Okay, this is a day late. Yesterday, here in the U.S., was the day where people are encouraged to try not smoking for just one day. The hope of course is that one day will lead to two and so on.
I am an ex-smoker and I write this well-meant post from experience as a smoker, quitter, and now as a non-smoker. This is a much touchier topic than many would think, so I preface this with this fact. I only ever mean to be helpful and occasionally humorous. So here goes, this is what I think.
As a smoker I loved to smoke. I liked the calm it gave me. I liked the taste. I liked that my hands had something to do. Add to that the fact that nicotine is proven to be as addictive as heroin and the decision to quit smoking does not come easy. So first and foremost a person really has to have a reason and a desire to quit. Reasons are numerous, money, health, health of a loved one, being respectful of the life given to us by our Creator. I am sure there are many, many other reasons out there to quit. The problem then becomes desire. Desire does not come so easily. But without it, you will be hard pressed to overcome this addiction.
As a quitter, that was tough. I quit twice. The first time I was in tears within hours. I just wanted a cigarette so much. There are a lot of programs out there and nicotine replacement options. And I will tell you that if one fails for you, and you want to be a quitter, try another. My first quit was with the gum. Worked great for me. My second time quitting I tried the gum, no go. I tried an herbal program, no go. Then the patch, success. Now it is important to keep in mind that with the nicotine replacement products you are not quitting right away. You may stop smoking right away, but you are still “using” the nicotine, which is a drug. Is this bad? That is for each person to consider. So long as you are in fact decreasing your dose as directed I personally think of this as a viable option. If you disagree, that is okay too. Now if you are going on the patch and never decreasing your dose so as to be nicotine free then you have really just switched the method you receive your drug.
As a non-smoker, how do I feel about smoking. I still struggle everyday. Sometimes I dream about smoking. Though much less now after nearly 7 years. When I smell a cigarette I am liable to have one of three reactions. Sometimes I can’t stand it. The smell, the smoke, it bothers me like I wish it would have when I first started smoking. Other times, I don’t even notice it, these are the best times. And then sometimes I want to rip the cigarette out of the person’s hand and finish it for them. This hasn’t changed in 7 years, and I don’t expect it will. A reason that I am glad I still have both my reason and my desire to not smoke. I feel for people who smoke, not in the sense of “aw, look what they are doing to themselves” but more like “look at what is being done to them.” Yes each person makes a choice to smoke but once that decision is made it is then the cigarette that takes control. And it is happening to them, whether every non-smoker in the world were to tell me different, this is what I think, this is just how hard it is to hang up the habit.
A note on the fact that there do exist some people who can quit at the drop of a hat and have no adverse effects in doing as much. I am glad that it is easy for you and I hope you will and will stay quit. Part of me doesn’t like you quite as much, well not you, just that ability, because I had to struggle so hard to get where I wanted to be. I shouldn’t be jealous, but I am just a touch. Others would do well to realize that this is not the norm. Just because your Uncle Joe quit in one day doesn’t mean that your wife can.
This leads me to what you can do to help a loved one quit. The key
is patience. And I’ll tell you what patience is and what it isn’t in this case. If someone you know is trying to quit smoking, letting them have that cigarette and rolling your eyes at them, that isn’t patience. Or giving them the silent treatment, putting on that stern face, exasperated face. We can see your body language and it does affect us. In fact most things people do and see frustrate us in our attempt and only make us want another cigarette! When I quit this last go around I had some fantastic support and I want to share that with you.
First I had a friend, she was very opposed to smoking. But never once did she demean me because of it. She understood that while she hated the behavior she should not hate me. We rarely discussed it, but sometimes I would bring it up. I knew her reasons for not liking smoking and I didn’t entirely disagree at the time. And I did want to quit, I just hadn’t found the how. One time she made the sweetest comment to me. She told me, “When you are ready to quit you will” That was it. No pressure, no judgement.
The second support I had come as a surprise to me. My co-workers at the time were incredibly supportive. Every day was a counting day. A congratulations for making it this far. When things got stressful and I didn’t have a cigarette that was practically a reason for a party. But also came the day, actually two of them, and I tripped. Stress got the better of me and I had a cigarette. The response from my co-workers? “You went without for x days, so in x days you only had one cigarette, how great is that?!?” They always managed to twist this slip up into a positive. and they always managed to convince me that I wouldn’t give up that I could still quit even if I did have one cigarette.
The third support I had was my family. They were very encouraging, always looking for things that might be helpful to my quitting. Also cheering me on.
I think that the key to really helping a person to quit smoking is to focus on the positive and ignore the setbacks. Or if the setback is brought to the fore by the quitter then turn it into a positive. Find a way to be encouraging, patient, and always remember it is the addiction that should be hated. The person with the addiction should be loved.
And that is what I think!