I need help
January 25, 2008 11:16 PM   Subscribe

I now have a week before I start work and I am really, really desperate to quit smoking once and for all.

I have quit smoking three times before, the longest for four months using the Alan Carr method. When I don't smoke I am militaristic about not smoking and now I feel like a total hypocrite. I hate that I am smoking again and am wheezing now with a cold. Frankly, I am sick of the habit but can't stop it for more than a day and demanding myself into a drug store for a pack and a lighter. When I get home, I run the pack under the faucet and throw it in the trash, then the next day buy a fresh pack and start again. I want a truly fresh start in my new job and for the new year. I am reading the book again but I really need some one, some thing that's going to help me quit for good and for the longest term possible: the rest of my life.
posted by parmanparman to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Chantix works for me. Good luck!
posted by amyms at 11:17 PM on January 25, 2008

My Dad recently became a grandfather and decided it was time to quit. He used Chantix and broke a 40 year 3 pack a day habit. They aren't miracle pills though, the cravings are the least of your worries. The habits are the hardest to break, and what to do with your hands. Find non-destructive replacements.
posted by sanka at 11:23 PM on January 25, 2008

Patches worked for me (so far.... 15 months in), but I'm not sure what you're really asking.

If you haven't tried patches, they're a huge help.
posted by pompomtom at 11:24 PM on January 25, 2008

"now I feel like a total hypocrite"

This is part of the problem, not the solution. I quit smoking in much the same way you describe above. It's not ideal and it is more painful than cold turkey (something like creeping into cold water rather than jumping in) but as long as your consumption is decreasing over time, you are making progress. Don't let your addiction trick you into admitting failure over relapse, just take two steps forward for every step back.

A few tips:
- When you relapse, focus on the negative effects you perceive from smoking, and associate them with the act of smoking itself. A cold is probably the ideal time for this because smoking with a cold really makes you feel like crap and increases the severity.

- Take up an aerobic activity such as walking or running that will highlight the progress your cardiovascular system makes as you rebound from the effects of smoking. It will also help highlight the negative effects of a relapse.

- Brush your teeth immediately after every meal to kill the taste-craving. Plus, its good for your teeth! Chewing sugarless gum can help with cravings too.

-Just stay away from smokers and smoking situations for a while.

Good luck, it's well worth it.
posted by Manjusri at 11:46 PM on January 25, 2008

I am now 24 days without a cigarette after a 15 year, pack-a-day habit. I have been using the Commit lozenges and they have been great. They've really helped eliminate the patterns I'd developed (lighting up immediately after meals, the second I get behind the wheel, etc.).

I'd be happy to speak at greater length via MeMail or email, which is in my profile.
posted by Roach at 11:49 PM on January 25, 2008

Chantix worked for me too, and it works fast. Weird dreams, though.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:49 PM on January 25, 2008

err cardiovascular = respiratory (though there are cardiovascular benefits, they aren't quite as obvious).
posted by Manjusri at 11:52 PM on January 25, 2008

Quitting smoking is different for everybody. There's the drugs (wellbutrin, Chantrix etc) which I have heard really good things about. There's NRT (nicotine replacement therapy - I personally preferred patches over the gum and the dreams were extraordinary but so was the skin rashes). There's oral play (hard candy and cinnamon sticks and cold water). There's cold turkey (my personal favourite). And then there's the support of other people quitting smoking and there's a lot of websites out there, where people are experiencing exactly what you're going through and are willing to talk about it incessantly.

Most people don't quit on the first try. I took about 40 attempts but I'm two years quit now. What I can tell you about my final quit is it was finally about making a choice, a decision and not entertaining any alternatives. When I felt like smoking, I said no, and tried to make the craving less painful by a number of means - distracting myself, drinking water, deep breathing, and finally mindfulness - really accepting and experiencing the craving - which really, rarely lasts more than 5 minutes and is much less painful than a broken leg or going through labor.

Askme has lots of good resources pointing to lots of other good resources.

OH and you can stop for more than a day. You have in the past. But right now, you're choosing to frame this like it's an impossibility. What would be truer to say is, you lose motivation after a day and light up again, or whatever - I don't know, I'm not in your skull. But not smoking for that second day is not going to kill you, so, you know, change how you say that, or you won't be able to achieve it.
posted by b33j at 12:15 AM on January 26, 2008

Start reading WhyQuit and don't stop! Never take another puff!
posted by evariste at 12:42 AM on January 26, 2008

You sound like you want to quit, that's a good frame of mind to be in.

Quitting smoking was the hardest thing I have ever done, and because of this I feel like I can achieve much more- I got a real confidence boost.

Few tricks that helped me.

See if you can go 24 hours without smoking. If you do this, you can easily tell yourself you can do another 24 hours. Then another 24 hours etc etc. Break it down into time blocks.

You will feel amazingly proud after a couple of days.

36 hours and your body will no longer 'need' nicotene. If you're really hurtin', go for a walk.

Do anything that you aren't doing when the urge strikes.

The urges diminish quite rapidly after a week.

You will start noticing little things, ie you won't stink anymore. You will enjoy smelling your fingers, they won't smell smokey (this was a big thing for me).

Nicotene patches won't help you get over nicotene, avoid them.

People say that every ex smoker is just one puff away from taking up the habbit again. Bullshit. I never think about cigarettes uinless I have to share a train platform or a bus stop with a smoker, I find smoke really unpleasant.

And remember, smoking makes no sense at all, after you quit you will realise just how little pleasure you were actually deriving from it.

I love beer, and this was a big factor in me not wanting to quit, but beer taste wonderful, and smoking is banned in pubs here now, so even better.
posted by mattoxic at 4:59 AM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

For me, it was a combination of wellbutrin and deciding to quit on a day I knew I COULD NOT SMOKE - Christmas Day (I'd convinced my husband I'd quit smoking three months previous, we were going to be together the entire day, if I tried he'd know and I would be so busted).

So I would use your first day on the new job as a good starting point.

(The first time I quit, back in December '95, I used nicotine patches and they worked. [I started again in June 2002 because of a big huge honkin' ball of stress with which I had to deal. I quit again 12/24/02 and haven't had one since.])
posted by Lucinda at 5:47 AM on January 26, 2008

I quit again 12/24/02 and haven't had one since

It's funny you say that. I took up smoking on Christmas Eve 2004.
posted by parmanparman at 6:48 AM on January 26, 2008

I got through the first couple of weeks because I was broke and could not afford to buy another pack of cigarettes.

So, here's my suggestion. Take out enough cash to cover the bare essentials (groceries, gas, etc) for the next two weeks. Transfer all the rest of your money to an account like ING direct so that it takes 3 days to get at it. Put your credit cards on ice. Now, if you crack and buy a pack of cigarettes, you will have to pay cash and either starve or not get to work.

Before you start work is a great time to quit smoking. However, the first day is a bad time to quit smoking. I quit cold turkey and was incredibly irritable for the first week, my coworkers were lucky to live. Best to get over part of the early hump before you subject other people to your inevitable misery. The misery is temporary, the benefits of quitting are permanent.

After the first couple of weeks, the thing that kept me from backsliding was the thought of having to suffer the first couple of weeks from hell over again. I quit in November 2004.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:00 AM on January 26, 2008

i do still smoke socially, so take this with as much salt as you like, but what i did was cut down SLOWLY.

i spent a week figuring out my smoking schedule and developing a strict routine (i might smoke a pack a day, but each cigarette at its appointed time--no extras or deviations). once i did that, i figured out which cigarette i wanted/needed the least. i would cut that one out for a week. then the next week, i'd cut another one out. etc. etc. about halfway through, you may notice that you are ready to cut more than one cigarette out at a time, as you become less addicted and more sensitized to the smoke. go for it, but don't beat yourself up if it doesn't last. just stick to the number you are supposed to be on.

so, from smoking a pack a day, it took 20 weeks to get down to one cigarette a day. at which point i really wasn't addicted to the nicotine, just the pleasant routine of having a cigarette before bed. which i sometimes still do, but i can skip it without consequence.

also, i wouldn't let myself smoke inside, so that helped, especially since it was wintertime, and if i felt tempted to break my resolve, i knew i would have to get bundled up and go outside to do it--which was usually unpleasant enough to deter me.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:01 AM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

oh, and this was three years ago and still going strong.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:07 AM on January 26, 2008

Zyban worked great for me. Took it for two weeks, and stopped cold turkey; although you continue to take it for a few months. I've no cravings whatsoever for 10 years. If it weren't for the residual smoker's cough I still have, it's as if I never started.

It did make me antsy, but it wasn't a big deal, however my sister tried it and she had to quit, saying she couldn't even drive while on it. A friend of mines wife took it after seeing me quit, and not only did she quit smoking, but lost weight as well. She said it made her feel good (it's an anti-depressant)...didn't want to stop taking it. She hasn't smoked in over 9 years.
posted by JABof72 at 7:22 AM on January 26, 2008

I used Chantix. I think I'm somewhere around 10 months at this point. I posted a fairly detailed description here and further down that post, if you're interested.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:56 AM on January 26, 2008

The Easy Way to Stop Smoking: Join the Millions Who Have Become Nonsmokers Using the Easyway Method - Allen Carr

I don't personally smoke, but my friend bought that book (12 year smoker), and utterly quit smoking when he finished it, no cravings, nothing, he gave it to another friend (20yr+ smoker) and he quit.
I tend to cringe when I hear about self-help books, but I ordered the book for my mum (~35 year smoker) anyway.

She read the book-- She's totally clear now, again, no cravings. That's the best present I'll ever be able to get my mother, and it cost me ten quid.

She sends the book to her sister (30 year smoker).. same, quit, no cravings.

It seems to work-- get the book. Only suggestion on top of that, is, read the book. Don't skim it, read it from cover to cover, even if you are a self-help cringer (the 20yr smoker gave up after about 10 pages, until my mate annoyed him enough to finish the book)

From what I've heard, the book helps you to realise that you're not giving anything up by not smoking, you actually gain by not doing it. Most quitters still *want* a cig, they'll avoid a bar because of it, they'll miss the feel of it in their hands, they feel like they've lost something they enjoyed. This book seems to change your viewpoint, so you no longer have that outlook.
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:00 AM on January 26, 2008

Crap..I just reread that post of mine and realized that important info is missing: a day or two later, I simply forgot to have a cigarette, and that was that.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:01 AM on January 26, 2008

Quitting smoking often takes several (hundred) tries, but if you really want to not be a smoker anymore, it will eventually work. The patch does help. My husband kept trying and failing for more than two years before he finally stopped a year ago. It's important not to get frustrated if you fail. Keep trying. Don't get too discouraged if it doesn't work out for you by the time you start your new job.

Good luck!
posted by Koko at 12:03 PM on January 26, 2008

When I got a new apartment in 2001 I wouldn't' smoke in it. In March 2002, I would myself standing outside, in the rain, with a cold smoking. I was coughing and wheezing and hating myself for continuing with a dirty habit that killed my mother at age 41. I went upstairs, crushed the last half of the pack and have never smoked again. Before that, I had tried quitting for ages with no results. Prior to that, I had some success with only rolling my own cigarettes and not allowing myself to roll them in advance. This method kept me from grabbing a cig while driving (the place I wanted them most) and made my fingers and everything else stink like nothing else.

What this all means is that nothing will help until you REALLY want to quit. It is tough, but damn, it was the best decision I ever made. 6 years later I feel so much better, and at age 42 I play pick-up soccer matches and don't get winded.

Good luck.
posted by terrapin at 12:13 PM on January 26, 2008

would = found. grrr.
posted by terrapin at 12:17 PM on January 26, 2008

Oh, and no matter how many times I get drunk and want "just one," I don't. Because smoking is like many other additions. You have that addiction even when you stop using the drug. You can't have just one and be a non-smoker.
posted by terrapin at 12:20 PM on January 26, 2008

Brush your teeth immediately after every meal to kill the taste-craving. Plus, its good for your teeth!

This is a brilliant idea. I quit about three weeks ago and I only really feel the twinge after supper - this should sort that out. Thanks, Manjusri!

(By the way, I used the Allen Carr method, whcih worked a treat. YMMV.)
posted by WPW at 12:33 PM on January 26, 2008

I tried quitting a few times using nicotine replacement (gum, patch), and would say that's definitely the wrong route for you. You need to go cold turkey. Everything you describe screams big-time nicotine addiction. You'd probably end up like my mom did, addicted to nicotine gum for years.

You say the Alan Carr method worked for you before, but you started smoking again, and went right back into the addiction. I quit with the Alan Carr method a few years ago. The trick I used to get past the hardest cravings was to buy some herbal cigarettes. That way when you cave into your cravings, you're not actually getting any nicotine, so you're still beating the addiction. Plus they taste terrible, so it helped me develop an aversion to the actual act of smoking at the same time.

So that's what I'd recommend. Read the book again. Remember that smoking is nothing more than feeding a drug addiction, and there's nothing enjoyable about the actual act of smoking. Smoke an herbal cigarette if you are overwhelmed by your cravings to reinforce that idea.
posted by team lowkey at 1:36 PM on January 26, 2008

B33j's advice is spot on.

I quit 5 1/2 years ago after a fifteen-year, two-pack a day habit. I used the help of the American Lung Association's program Freedom from Smoking, which is a free, online program with built-in support in the form of forums. It's basically a curriculum - you plan for your quit attempt, do some writing, make some preparations, then put strategies in place for the cravings. It also provides plenty of information about cravings and dependency, helping you get a CBT-style grip on why you feel what you feel when you quit - which, for me, made it more manageable.

But the reason it works, when it works, is that this program causes you to make that serious commitment: to wake up each day and say 'no matter what happens, I will not smoke today.' At times, for me, that had to dial back to 'no matter what happens, I will not smoke for the next 10 minutes,' and just keep repeating that. You have to really hit a point where you want to not smoke more than you want to smoke, and then go after and stomp into submission that little voice inside your head that keeps saying but I really want to smoke so in case this doesn't work I'm still gonna hang around waiting for a weak moment.

But I cannot recommend that program highly enough. Take a look and give it a chance if you think it might be for you.

It's true that it takes a smoker, on average, 6-8 quit attempts to achieve a permanent end to the habit. Since that's an average, yes, it does mean some people manage the very first or second time, while others do take 40 or 50 times. FFS emphasizes that each time you manage to quit, even for a day, you learn a great deal about your own addition and about what pitfalls are likely to trip you up. And then you can plan better for next time. I tried a bunch of ways - cold turkey, Wellbutrin, gum - and finally only FFS stuck. My personal addiction to cigarettes was entrenched and complicated and all bound up with identity, so I needed more of a multi-pronged approach, and this really worked.

You do say you're starting a new job next week. It would be awesome if you can quit that quickly. But new jobs are stressful. Quitting alone requires a lot of energy and attention, and that can be harder when you have a new job to worry about. Just make sure you aren't biting off so much at once that you're setting yourself up to fail. It helped that my final successful quit attempt was made at a time in my life when my job and personal life were in pretty stable places - no crises. But it's not impossible if you're really motivated. Good luck!
posted by Miko at 3:14 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

This may sound silly, but it really helps to have a visual cues/records of your success. Frame your last pack of cigarettes (empty) ina shadow box. Award yourself a gold star in your calendar every day; you'll enjoy seeing them line up. Put $5 everyday into an envelope and plan how to use the money for something special just for you. Buy and wear a bracelet or ring you can look at to remind you of your effort. etc.
posted by carmicha at 5:26 PM on January 26, 2008

WRT the Alan Carr book: it did nothing for me, because I didn't really read it. But when a mate lent it to me and I left it sitting in the loungeroom, and my flatmate read it and quit within a fortnight. Got to be worth a look.

Also: reading over this thread it seems I disagree with just about everything mattoxic has to say on this issue (the smoking, not the beer), so I suppose you should try just about everything!
posted by pompomtom at 7:31 PM on January 31, 2008

(and, FWIW, good luck!!)
posted by pompomtom at 7:32 PM on January 31, 2008

Well, I managed four days and now I'm off the wagon. I'm trying again tomorrow night.
posted by parmanparman at 7:21 PM on February 6, 2008

parmanparman, I'm sorry to hear that. Maybe this insight will help you: the physical withdrawal from nicotine only lasts for 72 hours. Anything you feel after that is purely mental! So you were already past the worst of it when you gave in to purely imaginary pangs of desire. Maybe now that you know this, it'll help you not give in to it next time. Drink lots of fruit juice during the first three days to stabilize your blood sugar and to excrete the nicotine from your system faster (which will help you get over withdrawal faster).

My info is from WhyQuit, which was instrumental in helping me quit.

Good luck! And I sincerely hope you don't wait until tomorrow night to quit again. You are only hurting yourself more by delaying your quit, prolonging it, and going through withdrawal a second time. Throw the smokes you bought out. Your mantra is "Never take another puff"! You can do this!
posted by evariste at 11:05 PM on February 6, 2008

Keep this in mind after you quit for the second time: if you give in to your mental desire a third time, you will have to go through a three-day physical withdrawal for a third time. The most economical course of action, the kindest thing you can do for yourself, is to stay quit and never take another puff.

Quitting smoking is a process of breaking habits. You probably had a thousand occasions in life where you habitually smoked a cigarette. Finishing a phone call, drinking a beer, wanting to reward yourself after solving a problem at work, after sex, after a nice big meal, while on hold on the phone, while stuck in rush hour traffic. Quitting smoking is a process of breaking dozens to hundreds of habits. Every single time you encounter a situation where you used to smoke, you'll want to smoke again until you've broken that particular habit. Smoking isn't one habit, it's hundreds of them! That's why it's so hard to quit. It insinuates itself into every aspect of your life, and becomes part of your daily coping mechanism.

Knowledge is power. Without these insights I'm sharing with you, I'm not sure I would have quit successfully. With them, I know that I'll never start smoking again, because I understand why I want to smoke and I know that it's counterproductive and self-defeating.
posted by evariste at 11:10 PM on February 6, 2008

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