How to give up smoking
I smoked for seven years, averaging a packet a day. I was completely addicted to nicotine and the cigarette habit for a time. It's now been fourteen years since I last had a cigarette. Here's how I did it.
You have to really want to do it
Giving up smoking is extremely difficult, as anyone who's tried will know. The only real way to be successful is to really want to give up. You have to be completely fed up with the habit - with feeling sick all the time, having your mouth taste horrible, and smelling of stale smoke. Of course, your addiction will try to convince you that you like smoking and don't want to give up. But deep inside your soul, past all the chemical dependency, you must believe that quitting smoking is what you really want.
Realize the time is never going to be perfect
A lot of people wait for the "perfect" situation to give up smoking. They say they can't give up today because things are too stressful, they don't feel right, they're living in the wrong house, or any number of other reasons. Realize that the situation is never going to be perfect and just get on with it.
Go cold turkey
The only way to quit smoking that I found successful was to completely stop. Cutting down doesn't work, and it would be surprising if you last more than a few days using this strategy. Switching to lower tar cigarettes also doesn't do any good. You have to stop, and put up with the discomfort until it goes away. There's no other way that I've ever seen that works.
Get all the help you can
When I finally successfully gave up smoking, I used nicotine patches to take the edge off. There are many other solutions available such as nicotine chewing gum and sweets. These things all help, but there is no easy way to quit smoking. Use them to make it easier, but don't pretend to yourself that they're going to do all the work for you.
See it as a competition between yourself and your addiction
View giving up as a test of your will. It's you versus a shadowy opponent in a game where your life is at stake. Be determined to come out on top in this battle of spirits.
Have ways of distracting yourself when the cravings hit
For the first few days of giving up smoking, the cravings for a cigarette can be almost constant. After that, they tend to come in waves. Have ways of distracting yourself from them. It needs to be something that completely absorbs you. Try going for a walk, seeing a movie at the cinema, reading a book, or going for a swim. Avoid doing things you used to do while smoking, such as watching television or talking on the phone. Take it half an hour at a time, telling yourself "if I can just keep myself distracted for half and hour the craving will go away".
Avoid places where people smoke
Having others smoke around you while you're in the process of quitting is asking for trouble. Avoid bars, smoky cafes, and outdoor areas where smokers congregate. Also, avoid alcohol if possible, as it lowers your inhibitions.
Remember that things will get easier
The first week or two of giving up smoking is the hardest, after that it gets easier. Take it half an hour at a time during the first week, just keep promising yourself you'll hold out a little bit longer until it passes. With each hour that passes, it gets easier, keep reminding yourself that it's not far to go. After a month, the cravings will hardly ever bother you. After a year, you'll wonder what all the fuss was about.
Don't listen to the voices of your addiction
Your chemical dependency will whisper discouraging sounds into your ear during the entire period. Ignore these voices and recognize what they are. If you hear phrases inside our head like:
- "Why would I give up smoking, it's one of my few pleasures in life?"
- "I can't take all these problems and give up smoking."
- "I can always give up again later."
- "If I can give up once, I can give up again when the situation is better."
... then you know the voices are coming from your addiction and not from yourself. Ignore them, no matter how seductive they sound.
Be very careful once you are over the initial heavy craving period
One of the real danger periods, when giving up smoking, is after you're convinced that you have it beaten. This is usually a few months down the track, when you hardly ever feel like a cigarette any more and you've become adept at handling any cravings. Your chemical addiction knows that you have your guard down, and sees an opportunity to re-establish itself.
You may be at a party, or a bar, or a restaurant and talking to somebody who's smoking. Suddenly you think to yourself - "I'll just have one puff on a cigarette; I'm not addicted anymore so what harm can it do?"
Stop yourself right there!
One puff today becomes one cigarette in a week and then before you know it you're back smoking a packet a day again. During the first year of giving up be constantly reminding yourself that you will NEVER have a puff on a cigarette again under any circumstances. Let yourself hear the truth that there's only one puff between all your hard work and becoming a smoker again.
So there they are, my tips for giving up smoking. I hope they help.
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