In review of my blog I found three posts about smoking. There is no need to try to find them since I have deleted them. The truth is, they were all three about how I had either quit, or was quitting. These were not merely suggested by me either, these were statements, as sure and as confidant as I have come to expect myself to be. Here lays the problem, I hadn’t quit after any of them. These posts were written a year or two apart, and I had probably forgotten about the previous posts when writing the next and so on. Although I had not quit, it did make me realize one thing, I have been wanting to or trying for a really long time, so I decided to post this about what I have discovered about smoking and quitting, and just delete the posts where I confidently declared myself free of cigarettes.
I will say this, I am not free of cigarettes. As much as I would still like to be, nicotine is addictive, I have what you might call an addictive personality, and I am somewhat obsessive, which doesn’t help anything really. You put this all together and you have me smoking for thirteen years.
There are many steps to this addiction. Not only is there nicotine, which is very addictive, in cigarettes, but the act of smoking itself becomes addictive in its own way. It’s like this, you use a computer, and I would bet that you use your mouse on either the right or left side of the keyboard, there are no other options after all. Now you have, like most people, used that mouse in the same position to the keyboard for most of the time that you have used a computer. Try moving the mouse to the opposite side and using it. It won’t be easy for you, for most it will be frustrating, and if you don’t readjust the mouse buttons you might just even give up. Some people will react differently, but most will just move the mouse back to where they are used to it being. When it comes to quitting smoking, it is almost like someone just told you that you can’t use the mouse at all when on the computer ever again.Yes, you can use your computer, and function on most websites, without a mouse, and this is something that everyone can learn to do. Plus, there is no chemical addiction to the mouse, so it isn’t like you are going to have some sort of withdraw from not having it. Just try it sometime. Simply don’t reach for the mouse while in the middle of something that you need to get done and is causing stress and all you need to do is open your email so that you can attach this file and get your work done. That is similar to how it feels to just not smoke. You can get the patches and the gum and replace the nicotine, but the feeling of having the cigarette and smoking, is not replaceable, and to quit, you have to learn not to replace it, but to live without it, and that is almost harder to do than to get through the withdraws of the nicotine.
Let me back up for a minute and answer the question that starts this all. When did I start smoking? That’s an easy question to answer. It was February 13, 1999. I was sitting at The Piranha in Stillwater, OK. The Piranha was a coffee shop near campus where a lot of my friends liked hanging out. It was the kind of laid back relaxed place that you could just lose yourself by just being there, and attracted the kind of people who you could buy just about anything you needed to relax more from. I didn’t start because of peer pressure, although at the same time I did. While no one ever made a big deal about me trying a cigarette or that I should smoke, or even said anything about the fact that I didn’t, I was the only none smoker of the group that hung out there. So, in a way it was both. No direct peer pressure, but plenty in my mind. Also, my dad smoked, I know my oldest brother had tried it, and I had always wondered. On this particular day, I had showed up and was pissed off at my dad, we had one of our great “discussions” about my living situation. These had become common after I had become the troubled teen in the family and had decided I was going to be dropping out of high school. With stress high, wanting to do something to spite my parents, wanting to prove myself to my friends, and mixing that with my curiosity, I asked someone for a cigarette. Actually I asked my friend James and he gave me a Marlboro red. The feeling was a rush and it did a lot to calm me down. I gave $2.25 to the one person in the room that was old enough to buy cigarettes and he got me a pack of Camel Lights, and I have smoked ever since. Although I switched from Camel Lights to Camel Wides, not much more had changed since that day. Other than the cost which is $5.54 a pack at the time I am writing this at the nearest store to me in Stillwater.
Over the years I have smoked a lot of cigarette brands and types. Switching from Camel Wides to Lucky Strikes to Camel Wides to Marlboro Reds to Camel Wides to Camel Filters to Camel Wides to several roll your owns to Pall Mall to Camel Wides. I eventually realized that I always went back to Wides so I should just stick with what I know I like, if I am going to kill myself and waste money doing it, I should do it with something I like. Simply, it’s all about cost. I’m still not adverse to buying a pack or two of Filters over Wides if they are on sale, but I usually just buy what I am use to at this point. Really it doesn’t matter, they are all bad for you, and everyone will insist that their brand is better because of taste, smell, cost, production or whatever the reason, and they will be defensive about it. They are all bad for you, they are all addictive, they all smell bad, and they will all kill you. Even if Camel Wides are better than all others, they will too.
Going back now to the addiction itself. There are many layers to it. The number one is the nicotine. It physically hurts to stop taking in a regular amount of it. Everyone is different in how much they smoke, what they smoke and how they smoke. So, everyone takes in a different amount of nicotine, but it doesn’t really matter, it hurts physically to break the regular amount, and you feel it an know when it is happening. Even just trying to smoke less brings it on. For me the worst part is being tried. I don’t know if it is the lack of nicotine or my body adjusting to the withdraw, but I shut down and become really useless to everyone. Without it I’m just tired.
Then there is the social aspect of smoking that most people don’t really think about. If you smoke you have friends that you smoke with or co-workers that take smoke breaks with you. This one makes it hard to quit because you can really feel left out. Smoking is almost just the excuse that you have to get away and hang out and talk to people you have come to really enjoy being around. While this is a really hard one for me, I have also found an easy way to solve it. Reach out to co-workers that don’t smoke, and get them to hang out with you on breaks. Go for walks, discuss what your reading, do whatever you would do with the smokers, with the non smokers, except smoking. With friends it’s the same, except you might be able to get a friend to just try to stop with you. You can challenge a friend to quit with you, and quit together, try different ways of quitting and help each other through it. If you can’t find a friend to quit with you, it may be best to just avoid the smoking friends for a while to take yourself out of those situations where you would naturally smoke, but then you are making that choice and not being left out.
Then last here is the mental addiction. For me this really is the hardest. I explained what it felt like to lose it, but what is it? When you smoke you are only actually “smoking” a small amount of the time. Most of that time you are holding the cigarette, then over time you get use to going places to smoke. Like for me going outside to smoke has become routine since I don’t smoke inside, but even if I wasn’t to smoke, I still like going outside. In a lot of ways this boils down to time spent. Any smoker can add up the amount of time they spend smoking and figure out that they really do use it to fill in the gaps in their day. That time, when you stop smoking, starts to translate to time you could be smoking or time to think about the fact that you’re not smoking. When you are thinking about the fact that you are not smoking, you start to think about the fact that you want to be smoking, and then not smoking becomes that much harder.
Last is the feeling. I separated this because it isn’t really a chemical addiction, and not really a solely mental one, this is more of a physical addiction, but the chemical is a part of it. When you smoke you have the feeling of smoking. This is actually hard to describe. but the basis is simple enough. First you feel a burning in your throat, this is what makes you cough when you first try it, and the most unpleasant part of smoking when you start, but over time you start to look forward to it. It becomes a part of the experience of smoking. It also becomes a gauge in a way. You can tell by the burn, or lack of it, if you are smoking too much, if you need to switch brands, if you don’t need to smoke right now and so on. No matter the reason, you look forward to it and start to really expect and want that as a part of the routine. Then as the smoke fills your lungs you get a filling, warming, sensation which is immediately followed by the feeling of the nicotine getting in the blood stream. This takes away the feeling of needing a smoke and is the final step in fulfilling all the needs and addictions involved in doing so. Then the breathe out is almost a exhale of relief now that you have gotten what you needed.
Remember when this was about quitting? Well, we are back to that now. The problem with quitting is that you have to address all of these aspects at the same time. You need to get the nicotine, you need to take yourself out of the social aspect, while getting the mental and physical parts as well. There seems to be no clear answer to how to quit, but everyone that has quit has a way that worked that they swear to everyone as the way to do it and it never matches exactly what everyone else that you know that quit did. I want to cover the ways I have tried, and why I do not think they have worked, at least for me.
Cold Turkey. This is where you just put them down. You smoke your last cigarette before bed, and when you wake up you just don’t smoke anymore. I know someone who successfully quit this way, and he is in a rare minority. I think the reason that it hasn’t worked for me in the past is that I am still torn, always have been. I want to smoke, but I want to quit. See to me there is still, and always has been, this pleasure derived from smoking. I don’t really want to give that up, and even though I want to quit because of my kids, my health, the smell, the cost and so on, I don’t really want to at the same time. I think it is this indecisiveness about it that makes it almost impossible for this option to work for someone like myself. For you to quit cold turkey, you just have to have the mind-set that you are done and there is no reason not to quit, and make it happen. Not saying that it is easy, just because someone who decides to quit this way, and even does, they still get the pleasure of all the withdraws and longing for a smoke that we all get, they just do it cheaper and quicker than the rest of us.
Nicotine Free Cigarettes. Yes, these exist. They generally are cigarettes that are made with a plant other than tobacco that just doesn’t have anything addictive in them. These address the mental and social more than anything. They don’t have nicotine, but they could be a good option while also wearing a patch or something too. The real issue for me was the physical. All of the ones I have tried are pretty much like a harsh dried out cigarette. They hurt to smoke and they burn the lungs. I am not going to argue with anyone that likes them or quit with them or whatever, they weren’t worth it to me. They maybe healthier, but they felt more like they were killing me than the real thing.
Patches. The idea is to put a patch on every morning that will slowly give your body the nicotine it needs throughout the day and then over the course of several months lower the amount of nicotine until you no longer need the patch at all. This is a great option for dealing with the nicotine withdraws, and if you are someone who has severe withdraws, it’s probably one of the best to look into, if only for your health. The reason I don’t think this one has worked for me though is because I think, if you have been reading this far you should agree, it is the mental, physical and social parts of smoking that I am more addicted to than the nicotine itself. Now this will not be the same for all smokers of course, but for me this is the case. While patches are great and are a wonderful resource to have available, it doesn’t address the parts of smoking that I keep coming back to.
Gum. Nicotine gum is a great idea in concept. You get a physical action by chewing the gum. You get the feeling of the nicotine going into your system, you get the flavor of the action, and some gum even gives you the burn on your throat. The break down really comes in here at the fact that you can’t just pop the gum in when you want it. You can only eat so many pieces within a certain time period, or the amount of nicotine you will be getting can become dangerous, and that time period is generally longer then the time I go between smoking. Also, the gum gets old, fast. I am not a gum chewer, so I get really sick of chewing gum. There is also the problem that while it does address the physical, and most of the mental, I find myself spending my entire time chewing the gum thinking about how much better a cigarette would be than this stupid piece of gum.
Bad Tasting Pills. These are easily explained. These are different types of pills, usually antidepressants, that just make cigarettes taste bad. The idea being you won’t want to smoke if it tastes bad. This one was really simple for me, the pills make cigarettes taste bad, stop taking the pills. Easy! They don’t address any of the problems really, and the solution to the one they cause is easy to stop.
Chantix. This medication just helps you not want or need to smoke. I don’t know how it works, but it is supposed to just make it so you don’t feel like you need to smoke, and you naturally give it up on your own. This was one that really helped me. If you follow the plan you talk about with your doctor and the plan that comes with the starter box, these work. They have side effects like odd dreams for me, but they really did work. My dad was able to quit with the help of chantix and I came close twice. My real problem with this one has nothing to do with how it works, but with what it costs. With my insurance I just couldn’t afford to do it as long as I needed to do it for it to really work.
I have tried all of the above ways to quit, plus a few not listed, and I have failed in all attempts. That is where I stand today, a smoker that thinks a lot about how to not smoke. Actually right now I am currently a part-time smoker of real cigarettes and full-time of ecigarettes. That is my current solution. Really it is the best solution that I have tried so far. Suggested to me by my 10-year-old son, I always thought it was too expensive, until he asked me to try it, so I looked into it a little more. It is actually quite a bit cheaper for me to use ecigs over the real thing.
The great thing about the electronic option, is that is covers all basis. While it isn’t smoke, it is actually a cigarette shaped battery vaporizing water, it feels like smoking. The newer ones seem to have a faster reaction so it feels more like you are just inhaling like a cigarette and not priming a vapor machine. The vapor is warm, it gives a similar natural burn on the throat and you feel the nicotine enter your system the same way you do smoke. Really it covers all aspects of smoking, without the smoke. While nicotine is still unhealthy and addictive, just nicotine and water vapor is a lot healthier than whatever you get in a cigarette. Socially you don’t feel left out, it still looks like you are smoking, vapor looks the same as smoke, only lighter in color. If anything you might feel better about it, since more places and more people accept and allow smoking an ecig, that wouldn’t accept or allow the real thing. While I do plan to switch to the electronic cigarette completely, I will consider myself a smoker until I find a way to quit. Even without the smoke, I am still creating the same situation for the same chemical, just a different delivery system.
For anyone that reads this that is still smoking regular cigarettes, I recommend trying to switch. It’s cheaper and healthier. There is no smell involved, so you, your car and you stuff will smell better. That really is the best part overall, it’s the first thing people notice, and what you will notice yourself in people you know that still smoke the less you do. You will feel better and be saving money at the same time. I am currently using GreenSmoke, but I am not sure that I have settled here on this product yet. It’s the best I’ve tried so far, but ecig users are worse that smokers about brands. Their kind is the best for whatever reason and they will almost be offended if you do not agree. I recommend looking it up. You can learn a lot about the different brands out there by doing some quick searches. Most of the bigger brands have one time use ones now too. You can go to the GreenSmoke website and order the minimum three one time use ones, and if you don’t like them, your out like $20 and got about 4 packs worth of vapor. My suggestion is to find out what kinds you can get near you at the local smoke shop or convenience store, and research those. When it comes down to it you are more likely to use one you can get supplies for down the street, than one that has to be ordered. I know when I run out of regular cigarettes, I don’t think about how long it would take to get some shipped to me, I go down the street.
Well that is my long story that I felt I needed to get out. I’ve been smoking for 13 years now, and am now a cartridge a day plus 3 cigarettes smoker. I am planning to just stop buying the cigarettes soon and just use the ecigs. I didn’t write this to justify where I am or get sympathy in any way. I just felt like writing this and decided to do so. I am happy with where I am and don’t care what others think really. If anything I hope my experiences can help others that might read this that have had some of the same issues.