I've been smoking on and off for the past 20 years. It's not something I'm proud of. For years, I've claimed that "I love smoking" and practically bit anyone's head off who dared suggest I quit. Why should I? It's my choice. Who are you to tell me what I can and can't do? It's not because I'm stupid. I know how bad smoking is for me. It's taken awhile to admit it, but I am an addict. I'm addicted not only to nicotine, but to the act of smoking. The habit. Do something, smoke a cigarette. Need a break? Smoke a cigarette. Bored? Smoke a cigarette. It's the prize at the bottom of the cereal box. I look forward to it. If I'm being honest with myself, I'm about a pack a day smoker, slightly less.
Over the past few months, however, I've been getting this stronger feeling that I need to quit. Not only need to quit -- want to quit. It smells and it's likely killing me. If that isn't enough, there are reasons like this:
1. What sane person stands outside in frigid weather to inhale smoke into their system?
2. I look forward to seeing my friends and family....and then after a few hours I sometimes can't wait to go home so I can smoke as much as I want without judgment. Who does that? An addict.
3. I want dates to end so I can smoke.
4. I've missed game winning touchdowns because I was out smoking rather than watching the game.
5. I'm tired of calculating time in terms of how many cigarettes I can smoke.
6. The panic at a delayed flight, wondering when I will get my next cigarette in...is bad.
7. I'm embarrassed to admit I smoke.
8. The amount of money I've spent on cigarettes is astounding.
9. The cigarette is the friend that completely controls my life. Do I have enough? What if I run out? What if the gas station doesn't carry my brand? What excuse can I give to sneak out for a smoke? Panic.
There are more. The shame is real. The absolute ridiculousness of it is real. This little stick that I carry around and suck into my mouth? Why? I've finally been able to admit it to myself, and ask myself "Why do I do this?" Over the past few months, I've had days where I've said "I'm not buying any more cigarettes." And then I go anywhere from 24-36 hours without one before breaking down and buying a pack. That showed me that I can do it...to a certain point. What will make me stronger?
Last Wednesday night, around 9, I looked in my pack and saw two cigarettes left. I decided to smoke one, and to leave the other for morning. So, on Thursday morning at around 8 a.m., I smoked the last one, and then, for whatever reason, decided I didn't want to buy any more. Done. I didn't know how long I would make it this time, and was without a plan, and somewhat spur of the moment, but we'll see how it goes.
That was 84 hours ago. You measure time in hours when you quit smoking. My last cigarette, Thursday, March 22, 2012, at 8 a.m.
All of the nicotine is now out of my system. That happens between 48 and 72 hours in. To nonsmokers, that may seem like nothing, but every minute feels like an hour when your body is screaming for nicotine, and the "habit" part of your brain is wondering why you finished eating lunch but aren't smoking a cigarette. Think of a bad habit you have and do throughout the day, like biting your nails, twirling your hair, chewing on a pen. Then tell your spouse or coworker to punch you in the face every time they see you doing it for 72 hours. Try to stop. It's second nature to smoke. It's damn hard.
I didn't use any Nicorette or Chantix or anything like that. I just decided to do it. In previous attempts, I've used Nicorette. It served it's purpose, that's for sure. It took the edge off, gave me the nicotine my body was craving. But, at the end of the day, all I was doing was feeding one addiction with another. I decided I had to just get the nicotine out of my system to get rid of the physical cravings, and then I could possibly deal with the psychological habit.
It wasn't fun. I had numerous strong, strong cravings. I wanted to smoke. All I kept thinking on Friday and Saturday was "Oh, when I finish this, I'll grab a smoke...oh, wait." I felt weird. My vision seemed a little off; I felt out of it; I had a slight headache. This time, though, I didn't cave in when it got too bad. Why? Well, two things.
First, I started what I have named my "Prize Jar," which is a jar where I am putting $10 every morning. That's the money I would've spent on a pack of cigarettes that day. It's at $40 already. Crazy. I'm going to buy myself a prize when I keep this up -- like Christian Louboutins -- and remind myself that I could've had cigarettes or the shoes. I could have a pair of cheaper Louboutins in two months. Or a new Chanel or Gucci or Vuitton purse within six months. It's crazy when you think about the money spent on cigarettes in those terms. The second thing I did was go to the trusty Internet and print out about 5 pictures of people dying of lung cancer. It sounds gruesome because it is. At this point, I need gruesome. I made two copies -- one for my purse, to bring with me everywhere, and one for at home. When I feel like I'm going to crack, breakdown, and buy a pack of cigarettes, I look at them. Unsurprisingly, every desire I have to smoke instantly disappears. Whatever works, right?
I've also had to accept three other things:
1. I will likely never be a non-smoker. I will be a smoker who doesn't smoke, much like alcoholics who are in AA. I'm not a person who can bum a cig off someone one night, smoke it, and not think about cigs after that. If I smoke, I'm going to start rolling down the entire hill and could easily be smoking a pack a day immediately. It's just how I am. I envy my friends who can just smoke every now and then. I can't do that. Along the same lines...
2. I will always see people who are smoking. (For whatever strange reason, when I was smoking, I felt like the only one. Now that I'm not smoking, I'm seeing smokers all over the place.) I can't look at them and think "Lucky them, they get to smoke." No, I have to realize and understand that they are smoking because they are addicted. They have to be standing outside of that bar, restaurant or store, away from their friends, stinking up their clothes, because they are addicted like me. That's nothing to be jealous about. And finally...
3. This is a one day at a time process. Every day, I have said to myself "I will not smoke today." So far, so good. I even went out for drinks last night and survived. That told me that I can do this because in the past alcohol has been my big trigger. What's killed me in the past is thinking that I can never again for the rest of my life smoke another cigarette. It sounds bizarre, but that depresses me immensely. No more cigarettes ever? So, I don't think about five years, two years, six months, forever, whatever. I think about today. I think about not smoking today.
We'll see how this goes, but I'm feeling really good about it. I already feel better. I still want to smoke, but the physical cravings appear to be gone. I just have to work through this psychological aspect. I've decided to allow myself to eat whatever I want for the next month, provided it helps me break the smoking habit. So, I might be a little chubby heading in to spring, but that's fine. I can lose the weight. I just have to kick this smoking habit!