Help me quit smoking.
April 22, 2008 10:15 PM   Subscribe

I need help to quit smoking, once and for all.

I'm 21, and I've smoked cigarettes on and off for the last nine years (yikes, that makes me feel gross). Part of my problem is that I have absolutely zero impulse control regarding cigarettes, especially if I've been drinking. Even if I've gone months without smoking or even thinking about smoking, if someone offers me a cigarette, I'll say yes 99% of the time. The only reason I'm even able to go months in the first place is that very few people at my college smoke, so when I'm there, there's little temptation to deal with. Unfortunately, most of my friends from home DO smoke, so it's impossible to avoid when I go out..and once I have a couple of cigarettes outside the bar or at a party, it doesn't seem as strange to buy a pack the next day and go back to smoking regularly like I've never stopped. I'll be at home all summer, and I'd really like to avoid picking up smoking again.
I've read Allen Carr's book. I've read all the other threads about quitting smoking. I don't think Chantix, or Wellbutrin, or any kind of nicotine replacement is the answer. I don't think gum or lollipops or chew sticks or whatever are either. Clearly it's a mental thing and not physical addiction. I guess what I'm hoping to find the answer to is this: how do I start to think of myself as a non-smoker, when I've been smoking since I was 12 and part of my identity seems wrapped up in it? How can I avoid situations where I'm tempted to smoke when the whole city I grew up in is a trigger? Any advice or anecdotes welcome.
posted by cosmic osmo to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
When I quit smoking, I used the patch but I also changed things like the route I walked to the train, so I would avoid the intersection where I always pulled out a smoke. I had to work hard to avoid the triggers so that when I got past the nicotine fits I'd still be able to resist the mental stuff. I mean, honestly, I dreamed about smoking for almost a year after I quit.

Focus on the nasty way your mouth tastes and the way everything around you stinks when you're smoking. Focus on the horrible shit you're going to cough up. Focus on how you get terrible sick at least once a winter or when finals hit.

I really don't recommend going cold turkey. I tried that at first and hell no it didn't work. At least use the patch or something to get past the actual physical symptoms, so you can focus on the mental ones.

I smoked for about five years and I've been quit for almost four. Good luck!
posted by sugarfish at 10:36 PM on April 22, 2008

I quit seven years ago at age 48 after thirty years of smoking. The first couple weeks, I put myself in position to make the transition from smoker to non-smoker as easy as possible. I used the nicotine patch, was taking Wellbutrin, and was on an Alaskan cruise and vacation that made it very difficult to smoke.

Making it through the tough physical part during that first two weeks, once back home I had to mentally become a non-smoker, as you've asked in your post. In part, it wasn't that tough in the beginning because I was in a new romantic relationship with a strongly anti-smoking girlfriend. I wanted to do it for her. Ultimately, though, for long-term cessation I had to change that thinking to doing it for myself.

I harkened back to tools and techniques I had learned when recovering from alcoholism a few years previous. I applied the 12 steps of AA to the mental aspect of smoking. Convincing myself that I wanted not to smoke more than I wanted to smoke, because there were so many good reasons not to, was the deciding factor.

After a year, it's a piece of cake. Haven't had a smoke now in seven. Best of success to you.
posted by netbros at 10:38 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

In AA, they have a saying. Don't stop drinking: just don't have that first drink.

Stopping smoking for the rest of your life, under all of these crazy tempting situations, feels very difficult and is a set up for failure. Just avoid the first drag. That's it. If you are tempted, deal with it without smoking or turning to another addiction. Avoiding situations where you are tempted is good at first, but ultimately you have to choose not to smoke. When you have difficulty making that choice, look behind the urge at what's pushing you to smoke and choose to deal with that instead. Surely you can deal with social anxiety, or a desire for intimacy during conversation, without a toxic smoking cylinder of tobacco. It's a choice you have the power to make. It's the choice all non-smokers make. It's really the only difference. It feels like you are looking for some magical difference, but that's all there is to it.

Accept that you'll feel uncomfortable during the adjustment period because you've made some stupid choices to smoke so long and choose to not put that damn cigarette in your mouth. Ever. That's the best advice I can give. I sure hope someone not as tired comes along and gives you more coherent advice.

I'd like to say one last thing though. As someone who has recently undergone lung surgery (albeit non-smoking related), and as someone who is dealing with the daily, searing pain, FOR GOD'S SAKE QUIT SMOKING! There is nothing more precious than your breath and there's little worse than lung surgery.
posted by milarepa at 10:42 PM on April 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

Forgot to mention: haven't smoked in over 5 years.
posted by milarepa at 10:44 PM on April 22, 2008

avoid going to the pub or having drinks at first. drinking and smoking always seem to go together hand in hand, and really, and obviously alcohol lowers one's inhibitions. change your patterns to avoid triggers.

it's tempting to think of having "just one" cigarette. unfortunately most real addicts can't ahve "just one", the same way alchoholics can't have "just one".

if you slip up, it doesn't mean you have to throw the whole effort away - it just means you had a slip up. you can start again the next day.

i've quit cold turkey twice now (i was a 30-a-day smoker). the first time was for 7 years - and then i thought i could have "just one". i wanted to believe i could be a social smoker... but i can't. stupidest mistake i ever made.

i've been quit again for 3 years now. eventually, you build up more expereience being a non-smoker than a smoker. that's not to say you'll never crave another one - just that when you do, you think, "i'd like one, but i don't do that anymore."

quitting cold turkey is hard - but when you do it, you can rely on that strength you've found inside yourself.

good luck - just remember to keep trying. it only has to stick once!
posted by wayward vagabond at 11:04 PM on April 22, 2008

Apparently, willpower is strengthened by steady blood sugar levels, laughter, powerful memories/perspective, and practice.
posted by eritain at 11:09 PM on April 22, 2008

I've just recently started again after 10 years of having stopped - fell for the "just one" trick wayward vagabond mentions. The way I stopped the first time was to think, well I can have one if i want, but not just now. Maybe later. It's hard and won't work every day, but then you just try again another day.

The first few days you'll be thinking that every 2 minutes but gradually getting less. And once you've done a couple of days, you can start thinking, well i can still have one but if I do i'll need to go through this pain for another 2 days to be back where I am now, whereas if I don't have one, that'll be 4 days - how cool would that be.

And also, there is NEVER a good time to stop. There will always be an excuse as to why you can't, stressful review coming up at work, big leaving do etc. Just start trying when it feels right and see how far you get.

Of course me, now I have to stop for another 10 years to be back where I was 2 months ago, but i'm a moron.
posted by jontyjago at 12:04 AM on April 23, 2008

This sounds flaky, but my housemate quit stone-cold after a hypnotherapy session. I was startled.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 12:20 AM on April 23, 2008

Hypnotherapy works for some people.

Also, tell everyone you know you are quitting. Tell them to hassle you if they see you going to smoke or smoking.

Lastly, come up with new habits and things to do instead.
posted by ewkpates at 12:46 AM on April 23, 2008

First, accept you will never quit. You may call yourself an ex-smoker, you may never smoke again for the rest of you life, but all you have done is stop. You're the only one that can stop yourself taking that next cigarette.

I quite cold turkey about two years ago. I have lapsed and had a couple in that period, though I've not bought any. Regretted it even as I was smoking it - those things really taste horrible! I couldn't even finish it, and I'd been desperate for a ciggie at the time.

Now, I don't crave them very often any more. I used to, a lot. You know what helps me personally? The pain of quitting cold turkey. This is about my 5th or 6th attempt at quitting (I'm 32). This has been the hardest yet, by far, and the first cold turkey. I am NOT becoming a smoker again because i am NOT going through this again. It's too god damn hard to inflict this on myself twice.

Just focus on the nastiness of ciggies, of the way you end up coughing all the time, or the stench of your smoked in clothes - believe me, once you get your sense of smell back, stale ciggie smoke is horrible.

It's pretty much inevitable you'll fall off the waggon at some point. The key things are 1) work really really hard NOT to take that first cigarette. Smoking that first cigarette is a clear failure, and you should beat yourself up over it.

2) think to yourself "ok, I'm a moron and had 'just one'. Now, don't be a bigger moron and go and buy some more. I'm stronger than that, I bloody hate the smell, the taste, the mess, the expense, and the morning after aftertaste. I hate that they make me feel like shit, and I really hate the cough. I hate that I was weak enough to smoke one. Not again, ok? Not again."

And repeat. Giving up the physical side of smoking is tough but bearable. Changing your mental attitude to smoking, and how accepting you are of failure to giving in to it is the only way through the mental addiction. Finding something else to do with your hands is a big help - get something you can keep in your pocket that's nice to play and fiddle with. I tend to use a velcro strip or rubber band if my hands feel restless - better than filling them with a ciggie!

Hypnotherapy is definitely worth a try, if you can. I'm apparantly not hynotisable, like a significant number of people - I'm not willing to let go enough. Friend of mine though, hynotherapy really helped him with some personal issues. It certainly doesn't work for everyone, or even a majority, but it can be helpful for some for sure.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:55 AM on April 23, 2008

If you really want to stop smoking, just do it.

I didn't really want to stop smoking but smoking /ciggarettes/ was getting to me. I didn't want to pop into a shop to buy ciggarettes anymore. I didn't like the darkened fingers. I didn't like the smell the next day. I loathed "needing" a ciggarette. I hated the cough. I found non-smokers more and more cool. Cigarettes started looking ugly to my mind.
But I liked sitting down with a coffee, newspaper and a burning twig in my hand. So, I experimented with options and settled on what was the best solution (for me). I've exchanged my 1.5 packs/day/10 year habit for 1 or 2 cigars/month. Cold turkey. I'm now a member of a good Cigar Club. We meet once a month for an evening after dinner. Excellent social network too.

I consider myself a smoker who has never attempted "quitting".

But I just don't smoke ciggarettes, I don't smoke daily, I don't cough, I don't smell, I don't need a "ciggarette break", I don't reach for a ciggarette to de-stress, I don't need a ciggarette with my beer -- for those who doesn't know my (discreet) hobby, I'm a non-smoker.

(Another friend of mine went from ciggarettes to the pipe - it fits him very well and like me, he also smokes only on special evenings. We had this smoking/identity talk before and he considers himself a smoker too, it's just that he smokes the pipe, period.)
posted by ruelle at 3:53 AM on April 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

I did EVERYTHING and nothing worked until I was on a bus a few weeks ago and witnessed a man with a hole in his throat. I went really pale immediately. I have lit up probably four times since, but my will power have improved incredibly. I have not bought in two weeks and my friends are aware of it, so they are finally helping.
posted by parmanparman at 4:05 AM on April 23, 2008

I think most people who have successfully given up cigarettes have tried to do so many times before succeeding - so you should not feel a failure or at all unusual on that count. The trick, I think, is to keep trying until you find what works for you.

What eventually worked for me was not just to stop smoking but to also throw in the idea of taking up a vigorous program or early morning exercise and go on a diet. Somehow having three challenges to undertake at once might have made me spend less time obsessing about the smoking part - or perhaps the combination just helped to get my general willpower in good shape.
posted by rongorongo at 4:28 AM on April 23, 2008

You should at least realize that 'once and for all' is a way to prepare for failure. After not smoking for a while, your first puff will break 'once and for all', and, resigned to failure, you will finish that cigarette and many more.

You do not need to stop smoking once and for all. All you need to do is not take the next puff. Even after you have taken your first puff in weeks. You can take a puff, and say to yourself "that wasn't so bad. Maybe I'll take another puff tomorrow." (This works better with borrowed cigarettes)
posted by hexatron at 4:37 AM on April 23, 2008

The Zen habits blog had a post recently about things to avoid when trying to change a habit.
posted by dhruva at 5:08 AM on April 23, 2008

No advice, sorry, just my experience as a hard-core smoker for more than a decade and loving it! Until it started to become somewhat of a social embarassment, a huge weekly expense, not to mention how my smoking hugely increased the cost of my dental healthcare and other health implications; actually, a big pain in the ass overall. So I wanted to quit. I really, really wanted to quit. Not because someone told me to, but because I WANTED IT, OK!

Finally, two years later, I was ready.

I did it on a Sunday because that would allow me to lay on the sofa the whole day not moving, not giving in to the urge to smoke. I read, I slept, I stared at the ceiling, I may have wept for what was lost. And then it was time to go to bed so I could get to work the next day and never smoke a cigarette again. Evar!1

That Sunday was one of the worst days in my life: the mental strength and resolve it took to stay on that sofa and not move, otherwise I'd make a beeline for that pack of smokes in my study, was amazing (regardless of how trivial it sounds, even in hindsight). I stayed away from pubs and parties for the first few of weeks, and kept remembering the huge effort of that whole Sunday almost motionless on the sofa.

To maintain my resolve I took up walking and running, because I didn't want to put on the extra weight usually accompanied by giving up smoking. The effort and suffering of that single day ("simply" reclining on a sofa) sustained me for the next year or so in which I experienced completely overwhelming and uncharacteristical rages at utterly insignificant incidents, and consistently had to battle one part of me trying to convince some other part of me it was OK to light up just this once -- AT EVERY POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITY! Even though with that single cigarette all the pain and struggle I'd suffered would be out the window.

BUT I'd made my decision and certainly didn't want to end up in another bottomless pit of a hellish Sunday trying to give it away, I managed to ignore and quiet those monkeys. That took about two years. They do tend to do a cameo occasionally in my dreams and I wake up feeling very guilty in the morning because I so very much enjoyed that cigarette, but that's just a dream so it's OK.

Wishing you all the best, mate. Use the gum, patches, or whatever helps you come trough the other side if that's what you really, really want. But in the end determination and steadfastness are your best friends.
posted by ponystyle at 5:14 AM on April 23, 2008

I got a best answer in a quit smoking thread a couple years ago. I still haven't smoked.
posted by popechunk at 5:27 AM on April 23, 2008

One of the NPO's I work with is sponsoring a smoking cessation class/support group. It will be based around the new Chantix drug that's supposed to be quite the miracle for some people.
posted by TomMelee at 5:30 AM on April 23, 2008

"A man is free at the moment he wishes to be." - Voltaire
posted by LakesideOrion at 5:40 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

There was someone I saw a post about the other day, I can't remember where, who decided to convert his craving for cigarettes to a craving for the DS. Took three days of locking himself in a room playing it non stop, and then playing it every time he wanted a smoke, but seemed to have worked.

I just quit smoking the other week (again), and it was probably the easiest I've had it yet. I consider myself a smoker, even when I don't smoke; it's such an ingrained habit.

The thing I think that made it easiest this time was how disgusting I was beginning to find it. Just shifting my focus over the course of a few weeks (while running quite a lot, which made me really notice how my lungs felt) to how nasty it was, meant there came a point where I just couldn't face the idea of smoking a cigarette again.

After about a week of having quit (and I guess weened myself off over the course of about 5 days) I even smoked a couple of joints while I was away, and was fine with that. Didn't reignite cravings for cigarettes at all. I've barely noticed the feeling in my throat meaning I want to smoke again.

The thing I always found the most use when quitting was gum (just normal stuff, never tried any of the nicotine replacement things) and iced water. The iced water was the only thing I ever found that at least dulled the feeling in the back of my throat for wanting a smoke. It didn't make it go away like a cigarette did, but it would at least hit that spot like nothing else would.

So, running, iced water and willpower I guess.
posted by opsin at 5:57 AM on April 23, 2008

Took my several attempts to quit... had loads of relapses, but looking back, each one seemed a bit less than the last and I made it in the end.

You will have to make a conscious mental effort to resist, at least at first. You seen realise why they advertise them (well not now in the UK) because once you quit they will all jump out at you. And any new habit takes time to get used to. However if you resist the temptation will lesser, until it trails off to zero. I've been quit over ten years and a large part of the time I forget I ever did smoke.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:11 AM on April 23, 2008

I quit after 10 years of heavy smoking, cold turkey. You really need to want to do it. I woke up one morning, told myself i was a non-smoker, and took it from there. I ate (still do) a lot of mints to keep my mouth busy, but otherwise had no help. I have had less than 5 smokes in 2 years of quitting, all on special occasions.

I am a non-smoker and can't ever see myself relapsing. Compare that to what i told a friend a month before i decided to quit... "I am a smoker and always will be. I can't ever see myself being able to sit in a pub and not have a smoke" - Things can change. You are 21, do it now or it gets a lot harder later on... Good Luck
posted by chromatist at 7:15 AM on April 23, 2008

You want to quit smoking, which has solved your first problem.

Chantix works because it binds to your nicotinic receptors, which prevents nicotine from binding to your nicotinic receptors - nicotinic receptors and muscarinic receptors are the two main receptors in your brain which bind acetylcholine, which is a major neurotransmitter for cognition. When nicotine binds to the receptors, it induces feelings of pleasure. I know of no other anti-smoking medication that does this.

I don't know much about the side effects of varenicline, because I am not a physician (even though I'm in neuroscience so I know the mechanics of how a nicotine-replacing drug works on the nervous system in theory). The effectiveness of this drug will depend on your neurochemistry .
posted by kldickson at 7:20 AM on April 23, 2008

HYpnosis. Bang. One treatment. I was a smoker for about 35 years, more or less. I wanted to quit, couldn't manage it -- went to a psychologist and got hypnotized. Had him "suggest" to me that I'd want to exercise more, eat right, etc. No problems, never went back to it.

I had a cigarette like two years ago after my divorce -- it was disgusting. I haven't smoked again. And I never will. No desire whatsoever.

I occasionally smoke, uh, certain non-tobacco products... I had the "suggestion" put to to me that that sort of smoking wouldn't make me sick. And it doesn't.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:57 AM on April 23, 2008

cosmic osmo isn't asking how to stop, he's asking how to not start again. He's able to stop, so the lock yourself in room / worst day of your life stories aren't necessary.

As for how to stay clean, I agree that avoiding drinking is probably a good idea, and even avoiding situations where you'll be tempted to smoke is not a bad one, if you really fall into the pattern that easily... If you really want to see these people, make plans to go out for dinner or something, rather than to meet at the bar. Or invite them to your house, or somewhere where it might be awkward to smoke, and they'd have to go outside by themselves, rather than it being a nice social moment you want to be involved in. Also, wherever you are, when people convene to go for a smoke, you can take that time to go to the bathroom, or if you have another activity with you, take that time to check messages or write in your notebook or something. If they are allowed to smoke inside, then twiddle something else in your hands.

Smoking can easily turn into a nice social thing, and then it can just seem like a little treat for yourself or something, so you do have to focus on the negative to remind yourself why you do not want it. You can decide how important drinking and hanging out at the bar are in comparison to not smoking, and then consider how much effort it will take you to go and not fail to stay off the tobacco, and make your choices accordingly. But remember that you make all the choices from start to finish - as soon as you decide to go to the bar, you are putting yourself closer to a situation where you are more likely to fail. Be aware of the chain of decisions, the habits and environments as well as that final absolute moment when you make the big choice to take the cigarette or not.
posted by mdn at 8:00 AM on April 23, 2008

I think what people often fail to say is smoking is great. One smoke with a scotch, or driving fast late at night, is really wonderful.

But the problem is the cigarette manufacturers have turned the cigarette into poison in an effort to maintain market share. So smoking now is in a sense a capitulation to evil.

Think about when you smoke - is it first thing in the morning? At bars? Different places? Stop smoking at one place first, say in the bedroom, or driving, or whatever. Then stop smoking at the next place, or time of day, or mood.

it is a long process. I was able to stop drinking cold turkey, but smoking took me many years. I still smoke one every few months. Then I wake up the next morning, and I know it will be even longer between last night and next time.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 8:10 AM on April 23, 2008

My only advice is not to take Chantix because a friend of mine had a psychotic episode on it while trying to quit smoking and he's dead now. YMMV.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:19 AM on April 23, 2008

You don't say why you want to quit. I think the 'why' is the most important part. If you're just doing it because it sounds like a good idea, there's not much incentive. You have to really want to. Then you just stop. You stop smoking by not smoking.

It sounds like you don't have a problem with the chemical part of the withdrawal, so no need for patches or gum. But if you've been smoking since you were 12, you have pretty much built your life around smoking. You need something to do during the time you used to be smoking. I think you can see that you can't 'just have one'. Some people can. I can't, and it sounds like you can't either. Telling your friends you're stopping should help, although some 'friends' treat that like it's some kind of insult to them.

You might still be able to hang out in bars with your friends if you get it into your head that you don't want to smoke. (I love second-hand smoke) Just don't ever think you can 'just have one'. Ever. (unless you want to start up where you left off- which you may want to do)
posted by MtDewd at 8:24 AM on April 23, 2008

Go find the most foul cigarettes you can find and smoke them for a month, till they're literally causing you to throw up. Chain smoke 'em if you need to. Getting ill over them is the point.

Then quit, slap on a patch for the physical symptoms if you need it, and adopt a zero tolerance approach. Don't even hold a cig for a friend. If someone else's smoke is blowing towards you, move. If you're in a bar and have the thought to have one, feel free to... but only the foul ones that made you sick. Don't avoid your triggers, map them to nothing! It's you whose in charge, not the damn cigarettes.

I quit drinking for 3 months a month or two in. That helped too. Seven years and I've thought of starting again once. Lasted a whole 15 seconds or so, then I went back to enjoying the fresh air, sound of the ocean, girl whose hand I was holding, and sun beating down on us. Haven't a had a cold in 5 years either. Bring it.
posted by jwells at 8:47 AM on April 23, 2008

Read this book:

The Easy Way to Quit Smoking - Alan Carr.

The book was actually recommended in another askme thread. I picked it up and didn't read it for a while. I finally did and it really worked. I had smoked for 15 years and had quit several times for different lengths of time. So, the idea of going through all that again for something that probably wouldn't take again was very disheartening. But, reading the book really kind of hit the reset switch on my brain. He's not going to tell you anything you don't already know and he's not going to try to scare the crap out of you. What he does do is take a look at all the reasons why you smoke and all the reason why you think you need or enjoy cigarettes and breaks them down for you.

When I recommend this book to my friends who are still smoking and they look at me like I'm crazy. They don't think a book is going to work. But, everyone I've given it to who has actually read it has quit smoking AND is still off the smokes. So, if you really do want to quit, I think that this book and this method can really help.

You need to realize that you're not giving anything up. You're only gaining remarkable improvements in your life.
posted by trbrts at 9:00 AM on April 23, 2008

I know a great way to stop smoking. Start looking at faces of people to guess if they smoke. You can tell from the skin if they smoke or not.
posted by markovich at 10:17 AM on April 23, 2008

It was about three years after I had my last smoke that my brain quit smoking. The intervening time, I allowed myself to be bitter that I wasn't smoking, pissy that I couldn't have a smoke, mournful, grieveful, whatever- as long as I didn't actually smoke. That psychological hold is hard to break, and it really helped me to just be angry about giving up something I still enjoyed. Indulge the stages of grief, that's my advice.
posted by headspace at 11:16 AM on April 23, 2008

I quit two years ago and what's helped me is reminding myself how much quitting sucked. This obviously won't work for you if you have been able to quit pretty easily. When I got a craving, I made myself think about how horrible the cravings were those first few days, how long it took me to stop reaching into my bag for the cigarettes at various pre-ordained times, and how I would stare longingly at the smokers on the sidewalk. It took a long time before I could stop reminding myself and just didn't want cigarettes anymore.

Even so, I don't know how I would respond if I had to spend a whole lot of time around a smoker--that hasn't happened to me yet. In the early months of quitting, I limited my exposure to bars, and wasn't living in the same city as any of my smoker friends. When I was at a bar and was asked if I wanted to go out for a smoke, I would force myself to think about quitting and how much I didn't want to have to do that EVER again.
posted by Mavri at 11:53 AM on April 23, 2008

In your MetaTalk thread you seemed to think people weren't answering your question as asked. I hope in my response, that I in fact did. Perhaps you wanted objective specifics, like don't pick up the lighter, but look a little deeper into some of the answers given. It isn't objective science. It's experiential.
posted by netbros at 12:33 PM on April 23, 2008

To try and answer your actual question, here's the unbelievably trite, lame and banal thing that worked for me:

Don't think of it as quitting, or of yourself as someone who is "quitting smoking." Think of yourself as an ex-smoker. It's something you used to do, now you don't any more.
It sounds moronic, but I found that little shift quite powerful.
(Also, I finally really genuinely wanted to be done with it as opposed to thinking reluctantly I really should stop.)
It's only been two months but it really seems to have taken this time, she said, knocking wood.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:00 PM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I quit about a year ago (after about 18 years of it) and one thing that helped me a lot was to completely avoid it for a couple of months. I didn't go outside and hang out with my friends when they smoked, I didn't go to bars, nothing.

After that, the mere smell of smoke now turns me off. Seriously, just being around it makes me feel a bit sick, so I predict that there is a pretty much zero chance of recidivism for me.

I can go outside with my others when they smoke now, I just need to stay upwind from them.

The biggest problem that people told me I was going to have to deal with was what to do when having a drink, I mean, the two just seem to go hand in hand, right?

The answer was simple: Peanuts. Salted peanuts. They work great. It might be transference, or whatever, but that's fine. Peanuts are cheap, and not nearly as bad for me.
posted by quin at 1:44 PM on April 23, 2008

Those of us who started preteen tend to have a really difficult time of it, even beyond the ordinary, high relapse rate for smoking in general.

Mental attitude is the only thing that has gotten me anywhere long term. One thing is, I threw out any attitude suggesting I could not control the impulse to smoke (e.g. I have absolutely zero impulse control regarding cigarettes). It is a choice, every cigarette is a choice, even if you're drinking, even if you're drunk (though obviously your intelligence, your only effective weapon against making the wrong choice, becomes increasingly useless with increasing impairment).

A strange part of this for me was that I had to stop trying to wrap my brain around the idea that I couldn't, absolutely no way under absolutely any circumstances, smoke ever again, never ever. Because that's B.S. Smoking is cheap and legal, I can smoke any time I want to. You have to deal with that fact. You have to know deep down that the only final arbiter of whether you smoke or not is your decision, your active will.

This gets you out of speculative territory (the idea "I'll never smoke another cigarette as long as I live" can never be a decision, only an intention, and it's essentially just an abstraction) and into basic pragmatism ("what do I need to do to not have a cigarette today?").

How do I then make the right decision when I sometimes really might not want to, or more correctly, when doing so gives me very bad feelings I would much rather not be feeling? Obvious things - don't buy cigarettes, I know, duh, but seriously - how many times have you bought cigarettes with some sort of inane, half-articulated nonsense in your brain about how this pack of cigarettes was somehow part of some plan to not smoke anymore? Assuming the mental acrobatics you go through when you're quitting-but-not-exactly-quitting are as tortuously double-thinky as mine were. So I have a basic mental signpost: if I'm buying cigarettes, I'm full of shit about not smoking. It may not have always stopped me but it at least gets me into reality with it, which is the only place rational thinking and decision making can really be managed.

How do I make the right decision? Obvious things, don't buy cigarettes, don't have them around the house, tell everyone you hang out with and smoke with that you have quit, period and please don't offer you cigarettes or ask if you want to go and smoke. Mental and word games. Put it in the past tense no matter how phony it might ring to your unconvinced mind, veteran as it is of many failed campaigns. How do I start to think of myself as a non-smoker? Dumb as it sounds, think "I'm an ex-smoker." If you talk or write about it put it in the past tense. When I smoked. When I was a smoker. Before I quit.

Something that is important to me is to focus on that desire to be a non-smoker. The fact that I still sometimes want to smoke is of course hard to contend with, but I find it easier when I recognize the reality that it is possible to want to be a non-smoker and to want to smoke at the same time, but that you can't fulfill one expectation without losing the other. If I can focus on the positive desire to be a person who doesn't smoke, even if I'm not quite sure what being that person feels like, I can ride out the desire to smoke, which is usually (and increasingly over time) brief as long as I don't dwell on it.

I try to mentally amplify and reinforce positive feelings about having quit (concrete stuff, not stinking, better singing voice, whatever you really identify with) and consciously oppose nostalgic, deceptive thoughts about smoking (it often helps, if I'm mooning over the good ol' days, to bring to mind some of the many available vivid memories of myself painfully smoking while wretchedly and egregiously ill - stuff that is nothing but straight up, pathetic substance abuse behavior). Consciously thinking of not smoking as a compassionate act of being kind to and caring for myself helps. I know it sounds a little precious. But it's not. It's not wrong to want the best for yourself, it's not wrong to believe yourself worthy of being taken care of and I found, getting past my bristly tough-guy exterior, that it was perfectly natural to feel a decision-reinforcing positive response to acknowledging that I was taking proper care of myself.

I don't know if I'm communicating it very well or just at irritating length: I find I have to specify, verbalize, really drill into the exact nuances of what I think makes sense about not smoking and not allowing any romantic conceit about the fact that wanting to smoke is about a habit I drilled deep into my brain at a very young age. I could go on for pages because it's a really devious, sticky, insinuating habit. And nothing I could say about how I've thought about it can mask the core reality that doing it involves unavoidable, periodic moments where I feel a strong desire and have to make a decision that totally bums me out and might very well, on some occasions, sort of ruin an evening out. A real drag, in other words. If I could bottle the essence of how you get through a decision like that, I would be a rich man.
posted by nanojath at 2:12 PM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

My dad quit after 30-odd years of smoking (started when he was 12 or so), and he found 3 things helpful the final time that he quit. (He had quit many times.)

1. He used the cigarette money for something else. He took all the money he usually used for cigarettes and put it in a savings account. This money went to something nice just for him, as a reward for quitting.

2. He quit coffee at the same time. He blamed all the cravings on the coffee, and drank water instead. He was practically drowning in water, but he never went back to either addiction.

3. The biggest thing: He got mad. He researched how cigarettes affect you, how the 'high' works. (It's been a long time, and this is second-hand, but here's a rough sketch of what he says about this.) He figured out that the 'high' isn't a high at all. He learned that nicotine addiction causes a low, and when you smoke you go back up to normal levels and then start dropping off, and you can only get back to normal levels by having another cigarette, which then feels like a high. His addiction was tricking him. This pissed him off. This pissed him off enough to loathe cigarettes.

Basically, my dad didn't get a non-smoker's attitude, he got a "No, fuck YOU, nicotine!" attitude.

It's been around 15 years since he quit. I've gotten him to drink one cup of coffee since then, and that was a couple of months ago. No cigarettes, though. He's still pissed off.
posted by heatherann at 2:21 PM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

cosmic osmo: "how do I start to think of myself as a non-smoker, when I've been smoking since I was 12 and part of my identity seems wrapped up in it? How can I avoid situations where I'm tempted to smoke when the whole city I grew up in is a trigger? "

Your new identity is not of a "smoker." This leaves two identities: "non-smoker" and "ex-smoker." You, like many people posting here, as well as myself, have been addicted to cigarettes. We are "ex-smokers." Why "ex-smoker"? Because it differentiates you from your casual-smoker allegedly "non-smoking" buddies who can bum a cigarette now and then. That's very nice that they can go out to the bar and have one per week/month/blahblah.... YOU CAN'T. You are an ex-smoker. You are not them. You got hooked. You used up your lifetime of casual non-smokerly smoking by continuing to smoke once you left the bar. You blew it. and yeah it's so hard, and so unfair, and you so just want one.... NO. SUCK IT UP. YOU CAN'T SMOKE.

Yes it's hard. Quitting is hard. That is a fact. It gets easier, but does it ever totally go away? For some people, maybe, but for most people, no. That's why people quit for two, ten, twenty-five years, and suddenly start up again. Because QUITTING SMOKING IS HARD. Because being an EX-smoker is hard.

Your city is a "trigger"? Why? Because you used to smoke there. USED TO. What happens to the city when you don't smoke? Does it cease to exist or get blotted out of the past when you don't smoke? No. So why smoke? What does that solve? Oh, right, it solves the fact that YOU WANT TO SMOKE. Why? Because you're an ADDICT. Cross-reference previous paragraph. Rephrase "triggers" as "excuses to start smoking" to put it in perspective.

That internal dialog, in various permutations, is what helps me stay an ex-smoker.
Good luck.
posted by NikitaNikita at 3:26 PM on April 23, 2008

Stay away from booze. Don't deprive yourself of breaks just because you no longer smoke.
posted by owhydididoit at 5:43 PM on April 23, 2008

I wish I could give you better advice, but I can't really speak from any sense of moral authority: I fell off the non-smoker wagon about 4 months ago. I smoked for 10 years, though the first years were quite light, maybe a couple cigs a week. Last summer I was up to almost a pack a day, and was ready to quit. I was angry about it, too, that I wanted to quit but lacked the willpower to do so. Then I ran across Alan Carr's book, and that did it. He does a good job annoying you enough that you agree to quit. So I did, and I stopped for 6 months. I followed Carr's advice, except for a few things. He says don't substitute smoking with a crutch, like gum, but I found this a bit stupid, and I chewed a pack a gum a day and found that really helped. Overall, I found it was easy to quit unless I smelled cigarette smoke, doubly so if I smelled it while drinking coffee, an order of magnitude moreso if I was drinking. So bars were a lethal combo of drinks and cigarette temptation. I also got married around this time, and we have cut down on our partying and barhopping, so avoiding bars wasn't a big problem.

At the 3 month mark, drunk at a party, I took a drag off a cigarette for the hell of it and it freakin' hurt. And it was the brand I used to smoke! It didn't make me want to smoke, but the thought kept crossing my mind. Fast forward another 3 months, around New Year's, and I start really craving a cigarette. I don't really know why. My wife used to smoke, but when she quit, she was a rabid anti-smoker within a couple of months, and very quickly grew to detest the smell of cigarette smoke. I had quit, but I still liked the smell. It made me want to smoke.

So I've started again. It's nowhere near my almost-pack-a-day just before I quit, maybe 5 a day at the most, but nonetheless I feel rather stupid about it. One of Carr's maxims in the book is, once you've decided to quit, don't ever smoke ever again, not one drag, because he'd heard from hundreds, thousands of people who had quit for years, but just one drag started a slow spiral back to the old habit. I can feel myself doing this, but I do want to stop it.

I'm going to read Carr's book again, and I suggest you do the same. It's really a matter of someone ordering you to do something, and you obeying the order, so if you can get over that, then Carr's book will change the way you think about things. He even says in the book something like "if when you finish this book and don't feel like quitting, read it again". He's saying that if you follow his logic and agree with what he says, then you won't want to smoke anymore. It works, though humans being the weak-willed creatures they sometimes are (case in point: me), it can fall apart over time.

Good luck! To both of us!
posted by zardoz at 12:11 AM on April 24, 2008

like someone up there said, you don't quit- you stop. if you say "i quit" you brain knows "that's a lie, you said that a zillion times and you smoke again" if you say "i'm not smoking NOW" your brain says "that's true". if a smoking situation arises - bars, social etc, tell yourself "not right now". don't add "maybe later" at the end. it's simply "not right now" the implied "later" is in the future- which never comes. it's always NOW. when you feel the 'urge' substitute two deep inhales/exhales. and i do something that nobody else suggest... i don't tell anybody that i stopped smoking. i hate re-formed smokers smugness. and think about it- what did you think when someone told you they quit smoking? i would immediately feel guilty and skeptical. do you want the guilty vibes from the smokers, and the hallaluhias from the non-smokers? don't take the first one.
posted by karl88 at 12:15 PM on July 16, 2008

« Older How do I figure out mortality statistics for...   |   From A to B Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.