It’s been my experience that people don’t describe things very well.

Karsten has mentioned this phenomenon, too. When he was getting ready to use a jackhammer for the first time, he asked several people who said they’d used a jackhammer what the experience was like. Consistently, they were unable to give very compelling descriptions beyond single-word statements like “powerful” or they might say it was indescribable.

But after the first day Karsten used one, he could describe it concisely: “It has the force to break ground and move downwards all by itself. But you have to use your whole body to pull it back up and reposition it to let it go down again.”

In the same way, I find that when I read accounts of people attempting to quit smoking, there is a similar shortage of precision and specificity about what to expect. I smoked. I started when I was very young and quit when I was in my early 20s. It was difficult to quit, and it took several attempts before I could do it.

My friend Beth just celebrated a year of being smoke-free. I’ve seen folks comment on her Facebook wall that she’s inspired them to try to quit. So for┬áthe sake of anyone who might be thinking about quitting, I would like to share my explanation of how quitting works: very simply, you make a plan not to smoke. And then you encounter some situation — your commute, after sex, when you’re stressed, whatever — where you would normally smoke that you weren’t prepared to handle. So maybe you go ahead and light one up. But you think about alternatives. You make another plan, only this time you’ve accounted for the situation you encountered. Maybe you carry carrot sticks. Maybe you have a stress ball to squeeze. Maybe you have a friend on speed dial. And maybe you encounter another context, and you smoke another one, and you make another plan. And you do this until you don’t encounter any more situations you aren’t prepared for.

And when that happens, you’re a non-smoker.

Let me know in the comments if your experience differs. I’d love to hear alternative approaches that have worked.

How Quitting Smoking Works
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2 thoughts on “How Quitting Smoking Works

  • November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I agree with what you have to say here — to elaborate further on the paragraph regarding my quitting, I’d have to add that I had mentally prepared myself for quite some time. I had wanted to quit prior to turning 30. That didn’t happen. I turned 35 and still smoked. But then quite a few friends quit smoking – and I suddenly was aware that I was one of the few people still lighting up in my social circle. I read a lot on the topic of quitting & prepared myself for what side effects I might encounter. I knew I would have to quit cold turkey. And I did. I had to view this as quitting being a drug addict, because when it comes down to it, nicotine is a very powerful drug. Quitting is one thing – staying quit is another. I downloaded an iPhone app, and after 1 month started posting to FB on the 4th of every month – initially this was only keep myself accountable, but it took on another facet when I received so much positive reinforcement. That gave me even more momentum to stay committed to quit.So, yes — you really do just have to quit smoking to quit smoking.

  • November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I have been free of cigarettes for three years running (that means not one puff of tobacco in any form, nor forms of nicotine replacement). I smoked prior to that off and on (mostly on) for 20+ years. I had tried many times previously to quit before this time really took hold. I had tried patches, gum, schedules, almost everything. I did find a nicotine replacement therapy which actually did help me quit – it was the Nicotrol inhaler from my Doctor. It worked for me because it was unobtrusive, took care of cravings immediately rather than passively like the patch, and I could use it anywhere. BUT… nicotine replacement can be addictive too. I only recommend using it with your Doctor’s help.The Inhaler helped me quit – but make no mistake, after the six weeks I used the inhaler, the rest was (and still is every day) up to me. I have distilled it down to a very simple (but infinitely profound) formula: DNS>DS – or Desire to Not Smoke has to be greater than your Desire to Smoke. That’s it. The scales have to be tipped just enough to the DNS side to achieve success. And I make that choice everyday, sometimes several times a day, but less as the years start to accumulate. I will never again know the ignorant bliss of being someone who has never felt the pull of nicotine. But I am really enjoying the benefits of being a non-smoker, in many ways. And I am free of the monkey on my back, at least unless I invite him back on.


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