Like the vast majority of ex-smokers, I tried to quit many times and failed. I remember my first quit: I had smoked three packs of cigarettes over a 24 hour period, and it was the first time that I felt disgusted by the habit. Prior to this, I was one of those who enjoyed smoking. Well, at least that was what I was telling myself.
In order to stop for good, I resorted to listening to Paul McKenna’s hypnosis. I was into self-hypnosis and NLP at the time, so I thought this would be enough to make me quit…
Well, the thing was that I was quite stressed. That’s an understatement. I almost beat a cab driver once, and on another occasion I started running after a car that hadn’t stopped at a pedestrian crossing.
No wonder this didn’t last long. All it took was to get real angry once, more than usual, and the first thing I did was go the grocery store and buy a pack of cigarettes.
After this, I think I tried to quit a couple more times, always insisting on listening to Paul McKenna urging me to give up that nasty habit once and for all, but to no avail.
Then, last year in May, I had become so disgusted with myself for being a slave to this stupid habit, and more disgusted with the fact that I kept trying to quit and failed. Also, a few days prior, a friend of mine told me that he considered all smokers to be emotionally weak: they needed something to help them cope with their own emotions.
That was it. I was going to quit smoking or die trying.
As I am still here and writing this post, I’d like to share the top 10 things that made this quit successful.
In all previous quits (those that failed), I was only kind of into it. What I mean by this is that, yes, I did want to quit, but I still thought I was forcing myself to give up on something that wasn’t that bad, or even if it was as bad as they said, it still didn’t matter because Valar morghulis.
I remember watching this YouTube video of Tony Robbins explaining how he got this guy to quit smoking: he made him buy a lot of packs of cigarettes, and then pretty much forced him to light one cigarette after another until he couldn’t smoke anymore, until he was screaming and shouting that he wanted to quit smoking.
This time, as opposed to all previous times, I was all in. I made myself a promise to quit. There was no turning back.
2. Know it’s going to suck.
Here’s why I think this quit worked. I knew what I was getting myself into.
The fact that I had done so much research, and I had previous experience with the urges and the other withdrawal symptoms, I knew what I was getting myself into, and still was more than willing to go through it.
Oddly enough, knowing how much those first 72 hours sucked from previous experiences, made me experience no withdrawal symptoms at all.
The first time I quit smoking I spent two days pretty much laying in bed and eating a lot. And chewing a ton of gum. And just sweating for no apparent reason. I also had some pretty vivid nightmares.
But this time, I was so committed to quitting that I’d drink coffee knowing full well that it would trigger an urge (coffee pretty much wakes us up by stressing us, and a smoker’s reaction to stress is to light himself a cigarette.) I was drinking coffee to spite this stupid desire to do harm to my body to calm an emotional reaction to a chemical substance.
So, count on the urges being really strong. Count on the fact that the mental addiction comes with some social elements as well: the so called smoke break, the fact that you tend to do a lot of stuff when a smoker just so you can smoke.
3. Know your “why”.
When the urge comes, your mind will start to rationalize. “What’s the harm in smoking ?” That’s when you need to know what’s wrong with smoking, and why it’s crucial for you to stay away from cigarettes for the rest of your life.
For example I had several “whys”:
- I wanted to be able to run without coughing my lungs out: I was becoming more and more passionate about fitness, and I wanted to be able to perform better.
- I wanted to be more attractive: yes, quitting smoking does help you with that. A lot. Look it up. It might help you decide to quit once and for all.
- I wanted to be free: being a slave to a bad habit only to lie myself that I could quit but I just didn’t wasn’t to my taste. Feeling anxious whenever I had two or three cigarettes left and no money to purchase another pack. This wasn’t what I considered to be free.
- Emphysema: it’s one of the few diseases whose description makes me shudder in fear, and the fact that smoking is the primary contributing factor acted as a strong motivator for me to quit. Actually, there is an experiment that you can try to see how it (kind of) feels. Take a deep breath. Then take another one on top of it. Then, without exhaling, try to inhale a third time. This third time, that’s how it feels to suffer from emphysema.
List out your reasons for quitting smoking. Print them out. Put this list on a wall, on the fridge, on your bathroom mirror. And remind yourself of those reasons every day, every urge.
4. Not even a puff. Ever.
This beautiful brain of yours is kind of dumb. It will tell you that one cigarette won’t hurt. And it’s hard to argue with that logic, especially when you’re in the middle of an urge. Don’t give in. Tell yourself, before the urges come, that you will not smoke a single puff, ever again. Because the truth is, that one puff undoubtedly leads to a second, and a third, and then a second cigarette, and then you are buying a pack…
Don’t kid yourself. A single puff means you’re no longer quitting, you’re smoking.
5. Watch every single video Joel Spitzer posted on Youtube.
I mean it. I am not being paid to write this, I’m just sharing some fantastic resources.
One of the things that helped the most in this quit was watching his videos on YouTube. Incredibly helpful and useful stuff, and I just couldn’t believe how few subscribers he had.
I think it’s true what they say about this infinity capacity of ours to reject useful knowledge.
6. Do not count the days, weeks, months, etc.
I’ve always thought that people tell you how much they’ve lasted for the precise reason that some day they’ll start again. One month without sugar, two months without smoking, three months without Netflix…
Come on. If you’re counting the days, it’s not lasting change. Why even bother counting something if it’s supposed to last for the rest of your life?
7. When you have an urge, take a few deep breaths.
Maybe it sounds silly, but getting more oxygen into your lungs can help ease the urges. Also, drink water, eat something salted, or maybe some carrots. Go running.
Do whatever it takes because the urge will go away. It always does. And there will be fewer and farther in between as the days go by.
8. Replace habits. A lot of them.
What do you do when you’re stressed?
Smoke a cigarette?
Think about doing something else instead.
What about drinking coffee? Or when you’re driving home from work?
The truth is that there will be a lot of habits that kind of made sense with you as a smoker, and stop making much sense once you quit. I even stopped hanging out with certain acquaintances because of this.
For about a year or so after quitting you’ll keep running into habits that are tied to you being a smoker. If you used to smoke a cigarette when meeting a certain friend who’s also a smoker, or a distant relative. If you used to smoke during a certain event. All those rituals that took years to cultivate must now be discarded and replace with new ones.
9. The first seventy-two hours are the worst.
The hardest part of quitting is the first three days. If you can get past that, you’ve passed the nicotine withdrawal stage, and the rest is mostly mental.
After that, it begins to get easier. You might have some trouble concentrating as your brain adjust to new intakes of oxygen and glucose, but most of what you have to deal with will be the occasional urge.
10. Believe you can.
This is the most important tip of the bunch.
As cheesy as it sounds, but if you tell yourself that you can do it, you will. Tell yourself that you can’t do it, and you won’t. When things get rough, stay positive! And remember that no one likes a crybaby.
Watch NLP Co-Founder, Richard Bandler, talk about how he quit smoking.