So as of a few days ago, it’s officially been fully one year since I resolved to quit smoking. Yes, I realize that most people would celebrate their actual quit date, but these things are never really that simple, as any smoker will tell you. This is, for me, a massive milestone in my life…the whole premise of “what if and why not” is for me this idea of life’s endless possibilities…I have known for a very long time that I would be severely limiting my own life’s possibilities if I couldn’t kick the habit. So in light of that, I’m dedicating two posts to my process…maybe it will help a couple of people, maybe it’s just therapeutic for me. Maybe a bit of both. Whatever the case, please bear in mind that these are things that worked for me, and every person’s journey to any new stage in their life is unique.
Some time around the end of May 2010 I met with my nurse (who was perhaps the second-most influential person in supporting me this time around…more on her later), and I started a prescription of Champix…which carries a black box warning in the U.S. because of so many issues with people becoming really over-the-top depressed. The thing is, quitting smoking is, in turns, thrilling, anxiety-producing, and tremendously depressing…Adding a chemical to the mix that might bring one further down the rabbit hole is a bit like playing with fire, I suppose. At any rate – I’m neither promoting or denouncing it – I’m not even sure if it was what worked. It just happened to be the route I took.
Anyone who knows me also knows that I’ve been trying to quit more or less since around the time I started smoking. I was never one of those people who was truly comfortable smoking. I only enjoyed smoking about 25% of the time, but mostly I kept up the habit because of my mortal fear of the monster I’ve become when I’ve tried to quit before. Three things I can tell you did not work for me at all:
Friends and family (or worse – strangers) telling me I should quit. No way. Allan Carr (more on him later) nailed this one – the biggest nic-fit inducer is anxiety. Stressing somebody out produces anxiety. Telling someone that they are killing themselves, hurting their loved ones, annoying passers-by, destroying their quality of life, diminishing their appearance, etc…these things stress people out. Stress out a smoker, the first impulse is to reach for a fag. And round and round we go…ever wonder why those scary labels on cigarette packages didn’t work?
Nicotine replacement therapy. Bogus. I was only ever one patch or one piece of gum away from a cigarette. I was never addicted to gum, and I just can’t see how anyone could be addicted to a patch. But the logic is that you replace this thing that you have been desperately addicted to for years with a new thing, ergo that new thing becomes your addiction. Thing is, there is a lot more to addiction than the chemical produced by the substance used. Chewing is not like like inhaling. And that stupid patch…the overnight ones gave me terrible nightmares and the waking-hours ones left me in cold withdrawal sweats all night. But the stupidest thing is that you stay addicted, and every time your nicotine levels drop, let me tell you – you’re not salivating for gum. And please do not get me started on those disgusting plastic cigarette thingies…ridiculousness on 23 levels.
Cutting back. This tactic works for some…just didn’t work for me. I tried a lot of different formulas. First it was a day without smoking one week, two days the following week, and the plan was to make it to three days by week three. Dumbest idea ever. All it did was increase my fear of quitting, because by week two I was desperately in love with smoking. And why not? I’d just willingly put myself through three days in two weeks of absolute living hell. I tried switching to roll-ups, which was fine…I did smoke less, but it added a new dimension to my smoking ritual, which was not helpful in the long run. I could go on, but the point is that cutting back was just never an option for me. St. Augustine said, “For some, complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” When it comes to smoking, I am some.
But something so great couldn’t be filled with only the things that didn’t work…beginning last year the right mix of ingredients came together to produce the most successful attempt I’ve made so far to becoming a nonsmoker…you can read about a few of them here.