Hi everyone! It’s been really busy lately but I’ll talk about that another time. Instead I’d like to get back to something I mentioned in my previous blog: Quitting smoking. I’m so proud to announce that I’ve reached one week of not smoking! (Nov. 22 to Nov. 28)
My Quitting Program
In case it can be helpful, I thought I’d share my process/plan for quitting.
I picked the main reasons for me to quit smoking: My health and the health of others around me, becoming a professional driver, saving money and proving to myself that I CAN do it!
Over the course of three weeks, I gradually reduced my number of cigarettes per day by using a 14mg nicotine patch cut in half.
Week 1: Dropped from around 15 per day to 10.
Week 2: Dropped from 10 to 5.
Week 3: Dropped from 5 to 2 or less. (I would relight the same cigarette, taking only enough puffs to satisfy my craving.)
When I felt pretty good with the previous step, I put on a full 14mg patch and did my best to not smoke at all that day. I succeeded! So I decided to keep that going and here we are, a week later.
The Icky Bits
I’m really grateful for my progress and I’m actually proud which feels great! Quitting is NOT easy… I can confirm that personally.
What Makes Quitting so Problematic?
• It’s nicotine, first of all, so of course it’s highly addictive.
• Cravings and associations have been made that make quitting feel like a gaping hole in daily activities. (My personal impression.)
We tend to smoke when:
• After food
• Instead of food
• With coffee
• In the car
• School/work breaks
• Watching something
• … any other time! So yeah. It can suck.
• When in an environment with other smokers, it can be especially hard to exercise self-restraint. It’s comparable to an alcoholic in a bar.
• We know smoking is bad for us, so it stands to reason that we percieve some kind of benefit. Most addictions begin that way, right? So perhaps smoking was/is a coping mechanism for anxiety, as it was with me. In other words, quitting doesn’t simply pose physiological problems; psychological problems need to be addressed at the same time. (PS: My eating disorder mindset encouraged smoking as appetite control and even though I’m past that, I’m terrified of gaining weight from stopping.)
Combining the previous factors, we’re left to deal with a chemical AND psychological dependence. It’s not just about quitting; it’s breaking one of the most prevalent maladaptive coping mechanisms. Breaking an addiction with both physical and mental aspects requires twice the strength and effort! For longterm success, I’m guessing that both need to be addressed. If someone quits with a cessation aid and no longer physically requires nicotine, it’s still possible that they return to smoking. Why? Because in a future moment of stress (or other strong emotion), smoking “just one” might seem like a great idea. At least until they’re driving to the store to get a pack.
Back to my Journey:
Have I mentioned that this is a pretty terrible time for me to quit smoking? I’m stressed and overloaded…of course I want to smoke! But I won’t. You know why? Every hour that I succeed, I feel in control. I like self-control and I’ve been trying to build it up. It’s also never a ‘good time’ to quit. We’ll always find a reason why now isn’t the time. So why not bite the bullet?
• Learn your smoking/vaping habits. Making a chart can be very helpful. Simply knowing how much you smoke per day usually isn’t enough. To break any bad habit, one first needs to understand it. (Easier said than done.) Here’s an idea to log your smoking before you even start to cut down:
Each day, record every cigarette you smoke in the morning, afternoon and evening. Don’t stop there! In brackets, briefly describe the context. Here’s a list to get you started:
- Watching TV
- In the car
- A work/school break
- Social setting
- Strong emotion
These are just my ideas but I hope they offer some inspiration. The goal is to identify when/where/why you smoke. This helps us uncover our patterns.
Knowing Our Options:
Quitting can be very overwhelming. Most people WANT to, but many don’t know how to start. It helps to familiarize ourselves with available resources. To save you time, I’ll share my recent findings.
I’ll start with these because they’re my favourite. Usually broken down into a 3 step (10 week) program, many brands offer transdermal adhesive patches. You’ll usually see 24mg, 14mg and 7mg.
Delivers a consistent amount of nicotine that effectively curbs physiological cravings throughout the day.
I find there are few withdrawal symptoms and they’re simple to use.
The adhesive can make your skin itchy. (It’s most often harmless though and it’s simply recommended to change where you put the patch each day.)
There’s nothing to hold by that resembles smoking a cigarette or vape.
Tip: Patches from big brands are expensive! Off – brand patches are equally effective AND nearly half the cost. (I compared Option + to Nicoderm)
This is a small, disposable vape device – That’s the best way I can describe it. There are many cartriges of liquid in each box and you put them in the inhaler. The point is to puff at it with the frequency of a cigarette, but it’s just to replace the nicotine and is temporary.
The nicotine is sucked into the mouth but doesn’t reach the lungs. It’s absorbed orally and quickly curbs cravings.
Having something to hold and inhale similar to the action of smoking has the bonus of appeasing the visual aspect.
The previous point of physical similarity can also be taken as a disadvantage if it prolongs the hand-to- mouth need. (It’s a pretty personal thing.)
Inhalers are probably my second favourite cessation aid. I did find however that the feeling is strange in my mouth and makes me think more about real smoking. It’s too similar AND too different. Does that make sense?
Everyone knows about gum, right? Available in a few different strengths and different flavours, it’s supposed to address a rapid onset craving.
Gum occupies your mouth and isn’t too similar to smoking. One could switch more easily to regular gum afterwards.
If someone smokes or vapes a lot, it’s likely to not be enough. You’d also probably go through a TON! Personally, I don’t find that the gum works well enough. At least not unless combined with another method.
These are supposed to be one of the fastest ways to satisfy a craving. You spray it into your mouth once, as needed, and you’re good to go.
Pros: The spray quickly satisfies cravings (allegedly).
It’s also portable and comes in different flavours.
It’s pretty expensive.
It has a revolting taste/tongue feeling. I felt like throwing up and my tongue was burning for about 10 minutes after. Yuck! So I spent about $55 on something I could barely tolerate 3 times. (Haven’t touched it since, which sucks)
I haven’t tried these myself but lozenges are another option that can be used in conjunction with something else.
Pros: Apparently satisfies rapid-onset cravings while keeping your mouth busy.
It would take A LOT of lozenges for a heavy smoker, so like the gum, I recommend using these in conjunction with something else.
These are pills that help someone quit smoking by modifying the craving-reward biochemistry of smoking. Apparently you feel nauseous if you smoke a cigarette. I won’t recommend these products because I don’t know enough and they’re only available through prescription. I’ve also read about some scary side effects but a lot of long-term heavy smokers swear that it’s the only way they succeeded at quitting.
Being hard-headed with everything, quitting was no different for me. I pretty much went at it alone without consulting a professional about it. I also told as few people as I could to keep my inner motivation alive and strong. I did do thorough research, but I wanted my goal and (hopefully) success to come as a surprise. I really wanted to make my family proud, but myself too.
That said, openly talking about this journey is a really good idea. The more people you have on your team, the better. This is for information, troubleshooting, support, motivation, etc. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists can all help you with the physical aspects, while bringing it up with a mental health provider can also be of tremendous benefit. Let’s put the odds in our favour, right? Especially with something as difficult as stopping an addiction! If you can find a quitting partner or group, that too can really help keep motivation high when you’re having a hard time. Ups and downs are to be expected.
General Tips for Success:
⁃ Be proud of your decision to stop before you’ve even succeeded.
⁃ Remain patient with yourself and understand that setbacks are natural and forgivable.
⁃ Fidget toys aren’t just great for ADHD and autism! Try them out to keep your hands busy. (Here you can find an in-depth review of many types of fidgets.)
⁃ You might have an increased appetite when you quit. To avoid extra pounds, it’s smart to keep some healthy snacks on hand wherever you are.
⁃ If smoking was a form of reward or consolation, try out new substitutes.
⁃ Think of your quitting journey as a holistic endeavour: add other complementary goals like exercise, water intake, sufficient sleep and a healthy diet. (But don’t embark on too much at once!)
⁃ Remind yourself regularly of why you want to quit and all the benefits you’ll see as a result. I recommend making a poster you look at every morning. (Some ideal locations include the bathroom mirror, fridge, bedside table…)
Well there you have it…my first how-to guide for quitting smoking! I don’t know very much yet but I’m very happy to have shared what I’ve learned so far. I’ve been so busy that by the time I’m publishing this, I’ve now reached 12 days without smoking! Good luck to everyone else in this battle!