Eight Seven Six Five Four Three years ago today after 21 years, I quit smoking.
It shocked people who knew me. Few believed – including me initially – I could do it. I started when I was eighteen and never looked back.
Of course, quitting saved my life, but it did more. Here’s a quick digest of how I did it and what I noticed.
1. It was my fourth try. The longest I’d gone smoke-free prior to quitting was thirteen days.
2. I was no longer around many smokers. In previous attempts my environment was filled with smokers. It makes a huge difference.
3. I started by specifically counting the number of cigarettes I smoked each day. I needed a baseline. I always figured I smoked about a pack. Nope. I smoked – almost without fail – thirty a day plus or minus two.
4. Before I started using medication, I cut down to fifteen per day. That’s still a lot of smokes. I told myself that was still a lot of smokes. It showed me I could cut to half and keep it there for a couple weeks without any help.
5. I went to see a doctor who prescribed Chantix. My wife made the appointment, and I got mad at her. Of course I did. I was an addict.
Be prepared for people to say, ‘oh, you need drugs to do it, huh? I quit cold turkey.’
Those people are self-righteous jerkfaces. Ignore them.
Chantix was great for me. It really did make me enjoy smoking less, and I began to slow cut back by half again and again until I was done on February 21, 2008. I totally dug the dreams. I couldn’t wait to go to sleep at night. But, then …
6. I also quit drinking for a while. The two were inexorably linked for me. Smoking’s always been tethered to other stuff for me – driving, drinking (though not at the same time) and finishing projects. I’ve never had an habitual problem drinking to excess, but to this day I find I rarely drink.
7. I found replacements for those situations. Straws worked in the car. I cut ‘em in half and worked and worked ‘em. I had little half-straws everywhere. I also started drinking lots and lots of water.
I couldn’t totally cut coffee but I cut back for a while.
I also would take breaks after finishing projects, but instead of smoking I would breathe … oxygen … it’s this other drug that’s a pretty good high. And it’s a lot cheaper.
8. I told myself—and anyone who would listen—that I was just quitting for the day. I couldn’t do anything about tomorrow. I believe alcoholics anonymous uses this philosopy. It really took the pressure off to not imagine such a big, long time of never smoking again.
For more than six months, I kept my last half-pack of camels sitting on my office desk. They were there if I wanted them. I just didn’t want them. Listen – you’re either deciding to quit or not, right? Hiding smokes or throwing away smokes wasn’t going to stop me. I would just go buy more if I decided.
I had two packs in my glove box for two years. Never touched them. Finally threw them away when we sold the car.
9. I ate Skittles. Don’t eat Skittles. I gave up smoking and took up skittles. Not only is the sugar totally bad for you, but I gained a lot of weight. I have since lost some of it, but I have more to go.
10. I had a great coach. I enlisted a friend – not my wife – who was both healthy and a non-smoker to encourage me. I was proud when I could call Heidi and say, “Today’s another day.” She would go bananas for me, and that helped.
I only now have the occasional craving when I see lots of smoking in a movie or we go to Vegas. I don’t miss it after writing something (like this post) – that was the biggest thing.
What I like:
- I’m more invested in conversations or classes or meetings. I’m not constantly distracted thinking about when I’m going to get my next smoke. We just got back from partner meetings in Austin where I used to miss close to an hour-and-a-half of the day with my little five or ten minute breaks throughout the day.
- I don’t stink. My kids don’t think I stink. My wife doesn’t think I stink. My clothes don’t stink. My hair doesn’t stink. It’s nice.
- My sense of smell improved. My colds and coughs weren’t as painful.
- That said, I never noticed the whole improved taste thing. Never.
- None of us know when our number’s up, but I’ve drastically increased my chances of sticking around to play with my kids for a significantly longer time.
If you or someone you love smokes. It can be done. I never thought I would quit. I loved smoking. It was my favorite thing.
No one who knew me thought I would quit.
I did. You could, too, if you choose.
Hell yes, it’s hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
But there’s grace in accomplishing the hard tasks, isn’t there?
Since then, in these
three four five six seven eight nine years, nothing’s seemed as difficult.
That might be the biggest benefit of all.