One of the most difficult of all addictions is to nicotine. It is said by addicts and therapists alike to be a more difficult substance to quit than alcohol, morphine, or even heroin. Although Mark Twain did make the great observation that he found it extremely easy to quit, in fact he had done so hundreds of times!
No longer is smoking considered “social”; in fact it has become highly “anti-social”. Cigarette smokers are forced out of the building, in all kinds of weather, and can no longer light up in most restaurants, bars, or even bowling alleys. An even more compelling reason to quit is the economy. As cigarettes rise in price (with taxes as well as ingredient cost increases) people begin to think twice about their bottom line. Five dollars a pack may not seem like much, even if one thinks of each cigarette costing 25 cents. But a pack a day can quickly add up to $1500 a year, or $15,000 in a decade. At a time when people are pouring over the ingredient list in every loaf of bread or drink they buy, it seems inconsistent to be sucking poison gas into your body while googling “healthy snacks”.
The Prescription Drug Cartel has humbly leapt into the breech here, offering an array of nicotine patches, gums, or prescription drugs like champix. But before getting into the list of side effects with these (although there are even worse side effects to NOT quitting cigarettes!), lets review some simple steps that my patients have found invaluable in taking back control of their own lungs.
1. Fight back against the power of imagery:
Before Hollywood even starts filming, cigarette companies are lining up to pay big bucks for “product placement”. This was not needed in the old days, as Humphrey Bogart started a generation to think of cigarettes as “sexy” or “romantic”.
Bogie didn’t know then that his cigarettes would kill him of esophageal cancer at the young age of 57 (weighing only 80 pounds). Ever wonder why today’s movie heroes all smoke cigarettes, even if the actors usually don’t in private? Product placement.
Action tip: Fight back against the suits in the cigarette companies with your own imagery. The next time you see a package of cigarettes, think about LICKING AN ASHTRAY: good idea, or bad idea? Easier question than seeing a package of cigarettes as your best STRESS BUDDY; take with you to a party, or leave behind? Tougher to say “no” to that question! Come up with your own images!
2. Be the WORST personal assistant:
In golf, a great caddy always has the right tools at hand, either a club, or the umbrella, or the towel to wipe off the mud. A lousy caddy never has anything you need at the right time. For a great illustration of this, see W.C.Fields in this short clip:
Think of being a lousy “cigarette caddy” for yourself. Instead of having the ashtray, lighter, cigarettes and coffee all in the same place in the morning, do what the lousy caddy would do. Ashtray is in the spare bedroom. Lighter is out in the glove compartment of the car. Cigarettes are in the same pocket as your sunglasses, and you still can’t find them. And the only cigarettes you can find are a stale pack of a brand you hate. On your coffee break, take a big bottle of water with you instead of the coffee, and have the coffee at your desk where you know you can’t smoke. This breaks up the enabling associations. (For some reason, cigarettes go with hot coffee and cold alcoholic beverages, but never with plain water.)
3. Remember the Rule of the Subway Jumper: If a person is stopped in their attempt to jump in front of a subway train, they NEVER jump in front of the very next train. Once the moment has passed, it is most unlikely that the suicidal urge will resume that quickly. So if you can use any trick to foul up your next suicide attempt with a cigarette, that’s one less nail in your coffin.
4. Think: who is in charge of your body? You, or the smirking suits in the Cigarette Cartel?
When you are under stress, don’t let the cigarette cartel convince you that cigarettes are a smart choice. Picking up a leaf, rolling it up, sticking it in your face, and then setting fire to it. Sound like a good stress response to you? Much better to take control, and do your best to butt out. Try any technique; cold turkey, or gradual rationing of one less cigarette per day. Or If the above steps are not enough, please see your doctor for further advice, which could include drugs for a short term, or medical acupuncture to fight the nicotine withdrawal.