STOPPING SMOKING - a patient's guide
People smoke for all sorts of reasons. Most smoke because they enjoy it. Some smoke despite the fact that they hate it! People smoke to relax, to unwind, and so on. All of these might seem like good reasons to continue smoking. But, lets face it, smoking is not smart. We know that at least one third of health expenditure in the Western world is directly and indirectly the result of cigarette smoking, and the amount of human suffering from smoking-related diseases is enormous.
Sometimes people consider stopping smoking "too hard - it's impossible: I'm addicted!!". The truth is that it is not impossible to stop smoking and it is really important to stop - if you are serious about having the sort of life that you would like to live, all the way through your life.
For people to stop smoking successfully, for the last time, it is important to approach stopping with a comprehensive plan in mind. If you were building the house of your dreams, there would be many things to do before choosing the wallpaper and furnishings. First you would look around and decide what areas you would like to live in, then visit those places. Having found the appropriate piece of land, you definitely want to find an architect and a good builder. You would probably go over the plans several times with the architect and the builder before any actual work started on the building site. In other words, any major project needs a comprehensive plan and a logical sequence of actions. All the preparation would be completed before the job would start.
Stopping smoking is similar - you need a plan, and to have fully prepared before you stop for the last time.
Choosing to stop
Choosing to stop smoking is much more powerful than having to stop. Really, the only difference between "choosing" and "having to" is the message we give to ourselves. You always have a choice, regardless of the circumstances.
A choice about smoking (or any other activity) is best made from the perspective of how you want things to turn out in the long-run. For example, if you are committed to having great health all through your life, smoking is absolutely incompatible with this. On the other hand, the choice not to smoke is well-aligned with the long-term goal of great health.
The important thing is to be sure to choose to stop smoking. Stopping because you "have to" carries nothing like the same energy or enthusiasm as a freely made choice.
The reason for stopping
The reason for stopping is a key part of stopping smoking. To be successful, you need to know why you want to stop smoking, for ever.
Why stop? Well, there may be lots of reasons. Why not invent more than just the obvious ones. One example which people with children (or soon to have children) can really identify with is as follows. If you smoke, you will be teaching your children to smoke, and if they go on to smoke, you also have a responsibility for your grandchildren smoking too. Why not choose to take a stand for great health in the future generations of your family. Why not choose to be the champion of non-smoking for your family, both your immediate family and your as yet unborn family generations in the decades ahead.
You might choose to be a champion for great health, for great wealth, for your neighbourhood, or some other group other than your family. Well, that's just one idea, and I am sure you can come up with better ones if you put your mind to it.
The important thing is to choose a great reason to stop smoking, not just a fairly good reason.
Later on, this "great reason" needs to be like one of the straps hanging from the ceiling-rail in buses 20 or 30 years ago. People standing in the aisle of the bus would hang onto the strap, and as the bus lurched around the corner, they would hold on tight to the strap and prevent themselves from being thrown about the bus.
When it comes to stopping smoking, the "great reason" for stopping is like the strap you remember to hang onto as life tends to throw you about. At those difficult times, when you want a cigarette, remember your choice: the "great reason" or one more smelly, short-lived cigarette - the choice is yours. Bring this choice to mind every time your body cries out for a cigarette. In fact, this choice is so important it is a very good idea to practice bringing the goal to mind (perhaps by having it written on a card kept in your pocket) and reading it several times every day. Bring out your card and get aligned with your "great reason" whenever the going gets tough.
Understanding how smoking "helps"
People say they feel more relaxed when they smoke, or they feel they enjoy smoking. This makes sense, but why?
The answer is this: Smoking suppresses feelings.
It's like feelings come out of a bottle inside of us, and smoking puts the cork in the bottle. It is natural, therefore, to experience unwanted feelings when giving up smoking, because the blockage to our feelings is no longer there. Be prepared for unwanted feelings to emerge, but don't go expecting them. Nicotine gum or patches can assist feelings emerge more gradually.
There are some people who become almost violently angry when they stop smoking, or go through other extreme emotions. If you have experienced this in the past, prepare ahead of time: go and see your doctor. Discuss with him or her the possibility of having a short period of time on a sedative-type medication, perhaps. If you are "into" natural health remedies perhaps there is a homeopathic or other remedy which may be helpful.
How should I stop?
a. "Cold turkey": Some people feel they can stop immediately and not smoke at all thereafter. This method works well for some people. For others it just doesn't work.
b. Reduce gradually: For others, it is more realistic to plan a gradual reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked - but the important thing here is to have a stopping date, and work out the rate of smoking reduction leading up to that date. Make a promise to yourself that you will follow that plan, and then keep it.
c. Manageable periods: Another thing that often helps is to make stopping a manageable process. Many people think that stopping smoking means stopping for the rest of their lives, and that's almost impossible for them to contemplate. It is often helpful to plan stopping for short periods of time, which gradually increase.
So, on the day when you plan to stop, your aim is to manage yourself for 6, 12 or 24 hours - whatever feels right to you. Then do whatever it takes not to smoke during that period of time - whether this means going for a walk in the rain, standing under the shower several times, keeping your hands in water - whatever it takes! Then, when you reach your first time goal you congratulate yourself!
The thing to do then is to say "Right, now for the next 6, 12 or 24 hours (whatever you chose)". Manage yourself for that period in just the same way - don't give in to anything or anyone. After that you may be able to increase the time period to say a whole day, or two days. Manage yourself for that period and then the next period, and so on. This following programme won't suit everyone, but you might stop for 12 hours, another 12 hours, then 24 hours, 48 hours, 3 days, 7 days, 14 days, 3 weeks, 1 month, 6 weeks, 2 months etc.
Plan time periods and rewards: get a sheet of paper and write down the list of your time goals, one under the other. Rule a line down the middle of the page and on the other side start writing down a list of rewards.` Yes, it is really important to reward yourself for successfully reaching each time period. Rewards may cost money, or they may cost nothing. A real reward might involve taking 10 minutes off to enjoy a garden in the middle of a busy day or planning to phone someone with whom you don't often speak but wish you were closer to. You might buy a magazine, a newspaper - anything. You might spend a certain amount of time listening to a favourite tape or CD.
Create the list of rewards, making them realistic for your pocket, time and needs. Then, when you successfully reach each time goal, you have a very important job to: savour the reward you planned - savour it, really get that this is a reward for you to enjoy. If you don't enjoy each of the rewards, you are not following the plan correctly.
More planning for stopping
We are part-way through the plan to stop smoking. So far, you have your great reason, you have chosen how you will stop, perhaps deciding to stop for a series of time periods, which gradually increase, using them like the rungs of a ladder to climb to success. You have planned your rewards and will make sure you enjoy reaching the rung (or time period). Here are three more steps in the planning process.
a. Consider having a buddy: one (or more) people to whom you have easy access to whom you can report about your progress in stopping smoking. If possible, choose someone who you look up to - someone who you would not like to consider you a liar.
Talk to them about their job in your stopping smoking programme, perhaps something like this:
b. Practice visualising: every morning, spend 3-5 minutes seeing yourself as being confident, successful, relaxed, and not even wanting to smoke. See yourself as someone who put cigarettes behind them long ago.
You can start visualising now, but once you cross the "stop smoking date", make sure you do it every single morning.
c. Plan activities you can do with your hands instead of smoking. Plan this ahead of time, before the "stop smoking date". You might decide to buy a squash ball or some other object you can handle or play with at appropriate times. If you are an out of doors person, you might do wood carving in quiet moments, when you would otherwise be tempted to smoke. Now, don't just skim over this idea and say "Oh yeah, that's too hard". Sit down with a pencil and paper and write down a list. Start it now, review it in a few days time and keep working on a list of things you can do with your hands when you really want to smoke.
When do I stop?
You only stop when you have made up your mind you are absolutely determined to stop FOR EVER. No going back.
Pick a date when you have completed all your planning and are ready to stop. Don't make this date any more than three or four weeks away. Once you have chosen it and written it down, make sure you keep it.
Staying stopped - have rules that make it happen
- Make rules that support you being a non-smoker and keep these rules after you have stopped.
- Make a rule for your hands: "these hands can't touch a cigarette". Say this out loud 3 or 4 times every morning.
- Make rules for your house and other areas of your environment: "No Smoking Here". Make sure everybody understands this before you stop, and that once the rule has been set in place, it is an absolute rule.
- Make sure your friends understand this rule: "I stop smoking on...(date). After that, don't offer me another cigarette, ever. If I ask for a cigarette, plead for a cigarette - don't ever give me one. It doesn't matter what I say - never let me have any more of your cigarettes."
- Henry Ford said "There is no man living who cannot do MORE than he thinks he can". Make this a personal rule for yourself - "I can always do more than I think I can". Practice taking on challenges, goals, that are just that little bit bigger than you think you can achieve. In this way, you are aiming at a lifetime of success beyond your wildest dreams.
Stopping smoking is a project.
Plan it carefully beforehand and then stick to the plan.
Be really enthusiastic about stopping - it is the start of even greater things in your life!