otherwise allowed myself. To this day, it's nice to look at my kickass stereo or whatever and know that quitting cigarettes paid for it.

Fourth, use your dog to help fend off the pounds and enjoy the outside; your sense of smell will improve within a matter of days. Food will taste better too, which along with the oral fixation is part of why I gained weight. So I switched to lip balm as my public oral fixation.

You can do it! Metafilter is rooting for you!
posted by carmicha at 7:40 AM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh and regarding your dog, it helped me to know I wasn't exposing my cat to second-hand smoke any more. And you won't be as winded, so longer walks are in the offing too. Being a better guardian to companion animals is under-rated as a motivator.
posted by carmicha at 7:47 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

And, now I don't know why I thought you had a dog, but maybe my pet comments will be useful to future readers. Sorry about that!
posted by carmicha at 7:49 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I quit cold turkey about a million times until I finally quit seven years ago (in January) after smoking for close to 24 years. I started quitting smoking about three years before that, where I would quit, relapse, then quit again. Eventually the periods of not smoking got longer and the periods of smoking in between got shorter. Finally, I had quit for about eight months and thought do I really want to go through all of this again?

Each time I relapsed I learned new things and I kept journals for this purpose. Eventually I learned my exact triggers, what time of day was worst for me, which places triggered me, which people, which feelings, etc. I kept notes and I read lots of books and websites about addiction and this website, and talked to people. That was so helpful, listening to other people's experiences.

One thing that I kept hearing over and over that sounds so obvious but is really important is that in order to quit smoking you have to really want to quit smoking. You have to not want to smoke anymore. For me that required separating the part of me that was addicted and would tell me anything to get me to smoke and the part that knew smoking wasn't doing anything for me.

One thing that was the hardest to get past was the whole 'but were all going to die anyway' kind of thing. That, and the fact that I still likely will die from cancer caused by smoking, even after quitting for so many years. What I eventually had to do was search for other reasons to quit. Practical reasons (money, not smelling like smoke), but mostly it was wanting to feel good now that not only rang true, but was simply true. I had to hold that idea in my head. The fact that not smoking made me feel better right now (better physically but also mentally. I carried around a lot of guilt for hurting myself, which only became clear after I quit for more than a week or so. It was like, Oh! I don't have to feel bad about that today! And it was always this awesome, wonderful, unexpected relief. I seriously, seriously clung to that. But slowly more and more positive things like that revealed themselves, and I started to crave that, the positives, instead of smoking. The only advice I can give is to wait it out, because those good things do eventually happen).

That said, keeping notes and journals was important for me because I would, of course, also conveniently forget how bad smoking made me feel once I was about a week without. I really did feel like I was two people. Years later I can't remember the physical feeling, but I still know what it was because I wrote it down. For me it was a heavy feeling in my limbs, the feeling that blood wasn't getting all the way to my toes, the mostly just the difference between breathing while smoking versus while not smoking.

My smoking-brain was (is?) a mean, sneaky, relentless asshole (and continued to be for a about 10-12 months after my final 'quit'. It calmed way down after some months, though. I'm very lucky that I can say I don't want to smoke anymore. But, again, I walk around thinking I can't actually delude myself that badly, but of course I can and I did. The notes and journals that I kept are the only good, solid proof I have for dispelling all the BS. I keep them just incase.

Finally, I tried to figure out the things I did only while smoking, and make whatever changes made it easier. For me drinking alcohol was probably the most insidious thing (I personally can't imagine drinking without smoking - they are one activity to me). So, I quit drinking and that was actually the trick. For my best friend it was coffee. For others, certain activities or, I hate to say, even people. These days I hang out with my family almost exclusively at places where smoking can not happen, and that was difficult and awkward for a while, but it helped (so many people in my family smoke that being around them while they smoke is probably my most ingrained trigger).

YES! I do think you can do this! Just keep going. You think it's going to suck forever, and it does for a long time (10-12 months for me. For some people it's more like six months. It's individual, like everything, but it is finite. You absolutely can get past craving cigarettes). Just keep going. It gets incrementally better and easier with time. Keep notes! I wish your the best of luck!
posted by marimeko at 8:02 AM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I quit once for a year, quite easily, and started up again. A few years later, it was really tenacious, and I had an incentive in that I was thinking of becoming pregnant. I decided to take a break from my real life. If I'd known of a rehab program, similar to drug and alcohol programs, I would have signed up for one, but I didn't know of any. So I went and stayed in a little apartment for a couple of weeks and just basically did nothing but quit. Anything was OK as long as I didn't pick up a cigarette. A friend came over most evenings and we walked around until I was so exhausted I fell asleep easily. Something about having made that investment of time made it stick.

I didn't use any nicotine replacement or medication, but I probably would if doing it again.
posted by BibiRose at 8:06 AM on December 14, 2017

The Allen Carr book also helped me. I was never a heavy smoker, but last year, at a period in my life when I was unhappy, stressed, and bored, I started smoking again. I read that book and I'm not going to say I never smoked again, but it felt... dumb, and I stopped eventually.

One of the points Carr makes in his book is that nicotine addiction is overstated, that smokers go through withdrawal every night while sleeping and most smokers aren't waking up in the middle of the night to smoke. For me, I believe that smoking is so hard to stop because it weaves its way into your everyday life and when you stop you really feel the absence. I still don't know what to do when I'm waiting for a bus.

You can do this!
posted by Automocar at 8:11 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Allen Carr worked for me 15 years ago and unlike a lot of ex-smokers I know, I have never missed them. Two things that I took from the book.

1. The withdrawal symptoms are no worse than a bad cold. If you can survive a cold you can quit smoking.
2. Every time you feel like a cigarette, say to yourself, 'Yipee I'm a non-smoker'. It sounds stupid but it really worked for me.
posted by night_train at 8:25 AM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I agree with the other people that have mentioned Allen Carr's book.

I read it a few times before it all sunk in, but I went from a heavy smoker to zero and have not missed them.

As he instructs you in the book, I think it is really essential not to use any stop smoking aids or even chew gum.

Another thing that helped me was to really focus on the positives, and not to think "I can't smoke" but instead "I don't want to smoke".

I also loved this poem - plus that website in general has a lot of good resources.

Good luck!
posted by iamsuper at 8:38 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've stopped twice without patches, gum or medication and it was horrible, but I did it!

The thing that really helped me was admitting to myself that I did indeed want a cigarette, and that I would be able to have a cigarette if i chose to. It was important to NOT tell myself that I COULDN'T have a cigarette, as clearly I could, there was nothing physically stopping myself from buying a pack and sparking up, so I told myself it was a choice and that for the time being I would choose not to.

I also tended to avoid telling people I'd given up or even that I was trying to give up. If anybody noticed that I wasn't smoking then I would tell them I was just cutting back and give no more information. Not entirely sure why - it was hard enough as it was without other people's hopes, good wishes and expectations in the mix!

Good luck!
posted by jontyjago at 8:41 AM on December 14, 2017

I quit in 2004 by chewing nasty nicotine gum for a whole year until my wife cut me off -- back then a box cost $44 and they tasted like rubber and pepper, I imagine the gum has improved and gotten cheaper since! I'd tried a few times prior and even made it 9 months once -- what I learned is that I can never, ever have a single nicotine product again or I'll be right back to a pack a day. I hardly ever think about cigarettes now.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:41 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Vaping. I got one of the nice ones from a vape shop - it seemed pricey, but that's what I was spending every month on cigarettes. And I was worried that I would replace my smoking habit with a vaping habit, but for me, my usage decreased pretty naturally over time and now I haven't used it in months (quit 2+ years ago).

I also took up running. When I had cravings to smoke, it helped sometimes to think about the progress I'd be giving up if I gave in.
posted by treachery, faith, and the great river at 8:42 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I smoked Marlboro reds for 50 years and truly believed I would never be able to quit. I had quit for two years when I was about 18, but one day I just picked them up again. I averaged about a pack every two days.

I tried Wellbutrin about three years ago, and while it lessened the cravings for cigarettes it caused me to become withdrawn and I felt like I was disappearing. When I look at photos of myself from that time I could see it on my face. It was turning me into sort of a pale version of myself, so I stopped taking it and kept smoking.

About this time last year, my wife suggested we try vaping. It took us until February to actually get around to it (mostly because I just kept smoking), but we finally went to a local store and got outfitted with the necessary vaping gear.

That was 10 months ago, and since the day I got the e-cig, I've left the Reds far behind. No craving for a smoke, nothing. I get the oil with an approximately equivalent amount of nicotine as a Marlboro and it's been incredibly effective. And I saved so much money I was able to buy a great vintage guitar with the dough I wasn't spending on cigarettes.

I won't say that I've quit for good, but I will say that at this moment I have absolutely no urge to go back to the Reds. I still like the smell of them, but I've got zero urge to actually light one up.

That's why I always say my wife is the smart one in the relationship.
posted by MrKellyBlah at 8:43 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cold turkey. Quit when you have a cold so smoking is unpleasant anyway. Keep your mental focus on not buying cigarettes, rather than not smoking them. Throw out your lighters. Let yourself miss them when you're driving or taking a walk or drinking or doing whatever you associate smoking with.
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:50 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

One other thing I remembered that also helped me! It's small and probably not very helpful, but hey, why not? My mother gave me this advice from when she quit smoking:

"Just don't light the next one."

So, every time I had a craving it was kind of about keeping that streak. Sort of like Seinfeld's "Don't Break The Chain" thing (which I think Allen Carr might have put in his book? Can't remember now).

I also just remembered that I used health month for this and I found it super effective. That was about 5 years ago, though, I'm not sure how or if the site has changed.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:04 AM on December 14, 2017

I chewed the gum, a lot of it, and I loved it. The gum that is. I loved smoking as well, but I got really sick and could hardly breathe. I ate lemon drops, and I had support from people around me, and I had this little book of stories about how other people stopped smoking. I remember one person in that book said they had their spouse tie them to a chair in the basement. I liked thinking about that one.

Cravings will pass whether you act on them or not. That is what saved my ass. And then, after I had been smoke free for a while, I had this incredible sense of taste again and I haven't looked back.

I also felt happy that I quit doing something bad to myself, and then I stopped tolerating other people treating me crappy, so that was good too.
posted by chocolatetiara at 9:41 AM on December 14, 2017

Echoing pazazygeek: the main thing I remember from Carr's book is the chain. You're assembling a chain by minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and one cigarette breaks it. Once you're counting in weeks and months, it's a number you don't want to damage.

Then there's the "Just don't light the next one". Another way to read that is "wait 5 minutes, the urge will pass" (possibly also from Carr's book). And as above, it gets easier over time and eventually automatic.

Also, there are several versions of this but this is just the first result: Quit smoking timeline. You look for and notice these things. There's some suggestion and confirmation bias at work there but those things exist because they work on our brains.

That said, I do sometimes go for a nicotine dose from generic lozenges when I need the concentration/focus effects.
posted by 0.692 at 9:57 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I quit twice, the first time I got so sick with bronchitis I couldn't get out of bed without wheezing and decided that was ridiculous. I weaned down--fairly quickly--from a pack a day to zero and saw my health improve. Whenever I wanted to smoke (my main trigger was stress) I would do something really challenging physically, like sprint around the block or ride a bike up a hill. I was
in great shape! I also subbed carbonated drinks (diet soda, water) and pretzels as that scratched my oral fixation itch. That lasted for a couple years and then I started smoking "socially" and fell off the wagon. Again, my health deteriorated really quickly (I'm asthmatic) and I mostly just felt ashamed and embarrassed about smoking--even hid it from people! So I tapered off and quit for good. For me, knowing I was no longer grovelling at the feet of cigs (and remembering how hard it was to quit and how sick I was) was a powerful motivator and I haven't smoked since. The wave technique mentioned up thread is also useful for the first weeks/months. I won't lie: I still have moments (>10 years later) where I think, "Gee, I could go for a cigarette right now," the way you might remember the good times you had with an old friend, but I feel pretty confident that if I never want to have to quit again, so I don't think I'll smoke again!

Best of luck to you. It's really hard but you are totally worth it!
posted by stillmoving at 10:14 AM on December 14, 2017

Spite. Pure, furious, undiluted spite. I decided to quit, a (still smoking) friend sneered at me and loudly and publicly and repeatedly expressed his smug disbelief that I would ever be able to stick to any commitment at all, much less one so stressful, and from that moment on I never again smoked, specifically to spite him, and also to bring it up multiple times over the years as a reminder that I was better than him.

we're not friends anymore (lol) but the spite lives on as strong and powerful as that first moment of pure rage.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:26 AM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

i might make a throwaway facebook account right now just to remind him actually
posted by poffin boffin at 10:27 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

in order to quit smoking you have to really want to quit smoking. You have to not want to smoke anymore.

Agreed. You have to be ready and kind of in the mood to tackle this extremely minor and vaguely uncomfortable project.

I do think the other thing that was critical to me, besides tapering nicotine intake very slowly, was to not do the catastrophizing like your list, which reads to me like an anxiety plan rather than a coping plan. No, you don't need to wear a button to warn people, you don't need a gym to give you special permissions, you don't need carrot sticks, you don't need to develop an alternate oral fixation in advance. Live your life as close to usual as possible, but don't smoke. Treat the symptoms of withdrawal as they arrive, be mindful of them instead of deciding you have xyz problems, and avoid the things that facilitate smoking. The addiction is tenacious and blah blah blah quitting is harder than heroin, but let's also be honest that smoking is a lot easier than obtaining and using heroin and the horrendous effects of quitting heroin are themselves the reason many addicts cannot quit. You're not going to go into a psychotic fugue, you're not going to physically suffer to the point of needing hospitalization.

You may be a little anxious sometimes, you might have some pooping troubles, things may start smelling weird for a while. Drinking more water will mitigate all of these, be mindful of your symptoms and practice extra kindness to yourself and others, make sure you're prioritizing sleep and good food for a few weeks, add in a little fiber and Wellbutrin and you're in pretty good shape.

I think when most of us talk about quitting being hard, we're really talking about the status quo being so easy. But honestly it's not really - when I quit five years ago, a real driving factor was that it was becoming increasingly inconvenient to smoke and it's got to be even worse today.

You know, the only way we even tolerate ourselves smoking is by turning a pretty huge blind eye to the horribleness of smoking. Start turning and looking (and smelling). Count the costs in your daily life, not even the long-term effects. Now compare those costs to the mild discomforts of quitting and the advantages of not smoking. If you get jittery, and you probably will, just handle it with something other than a cigarette.

And literally count the costs, too. Write that shit on your hand if you have to. I happened to notice while I was at the gas station the other day that the old flip-number Marlboro sign said SEVEN DOLLARS AND FORTY CENTS!!1! It was a dollar when I started smoking. It was over five when I quit. Count those dollars, it will help you quit.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:39 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Smoked for 10 years, quit maybe a dozen times, half of which cold turkey. I think I quit harder than many others; cold turkey was never easy -- I got so used to the "one day of shakes, one day of sweats, one day of pure rage" cycle. And then I'd smoke just one, and then two, and then I'd be back on it a month later.

I read the Carr book; it helped me justify intellectually why I should quit, but didn't quiet my addiction. What finally got me off -- finally! -- was vaping. At first vaping to replace a cigarette half the time (while still smoking the other half), then gradually weaning off the cigarettes for the most part. Vaping was cigaretteish enough to replace a real cigarette in smoking environments that it filled that need to replace the harmful chemicals from real smoking.

Then I gradually weaned off vaping to replace the psychological addiciton aspects by just filling the physical addiction with nicotine gum. A bit less vaping day by day until I was just hitting the physical addiction with nicotine gum. Then a piece of gum a bit less often week by week, until I would forget to chew a piece because it was boring. Eventually I was able to make the push and not have any nicotine gum.

Both of those methods are supposed to get you off in something like a month. In total, it took me more than a year with those methods, but it's now been more than two years since I bought a pack (if anything, do this -- you can't smoke 'em if you ain't got 'em), and a good year since I bummed one. For me -- I suspect a harder quitter than most -- the urge got a little less, and less, and less, until some months of feeling a little "bug" when in the right situation -- I just didn't anymore.

You can do it, even if it's more difficult for you than for most!
posted by Theiform at 10:53 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Gum helped for me because mint gum makes beer taste horrible. I smoked for almost 20 years but towards the end I liked beer more than cigarettes. The gum helped me cut down my nicotine intake while out drinking which was a significant amount of my smoking. I also made a spreadsheet to track my gum usage which helped me stretch the time between pieces and shorten the time I chewed. I did ask my friends and coworkers to be more forgiving while i quit, and it was a struggle for my wife for a couple of days but we made it through. I very occasionally have to yell about wanting a cigarette even after more than 2 years of not smoking, but the craving passes after a moment and acknowledging it loudly seems to help.
It is very nice to be able to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded.
posted by Uncle at 10:58 AM on December 14, 2017

I think the thing that actually made it stick was actually wanting to quit. But that wasn't within the realm of possibility until I took Chantix -- which sucks the joy right out of cigarettes, and you're left with all the rest of it, which is objectively not good.
posted by so fucking future at 11:36 AM on December 14, 2017

Hi. I am you. I asked MeFi once before about quitting smoking, tried and failed, and then just recently quit for good.

Both times I tapered off with Champix/Wellbutrin. The first time I eventually stopped taking it and then started smoking again a few months later because I missed smoking so much and felt like I could have "just one." The second time I got down to about 3 fags a day, finished off my last pack and switched to vaping.

It has been a miracle. Absolutely no part of me is dying for nicotine. I have none of the awful, awful physical cravings I had. (I know not every addict is like this but my lungs screamed, my stomach cramped, it was horrible.) I have had to change very little about my habits. I can still step outside to vape at work or at the pub. And while I do have a passing thought every day that a cigarette would be nice just for the lung hit, it is a very passing.

And I am using Quit Tacker to track my days and the amount of money I've saved and I am very pleased watching the total go up.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:04 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

more allen carr wisdom: when you take off tight shoes, your feet hurt as they return to regularity. we don’t put the tight shoes back on though. we just wait it out. just wait it out. it’s not worse than a cold, as someone else mentioned.
posted by Buddy_Boy at 12:40 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I saw something on metafilter that caused me to reframe it from “stopping” smoking or not being “allowed” to smoke to being... done... with smoking. To have smoked as much as I wanted, and to be more or less over it. Which helped a LOT with the feeling of it being an external authority preventing me from smoking. I had planned to quit sometime after $event, but I got tonsillitis at the event, was sick as a fucking dog and that got me through the start of it. Then I just didn’t have another one. I stand with smokers and sometimes ask them to blow in my face when I’m drunk, but it’s been like six years after 30 years of smoking.

I like to think of “the rule of three”, it’s not quite true but it’s true enough; three days for the worst of the physical addiction, three weeks for the worst of the psychological addiction and three months for the habit to fade. After three years you might feel you could smoke one or two socially, but again, beware the three and just don’t. Also, while the cravings are coming, wait three minutes, the worst will have passed.
posted by Iteki at 12:46 PM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

I've quit smoking twice, and the first time went much better than the second time, which was, due to a medical issue, forced upon me suddenly.

The first time I quit I stopped smoking for over 10 years. Why I picked it up again is immaterial, let's just say I was a fucking self-destructive moron. My method for quitting then was pretty smooth. Here's how I did it:

1. I set a quit date for 30 days away.
2. I stopped smoking during all of my "typical" smoking times. No smokes after eating, while drinking coffee, driving, talking on the phone, after sex, as soon as I woke up, right before bed, while gaming, etc. The idea was to break my association between those activities and the comfort of smoking.
3. When I *did* smoke, I was not allowed to do any other activity. I sat in my kitchen and smoked. No radio, no tv, no other people, nothing to read, no work or homework. Just me and my gross cigarette.
4. For the week before Quit Day, I cleaned my entire apartment from top to bottom, washed every piece of fabric I owned, and threw away all of my ashtrays. During that week smoking could only occur outside with the same rules.
5. On quit day, I ran my remaining smokes under the faucet and walked them over to the dumpster.

It was a bit rough still. I used the patch for 2 weeks and tapered off from nicotine a bit, but breaking my psychological associations with smoking was extremely helpful. To replace the sense of doing something with my hands and mouth, I started chewing gum. I still gained 20 lbs. or so, but fixed that up later. I used the 4Ds to withstand the sweaty, shaky, panicky cravings I'd have over the next month or so--delay, drink water, do something else, deep breathe.

The second time I "quit" smoking, I was forced to do it suddenly because I was having a dangerous heart rhythm due to a suddenly discovered congenital heart defect. This was almost a YEAR ago, and I still have a pack of smokes in my car and tap out a cigarette once a week or so, take 3 drags, feel like a horrible person, and toss the rest of the cigarette. And when my mom, who has smoked for 50+ years , is around, I end up stealing drags here and there.

The obvious difference, to me anyway, between those two experiences is that one is something I chose and the other is something that was thrust upon me. Choosing to feel less disgusting, to be able to breathe, to care about my body, that is what made quitting easier overall.
posted by xyzzy at 1:00 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have you checked out r/stopsmoking? Whatever approach you take, it's a helpful place. In part that's because you can opt to adopt a badge that tracks the number of days since you last smoked. For the first couple weeks of relearning habits without smoking, that's... surprisingly, bafflingly helpful.

I also got in the habit of taking long, non-strenuous walks in the evening. It was a bit bizarre how quickly my senses of smell and lung capacity became noticeably better, and walking at night--after the dew and frost had begun to settle--was a potent little ritual of experiencing that, kind of engaging with my senses. I remember walking along a stretch of rock rose planted along a path that I'd walked hundreds of times before and being very suddenly shocked that they had a fragrant perfume, even without being in bloom. There were so many little moments like that. It felt good and reinforcing.

I also recognize that, like anything, it's not always straightforward or reasonable to expect total abstinence forever. I'm sure a few people achieve that, but most of us have weak points. The first time I went about a year and a half without smoking and then had a couple with a friend (who was wailing and drunk after finding out his boyfriend had cheated on him), I got a little gloomy and beat myself up about it. SO much so that I ended up smoking again for almost two years. The next time around I didn't sweat it as much. I had a snag here and there, but I treated it as such and resumed the following day as if nothing had changed. That's been a helpful mindset--errors aren't permanent derails.

To add to the anecdotal experiences here, nicotine replacement (patch, gum, etc.) didn't help me. It kicked the can down the road a bit, but I still felt pinned in by that nicotine urge. Cold turkey, surprisingly, did the trick. It took more than one try, but at each try it felt very unsentimental. As others have noted, it confirmed my feeling of simply having smoked enough to feel done with it. Choire Sicha wrote about this sort of thinking a couple years ago in NYT.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:29 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I should just flat out say this, too: yes, you can do this. That SMOKE EVERYTHING NOW urge is very familiar to everyone who's ever smoked, and it tends to recede into the background more quickly than one expects.

Personal timeline: the first few days are weird, like adjusting to working days when you've been on the night shift for decades; by the 7 day mark, whoa, did I just go a week without smoking?; around week 2 or 3, oh man I feel like going jogging, my lungs feel like huge balloons that I can fill with air and I'm sleeping like a sedated infant and my eyes don't burn anymore and are my allergies going away and... ; second month in, I walk by someone smoking and it legit smells bad, like discouragingly, unpalatably bad, and realizing just how pungent the smell of smoke residue is on peoples' clothes. From that point on, I still thought about smoking but the urge really seemed to be just a little simmer that would erupt and fade away, a little more quickly each passing day.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:36 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

The way I heard it once: the rule of threes. 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, 3 years...all common intervals to relapse.

I used vaping. One way I made it stick was to start with high-nicotine juice so that I could vape myself to that "blergh" feeling of just having chainsmoked 8 cigarettes in a row. It really works to stop the craving in the moment.
posted by rhizome at 2:07 PM on December 14, 2017

One last thought about motivation since you mention bronchitis: having a cold (or a hangover) as a nonsmoker is a motivation that's hard to beat. Like, people get over colds in two or three days? For real? It doesn't take a week and a half? Smoking really beats down the immune system, and it doesn't take long at all for it to improve. I even noticed that sunburns healed faster.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:09 PM on December 14, 2017

Hi - ex-smoker here, 20 years and quit two years ago. I am here to stump for seeing a smoking cessation counsellor. My health insurance covered this. I was kind of skeptical at first - like what, you're supposed to just talk to this guy and this is magically going to make you quit? Well, it was exactly magic. Two months later, after over a year of hemming and hawing and trying to stop and falling back into it, I was done with smoking for good. I was speaking to a woman who works for a nonprofit that sponsors research into quitting smoking and she confirmed this too - speaking with a counsellor is proven one of the most effective ways to quit.

The point is, the counsellor doesn't sit there and lecture you - they ask you about your motivations for quitting, and your habits and triggers. They then brainstorm with you how to get around those habits and triggers and make a solid plan and carry it out. My counsellor would even call me after times that I told him I would be in situations where I would be triggered, to check in and see if my plan worked or if I needed to make changes. But it was really self-directed - not only was it effective, but it felt empowering, like really I did it myself.

Anyway, highly recommend cessation counsellor. You can do it!! Best of luck to you.
posted by aiglet at 2:14 PM on December 14, 2017

Spite. Pure, furious, undiluted spite.

That makes two of us, Poffin Boffin! My roommate told her friends for months the only reason she couldn't quit was that she'd still be living with awful me, since I had a 2 pack a day habit. I said, "Let's quit together," thinking she would never go for it, but she did. There were no patches or gum then, and I roiled in agony for several days after we quit. Then after a week, my roommate started smoking again. I was so angry, I decided not to smoke again just to make her feel guilty.

Of course the point of this story is that after my initial few weeks of not smoking to get back at my roommate, I found it was easier and easier not to smoke regardless of my poor motives. After a few months, it became a habit not to smoke and I liked the way I felt. So I think it's that initial hump that's the hardest part, since quitting is eventually its own reward. I haven't smoked for over 25 years.
posted by pangolin party at 2:25 PM on December 14, 2017

I smoked a pack a day for 15 years. Then I did the Wellbutrin/Zyban thing, read Allen Carr, and have smoked zero cigarettes in the past 10 years. You can do this.

I had never smoked in the house, so that wasn't an issue, but I had my car professionally detailed and took all my coats and jackets to the dry cleaner. Don't know if it helped, but it certainly didn't hurt, and why not freshen up your life.

I don't remember needing a crutch like eating, but I do think I drank more tea that usual and walked around the block at the times when I would have otherwise been taking a smoke break. The Wellbutrin really did kill the urge, such that in the end I actually had some cigarettes lying around that I never got around to smoking. Do read the Carr book—it'll instill a "smoking is seriously fucking gross" mentality that will serve you in good stead.
posted by mumkin at 2:30 PM on December 14, 2017

Welbutrin made a phenomenal difference for me — it made tapering down and quitting using patches merely difficult and annoying, instead of straight-up impossible.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:18 PM on December 14, 2017


I smoked a pack a day for about 20 years. I quit cold-turkey about... 13 years ago? Maybe 14? It was SO HARD, bt so worth it.

I initially tried Wellbutrin, but it did not affect me well. (It did reduce my urge to smoke, but it made me either homicidally angry or suicidally depressed all the time. Not a great trade-off!) The patch also did not work well for me. The only thing that did work was gritting my teeth and just... stopping. I made a point of telling all of my friends and coworkers that I was quitting, and to please be patient with me, because it was REALLY unpleasant. That actually helped a lot, because people were very supportive, and also because I knew that I'd be disappointing people if I started smoking again, and I hate feeling like I've let people down. It also helped to be able to tell work-friends that I was having a rough time on a given day. (Especially because one of the hardest things to deal with were my 15-minute work breaks -- I always went outside and smoked during those breaks, so getting past the "Oh, it's 10:15, time to go have a cigarette!" habit was so difficult!)

My then-boyfriend, now-husband bought me a couple of "shoot aliens and blow shit up" Playstation games, and I played those at home in the evenings to keep my mind off the urge to smoke, and to give me something to occupy my hands. I also knit, so knitting while watching TV helped, but sometimes that wasn't enough of a distraction.

I went through a LOT of lollipops at first. Helped with the weird tension I would get in my jaw when I was feeling cigarette withdrawal.

Mostly, though, it was just... toughing it out. It sucks mightily, but it does get easier and easier every day. It really does. I can't stand the smell of cigarettes now, and have zero desire to start smoking again. (I do still occasionally have dreams that I've started smoking, though, and wake up all mad at myself!)
posted by sarcasticah at 3:25 PM on December 14, 2017

Mr dorkydancer is not a smoker, but I didn’t get really motivated to quit until baby dorkydancer came around. I used the American Lung Association book. It basically went as follows: Pick a reasonably close date within a month. Taper off by smoking fewer cigarettes and then on your quit day - throw them out. You’re not a smoker anymore.

Honestly, what really helped was to distract myself when the urge to smoke came up. Go for a walk if you can. Go get a healthy snack, or drink of water. Good luck! You can do it!
posted by dorkydancer at 4:29 PM on December 14, 2017

Oh: fear. I forgot to add I was motivated by fear. Both of poverty and of not being able to breathe. I get the whole "when you're really ready, you'll be able to just quit" thing but that just wasn't the case for me. I loved smoking. I loved every single thing about it, including the disgusting smell. I knew I should quit; I could imagine a life without smoking; and I wanted to want to quit, but I didn't.

Instead, I felt like I really had to, but nobody was more surprised than me that I've been able to do it.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:21 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

My dad quit in the 80s, when he was around 45 and I was around 15. He did not talk to me about it, and amazingly enough I did not even realize at the time that he had quit. (My mom later told me he took this is as a good sign, because he thought it was affecting his behavior at the time but if I didn't notice it couldn't have been that bad - reflecting your fear of being a bear.) He lived another 30 years or so and I am pretty sure he would not have lived that long if he'd kept smoking.

Thank you for doing this for those who care about you (and for your own health), and thank those who have answered this question for giving me some possible insight into my dad's experience.

I don't have direct personal experience with quitting, and you are getting much more specific & useful feedback from those who have been through it, but I like your idea of having your home cleaned.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 6:19 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes. You can stop smoking.

E-cigarettes were a revelation for me. Just the plain ones, designed to look and feel as much like an actual cigarette as possible. What I really liked about the e-cigarettes is how similar it felt to smoking. All of the little ritualistic behaviours copied, down to the hand motion and all.

I've also used the patch and Wellbutrin. I suggest trying the e-cigarettes before taking an antidepressant, especially as you have a concern about your temperament. I didn't like how Wellbutrin made me feel. Like bad speed. The patch has presumably come along since I used it, but the dosage has to be easier to control with the e-cigarettes.

Truck stops have the best selection of e-cigarettes in my experience. In short, e-cigarettes e-cigarettes e-cigarettes e-cigarettes e-cigarettes.
posted by Alex Voyd at 3:37 AM on December 15, 2017

My wife hit upon a brilliant strategy with me. She turned it into a bet.

We were broke. She was a journalist for an alt-weekly and I was working as a bank teller while I was going back through school to get my CS degree. I was doing programming assignments on a cheap POS PC running Windows ME, which was extremely painful. I complained regularly about it.

Finally she'd had enough, both of my whining and of spending our cash on me killing myself. "Fine," she said. "Here's your deal. You quit smoking for six months, and I'll save the money you would have spent on cigarettes. After six months and one day smoke free, you can take that cash and buy a new PC. If you smoke one day short of that, I get the cash." What? Deal. I'll show her.

I started off with the patch, and the clock didn't officially start until I was off of it. I chose the patch deliberately over gum because I believe very strongly that an addict should not be in control of their dosage. There's always a reason why today's not the day to step down or stop. I'm beyond grateful that vaping/e-cigarettes did not exist when I quit, because I would have been tempted to go that route. Everyone I know who used them to "quit" didn't quit so much as transfer habits to something else that we don't even know the long-term effects of.

Anyway, once I'd stepped off the patch, the clock started, and I was determined to get that computer. The patch helped me deal with physical dependence independently of breaking the psychological habit. It wasn't easy, but the whole setup gave me a short-term goal to pursue rather than facing the overwhelming long-term goal of never ever smoking again.

Our brains are really good at anticipating short-term rewards and punishments, and really bad at anticipating long-term rewards and punishments. Replacing the latter with the former helps. Helped me, anyway.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:44 AM on December 15, 2017

Middleclasstool's story about the bet reminded me of my father's method for quitting a bad habit or achieving a goal: he wrote an uncomfortably large check to an organization he hated (I think it was the NRA) and gave it to a friend with instructions to send it in if he fell off his particular wagon or failed to meet a target. I believe there is a website that offers a similar service.
posted by carmicha at 8:13 AM on December 15, 2017

I heard an interview with someone who talked about doing something like this with the Klan too. Said it was the only way she got through it. This withdrawal is bad, but is it giving-money-to-the-Klan bad? No.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:17 AM on December 15, 2017

Have you tried quitting before? I ask because in my experience, quitting wasn't nearly as terrible or difficult as I thought it would be. I basically just...decided I didn't feel like smoking anymore, and then I didn't. I had some mild fatigue and headaches but that's it (and the Wellbutrin should probably combat any fatigue). That's not to downplay other people's symptoms, just to say that you don't know what your personal experience will be until you try. The fear of quitting was really worse than quitting for me.

One suggestion: if you find yourself experiencing cravings, try submerging your face in cold water. There's a reason people splash their face with cold water when they're anxious - it has to do with the mammalian dive reflex which kicks in to slow your heart rate. You can also try putting an ice pack against your forehead instead. Even if you're not experiencing anxiety it can help shock you out of the craving.

I also wanted to repeat carmicha's money jar idea, because I knew a guy who used it to quit meth. Really. Every time he wanted to go score drugs (or in your case buy a pack of cigs) he would put the money he would have spent in the jar instead. He said that having a physical jar to look at, rather than leaving the money in his bank account, was really effective.

Oh, a few more things: If you're not happy with the patch, consider trying nicotine spray. A co-worker who quit at the same time as me said he liked it much better than the patch or gum for whatever reason. Also, while I let myself indulge in as much food as I wanted while I quit, I also found it helpful to replace smoke breaks with some other kind of break, like going to buy a cookie or make tea. Just sitting at my desk/couch eating didn't fill the same perceived void.

Finally, to answer your last question of whether I think you can do this, yes, yes I do.
posted by ersatzhuman at 8:15 PM on December 15, 2017

I wanted to come back to this thread where I had been lurking and thank pH Indicating Socks for posting this question, and all you wonderful people who answered. I didn’t have a firm commitment to quitting smoking when I casually started reading this, but it’s been a hazy goal for awhile. Some of the answers here really resonated (ride it like a wave!) and I guess the timing was just right, because my last cigarette was Christmas Day. I’ve half-assedly tried to quit before with dismal results, but this time it’s different.

I am using ecigs (the Vuse Vibe, which is a product of R. J. Reynolds which I find ethically less than ideal, and the nicotine in these is pretty high with no indication of such on any packaging, but works better than any of the myriad products I’ve tried before so), therefore I am not nicotine free. But ya know what? This is what I’m doing right now. It isn’t a huge money saver (though it is a bit) and it’s still a dumb habit and not ideal in any way. But it’s where I am right now, and I’m ok with that. I already feel a bit better physically and it’s do something or get progressively more ill until the damn cigarettes kill me, so here I am.

I wanted to say thanks to everyone for the (as always) excellent advice. I love you guys. And you can do it, pH!
posted by thebrokedown at 9:34 AM on January 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

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