Mar 20th, 2018, 05:00 PM

How to Quit Smoking

By Joan Jessiman
Image Credit: Flikr/Septemberforever
The ups and downs of quitting smoking, told by a recent quitter.

This article is not about how smoking kills you. There won’t be any smoke shaming or gruesome pictures of black lungs. This is my personal experience on quitting smoking and how difficult it actually is to not cheat. I had my first cigarette as a freshman in high school and had no idea what I was doing. I inhaled and immediately coughed and choked on the smoke. From there I became a social smoker, and soon I never left home without a pack. Living in Paris is a hard city to live in if you’re trying to kick the habit. You can’t walk a block in the city without seeing a smoker, stepping on cigarette butts, or coming across a tabac. For the past three years, I smoked roughly four packs a week. Anytime someone was going for a smoke break, I was the go-to friend who was always down for a cigarette.

Image Credit: Flikr/Rosewoman
 

January 1st 2018 was the day I had my last cigarette. I didn't want to stop smoking, but I did want to prove to myself that I could. We all hear stories about people struggling to quit after years of being a smoker. I knew the habit was bad and wanted to test the theory of whether or not I was truly addicted. People always say that it takes 21 days to form or break a habit, although there is new evidence that this may not be the case. I hoped it would be.

To quit and stay quit you’re going to need to do a few things:

  • Remind yourself frequently that you’re done smoking
  • Resist the urge to buy another pack
  • Throw away anything that would tempt you to smoke i.e filters, papers, loose tobacco
  • Surround yourself with people who don’t smoke or are aware of you quitting
  • Find another hobby to pick up when you feel like smoking
     
Image Credit: Flikr/EvanHB
 

Week one of quitting was terrible. I won’t sugar coat it; it was so hard not to break the promise that I had made to myself. I thought about cigarettes and smoking all of the time. Anytime I smelled cigarette smoke or saw a friend smoking, it took serious self-control not to ask for "just a drag". I was having dreams about myself smoking cigarettes with friends and buying cartons of packs. When I quit, I quit cold turkey. I didn’t wean myself off of them or reward myself with one when I accomplished something. I told myself:  “You’re done and you will not buy another pack."

After the first week or so, it got much easier. The cravings were less frequent, although I would still catch myself passing a tabac and hesitating whether or not to buy a pack.  I would take a big breath next to my friends that were smoking in hopes of catching some second-hand smoke. I was still having to tell myself to not smoke, but I wasn't missing the cigarettes and nicotine as much.  As the weeks continued and I hit the one month mark of not smoking, the feeling of excitement and pride in myself was worth all of the cravings and doubt that had clouded my head. From that point, it became a challenge against myself. I told myself that if I could go one month without smoking, then why not two? I haven't smoked a cigarette in almost three months now. When people offer me a cigarette I actually can say no, something that I would never have done in the past.

Image Credit: Flikr/HammontonPhotography 
 

So was it worth it? Overall, I’d say yes. So far, so good. I love the idea of smoking cigarettes and I don’t think that will change for a long time. I learned that I was smoking so much it had become more about the act of smoking rather than the cigarette itself. My hands felt empty if I didn’t have a cigarette propped between my index and middle finger. Once I got over the fact that I was only missing the physical presence of something, I was able to see all the benefits of not smoking packs each week.

My personal pros for quitting smoking are:

  • More Money- I was smoking 4 packs a week, so 7 euros/pack x 4 packs/week x4 weeks/month =112 euros/ month on cigs
  • Better skin → I’ve noticed my skin has been clearer and brighter since quitting
  • No more smokers cough → I feel much healthier and less “sick” since stopping
  • Whiter teeth → Smoking really does stain your teeth (more than people realize)
     
Image Credit: Flikr/Alpha
 

Quitting smoking should be a personal decision for it to be effective. If you have negative people around you telling you to quit and listing all of the bad aspects of smoking, it is often much harder to quit. For me, when people would harass me about how bad smoking was, it made me almost want to smoke more. I had the mentality that it was my choice and my decision to smoke and it was not their place to tell me what I should do with my own body.

Now that it’s been almost three months, I can't say that I don't still miss smoking cigarettes at all. I still think about it and contemplate having one. If you are a smoker and want to stop for health reasons, or even to prove to yourself you can, I would definitely give it a try.