'Like the ash was growing inside me'
November 29, 2016 | by Stephanie Smith
If you are addicted, quitting smoking may be one of the most difficult things you ever try to do. “Like kicking heroin,” according to some online accounts by smokers. “Like Chinese water torture,” according to others.
That sometimes hyperbolically stated difficulty, and this being Lung Cancer Awareness Month, led us to ask our Facebook followers to share some creative tips they used to quit smoking.
For some it took physical symptoms – like difficulty breathing – or a cancer diagnosis to cut cigarettes out of their lives. For others it was the fear that that diagnosis was imminent. Most of you used a combination of things to kick the habit.
Here are your top seven tips for quitting:
- “I decided to quit smoking and go ‘cold turkey’ style.” One of the most popular ways people like Genaro, Judy and Dewey used to quit was to simply stop. In Genaro’s case it led to some withdrawal symptoms – fever, headache, excessive salivating and black spit – and for others like Judy, there were no symptoms. They credit strength and being resolute as keys to staying quit.
- “It was getting to the point when I inhaled it hurt!” When breathing became difficult, Natascha began to realize she may be heading down the same perilous path as her grandparents, who were both diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She and her husband decided to band together, using a buddy system, and stop smoking together. They eased out of the habit using nicotine patches and gum – and mutual support.
- “I told myself with each cigarette it made me feel sick.” Lorraine and others were able to quit by using a type of visualization – a way of invoking a negative feeling or association around the act of smoking or the cigarettes themselves. Jonathan said, “I looked at it like the ash was growing inside me. Dirty.” For Lorraine, the mantra that cigarettes would make her feel sick was powerful enough for her to kick a two-pack-a-day habit that lasted for 15 years.
- “I started by changing my routine.” Sometimes a change in routine can help. Patty quit cold turkey, but figured out healthy replacement habits like brushing her teeth often, and chewing peppermint gum. Jack changed his routine by skipping his usual first cigarette of the day, and it has been four years since his last cigarette.
- “I prayed.” Several of our readers say they leaned on things like faith and prayer to get them through the rough parts of quitting. Joann says praying a lot gave her the strength one day to resist reaching for a cigarette. She put it back and that was it. She has not smoked since.
- “I got cancer.” Being on the precipice of possible death was a big motivator for several of our followers. Donna was diagnosed with lung cancer and continued smoking to get through the stress of treatment. When her taste buds changed during chemotherapy, making the cigarettes taste terrible, she took that opportunity to quit.
- “I can live without it.” Similar to Facebook followers who created negative associations around their habit, others took the opposite tack. They decided to put a positive spin on quitting. Scott says, “First I decided I’m not a smoker. I can live without it.” And Kay told herself one day, “I’m smarter than these [cigarettes],” and promptly threw them away. Scott will celebrate 41 years smoke-free in January and for Kay it has been 35 years.
For most people, quitting smoking may not work the first – or second, or third – time. It is incredibly difficult – withdrawal, stress and other things may derail the best laid plans.
But pairing these tips with social support, counseling, nicotine replacement products and, possibly, medication may work for you – along with taking advantage of the many resources available if you’re struggling with motivation.
The upshot of finding creative ways to quit: living longer – and healthier. “You start noticing that you feel better, taste and smell improve, energy increases,” said Leah. “And you realize that you have about two extra hours every day!”
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