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Quitting Smoking
How to Win the Fight

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By ehore
February 26, 2009

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Jacalyn, I can't count the number of times I tried to quit. I smoked for 35+ years and just knew that I was the inveterate smoker who would never succeed at [quitting] smoking. On two occasions I quit for 6 & 8 months respectively. Both times I started having panic attacks after 4-5 months then broke down and started smoking again. In Jan. 2000 I decided to try one last time to quit smoking despite knowing that I was surely going to fail again. It has now been more than 9 years since I quit and I have no desire whatsoever to start again. There were distinct reasons that I have succeeded this time.

In 1983 I successfully underwent a 33 day treatment for chemical dependency followed by much involvement in A.A. and volunteer work in the area. Having majored in Psychology in college, I became quite knowledgeable about addiction. It was not until I began to think about quitting in 2000 that I associated this knowledge about addiction with my own efforts to quit smoking. I ended up formulating a plan to quit involving myself, my wife, my doctor and later this message board.

There is no longer any question that smoking is an addiction to nicotine. Addiction has 3 aspects making it hard to treat. The first is the physical dependence causing a real craving by the body. You are actually through the physical withdrawal which usually lasts 3-4 days. Another aspect is the mental denial and rationalizations which form the reason addiction is labeled as a mental illness. The third aspect is the network of habits or lifestyle of smoking that causes us so many cravings after we are no longer physically addicted to the nicotine.

Addiction treatments like A.A. and the hospital based 12 step program I underwent are based largely on peer support. When we get caught in the web of an addiction it plays havoc with our self-esteem so to protect ourselves our sub-conscious minds starts lying to itself to protect our egos. From that comes the denial that we are addicted and rationalizations like: "I like to smoke", "I could quit if I wanted to", "I'd gain to much weight if I quit", etc. The idea of having peer support comes from the idea that you cannot con a con. An addict may not recognize their own rationalizations but they can readily spot those of another person. By recognizing these rationalizations in other people we then gain feedback and learn to recognize our own. I was actually afraid to face the withdrawal when I quit. I approached my doctor about that and he put me on Wellbutrin (Zyban). It was a crutch I needed to start the quit. We went over my history and my background in addiction and why I thought that I had failed in the past. About a week after I quit I found this message board which really fulfilled my need for daily support.

After having passed through the withdrawal there are several reasons that we continue to struggle. People refer to smoking as a bad habit which is misleading. It is an addiction. Smoking is associated in some way with almost everything that we do. It is a lifestyle. A huge network of habits, most of which we are unaware. It takes about a month to break a habit and replace it with a new one. By the end of my first year I felt very comfortable not smoking. Don't misunderstand me though. I was not miserable throughout the first year. We all feel the urges and cravings. We may even be holding on to some denial & rationalizations so we are fighting ourselves as well. There are ways to reduce these negative feelings.

(1) Illinois went smoke free. (2)...was the only smoker out of 25 people in my new department. (3)we were still paying $7.50 a pack to smoke!!! (4) I love that my world doesn't revolve around if I have cigarettes and when my next smoke break will be. (5)I love that I do not reek of cigarette smoke.

We make the decision to quit smoking when the discomfort of the addiction overcomes the comfort of the status quo. It's finding the straw that broke the camel's back. In A.A. we call this hitting the bottom. Above you told me 5 reasons that are influencing your decision to quit. Be conscious of these and build on them. Actually write out a list of the reasons you have for quitting. Keep adding to the list any new reason or benefit that you can think of for quitting. I reached a point where I had about 50 reasons for quitting on my list. Whenever my resolve to quit started to flag it was a great reminder.

Work at developing a positive attitude toward quitting smoking to minimize the effects of the cravings and urges. I found that telling myself that I no longer wanted to smoke didn't work because I kept finding myself wanting to smoke, causing a conflict. Instead I told myself that I no longer wanted to be a smoker. It didn't matter if I got an urge to smoke because I no longer cared to be a smoker. I used daily affirmations to keep my attitude positive and my resolve high. Every day I looked at myself in the mirror and told myself that I no longer was going to be a smoker and praised myself for doing so well. And don't forget to reward yourself as you keep doing a good job. If you do these things every day, you train yourself to be positive. When you concentrate on the positive aspects of quitting it almost starts to be fun to watch your progress because you will start minimizing the cravings rather than concentrating on how miserable they make you. For me it was like the difference between sitting down with a 700 page Tom Clancy novel as opposed to trying to read 30 pages of textbook for school. I can read the novel in one sitting but struggle to read 30 pages of textbook. One is fun, one is work and the difference is only in attitude because they are both just reading.

Now that you are here, stick around. We welcome rants and raves about cravings and the frustrations you are bound to feel because we have all been through it and shared them ourselves. That's how we help each other.

Elliott