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12 Ways to Quit Smoking

I smoked 3 cigarettes a day, 5 during times of stress no more than 6 if socially drinking/hanging (the hangover the next day would be nearly unbearable if any more than that were smoked.) I smoked for approx 10 years beginning in my 20s and ending during my divorce in my 30s when I was determined to quit for good. I haven't smoked in 3-4 years at this point. Not to say it is without cravings- bc well-that craving- that's the catalyst for this post.

*I was an outside, with a breeze (I hated when there wasn't one - I had to walk around to get away from it) I looked ridiculous- "is there a fly?" "no- just trying to get away from the smoke"- (I know how that sounds), ending with the biggest diaphragm engaging exhale I could muster to get it all out before washing hands and brushing teeth after each time bc purell and gum/mouthwash weren't cutting it -kind of smoker.

I realized during my last and final efforts to quit that smoking for me was allowing me to create the space for a break, (a much needed break from whatever- work- life- stress-mind fucks- emotionally jarring events or even tv shows that jerked at my heart strings I tied to life events- a calm from the most recent anger ensuing shit storm that likely baffled me. It was the removal of my body from a place or time or situation. A breath of fresh air, and slow and controlled breaths of nicotine and menthol (plus other crap-duh). My mind would find solutions to problems, self-sooth and relax my body, it reigned me in if my mind or emotions were too far off. It allowed me to gaze at the distance from apartment balconies to the skies above my front or backyard porch- humbling me. It was an invitation to socialize and vent about life's petty issues with friends and made small talk with people at party's. It gave my hand and mouth something to focus on while my chest and throat relaxed from being tightened and filled w/ anxiety. It offered me something to do during commutes- which is one of my least favorite things to do (drive that is.)

So by realizing what exactly smoking was doing for me (why I began, why I continued) outside of the physiological effects- I could begin to replace those habits of routine behaviors that I clung to for support. I researched (of course) the ins and outs, the whys, of why people do it and why people quit. I realized that there is some ground to my theories of feeling 'reigned in' for people with mental illness to use nicotine- This is where the physiological reasons to come into play -I could work with that, again replacing what was happening in my body/brain with a more suitable healthy, life-sustaining (rather than draining) practices. I had my cardiologist tell me that my habits may have only taken a few months of my overall life based on my work up that was a plus- and I realize that most smokers didn't even consider me to be a 'smoker' with my smoking so 'little' which made me feel kind of good - I wasn't trying to be a club member per say- but simultaneously made me feel dismissed (?) not that I took any sense of pride in my smoking- quite the opposite- but I am very familiar with mixed emotions.

The classic hows of people quit didn't serve me well- I tried them in the past unsuccessfully.

So I created my own.

1. I listed the things I hated- even with my mere 3 cigarettes a day. The smell of my breath, the smell when I came back inside, or on my fingers despite washing, acid reflux, general lethargy, hangover next day if smoked more, the less I smoked I noticed that fatigue earlier (#mindfulness before I knew it as such), teeth staining, the price, the inconvenience of having to go purchase them weekly etc. I didn't always note the subtle changes in my body or even link my gi upset/ heart/ headaches etc to smoking- but the more mindful I became- I would write down my symptoms immediately and then over the next few days after smoking. I also disliked buying otc meds to counter the negative effects of smoking (antiacids and such)

2. I researched the benefits of quitting smoking and I would look at it frequently to remind myself of how quickly things can turn around even if I'm not listing my own symptoms. I knew my body would begin healing.

3. I kept it to myself- this was key- I was doing it for myself and I saw myself and others- do the same thing year after year, all the talk- and never following through with "I'm gonna quit" so I just 'did me' in my way for however long and in whatever way bc it was going to work forever, so if it took me 6 mos to quit that was ok bc I would never go back.

4. I managed triggers- caffeine, drinking alcohol, tv shows that elicited stress or drama/emotions, (grey's helped me -seriously -through the divorce bc the roller coaster I was on was different than the one they were living but there were similarities shared yet there was more crying than laughter which meant more of a need to calm the F down so I could sleep) It was one final episode after I had quit for about a year that while watching it I felt my chest tighten- realizing that I was feeling that stress the network was going for- but my body didn't need any more stress-that I finally stopped watching the well written and portrayed life events of the Seattle doctors. Committing now more than ever to 'my' Friends.) Movies or shows like Domino or Boardwalk Empire were a thing of the past- the kind where they would chain smoke inside...and trigger me to go outside... no more. I minimized hanging out where there was smoking, bbq's/neighborly porch chit-chat (yes- social life mildly suffered), and even driving. These changes weren't forever- they were temporary even if for a matter of months, they would gradually increase as far as driving and socializing go- but for that period- they had to be managed to lessen the temptation for habits.

5. I replaced the am/midday/pm cigarette break with shower breaks. After am coffee, midday, and end of the day. I love showering/baths, your mind stops thinking linearly and is able to solve those same issues I had mentioned before, it wanders so your more focused after, with your new solutions in hand. Showers or baths are intoxicatingly relaxing, they can be short or long obviously, wash or not (certain smells enhanced the shower purposes) calming down- lavender and/or eucalyptus- need a pick me up? peppermint or citrus- yes on work days this was more challenging but in that case, my lunch break was spent by myself eating, reading, meditating, sitting silence or watching a sitcom (to induce laughter and all of the benefits on your brain and being that come with laughter ) on Netflix- worth the data.

6. Sleep- being awake alone with the crickets at 4 am was a trigger for me, of contemplation, rumination, overanalyzing and feeling isolated and lonely, so maintaining a sleep hygiene regimen was instrumental in healing and functioning at optimal levels so that stress was farther off in the distance.

7. I walked, then I jogged and then I ran- coughing up what felt to be razor blades and dealing with the annoyance of my skin itching from jiggling while running. I ran in my neighborhood but prefer the lot behind the houses near the school where the trees and grass had big open fields- I could see my new life on the horizon and the cars whizzing by weren't bothered by my hacking up a lung (it got better) it got to the point where now- when I don't exercise I am sore. I did this to train the body and the mind, to release to some of the chemicals and all good stuff my brain and body need to release that I was trying to supplement w/ nicotine to be a functioning adult.

*remember at the time I was going through a divorce, in a state far from what was known as home, attempting to keep my first owned house that I then recognized as home, provide for the animals I deemed children, who agreed to be an entrepreneur with my then husband thus taking a once financially independent woman now dependant on the husband of whom I was separating from.) I tell you this bc in my attempts to quit smoking before there was always a reason of why I tripped and fell on my face paying close attn not to smash the cigarettes that would break my fall and welcome me back. Shit like my beagle being diagnosed with cancer among the times when I set a date and then that happened and decided "ok so now is not the time." Break up w/ BF etc- there is no GOOD TIME. Just flipping decide. But I urge you to do the mental work beforehand- don't set yourself up for failure. I worked up in my head probably for months that this needed to happen and it was going to happen. Regardless of what life challenged me with and by golly it challenged me. I digress.

8. Driving and hanging- water bottle required- I didn't go anywhere and still don't without my water bottle filled up. Sip sip sip. Pop open click closed- hands and mouth occupied, to do while driving or chatting check, water intake check check. (Friends reference- check check can anyone tell me which episode?:)

9. Essential oils- added to my daily facial regimen and for in-the-moment relaxation (usually that was the case) pissed off moments were more prevalent than say sleepy ones, but those came too. I kept small bottles of oils and coconut oil with me at work and at my desk for at home work- guess what- there was a jar of vix in the file cabinet. I smoked menthol - so when I craved that I would sit there or better yet- when I needed that break more so than just the menthol, I would take the jar down to the hammock and sniff away.

*You see most people who don't smoke don't take the time to reset outside out of the walls you're surrounded by, away from the people and creatures that surround you, most ppl don't take a break in the daily lives or work days. At first, I couldn't just sit on the porch (that was like the driving trigger) but eventually I could- I could be there with the air and the stars and my thoughts and process through my emotions smoke-free. I created the space.

10. I weened- smoking less and less and less and less. I would buy an entire pack - keep it in my car, or in the freezer, for weeks- then if I did smoke one - they were so disgusting (bc I wasn't going to buy a fresh pack) it made me physically and immediately ill. Eventually, I had that brand new pack- if I smoked even a fresh one- I was sick again bc it had been 2-3 weeks since I had last smoked and then that new pack would go unopened frozen or in the car- it didn't matter.

Here's the best thing I realized.

11. IT'S a CHOICE. Every day, every time you crave, every minute, every stressful event. It's a choice. SO for me, I could smoke- no one was stopping me- I had the cigarettes- I had the ability- but it was my choice, bc what was on the other side of that choice was far greater, again even if I couldn't hold it, I knew it was there. Even with shit thrown at me- life WILL challenge your commitment. It's a choice.

* I could be with a person who didn't smoke, that was required for me and it was appreciated that I didn't any longer. I could have a body that when I ran I had more than a two-year-olds lung capacity. The possibilities were endless- my breath in the am was classic am breath not death am breath. I no longer felt shame when I would want a cigarette among non-smokers.

12. Lastly- Breath Control- Much of my work now revolves around controlled breath. With my breath being the first thing to go all panicky when an anxiety attack was creeping around the corner. Recall that in my 20s I struggled with anxiety, depression, insomnia, GI illness and chronic back pain. I manage all now but obviously have some tendencies or predispositions. With the catalyst of this post I found myself on the hammock inhaling....sloow...hold ....exhale even slower.......I needed a break from the computer work I was doing earlier and I allowed it. Ever watch a smoker even if you've never been one? You don't see them huffing in and out rapidly breathing, they may smoke a cigarette 'fast' or chain smoke but I'm telling you those puffs are long and filling whatever lung capacity is available. A deep inhale and exhale.

*Check out the .pdf for breathing exercises on my resources page.

I don't know that any of these one things by themselves are enough to sustain a 'sober' smoker as most things in life - the good- and the bad- require a recipe. These are the ingredients I used and because it has been a few years I may have even forgot one or two. I will say that I also have not consumed alcohol in about 2 years. If I have- on the rarity I immediately notice the negative symptoms following a very similar formula to promote being my best self- again only a social drinker really- but there's a recovery period and there are a lot of connections that aren't always made but in any regard are not conducive to optimal physical or mental well being when it comes to these particular substances.

*I don't talk much about Meditation here - but you know how much I believe in the aide meditation provides. You can find more info on the resources page

Much love and hugs

-R

Renee Machel

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