Quitting smoking is not the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, though for awhile it seemed impossible. Watching my father slowly being ripped away from me by the ravages of cancer was much harder. Smoking was no longer a stress reliever after that. Nothing can relieve that. Nothing can keep your eyes shut to that wake up call.
My Dad was a smoker all of my life. From sunrise to sunset, two to three packs a day. He wasn’t trying to quit, he enjoyed smoking. I enjoyed smoking, but I was never a ‘heavy’ smoker. I started when I was fourteen and quit fourteen years later. Predominantly I smoked while I was at work and while I was drinking, averaging around a half pack a day during my smoking career.
I want to start by saying I believe that, at varying magnitudes, people are genetically predisposed to nicotine cravings. I once read about a study with a conclusion stating that nicotine susceptibility came in three degrees. Those that would never get addicted, those that could smoke recreationally with a high potential of quitting, and those that would fully be engulfed by the clutches of nicotine after their first drag. I would place myself at recreationally confined by smoking.
This does not mean that you hardcore smokers have an excuse for giving up. Everyone has the ability to overcome addiction, some may just have a longer and rougher road ahead of them. I’m here to try to smooth that road by combining what worked for me with tricks I’ve read that I find applicable to overcoming addiction.
The very first thing I did when quitting was actually something I didn’t do. I didn’t drink alcohol for a while (after completely drinking my ass off because my dad had just died, I don’t advise that). I know for some of you that may sound like taking on two addictions at once but hear me out. To this day there is no time that I want a cigarette more than when I’ve had a few drinks. Early successes are paramount to continued success, get the ball rolling. If possible, remove yourself from situations in which you typically smoke.
Do not allow your mind to perceive one cigarette as ultimate failure. Overcoming addiction is not a pass/fail scenario. Taking one drag off of someone’s cigarette doesn’t mean you’re a huge embarrassing failure, that you may as well start smoking again. No, do not let your mind trick you with artificial perimeters. You can feel when you’re succeeding, keep going.
Weight your success against your failure. Give yourself as much incentive to quit as possible. Tell every person you know that you are quitting. Have a friend ready to post all over your social media and shout from the rooftops about your failure if you quit quitting. This may seem harsh, but shame is a very powerful motivator.
Put money on it. Nothing can incentivize quite like money. Give a friend a hundred bucks to hold onto for a predetermined length of time only to be returned if you still aren’t smoking. Even better if you can make a bet and gain some money out of the deal.
Reward yourself for your hard work. Calculate how much money you would’ve been spending on cigarettes. Use that money on something that’ll make you feel good. Thus keeping you motivated to continue.
Spend less time with people that smoke and more time with people that find it repulsive. This worked extremely well for me. My fiancé finds smoking disgusting and I’m not overly fond of being around people anyway. Since I spend almost all of my free time with her, smoking a cigarette is never really an option.
This one seems like common sense: don’t have cigarettes. Don’t go where you can buy cigarettes. Don’t have lighters or matches. Make it as difficult as possible for yourself to have a cigarette when you crave one.
Keep track but don’t set small goals. Your goal is to no longer be a smoker. If you set a one month goal, a three month goal, a sixth month goal… you’re setting yourself up for failure. Small goals are stopping points. You don’t want a place where you can feel content with your ‘achievement’ and slip from your ultimate goal. Don’t hang your hat on any short term goals. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Above all else, do not accept failure. Not succeeding is not an option. Past failure is no determination of your future. There are no excuses. Continue pushing until you find what works for you. Persevere and remain resilient. The cravings may never go away but I promise that will only make you stronger.