I was a smoker for ten years. I know many others who have smoked longer, but I did my best to destroy my body in the ten years while I was addicted.
That isn’t to say that I didn’t try to quit. I made many efforts to do so. Most of those efforts did little more to ensure that I would continue. Consider the strategies I tried to use:
1. Tapering Off
At my worst, I smoked two and sometimes three packs of cigarettes a day. This was before all the tax hikes, so we could get cartons of cigarettes in some places for as little as $12 or so in the early 1990s. Finances were hardly a reason to cut back.
When I decided I would quit, I thought that tapering off the cigarettes would help me to take the final step of quitting for good. I frankly had nothing on which to back that up, and the strategy failed miserably.
To go from 40 cigarettes a day to none, I would first try to limit myself to 20 (one pack). I would often only smoke half a cigarette at one point and then smoke the other half later. Over the course of about a week, I was able to get down to five or ten cigarettes a day.
It never worked beyond that, because the hard part of quitting is the first three days without anything. Tapering off doesn’t help all during those three days, so I still wasn’t ready to take the next step.
The other problem was that if I were tempted to smoke more, such as during the many nights when I drank, there was no way I would stick to my plan. In most instances, I was right back to a pack or more by the day after a night of drinking.
2. Getting Sick
I’ve heard tales of parents or grandparents locking young teenagers in closets with a box of cigars or pack of cigarettes. The idea, I think, is that the kid will get so sick of the smoke that he will stay away from the habit he might have tried.
I never locked myself in a room with cigarettes, but at one point I had smoked so much that my apartment was one big cloud. The lingering smoke made me so sick that I threw away my cigarettes and swore them off.
The strategy worked for three weeks, and some even asked if they should try it. Three weeks later, however, I had one cigarette at a party. I followed that with another and another, and my habit was back where it started.
Honorable Mention: Substituting Tobacco for Tobacco
I finally quit smoking at the age of 31, but I immediately picked up the habit of dipping tobacco. I suppose I could call this a success of sorts, giving that my lungs no longer had to endure the smoke itself. However, my teeth had to endure the tobacco, and my dentist ensures me that my teeth problems over the past 10 years could very well be the result of my tobacco habit.