Have you finally decided that it’s time to give up cigarettes? You’ve heard all the reasons you should – it’s unhealthy, it stinks, and it’s expensive. There are a number of ways you can do it. Some people insist that it’s necessary to go “cold turkey” and give up smoking completely all at once. Others are just as adamant that it’s better to taper off gradually. What I want to share with you is how I quit; it may work for you.
The first thing I did was to make a list of the reasons I liked to smoke. After all, there must have been some reason for starting, wasn’t there? I realized that by the time I had decided to give up cigarettes, I was smoking one in the morning first thing after I woke up. That was for the stimulant effect that it had on me, because I was addicted to the nicotine. But why did I start in the first place? Sure, there was peer pressure as an adolescent. There was a certain romance to blowing smoke rings and holding a cigarette in my hand. It looked cool. I learned quickly that a cigarette was especially enjoyable after a meal or as an accompaniment to a cup of coffee. Later, it became a means of relieving stress and gave me something to do with my hands when I was anxious. It became a way to kill time while I was waiting – for a bus, to meet someone, or any other reason I had to wait.
Once I had made my list, I began to carry a small spiral notepad and a pencil with me wherever I went. (Of course, this was before electronic devices or cell phones. Today, the notepad or calendar function on a cell phone might be used for the same purpose.) Each time I found myself lighting up, I paused to make a note of the time, where I was, and the reason I was smoking. What this did was allow me to develop self-awareness, which was the real key to my quitting. Smoking had become so habitual that I frequently found myself reaching for a cigarette without thinking about it. Over time, I found patterns to my habit. I began to realize how many times I smoked without enjoying it, and I soon gave up several cigarettes a day almost without effort. Others proved to be more difficult.
However, I was already achieving some success. I cut my habit from a pack of twenty cigarettes daily to about half of that within a few weeks. As I did, the nicotine began having less of an effect on my system as I began withdrawing from it. Then, the primary addiction was psychological. I continued to note each cigarette I smoked and why I craved it. I recognized trigger situations: people who encouraged me to smoke, places where I smoked, and situations when I frequently smoked. I found it easier to go without smoking for longer periods of time, although I still indulged occasionally.
The entire process took about four or five months before I could go more than a day or two without smoking. I relapsed sometimes. I considered my means to be successful, however, because I now had conscious control over my habit.