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10 Steps That Helped Me (Finally) Quit Smoking

Updated on April 9, 2016

1. Make a list of all the things that cause your cravings.

These can be anything from social pressure, to events and interactions in your daily life that stress you out, to that feeling you get when you're a few drinks in and " uhmuhgawd, like, neeeed a cigarette right now". Looking at your triggers objectively will allow you to recognize them the next time they arise, and rationalize how much that cigarette is actually going to help your situation. How much do you actually need that cigarette?

2. Think about all the reasons WHY you smoke.

This step might seem repetitive, but I'm speaking now about emotional triggers and habits rather than sensory-perceptible situations. Once you can acknowledge that your cravings are just as emotionally and psychologically spurred as they are chemical, you begin to realize that you're treating a symptom rather than the actual cause. Knowing why you feel the need to light up in different situations instead of addressing these triggers head-on will teach you a lot about yourself and why this habit has been able to thrive.

3. Cut your cravings at their source.

Once you've recognized what's causing your cravings, you can begin to think of ways to tackle those situations without reaching for your pack. Take a second to think about why you're stressed out, and come up with ways to deal with those factors instead of fumbling for the easy way out. Let's say you get easily worked up around your boss or co-workers. Think about why their actions are bothering you, and what you can do or say to alter that behavior in a way that makes your interactions more bearable. Understanding that you smoke to avoid dealing with real issues trivializes the need to smoke, and provides motivation to pull your cravings up by the roots.

3. Consider the effects.

Reflect on what you're doing to yourself, both emotionally and physically.That may sound patronizing, and I know that everyone knows that smoking is bad for them; But really picturing what you're doing to yourself, and what will continue to happen to you in the long term, is a very effective way to stifle your cravings. Do some research if you have to... Google-search images of smokers lungs or read testimonials of people who have had their lives destroyed by nicotine addiction. If you can build enough of an association between the facts and the cigarette in your hand, you won't be able to stop those mental images from popping up whenever you pull one out. Major turn-off.

4. Build a support group.

I don't mean sitting in a circle with a bunch of other smokers to talk about your feelings. Unless you think that will help, in which case have at it. What I'm talking about is selecting a group of your peers (ideally people who you spend enough time with that they witness your smoking first hand) and get them to call you on it when they see you reach for a cigarette. Granted, this WILL feel completely counterproductive at first. There's something about people telling you to quit that makes you want to blow a huge smoke ring right in their face. But give it time. As you grow less comfortable smoking around your peers, smoking alone will become more of a dirty secret. This is nice in a way, because it allows you to still get your fix from time to time, but only when you really can't control yourself. Seeing how long you've gone since your last smoke will show you how strong you actually are, and encourage you to keep fighting your urges.

5. Buy loose tobacco instead of pre-rolls.

Even when I did this, I would always cheat by rolling a few in advance if I knew I was going to be out and about. One upside of smoking shag though, is that the cigarettes you roll yourself are usually smaller, so they do a tiny bit less damage to your breathers. I also like that you can be a bit more selective in the quality of the tobacco and how how much other toxic garbage is thrown in there. The main reason I suggest this, however, is because smoking is a habit of convenience. It takes nothing to stick one in your mouth while you're strolling down the street, but if you have to stop and roll it yourself every time you want one, you'll start to convince yourself that you don't actually want it that badly. This is especially effective for cutting out smoke breaks at work. I'm way less inclined to go out for a quick one during my break if rolling it first is going to cut into my time out.

6. Drink. Water.

I can not stress how simple and effective this was in helping me quit. One of the biggest things that people overlook in their daily lives is their water consumption, namely their lack thereof. Even if you're not feeling particularly dehydrated, there is a 110% chance that a tall one and a few deep breaths will do you way more good than a cigarette will. And it totally crushes your cravings! Don't ask me how, but every time I've replaced a cigarette with a cool glass of water or a cup of tea I felt considerably less inclined to smoke. As most smokers are already fully aware, once you develop a nicotine addiction, your brain does this really stupid thing. Whenever you feel like you're missing something, whether physically, emotionally or whatever, smarty-pants up there goes "Hey! I know what you need... a cigarette! Boy, won't that be the ticket." It won't though because, again, you're tending to a symptom (you're nicotine craving) rather that addressing the cause. Grab a cup instead, you'll feel just swell.

7.Think of the planet. No, seriously.

Most cigarette filters are made of synthetic polymers or fibers. Not only is that terrible for your health, but because they're composed similarly if not exactly like most plastics, it takes cigarette butts forever to break down in nature. Imagine how many butts you toss on the ground every day. Now multiply that by 365 days in a year. And how long have you been smoking? Now watch this video:

Gross, huh? The more I educate myself about the effects my behavior has on the environment, the harder it gets to carry out those actions without feeling extremely guilty. I have to stress here, though, that being a smoker DOES NOT make you a bad person. Awareness of the negative impact you've had on your body and your planet is an immensely valuable tool against your potential to perpetuate that negativity.

8. Think of your closet.

This step may seem pretty superficial compared to the prior, but it's still something that bears consideration. It's no secret that smokers stink. I'm not trying to be mean, but we do. You don't notice it nearly as much if you smoke too, but I'm sure you still know that gagging feeling you get when a heavy smoker leans in for a hug or, god forbid, a bit of tongue action. Even if you love them very much, you can't help entertaining the idea of asking them to go brush their teeth once or thrice and try again. And it's not just your clothes or your breath. That smell seeps into everything. It gets in your hair, your car, your carpet... even if you only ever smoke outdoors, somehow it just finds a way. I remember hanging my coat up at a wine and cheese once and, upon opening the closet door later to retrieve it, realizing that my friend's closet now reeked of cigarettes. Not my best moment (or my worst, but we'll save that for another time).

9. Phone a friend.

I suppose this one seems pretty corny; But living in an age where our friends and family are literally a click away when we need them, it seems silly not to take advantage of that. I got into the habit while I was quitting of pulling out my phone instead of my cigarette case, and checking in on a friend instead. You don't have to actually call them. You can just scroll down your insta-feed if you don't want to talk to anyone. If you're feeling super old school, pull out a book. Do some jumping jacks, climb a tree, whatever. The point is to engage yourself in something stimulating enough that it will distract you from your cravings long enough for them to subside.

10. So at this point you're probably doing pretty well... Maybe you still bum the odd smoke off a stranger when your bus refuses to show up, or won't say no if someone offers you one after a few drinks. So where's the nail in the coffin? What can you do to make sure you just never want to look at another cigarette again? You're going to hate me in a second, but here it is: go buy a pack of the cheapest, dirtiest, most chemically infected cancer sticks you can find... and smoke them. All of them. Or as many as you can without barfing, and I'm not even kidding. Please don't finish the pack if you start to feel seriously gross. Being hospitalized for trying to quit smoking would just be way too ironic. Also, you'd be in the hospital. Lame. For me, just smoking a few in one day after a pretty solid hiatus was enough to convince me there was no going back. Don't get me wrong, I do believe that if you've been a smoker long enough, you never really quit. Admittedly, I still have a hard time saying no if people offer. But I always remember how disgusting I felt that day. It's like when you have a really bad whiskey adventure and can't handle the smell of it afterward. You "literally just can't even".


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