Smoking is one of the worst habits you can develop and one of the hardest to get rid of. I know; I was a smoker for nearly 20 years – until I kicked the habit in 1993.
Few people, including long-time smokers, will argue the fact that smoking is dangerous to your health. Years of research by governmental and non-governmental organizations have documented the dangers of smoking and the benefits that result from stopping the habit.
According to the American Cancer Society, smoking has been linked to numerous diseases including cancer, heart attacks, strokes, blood vessel diseases, blindness, blood clots of the legs, miscarriages for women, low birth-weight babies, and shortened life expectancy, among others.
Quitting smoking is not easy but it is not impossible no matter how much you smoke (casual or heavy) or how long you have been smoking.
But how can you quit smoking and why is it so hard to quit smoking? To answer these questions, we need to understand what causes cigarette addiction in the first place.
The reason we become addicted to cigarettes is the nicotine contained in cigarettes. Nicotine is the main ingredient in cigarettes and it is found naturally in tobacco. This drug is highly addictive – as addictive as heroin or cocaine. The longer you smoke, the more addicted you become and the harder it is to quit smoking.
To successfully quit smoking there are a few things you must know and a few decisions you must make. You need to understand that when you first attempt to stop smoking, you may face some issues including dizziness, depression, feeling of frustration, impatience and anger, anxiety, irritability and sleep disturbances including having trouble falling asleep, having bad dreams or nightmares. You may also have trouble concentrating, restlessness, headaches, tiredness and fatigue, and increased appetite.
When smokers experience some or all of the above symptoms, the tendency is for them to panic and go back to smoking. That is exactly the wrong thing to do.
When I decided to quit smoking in early 1993 after nearly 20 years of smoking a pack and half of cigarettes a day, I was scared but I reminded myself that the benefits of quitting smoking far outweighed the damage I was doing to my body, no matter the severity of the negative symptoms I was experiencing.
I first made up my mind that it was time for me to quit and as a smoker, this is the first thing you must do. This decision cannot be made in half measures either. You must be absolutely convinced that you want to quit smoking and the best way to convince yourself is to find good reasons why you should quit. For me, the reasons were obvious; I had a baby and another one on the way, it was a costly habit, it brought friction in my marriage – my wife wouldn’t stop nagging me about it, my clothes and hair stank, my teeth was yellow, I was coughing and I was worried that I may not live to see my kids grow up. I believed my children deserved to have their Dad around in their teenage years.
My first attempt at quitting smoking was unsuccessful because even though I had decided to quit smoking, I hadn’t done other things that were necessary to be successful. This brings us to the second thing you must do if you want to be able to successfully quit smoking and stay smoke-free; you need to change your habits – who you hang out with, where you frequent and how you spend your free time.
When I realized that I needed some behavior modifications, the first thing I did was call my friends and family and informed them of my decision to quit smoking, and asked for their help and understanding. I informed my friends who were smokers that I will no longer hang out with them. I also decided to stop drinking alcohol because I realized that I usually associated smoking with drinking – I will usually smoke cigarettes whenever I drank alcohol so to successfully quit smoking, I had to quite drinking alcohol too. If you do not do this, you will eventually fall back to smoking.
I also realized that I would usually smoke while driving so I made sure I did not have any cigarettes in the car and when I felt the urge to smoke, I would call my wife instead and ask her to talk to me to take my mind off the urge to smoke; she was quite happy to do this. The side effect of this was that spending more time talking to my wife brought us even closer.
Despite all these I relapsed twice. The reason was that even though I did not smoke at home, I had co-workers who smoked and the whenever we went out on lunches and breaks, they will smoke and sometimes I will join them. To remedy this, I stopped going out on breaks and I changed the time I went out for lunch and who I went out with. My friends understood this (at least they told me they did when I explained to them why I needed to do that) and I was grateful to them for this.
Finally after a two failed attempts, I was able to successfully quit smoking. It was not easy but I was able to do it and I have been smoke free since. I have re-established my relationships with my friends and their smoking is not bothersome to me since I no longer have the desire to smoke cigarettes.
Ofcourse, this may not work for you as you attempt to quit smoking. You may be one of those who need additional help. There is a wide array of help available from counseling to self-help materials and medicines. You may need to try a few of them to see what works for you but the most important thing is that you quit smoking.
American Cancer Society operates a telephone based help to stop smoking and you can access it by calling 800-227-2345. You can also elicit the help of your family, friends, co-workers, family doctor and other support groups. Any help you can get from this closely knit group is indispensable since they are the people closest to you and likely to influence your behavior. If you lose your resolve to quit smoking, it will likely be as a result of action, or lack thereof, from someone closest to you.
If you have health insurance, talk to them also as they may have access to useful information or may have programs aimed at helping you quit smoking. You may also want to try nicotine replacement therapy or nicotine patches. I have never tried any of these so I can’t vouch for their effectiveness but anything that helps you quit smoking is worth the effort.
Also contact the organizations below for additional information and help. Here is wishing you success.
American Cancer Society – www.cancer.org.
National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Information Service – 877-448-7848 or smokefree.org
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Smoking and Health – 800-311-3435 or www.cdc.gov.
American Lung Association – 800-586-4872 or www.lungusa.org.
American Heart Association – 800-242-8721 or www.americanheart.org.