MOST IMPORTANT, know this — YOU CAN DO IT…
If you have tried to quit smoking and failed before, take comfort in the fact that most smokers fail several times before quitting successfully. Your past failures are not a lesson that you are unable to quit. Instead, view them as part of the normal journey toward becoming a nonsmoker.
The information below will ease your way and help insure that this is the last time you ever need to go through the quitting process. You can do it!
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© 2010 by Patrick Reynolds
The most important step to take is the first step — admitting you have an addiction.
When asked why you smoke, you might have said, “I just like to smoke!” or “It’s my choice to smoke.”The tobacco companies have promoted the idea that smoking is a matter of personal choice. As I see it, there really isn’t as much choice as they have suggested to their customers.
Ask yourself, and be totally honest: Am I addicted to tobacco? Am I truly making a freely made choice when I smoke?
You might consider that you need to have a cigarette. Studies have shown that nicotine addiction is as hard to break as heroin or cocaine addiction.
In Nicotine Anonymous’ 12 Step program, which sprang from the venerable Alcoholics Anonymous program, the first step is admitting to yourself, “I’m powerless over tobacco.” Making this admission may seem trivial to you, but for many it is a very significant part of completing the journey to becoming a non-smoker.
By telling smokers that smoking is a personal choice, the tobacco industry has helped to keep its customers in denial about the true extent of their addiction. If smoking is a choice, then what’s the rush to quit? The tobacco companies have used this spin to help keep millions of customers buying their deadly products.
Admitting that you’re smoking more out of addiction than choice will help motivate you to go on to the next steps — taking control of yourself and becoming a nonsmoker.
This admission will further serve you by helping you stay smokefree later. In the months and years after you quit, when temptations to smoke occasionally overpower you — and they will — remind yourself, “I have an addiction and I’m powerless over tobacco.” Saying this to yourself in overwhelmed moments of desire will help give you the strength to say no to “just one” cigarette.
If you can make it for just five minutes without giving in, the urge to smoke be controllable or disappear. In this way, you’ll be able to stay smokefree for life.
For me there were two very distinct and
EQUALLY IMPORTANT phases to quitting:
Phase One — Quitting with help
Phase Two — Staying smokefree and not relapsing
Quitting with help
Real men ask directions
People who are the most successful at living life typically get plenty of help. For example, in business, a successful businesswoman or businessman gets a lawyer to write the contracts, an advertising agency to create the ads, a marketing executive to do the marketing, an accountant to do the accounting, a doctor when they’re sick — people who succeed best get help, and lots of it. Even the very greatest novelists have editors they rely on for invaluable feedback. Real men ask directions!
Sadly, eighty percent of smokers who quit do so without being in any program – and studies show that 95% of these self-reliant quitters fail, and go right back to smoking within 12 months. It’s the same rate of recidivism as with heroin. So you may wish to consider getting some help this time around!
For those who have repeatedly failed at quitting in the past, it’s comforting to learn that most smokers in fact fail several times before stopping successfully. Your past failures are not a lesson that you are unable to quit. Instead, they are part of the normal journey toward becoming a nonsmoker.
I certainly failed — 11 times. Every time I failed, I lost a little more faith that I could really quit. So each time I quit, it got harder and harder to motivate myself to set a date. I had begun to feel it was hopeless.
My mission here is to restore your faith in yourself. You CAN quit. Even if you’ve failed several times in the past, understand that this is normal. You’re not alone.
You need to get your resolve up, and try again. YOU CAN DO IT!
Get help — lots of it. Get into a good program, or better yet, a combination of more than one.
Call your local branch of the American Cancer Society, or the American Lung or Heart Associations. All have inexpensive and effective, mainstream programs.
Other top of the line, physician-endorsed methods: nicotine replacement is now available without a prescription; the nicotine patch or gum are available at any pharmacy.
Ask your doctor about prescription medications which may also be helpful to you.
A Cochrane Review study done in 1996 and updated in November, 2007, found that nicotine replacement therapies like the patch, gum or inhaler increased chances of quitting by 50% to 70%.
Bear in mind,however, that with no program, only 5% of quitters are still smokefree at the end of 12 months. A 50% increase in the quit rate would mean that 7.5% of those using NRT were successful after 12 months.
The Schick-Shadel Treatment Centers offer aversion therapy — self-administering a mild electric shock from an ordinary 9 volt battery as one smokes a cigarette. They claim a 95% initial success rate, and 50% after a year. I used this therapy successfully, and will come back to this later.
Buy a How to Quit Smoking Book, or a motivational cassette tape program in a bookstore, and listen to the tapes in your car. Every little bit helps!
In addition, visit our Quitlinks page, for to see the results of recent studies on which quit products work best.
Talk to a live human being free
Call 1-800-QUIT NOW for free support with a trained counselor, who will talk to you whether you are ready to quit or just thinking about it. This number will forward to your State’s tobacco cessation program, which offers live phone support in your area. When you call, a friendly staff person will offer a choice of free services, including self-help materials, a referral list of other programs in your community, and one-one-counseling over the phone.
There is also the National Cancer Institute’s Smoking Quitline, 1-877-44U-Quit, offering proactive counseling by trained personnel.
Try the great free meetings
at Nicotine Anonymous
If joining a small group of other quitters appeals to you, then try a Nicotine Anonymous meeting. It’s likely there’s one near you where you live. It’s a 12-step program based on AA; they’re nonprofit and meetings are free. You can find a local meeting near you, and if there isn’t one, you can learn how to start one at the Nicotine Anonymous website. (A for-profit company trademarked “Smokers’ Anonymous”. Instead, you want the FREE program — Nicotine Anonymous).
Their site notes, “Nicotine Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women helping each other to live our lives free of nicotine. We share our experience, strength and hope with each other so that we may be free from this powerful addiction. There are no fees. Our primary purpose is to offer support to those who are trying to gain freedom from nicotine.”
Sorry, but there’s no magic pill
Don’t count on any of these programs to make it a breeze. None of them will do that — but they WILL absolutely reduce your distress by 15% to 50%, depending on how addicted you are psychologically, vs. physically — and that may well make all the difference this time around.
I’m not promising it will be easy — it will likely be difficult for a few days or weeks. So get your resolve and willpower up, because you’ll need it. Remember, you CAN do it.
Don’t ask, “Does this program work?” Rather, ask yourself, “Am I willing to DO the work?”
You know how to work, don’t you? I’m betting that you do.
Wealthy people may have a harder time than you
I come from a wealthy background, and at one point it occurred to me that wealthy folks may have a harder time quitting smoking, alcohol, or dieting. Why? Because they’re used to getting whatever they want, whenever they want it. Those who are not wealthy have much stronger “self-denial muscles.”
If you count yourself among the affluent, you might wish to consider an inpatient treatment center. You’d reside in a hospital for up to a week with a group of other people who are also quitting.
Presently, two excellent inpatient programs are offered, at The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN (they have a second location as well), and St. Helena Hospital in California’s Napa Valley. At the St. Helena they offer a 5 day or 10 day inpatient program. You may call them at 866.359.3296.
How are your self-denial muscles? Pretty good, no doubt! Let’s see: are you able to easily put off getting a brand new car, or going to a $60 per head restaurant? How about postponing that vacation in Monte Carlo, Aspen, or Florida? Good! If you can do those things, chances are good you won’t need an inpatient program, and you’ll have all the self-denial muscles you’ll need to quit smoking. But you’ll need to flex them. And yes, it might hurt a bit.
A Note About Tobacco Ads
Many teens, if asked, would say that tobacco ads have no influence over them. However, new studies tell us that advertising plays a greater role than even peer pressure in getting teens to smoke.
And one recent study shows that the three most heavily advertised brands are the same three brands most often smoked by teens — Camels, Marlboros and Newport. It’s no accident. Cigarette ads clearly influence our teens. Tobacco ads may not influence your conscious mind — but they do influence the unconscious mind.
Your Unconscious Mind
What is the unconscious mind? In a famous study, the Russian scientist Pavlov rang a bell every time he fed his dog — and eventually the dog would salivate just on hearing the bell — even though there was no food there. The dog had made an unconscious association between the ringing and dinner, and began to drool!
Cigarette ads reach our unconscious minds. These ads create an unconscious association between the addiction of cigarettes and strong, positive images of attractive, healthy people, sports like tennis or mountain climbing, beautiful country scenes, cowboys gathered around a campfire or on horseback, masculinity and manhood, being feminine and womanhood, being a ‘real person,’ and so on. As of 2000, the tobacco industry has been spending over $5 billion annually to advertise its deadly products. That’s a lot of bell ringing! And it’s not lost on our kids.
The smoker’s unconscious mind also makes repeated pleasant associations with the act of smoking — watching the smoke slowly curling, putting a cigarette to the lips, languidly inhaling and exhaling, absently handling a cigarette — all these are very much a part of the psychological addiction to tobacco. Quitters often feel as though they are losing a best friend.
Aversion therapy sends negative associations to the unconscious mind as the quitter smokes cigarettes. This clinically proven method helps to undo the years of daily positive associations with smoking. It helps to reduce future psychological cravings for cigarettes. In this way, the Schick-Shadel Treatment Centers aversion therapy program makes the quitting process a good deal easier.
For most addicted smokers, the addition is about half mental, half physical. Studies show that the ratio varies with each individual. The physical portion of the addiction is to nicotine. As to the mental or psychological aspect, a smoker’s conscious mind says, ‘I will stop smoking — no problem.’ But the unconscious mind has been conditioned for years that cigarettes give pleasure, and that’s all it can focus on. The unconscious mind says, ‘Gimmie a cigarette — now!’ It only recognizes what feels good. It demands a cigarette, without regard to right or wrong, and ignores the conscious mind’s intentions. Aversion therapy is one way to help counteract this.
During the process of quitting, the new habit of being a nonsmoker forms. The ex-smoker’s unconscious mind gradually gets used to being a nonsmoker, as the urges to smoke slowly fade away.
The Boilerplate Points
Do your best to follow as many of these as you can. The points below are advocated by most of today’s credible quit-smoking products and programs. They are widely accepted as an essential and necessary part of quitting successfully.
Just using the patch or without following the points below will hinder your chances to quit for good this time.
- DEEP BREATHING PERHAPS THE SINGLE MOST POWERFUL AND IMPORTANT TECHNIQUE Every time you want a cigarette, do the following. Do it three times.Inhale the deepest lung-full of air you can, and then, very slowly, exhale. Purse your lips so that the air must come out slowly.As you exhale, close your eyes, and let your chin gradually sink over onto your chest. Visualize all the tension leaving your body, slowly draining out of your fingers and toes, just flowing on out.This is a variation of an ancient yoga technique from India, and is VERY centering and relaxing. If you practice this, you’ll be able to use it for any future stressful situation you find yourself in. And it will be your greatest weapon during the strong cravings sure to assault you over the first few days.This deep breathing technique will be a vital help to you. Reread this point now, and as you do, try it for the first time. Inhale and exhale three times. See for yourself!
- The first few days, drink LOTS of water and fluids to help flush out the nicotine and other poisons from your body.
- Remember that the urge to smoke only lasts a few minutes, and will then pass. The urges gradually become farther and farther apart as the days go by.
- Do your very best to stay away from alcohol, sugar and coffee the first week or longer, as these tend to stimulate the desire for a cigarette. Avoid fatty foods, as your metabolism will slow down a bit without the nicotine, and you may gain weight even if you eat the same amount as before quitting. So discipline about diet is extra important now. No one ever said acquiring new habits would be easy!
- Nibble on low calorie foods like celery, apples and carrots. Chew gum or suck on cinnamon sticks.
- Stretch out your meals; eat slowly and wait a bit between bites.
- After dinner, instead of a cigarette, treat yourself to a cup of mint tea or a peppermint candy.
- In one study, about 25% of quitters found that an oral substitute was invaluable. Another 25% didn’t like the idea at all — they wanted a clean break with cigarettes. The rest weren’t certain. Personally, I found a cigarette substitute to be a tremendous help. The nicotine inhaler (by prescription) is one way to go: it’s a shortened plastic cigarette, with a replaceable nicotine capsule inside.
- A simpler way to go is bottled cinnamon sticks, available at any supermarket. I used these every time I quit, and they really helped me. I would chew on them, inhale air through them, and handle them like cigarettes. After a while, they would get pretty chewed up on one end — but I’d laugh, reverse them and chew on the other end. Others may prefer to start a fresh stick. Once someone asked me, “Excuse me, but is that an exploded firecracker in your mouth?” I replied that I was quitting smoking – and they smiled and became supportive. Luckily, I never needed the cinnamon sticks after the first three days of being a nonsmoker.
- Go to a gym, sit in the steam, exercise. Change your normal routine – take time to walk or even jog around the block or in a local park.
- Look in the yellow pages under Yoga, and take a class – they’re GREAT! Get a one hour massage, take a long bath — pamper yourself.
- Ask for support from coworkers, friends and family members. Ask for their tolerance. Let them know you’re quitting, and that you might be edgy or grumpy for a few days. If you don’t ask for support, you certainly won’t get any. If you do, you’ll be surprised how much it can help. Take a chance — try it and see!
- Ask friends and family members not to smoke in your presence. Don’t be afraid to ask. This is more important than you may realize.
- On your quit day, hide all ashtrays and destroy all your cigarettes, preferably with water, so no part of them is smokeable.
- To talk to a live human being, call 1-800-QUITNOW for a free quit smoking counselor, or call the National Cancer Institute’s free Smoking Quitline, 1-877-44U-Quit. Proactive counseling services by trained personnel will be provided in sessions both before and after quitting smoking.
- Check out QuitNet.org and go to their chat room, where those quitting are doing it together, not alone. It can be a great source of support — like a Nicotine Anonymous meeting, but online. Quitnet was originally funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Control Program, which was funded by a State cigarette tax increase passed by the Massachusetts legislature in the early 90’s.
- At Nicotine Anonymous meetings, you’ll find support and fellowship, which can be more comforting than a computer screen. If this appeals to you, find a meeting near you at the website of Nicotine Anonymous — they are all over the US. Meetings are based around the classic 12-steps, borrowed from Alcoholics Anonymous’ winning formula to overcome addiction. Attendance is 100% free, and this org is run entirely by volunteers. At the website you can also find out how to start your own meeting. Support groups like Nicotine Anonymous might initially seem unnecessary — but they provide a GREAT outlet to vent verbally, and you men might be surprised at how good this feels! Best of all, it could help spare your family and friends much grumpiness. It’s truly therapeutic to see how other quitters are doing in their own struggles to stop, and to get support from others going through the same struggle you are.
- Write down ten good things about being a nonsmoker — and then write out ten bad things about smoking. Do it. It really helps.
- Don’t pretend smoking wasn’t enjoyable – it was. Quitting can be like losing a dear old friend – and it’s okay to grieve that loss. Let the feelings engulf you instead of avoiding your pain with sweets or some other distraction. Letting your feelings out is how you heal, and put the source of your pain behind you. It’s a process: feel, and you will heal. So stick with the difficult feelings. You can do it!
- Several times a day, quietly repeat to yourself the affirmation, “I am a nonsmoker.” Many quitters see themselves as smokers who are just not smoking for the moment. They have a self-image as smokers who still want a cigarette. Silently repeating the affirmation “I am a nonsmoker” will help you change your view of yourself, and, even if it may seem silly to you, this is actually useful. Use it!
- Here is perhaps the most valuable information among these points. In Phase 2, the period which begins a few weeks after quitting, the urges to smoke will subside considerably. However, it’s vital to understand that from time to time, you will still be suddenly overwhelmed with a desire for “just one cigarette.” This will happen unexpectedly, during moments of stress, whether negative stress or positive (at a party, or on vacation). If you are unprepared to resist, succumbing to that “one cigarette” will lead you directly back to smoking. Remember the following secret: in these surprise attacks during Phase 2 — and they will definitely come — do your deep breathing, and hold on for five minutes, and the urge will pass.
In conclusion, get the info and support you need to make the stopping process a little easier. DO NOT try to go it alone. Get help, and plenty of it.
Go cold turkey, or gradually cut down?
This is a personal choice. Do whichever you think will work best for you. Smokenders is a gradual quit program. I wasn’t one of those who could quit by slowly cutting down – although that works best for some. I always went cold turkey.
I’d always quit on a Monday — a regular workday, when work would occupy my thoughts. My usual routine tasks were familiar and helped get me through the first few difficult days, which were always the most difficult part for me.
Once I tried quitting during a vacation. I found there was little to do, except to obsess all day long over having a smoke. I failed that time. The positive stress of being on vacation actually added to my stress in quitting. More about positive stress in the crucially important section which follows.
Make Your Own Plan at
One of the most effective and best researched programs we’ve found is www.BecomeAnEx.org, a free resource for tobacco users who want to quit. Here smokers can continue to smoke while they create free, personalized quit plans which track the triggers that lead them to light up, such as alcohol, parties, or a difficult boss. And when they do quit, and those cravings start to mount, a live virtual support group will be there to help. This extraordinary, brilliant program was developed using the latest research by the American Legacy Foundation, the group created with $2 billion of the $240 billion settlement of the lawsuits by the States against Big Tobacco. Add the Become An Ex program to your arsenal in your battle against tobacco.
But the most important information by far follows just below, in Phase Two.
Staying smokefree and not relapsing
Here is the most valuable secret I can share with you, and probably the most important information on this page.
After the urges to smoke have become more and more infrequent, overwhelming surprise attacks are sure to come, a few weeks and months into your new smokefree life.
When these nearly out-of-control urges came (and they always engulfed me in unexpected moments), I learned that if I did my deep breathing (see above), and if I could just HOLD ON for 5 minutes — the overpowering urge to smoke would completely pass.
That is by far the single most important thing I learned — the hard way — about how to quit successfully.
Because I didn’t know this, I failed 11 times. I finally stopped for good on my 12th try, in Spring 1985. It’s the key to what has empowered me to stay smokefree for the past dozen years or so.
So know that out-of-control, very nearly irresistible urges to have “just one” are going to take you by surprise, like a sudden gale that seems to come from nowhere. This will happen one or more times in the coming months.
Every time it does, do your deep breathing (see above), hold on for 5 minutes — you can do it — and the urge will completely pass.
I’m convinced that this is the single most important secret to quitting for life.
A NOTE TO NONSMOKERS
If you live with a smoker, or are close friends with one: don’t be a NAG about their smoking habit! (You can make noise about their smoking in the house or near you, because their second hand smoke hurts you – but don’t nag them to quit. There’s a BIG difference!)
Just three times a year you can ask your loved one – briefly – VERY briefly – to please quit smoking — in VERY loving and warm tones. (Try surrounding your request with HONEST complements, keep it BRIEF, and they might be more open to hearing you.
But if you speak up more than three times per YEAR, then you’re a yukky, obnoxious NAG. Ick! And your beloved smoker will be so ANGRY with you that they’ll keep smoking just to spite you. You’ll be defeating your very purpose.
I ask nonsmokers to honor their smoking loved ones, and treat them like adults.
And if your loved ones are nagging you, don’t fall into the old trap of hurting yourself by continuing to smoke out of your anger toward them. Instead, let them know how you feel.
The great motivational speaker and family therapist John Bradshaw has said,
“America is a nation of addicts. We’re addicted not just to one thing, but often to several – like cigarettes, food, television, music, drugs, sex, even work. Each of these things is a kind of drug — because each temporarily gets your mind off of your pain.”
Bradshaw is right. He’s talking about both current pain, such as anger, loneliness, or sadness — and emotional pain we’ve carried with us since childhood, such as unmet childhood needs, like an absent father or abusive mother.
Sometimes, life is painful. It’s supposed to be that way. All of us are faced with grief, loss and struggle. And it’s by our struggles that we define and strengthen our character.
In my live talks and video for youth, I revive the ancient practice of initiation. As I initiate them into life, I let teens know that sometimes life will be painful.
“And when those moments come, you need to take the ADULT path,” I tell the students, “and stay with the difficulty — and not go lighting a cigarette, raiding the icebox, taking drugs, blasting music or switching on the TV — or, going to work for too many long hours. All these are just ways of avoiding painful feelings and numbing them out.”
If you stay with your pain, you’ll begin to see what’s causing it. And when you’re ready, you can take a step to solve the problem.
FEEL — AND YOU HEAL
One example: grieving your sadness to completion is the most effective way to heal it –rather than burying it, or carrying it with you deep inside for years. This is a core part of psychotherapy, and it works.
The same is true of anger – let your anger out in reasonable, mild little bits here and there, as you go along, right as things come up. This is better than letting it build up, and later exploding in rage.
It’s helpful — and healing — to let your feelings out verbally, as you quit smoking. Better words should come out of your mouth, in loud complaining tones, than extra unneeded calories going in!
Don’t worry, if you ask for support and tolerance, you’ll get it. A great outlet for this is Nicotine Anonymous meetings. There you’ll get plenty of support — and hugs too, if you ask for them. Don’t isolate, and do lean on others.
Especially for men, this is a sign of STRENGTH. Not going to a support meeting could be construed an act of fear, and therefore cowardice. So be brave, and seek support from others. It’s a sign of a strong man in my book. Real men do ask directions!
It’s true that smoking is mostly very enjoyable, even comforting, for you. Let’s not lie about it. Quitting will be like losing a great, dear friend — and you may find yourself grieving a bit. That’s only natural, and it’s okay.
But if you don’t quit and “grieve” now, this great “friend” of yours will probably turn on you and kill you one day. It’s statistically equivalent to playing Russian Roulette with not one, but two, bullets in the gun: if you smoke, you have a 40% chance of dying due to the habit. Not to mention continuing to put up with having to go outside most times you smoke.
In coming decades, we’ll look back on smoking as a thing of the last century. We know that statistically, only children and teens begin the habit. As our government passes laws making it increasingly difficult for youth to obtain cigarettes, and as Uncle Sam limits the advertising of tobacco more in the future, teens will not start smoking in such huge numbers. Finally, one day smoking will be no more. No more deaths, no more disease, no more grieving families around the world.
Welcome to the wonderful world of nonsmokers. You can do it!
expecting different results.
Phase One was realizing that with the help of one or more programs, I could stay off cigarettes for one to three months.
But I did that 11 times.
Phase Two — the period starting a few weeks after going cold turkey — the urges to smoke would greatly diminish, even disappear. But it was vital that I came to realize that any time from a week to a year after quitting, I was sure to get an occasional surprise ATTACK – during which I was suddenly OVERWHELMED with the desire to smoke.
Usually these attacks would sneak up on me during moments of stress – positive stress (out with friends, partying, or on a vacation) or negative stress (while immersed in an angry, sad or lonely moment – you know about those.)
During these surprise attacks I would always rationalize, “I could have just one. Just one…I haven’t had one for three months – so what’s the harm of having just one now? I want it SO BADLY!” And I would take ONE, and ZAP! The next day I’d have “just one more,” and before I knew it I was once again a full-fledged smoker, 100% addicted again, back up to a pack a day within just two or three weeks.
THE SECRET IS SIMPLE
Hang on for five minutes.
I finally stayed smokefree in this way:
When the surprise attacks came a few weeks or months after quitting, I told myself, “Hang on for five minutes – and this out-of-control urge to smoke will pass.”
After 11 failed attempts, I looked back and I realized that several times in the past, surprise attacks were ALWAYS the critical moment in which I would inevitably become re-addicted, as “innocent” as “just one cigarette” might seem.
As I wrestled with myself thinking about this during an attack, I thought, “Okay. Relief is about four minutes away…”
Still I was dying for a smoke – okay, so now it was just THREE more minutes to hold on for… Now TWO…
And sure enough, at the end of five minutes – the urge would be all gone, and I would be quite proud of myself for holding on (plus I got to deny my smoking friend his pleasure in seeing me light up like him).
It’s harsh, but only a baby gets to relieve itself whenever it feels like it. Adults know how to delay gratification. It’s time to remember you’re an adult. Grow up!
That said, a very warm welcome now, to the sometimes quite difficult world of adults!