07 January 2008

How I Quit Smoking

In 2001, after 13 years of smoking, I finally kicked the habit.

I had figured that the pleasure I derived from puffing just wasn't worth it anymore. I saw the father of my friend suffer from emphysema, and it wasn't pretty -- both for him and his children. Imagine living off tanks upon tanks of medical oxygen, not to mention the frequent episodes which I was told felt like drowning.

It didn't help that my fingers stank, stained yellow; I reeked of tobacco and had a perennial case of smoker's cought; My breath was undesirable and my teeth started turning hue. On top of it all, I just couldn't hold up to the same physical activities I was formerly used to.

The first step was wanting to quit. It came to a point where I decided that I would somehow quit, and soon. It was then that I started to psyche myself up by reading health books and articles on the internet related to how bad smoking was. I slowly started imagining the time when I would be free from this bondage, and all the benefits that wouls naturally come with quitting: fresher breath, sweet-smelling clothes, beautiful surroundings, longer life.

The opportunity came when I went down with the flu, coughing like mad. I tossed my half-consumed pack of Lucky Strike and stopped Cold turkey. No conditions. On the second day, my hands were shaking from the withdrawal. I kept my mind focused on how it wonderful it would be like to be liberated.

I got through the first three horrid days without a cigarette. Then 5 days. By the time my flu was gone, it had almost been a week.

Then I realized that the hardest part of quitting was keeping away from the stick during the times you would typically take a puff, such as in the can, after eating, driving with your windows rolled down, drinking alcohol, having long chats, etc.

They say that the first week is the most critical period, and I think that is partly true. After that, it is no walk in the park; What you need to get rid of is that force of habit or even rote muscle memory, to go and grab a stick. They say that anything done for 21 days becomes a habit. It takes the same time to kick a habit. I knew I had to be staunch during those 3 weeks.

Here is what I did to stave off the temptation during that critical period:
  1. I threw away all my lighters, even my Zippos. :-(
  2. I surrounded myself with sweet-smelling aromas such as potpourri, aromatic oils diffused with ceramic lamps, essential oils mopped on the floor, a drop or two of patchouli on an incandescent bulb before lighting it up, scented candles, fresh flowers or whatever it took to satisfy my senses. It helped that I spent my first week on the farm, where a prolific "Dama de Noche" was in full bloom. I also used incense a lot, especially when I was in the can, and I still do.
  3. I avoided rolling down my windows during car rides, and chucked in a canister of my favorite 'new car scent'. That kept my windows up, not wanting to waste good air freshener, so that it would keep for a long time. Keeping your surroundings smelling good decreased my tendency to look for a cigarette to mask any offensive smell I might come across;
  4. Now, the after-eating bit is the hardest to stave off, so I did gain a bit of weight during this ordeal, but for this I simply had to invoke my will power again and drink lots of water after my meals. Afterwhich, I would gargle with some strong mint mouthwash. That really helped. I eventually did lose the weight again, and much more, with the new-found control I had over my desires, something my battle with cigarettes taught me.
  5. When one goes drinking, the tendency is to steal a puff, especially when you lose a bit of yourself in the buzz -- and believe me, many have fallen off the path in this way. What I did was to carry some mints. Whenever the urge came to mask the aftertaste of alcohol on my palate, which really is a sweet sensation, I would pop a mint in my mouth. It did help to stay off alcohol and smoke-ridden places for a while until I was confident in my ability to resist temptation.
It has been 7 years since, and I have successfully stayed off tobacco, never to come back. I still smoke the ocassional cigar, mostly during special ocassions, but that's about it. No more pangs, no more addiction.

I must admit that I get the infrequent dream about going back to smoking, lighting a stick and enjoying it. I would wake up frightened, terrified, believing that the habit came back.

There, there, it was just a dream, just a dream.

Another benefit I did fail to mention, was financial. I used to smoke a pack and a half a day. Given the prices at the time, not including inflation and cost of money, I must have saved more than P50,000.00 already. Now, where did all the money go? I really don't know. Maybe vitamins, food, lunch subsidies; Maybe that little extra something I woud treat myself with ocassionally. I know it must have been put to good use somehow. Not that it really matters that much. After all, I do not reek of cigarette smoke anymore, I am not a bad example to my children, I do not stink up the bathroom anymore, in fact my entire house smells better. I feel and smell cleaner and I am happier with my surroundings. I also probably averted pneumonia, lung cancer, a stroke or even death.

I can now, literally, stop to smell the roses, subtle as its aroma may be.

(Note: For those smokers who are thinking of quitting, you can do it. All it takes is a bit of will power, patience and some of the techniques I mentioned here. My wish for you: all the best in your new challenge.)


Asdix said...

Congrats, dude!

you made it.

im still on the battleground though, its not helping that im a nurse. I see patients suffering from COPDs like emphysema and yes, it aint a pretty sight. but im on the winning side, from almost 2packs/day im now down to 5sticks a day and im sticking to it!

Hope your victory will inspire more to kick off the habit.



Ang Kuwago said...

Hey Dan, that is in no way a small feat! From two packs to 5 sticks a day! whoa!

Now, if you can only find the willpower to get rid of those 5 sticks once and for all....


Cyberpunk said...

hehe congrats! I rarely smoke but from what I see from my smoker friends, quitting the smoking habit seems to be one of the hardest things to do :)

godieYOSI said...

Hi. Thanks for dropping by my blog-site!

This posts is truly inspiring. I tried to quit smoking several times and right now I'm also trying the aroma trick using incense which seems to do the trick. Maybe incorporating the suggestions you have on the post on my efforts will finally make me kick the bad habit.

Thanks for sharing this, great post!

Ang Kuwago said...

I am happy that you find my post inspiring, Godie. I do hope you muster up the will to finally quit, and once you've been off the stick for at least a month, will you let me be the first one to know?

Just a thought: How will you re-brand your blog if you do get to quit? Hehe. That would be a nice dilemma to have, though.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" - ??
(I forgot who said this.)

"You can do it!" - Adam Sandler (This I cannot forget)

FilMasons NSW said...

You are an inspiration to smokers who are still struggling with this addiction. I've sent out a pdf of Allen Carr's book a few months ago. Hope this helps.


Ang Kuwago said...

@cyberpunk - It sure is! But I still wish that more people can start kicking the habit.

Thanks for dropping by!

Ang Kuwago said...

Kuyang Mario,

Thanks for your kind words! I'm really just a traveller sharing lessons from my journey.

You sent me an e-book? I don't think I received it.... :-(

When will you update your blog? :-)

Senor Enrique said...

"I must admit that I get the infrequent dream about going back to smoking, lighting a stick and enjoying it. I would wake up frightened, terrified, believing that the habit came back."

Now and then I, too, would have the same scary dream. Wonder why?

Anyway, congratulations!

During the early days, the toughest for me was going to the bathroom in the morning without having any cigarette. It has been 15 years since then :)