David Connolly started smoking in 1972. “It was that whole peer pressure thing. I was 16 and my best friend smoked, so I started smoking.” Although he quit almost a dozen times in the past, playing in smoke filled bars as part of the Austin music scene, and facing one stressful situation or another led him back to cigarettes again and again. Not even cancer could make him quit.
“In 2006 I thought I was going in for hemorrhoids and my doctor told me I had stage 3 colon cancer. I went through the whole thing alone. I was getting prepped for surgery and the room was filled with patients and their wives and kids. My family is all gone. I’m sitting there alone. Tears crying down my face. The doctor put his hand on my shoulder and just stood with me for about fifteen minutes. I’ll never forget that.”
“You would think something like cancer would make me quit, but it was so stressful. The chemo treatments for six weeks took its toll. When I was done I had no job and no home. Then there was a mix up. The hospital told me I was done with chemo, but I actually wasn’t supposed to stop treatment. That ended up saving my life though. I hiked the Appalachia Trail. For two weeks straight I hiked the mountains and drank clean water. I had the face of death on me but after that hike I felt reborn.”
Today his cancer is in remission and he finally quit smoking. Here are some tips if you, or someone you know, wants to quit smoking too.
- You have to want to quit. Nicotine is very addictive, the 72 hour withdrawal period can be tough, and changing habits (especially ones you have had for years) is stressful. To combat these things you have to have a strong personal motivation to kick the habit for good.
- Pick a Quit Day. According to the American Cancer Society, most smokers already know why they should quit, but want to know how they should quit. They recommend picking a day within the month so you have enough time to mentally prepare for it. Whether you quit cold turkey or reduce your usage gradually is a matter of personal preference, but the key is to make a plan and stick to it. (American Cancer Society: How to Quit)
- Get Mad at Big Tobacco. Big Tobacco wants you to see smoking as cool and sexy and fun. Look at pictures of what smoking really does to your body. According to Dr. Stanton Glantz, “We now have empirical evidence that people who don’t like the tobacco industry are about five times as likely to quit, and a third to a fifth as likely to start.” (New York Times: Why Smoking Rate Are At New Lows.)
- Avoid triggers. The Mayo Clinic suggests coming up with strategies for dealing with trigger situations. For example, if you smoke while talking on the phone, keep a pen and paper next to the phone so you can doodle while talking instead of using your hands to smoke. (Mayo Clinic: Quitting Smoking)
- Put your cigarette money in a clear jar. Wow! Look at all that money you are saving! The average smoker can spend up to $3,200 a year in cigarettes. Why not save that money up and treat yourself to a nice vacation instead?
- Talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to recommend something like a nicotine patch or give you strategies to quit. Your doctor can also explain to you the medical benefits of quitting.
- Switch your cigarette habit for a nut habit. “Four nuts in their shell for every cigarette you want to smoke. This way, you’re using your hands and your mouth, getting the same physical and oral sensations you get from smoking.” (Reader’s Digest: 25 Ways to Stop Smoking)
- Take a walk. Many people smoke to relieve stress. Another way to relieve stress is to just take a walk around the block. If you are stuck at the office, try walking up and down the stairs in your building. It gets your blood flowing, energizes you and provides a nice distraction for a few minutes.
If you mess up, start over again. Stuff happens and sometimes we fall back on bad habits. Move on and get back with the program.
- Talk with someone. Support can be found through friends, family and co-workers. Some states have free online phone support groups you can call as part of their health initiatives. You can also read blogs dedicated to quitting. It helps to know you are not alone.
David quit smoking two months ago and is sticking with it. “This time it was different. There is always that smoker’s ritual of finishing the last pack before quitting. This time I had half a pack, but I just didn’t want it any more. I threw it in the trash and then walked away. I fell off the wagon in the past, but I think the trick is that this time I really wanted it. You can do anything if you want to. I’m tired of sitting in a cloud of smoke, wasting money. This time I wanted to quit. If I can quit, anyone can.” Good job, David!
How about you? Do you have any tips to stop smoking?
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