How I Quit Smoking
by Cheryl Mathis on December 31st, 2008
Next week, I will write something about resolutions in general, but today, I am going to tell you how I quit smoking. So many people resolve to quit smoking for the new year, but most end up failing in this endeavor. Most smokers I know have quit many times. They always ask me how I quit… and stayed quit. So here is my story.
I started smoking late: I was 19 when I first lit up. It was pure peer pressure. The people on the campus newspaper who I thought were cool smoked, and I wanted to be like them. So I practiced on my own and eventually felt comfortable enough to smoke in front of others on the steps of the Communications building.
I was a happy smoker. I never really tried quitting. I could easily go without for hours at a time. When I was a nanny, I did not smoke during the entire work day because I would not leave the baby alone to go smoke outside. But if I was driving or at home, I would smoke often.
Then I met my husband online, and he was not a smoker. We had plans to get married and start a family right away, and after we were engaged, he asked me to quit smoking. I chose February as the month I would quit smoking (we married in March).
I read dozens of articles online, and I asked people how they quit. I also asked smokers if they had tried quitting before, how they did it and what went wrong. Every single one of them tried the step-down method, either by cutting back their cigarettes or by using nicotine replacement. I watched both of my sisters try the patch and the gum, and it just didn’t seem right for me.
I have an addictive personality. And I was addicted to cigarettes. I stripped down my psyche to figure out why I smoked and why I wanted to smoke. When my quit day came, I had already stopped smoking a few days earlier. The detox was hellish. I used a fake cigarette with a menthol flavor insert to suck on when I would normally go outside on a break, but I never used nicotine again. I still have not, and it has been almost 4 years. Do not get me wrong. Not a week goes by that I don’t miss smoking. But I don’t light up. I do not keep a spare pack in the car (just in case) and I do not hang around smokers much anymore.
How did I do it? Like I said, I did some self analyzing. I really studied how smoking made me feel, what connections I made with smoking in general, and what I thought I would miss. Smoking made me feel tough. Squinting through the smoke, inhaling a tangible cloud of power… it thrilled me. It comforted me. As the seasons changed, I loved having the connection to the outdoors since I preferred smoking outside. When winter came again that next year, the urge to smoke was powerful, even though it had been nine months since I quit. The cold air reminded me of smoking.
All of those emotional links to smoking were strong, but for me, the emotions and the desire for smoking did not come close to my reasons for quitting. I wrote them down and stared at them a lot during those first few months.
1. I want to start my marriage smoke-free because Chris hates smoking.
2. I want to become pregnant, and I will not be a smoking pregnant lady.
3. I want to be a good example for my children.
4. Lung cancer runs in my family.
Everything else was willpower. Nicotine is a drug, but it’s not strong enough to force me to buy a pack of cigarettes. Nicotine can’t make me flick the lighter to the tip and suck in. Nicotine is a chemical, not a loaded gun. Ultimately, I am the one in control. And I wasn’t going to play that game anymore. I kept a focus card in my pocket, and every time I would start keening for a smoke, I would pull that out instead. The most important thing I did, though, was to avoid temptation. I didn’t hang out with smokers while they smoked. I didn’t buy cigarettes.
So there you have it. If quitting is your resolution, I hope you stick to it. The power to quit is within you already, but only if you do the hard work psychologically and make the right choices in your environment so you aren’t setting yourself up for failure. Good luck.