How To Quit Smoking

Having been a heavy smoker for 15 years, I finally made the leap to stop procrastinating and quit smoking cold turkey.

There are many reasons why I want to quit. Most smokers I know preach the same thing. They all want to quit, too but always thought mostly negative thoughts about their attempt to quit. I researched this for a bit but already know that many people have gone through the same ordeal.

I know I don’t have to preach the harm of smoking to you. You know it. The government in all countries have done a helluva good job educating the public about what it does to you. Heck, they’re even pictures (visual aids, huh?) for you on cigarette packs.

Just in case, here’s a quick run-down on what you’ll get if you do take the leap.

Benefit of Quitting Smoking

  • Within 20 minutes of kicking the habit, your blood pressure will return to normal.
  • Within 8 hours, carbon monoxide levels return to normal.
  • Within 2 months, your circulation improves.
  • Within 1 year, your chance of a heart attack is cut in half.
  • In 10 years or more of being nicotine free, your risk of heart attack and stroke will match a non-smoker.
Furthermore, I’ve been told that food will taste better, too.
Here, I attempt to write down this post on my personal struggles of trying to quit smoking.

Before I go on, I came across this interesting (albeit lengthy) article on quitting smoking. No surprises here, but this one’s quit in depth and was ranked Top 3 on my Google search >> How To Quit Smoking…And Quit For Keeps

1. Determine if smoking is a “HABIT” or “ADDICTION”

If you automatically pick up a cigarette after a meal, when you step out to a smoking area, when you drink alcohol, etc – then it’s habit. I notice not only at these usual times, I also tend to chain smoke when I’m bored or when my brain’s are at work (thinking, brainstorming, discussion, etc).

If you’ve attempted to quit before and your body is craving the cigarette badly, you’ll start to notice withdrawal symptoms. I had runny nose, slight migraine, shaking hands – I felt like a drug addict deprived of my fix. It was very unpleasant. I couldn’t take a long haul flight without going into an absolute fit. It was horrible.

This usually applies for those who either smokes a heavy nicotine and tar content cigarette. Like if you’re a pack a day (or God forbid, more) on unfiltered Camels or Dunhill Reds. The nicotine withdrawal is especially tough.

Personally, I am a bit of both. I have a habit of picking up after a meal almost on auto-pilot. Also, I crave the nicotine, especially after a stressful moment. It just seems to calm me down. Of course, these are mostly in my head.

2. Quit Cold Turkey

There is no negotiating around this. Seriously. Just do it overnight.

I have tried the “cutting-down” technique. It really doesn’t work. Halfing your cigarette intake over time doesn’t work. Because nobody is monitoring you, you will constantly bargain with yourself. “Just one extra today because it’s a stressful day.” Before you know it, you’re back to your regular pattern again.

You gotta cut all ties. Just stop overnight. Stop hanging around smokers if you can. I can’t, so I hung around smokers just to get the second hand smoke and maintain my willpower not to ask for a stick or a puff. Whatever works for you as long as you’re not smoking it yourself.

COLD TURKEY – set a date, start at midnight, whatever. Savour your last cigarette is you like. But once the clock strikes, you stop. That’s it. No negotiations. Whatever your motivation for quitting, think about it and don’t stop thinking about it.

Side note – I know some people cheat and still smoke cigars while trying to quit smoking cigarettes. To me, that is still cheating. You’re not really giving up smoking. Eventhough you don’t inhale a cigar smoke, you’re still smoking. To go cold turkey, even a shisha is cheating!

3. Quitting the Smoking Habit

To curb the habit, you should try to change the routine.

Instead of immediately reaching for a cigarette, try reaching for something else. For example, after a meal, have a nice hot cup of coffee or dessert and be happy that it’ll digest slowly and properly in your system. Nicotine doesn’t really help the digestion – it’s in your mind. Plus, if it does feel like smoking is making you feel less full, don’t that just mean your stomach feels free for you to take another few more bites? Isn’t that bad?

I had to hold on to an unlit cigarette and pretend to be smoking it for the first few days of quitting. Try to mentally tell yourself that you’re waiting for a friend’s lighter to light up. Perhaps, it helps if you pretend that you’re putting it off for another hour… and another hour… and another hour. Eventually, a day will pass.

Keep yourself busy. If your mind is occupied, you might eventually forget about fulfilling that habit.

Most smokers gain weight when they quit smoking. Why? Because you’re substituting the smoking with something else. Unfortunately, that “something” is eating. Everytime you crave for a smoke, you grab something to eat.

This is a good substitute / distraction, really. But if you really have to munch on something, why not make it healthy munching? You know what’s healthy – carrot sticks and stuff. If you really can’t stomach it, then eat something useless.

I personally bought a whole bunch of chewing gum or sweets and mints (sugar free, of course) and scatter them all around the house, workplace, car, etc. Whenever I crave for a smoke, I grab a gum and start chewing. It’s good for the gums, too.

The other alternative is a drink. I have been drinking soya bean alot. I find that it helps. Soya bean drinks are rather filling like milk. So when you drink it, you curb your appetite for food as well as smoking. I don’t know if it makes sense for you, but it helped me. Especially since I have been trying to cut down on caffeine as well, so no coffee for me.

4. Getting Rid of Addiction – Nicotine Withdrawal and Craving

When I posted about Smoking in Malaysia awhile back, I had a reader who posted his recommendation on this drug called Champix from Pfizer. I have not tried it, but have another friend who is using this to help quit. Champix is a drug that basically makes your brain disconnect from the nicotine buzz. You will still crave and can still smoke, but you won’t feel the effects of the nicotine at all. Which means, smoking will do nothing for you and you’ll eventually quit.

You can opt to try this but you might need to get the pills from your doctor. A regular GP would do. If you tried this, do write and tell me about your experience.

Personally, I tried Nicorette. They come in 2 varieties – a chewing gum or a nicotine patch. I bought both.

The Nicorette Gum is an almost tasteless gum (I tasted a bitter, unpleasant taste) that you chew when you want to smoke. It gets rid of your habit (as I earlier suggested to chew gum) but also releases doses of nicotine to your body. You place it between your cheeks and gums and it releases the nicotine to your body stream. Personally, I hated the taste so I took one gum and spat it out after 3 minutes!

Nicorette nicotine patches are available at the pharmacist counter in your local pharmacy

Nicorette patches came in 3 dosage. If you’re a 20 sticks a day smoker like me, you should opt for the strongest in 15mg. A box contain 7 patches that you stick on your upper body and it releases nicotine in small doses throughout a 16 hour period (when you’re awake). After a box or two (7 – 14 patches), you can switch to a smaller dose of 10mg and finally to 5mg patches.

What does the patch feel like? Well, the first 15 – 30 minutes, it feels itchy on your skin. I guess it’s the nicotine trying to get through your skin to your blood stream. After that 30 minutes, you’ll feel normal again. In fact, I feel quite good. Like I’ve been getting my cigarette fix and I don’t need to smoke. If I do have a craving, I chew gum. So far it works!

Since the patch is releasing nicotine in your system, 15mg is equivalent to a pack of 20s. Take this also as a test for you to not smoke at all. Because if you have the patch on and you attempt to smoke, you will HIGHLY REGRET THIS!!!

Again – DO NOT SMOKE WHEN YOU’RE ON THE NICOTINE PATCH!!!

Horror stories I have heard included extreme vomiting and passing out. Being me, I tested it. I took off the patch and smoked a ciggie in the next 5 minutes. 15 minutes after the smoke, I felt extremely nauseas. It’s like I had some horribly bitter medicine that won’t go away from my mouth. I just feel sick. My head started spinning and I needed to lie down very very badly. Thankfully, I was home and I got to sleep it off.

It was a huge lesson learnt. Don’t attempt to smoke with the nicotine patch during or after. Take my word for it, you will not like the effects.

This is a big help in disguise. Once you’ve made the decision to use the patch, you really have to stop smoking. It’s a good deterrent.

You can purchase Nicorette Gums or Patches at your local pharmacy over the pharmacist’ counter. It costs about RM 20 + (I don’t remember the exact cost) for a box of 7 patches which will last you a week. I alternate them so I hope not to need the 10mg or 5mg later on.

It’s not available on the shelves (you don’t want kids buying them, right?). Or you can always consult the pharmacist on duty about other alternatives they have that you can try, if you like.

(Personal endorsement here, not paid to say anything nice for Nicorette).

5. Form a Support System

Don’t try to be a superhuman. No one can do it alone. Even Superman has Kryptonite. You need words of encouragement from friends and family. Best if you can have successful quitter cheer you on and give you the motivation and support you need.

I posted my struggle on Facebook for words of encouragement. Considering majority of my friends were smokers (don’t know how many of them are still heavy smokers or have successfully quit) but I got my encouragement, all right.

Thanks to all of you for your positivity. I really needed it!!!

6. If you have to cheat…

The toughest period to quit smoking is the first 24-48 hours. Once you can get through these 2 days, you will feel like you’ve accomplished a lot. Personally, in my last attempt, I picked it up again after 2 weeks of quitting. So, this time around, I won’t consider anything an achievement is not more than 1 month.

I am now on Day 10 and getting close to my last record of 2 weeks non-smoking. So far, I’ve been doing good. I have attempted to cheat 3 times, considering my weak willpower. Once was when I highly regretted it during my Nicorette patch “treatment”. The other 2 times, I smoked only 3 puffs. I didn’t enjoy them at all.

In the first few days when I pass smokers and inhale second hand smoke, I want to immediately lunge and french kiss the stranger smoking a cigarette. Now, 10 days in – I don’t enjoy the second hand smoke anymore. I find it annoying and irritating. I feel like I can breathe fresh air again and hated the “pollution”. When I attempted to smoke myself, I took my time, long drags and try to savour the smoke. The longer I held it in, the more I dislike the bitterness at the back of my throat. It might be relaxing and fulfilling for some, but try holding a drag and you’ll slowly learn that it’s rather unpleasant.

If you really need to cheat, don’t buy cigarettes yourself. Steal a puff from a friend. Not a stick, just a puff. Use your willpower here and limit to a puff a week. If you have the patch on, even a puff will make you sick.

I have detailed long enough and I believe I have touched every little detail about my experience quitting. Mind you, I have not fully succeeded yet. In my books, it’s only a success if I can truly declare myself smoke free for a month or more. So I will check back and report on my progress.

Good luck to those of you out there also trying to quit like me. All the best and let’s hope we can all do it together. You know you need the support and I know I do – so drop me a note and let’s encourage each other.

Note : These are personal opinions and experience. You’re always free to share your thoughts on how you’ve successfully quit yourself.

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