It's easy to take for granted something we involuntarily do thousands of times a day. I'm talking about breathing, that vital act of inhaling and exhaling air that keeps us healthy, alert and most importantly alive. Compromise this effortless action of breathing with unhealthy lungs, and the importance and appreciation of a simple breath skyrockets. Your lungs are your body's life source, so protect them as you would anything precious and valuable.
LISTEN TO YOUR LUNGS
Maybe you've noticed that you get winded more easily climbing the stairs, that you can't run the bases with your kids like you used to, or you've acquired a chronic cough and are finding respiratory infections occur more frequently. Don't ignore these health warnings, especially if you are a smoker. A simple lung breathing test called a spirometry can detect a lung problem before it becomes severe.
Cigarette smoking is a major cause of lung illness, primarily chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Both of these conditions follow a gradual progression of worsening, so it's paramount to stop the source of the damaging irritant. There is no better way to halt or slow down this process than quitting smoking. Exposure to cigarette smoke irritates and inflames the airways of the lungs, increasing excess mucus and reducing airflow and initiating chronic bronchitis. Over time, lung tissue is destroyed, leading to emphysema, where less oxygen is exchanged throughout the bloodstream, causing shortness of breath, especially with physical activity. People with emphysema are able to inhale air, but find it increasingly difficult to exhale. Emphysema is irreversible, but with a doctor's care, symptoms can be managed and the disease process slowed. Quitting smoking is crucial in the prevention and treatment of COPD.
KEEP YOUR LUNGS HEALTHY AND SAFE
Protecting your lungs means breathing clean air. Keep the air inside your home and car clean by not allowing anyone to smoke. Second-hand smoke contains thousands of chemicals and is as unhealthy and dangerous as the smoke inhaled by the smoker. Get your home tested for radon, the second most significant cause of lung cancer, the "first" being smoking. Be sure to ventilate your home; open windows to let fresh air in and toxins out. If you live in an area where pollution levels are high, consider exercising in a gym or walking inside a shopping mall. The quality of the air you breathe affects the health of your lungs.
Being physically fit, eating a balanced diet, and protecting yourself from respiratory infections all contribute to keeping your lungs as healthy as possible. Like other vital organs, the lungs also benefit from the supply of oxygen provided by physical activity. Oxygen is food for the body, so keep those arms and legs moving. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables when balancing your diet; they contain antioxidant protection and help boost your immune system. A history of smoking leaves you more vulnerable to lung infections, so get a yearly flu shot and ask your doctor if you would benefit from a pneumonia vaccine. Keep soaping up; good hand washing is still the best defense against getting sick.
Safeguard your lungs to give them the care needed to allow you to live the best life possible. If you are still smoking, you need to stop now. If you have already quit, you need to remain quit forever-one day at a time. It is never too late to quit smoking, even if you have been diagnosed with lung disease. Quitting smoking prevents further damage. Be aware and eliminate pollutants you may be inhaling. If you have lung illness, take the prescribed medications and follow your doctor's advice. By keeping your lungs healthy and safe, you enable them to do their job, which is to keep you alive.
Keep Going and Keep the Quit!
Is smoking defined as the inhalation of nicotine, the use of tobacco, the exhale of smoke-like vapor/smoke, the ritual and emotional attachment of things one does as a smoker, or a combination of all those things? Who decides, and once decided, what happens next?
Electronic Cigarettes: More Questions than Answers
The use of electronic cigarettes is an evolving situation, one in which treatment protocols will change as new information is revealed. Currently, research is limited. The effects of long term use have not been studied, product safety is unknown, and e-cigarettes lack quality control oversight. That means marketing claims about e-cigs may not be/are not correct.
Depending on how one defines smoking, using an E-cig may or may not be considered smoking. The act of vaping is behaviorally identical to smoking, minus the tobacco and the smoke. E-cig manufacturers have declared their use a safer form of smoking. Some employers, states, towns, and insurance companies consider vaping to be smoking, and people who use the E-cig will test positive for nicotine. On the other hand, those who quit smoking tobacco cigarettes and use the E-cig often consider themselves quit.
Some establishments allow E-cigs only in designated smoking areas. Others allow their use in areas where smoking traditional cigarettes is prohibited. An increasing number of states are passing E-cig use and age of purchase restrictions. E-cig marketing promotes 'restriction-free' smoking among many other claims that may not be true. Nicotine free E-cigs may not really be nicotine free, but if they are that adds further question to what is or is not considered smoking.
From a tobacco treatment standpoint, the main components of a successful quit involve breaking the behaviors, habits, and emotional attachments surrounding the act of smoking. Letting go of nicotine is part of the quit process. Many E-cigs contain nicotine. All the FDA approved quit support options are designed to help a person quit smoking while breaking their lifelong behaviors associated with smoking. Lifestyle change is a necessary part of remaining a nonsmoker. By comparison, E-cigs are for the most part 'smoking to quit smoking'. Use of them does not offer room for new habits, new behaviors or new emotional coping tools. Depending on the E-cig chosen, it may not even remove inhaled nicotine from the equation.
Some people might quit smoking tobacco by using E-cigs. While vaping is currently believed to be safer than smoking a traditional cigarette, that is not the same as saying vaping is safe or healthy. E-cigs may or may not have a place in smoking cessation. There are no statistics available that measure actual quit success rates, relapse rates, or the number of would be quitters that now use E-cigs in addition to regular tobacco products. E-cig users may have a higher potential for relapse, given the perpetuation of smoking attachments and behaviors.
If you are contemplating using an E-cig to quit smoking, established research demonstrates your chance for success increases by choosing NRT, Zyban or Chantix instead. If you are already using an E-cig, it is wise to work towards becoming completely nicotine and cigarette free. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. There is no safe way to smoke. The smartest choice is to stop inhaling from any type of cigarette.
Vikki Q CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
The importance of sleep is often overlooked by ex-smokers. After surgery, doctors usually advise their patients to sleep and get plenty of rest. It is during sleep that much of your body’s natural restoring happens. Adequate sleep minimizes the uncomfortable side effects of quitting smoking, too! Consider the numerous health benefits of sleeping during your quit.
Health Benefits of sleep
During a quit, you want to be fair to your body and give it the rest it deserves. Sleep allows you to function at your best. For example, the brain goes through a cleansing process during sleep, flushing out waste products. This housecleaning is vital to paying attention, reacting to signals, or retaining information. Sufficient sleep affects your mood, and can minimize irritability and restlessness. Sleep studies show that inadequate rest increases risk of depression and substance abuse.
Sleeping provides the body time to rejuvenate. Muscle repair, memory consolidation, and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite occur during sleep. Natural levels of the hormone cortisol decline at bed time and increase overnight to promote alertness in the morning. Sleep also helps us thrive by contributing to a healthy immune system. For diabetics, getting enough sleep is especially crucial and can have an impact on their morning sugar readings.
Sleep and weight gain concerns
Sleep plays a critical part in weight management, too. It allows you to balance your appetites by helping to regulate two hormones, Leptin and Ghrelin, which influence feelings of hunger and fullness. So when you’re sleep deprived, you might feel the need to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.
Sleep as a coping tool
Remember the acronym: H.A.L.T. When you allow yourself to become too Hungry, Angry, Lonely and/or Tired, odds are that the urge to smoke will appear and/or increase. Taking a nap can be a helpful coping tool. Since sleep is about rest and relaxation, it's good for stress management. Plentiful rest allows you to function at a higher level and concentrate better.
Are you getting enough sleep?
Different age groups need different amounts of sleep, but sleep needs are also individual. For adults, the recommendation is between 7 and 8 hours of sleep daily. Are any of these true of you? If so, you may not be sleeping enough:
- I depend on caffeine to get me through the day.
- It takes me a long time to feel like I'm in 'high gear'.
- I get sleepy when driving.
- I often fall asleep in meetings, movies, etc.
Dealing with insomnia
Most smokers will note changes in their sleep patterns after quitting, and quit-smoking medications can exacerbate the problem, but these disruptions seldom last very long. Below are some healthy sleep tips for early recovery (and beyond):
- Don't make a big deal over insomnia -- it won't last forever, and can't make you relapse.
- Routine helps us get tired; create a sleeping and or nap schedule that works for you.
- Take a warm shower to help you relax, and/or utilize a humidifier for comfortable breathing.
- De-plug yourself two hours before you are scheduled to go to bed. Turn off any electronics such as cell phones, laptops, tablets. Electronic devices are known to interfere with the body’s natural ability to produce melatonin, a natural hormone that causes you to feel less alert, ready to sleep.
- Avoid strenuous exercise, heavy eating, or alcohol right before bedtime.
- Surround yourself with comfortable pillows and blankets, keep your room dark, and/or use a sleep mask to block out light. Clear your mind with the help of some relaxing music, nature sounds, white noise ambience, etc.
- If you've been tossing and turning for too long, get up, drink water, and do something else like read or write for a while. Your tiredness will soon take you back to bed with a better disposition.
Sleep is vital to your health and to your quit. Make sleep a priority in your daily routine. Sleep will help you endure the uncomfortable feelings associated with cravings. You will feel better physically and mentally. Reward yourself with the gift of sleep, and be happier! Keep The Quit!
A fairly common experience when quitting smoking is coming to the realization that clothes are fitting tighter and the pounds are adding on. The dreaded weight gain associated with quitting smoking is often the cause cited in a smoking relapse, and discourages many smokers from attempting to quit in the first place.
Though weight gain may happen (average 5-10 lbs) it's not unavoidable. Understanding the reasons for the related weight gain, along with integrating diet and exercise as part of the quit plan, helps prevent and reverse weight gain after quitting smoking.
Reasons For Weight Gain
Nicotine is a stimulant and suppresses appetite along with slightly increasing metabolism. Many times smokers will light up to curb their hunger, delay a meal, or manage their weight. Some smokers replace a meal with a cigarette and beverage, which lowers calorie intake. Smoking dulls the taste buds and sense of smell, so when smokers quit they often find they are hungrier, that food tastes and smells better, and that they don't want to skip a meal. This adds up to a body taking in more calories while lowering the speed at which they are burned.
Nicotine withdrawal can cause food cravings. Foods containing sugar, fat, and salt curb the craving for nicotine. Usually these foods are processed and high in calories, carbohydrates, and fat. This type of food is often considered a comfort food. Smokers may find that after quitting they are reaching emotionally for comfort food the same way they reached for cigarettes, rewarding themselves with food to feel better when they are hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
- The physical act of smoking a cigarette requires approximately ten inhalations. That's about two hundred times a day (1 pack/day) a smoker puts a cigarette to their mouth and inhales. Many quitters miss the oral satisfaction of smoking and replace the cigarettes with food. This oral substitution can add up to a lot of nibbling on snacks and treats.
- Sleep loss due to withdrawal causes tiredness that reduces the motivation to get up and out to exercise. Sleep deprivation is stressful on the body and increases hunger-stimulating stress hormones which boost appetites.
Avoiding Weight Gain - Include Diet and Exercise in the Quit Plan
A healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and foods low in fat and cholesterol. Don't overeat. Even too much healthy food will cause weight gain. It's the calories that matter in weight gain and loss. Calories are calories, whether they are nutrient rich or empty.
Eat slowly and enjoy the food. Practice mindful eating. Put the fork down between bites and become aware of the taste, smell, touch and texture of the food being eaten. It may take 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you are full. Then it's time to stop eating.
Drink lots of water. Water hydrates, fills your stomach and reduces hunger -- along with any cravings to smoke. Placing ice in the water increases metabolism and burns calories.
Don't wait until you are very hungry to eat. At that point you may give in to fast food or poor food choices. Be prepared and have a healthy snack on hand, such as carrot or celery sticks, an apple, pretzel or air-popped popcorn.
Watch your portion size. Sight is also involved in determining when we feel full, so use smaller plates and drinking glasses; if the plate is viewed as full the tummy feels full. Fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with whole grains, and a quarter with lean protein. Don't deny yourself a treat. Variety is the spice of life.
Have a plan on how to cope with food cravings when they hit. Food cravings are associated with weight gain. Food cravings are not from being hungry. A craving is a strong desire to obtain a reward -- in this case eating food for the pleasure of it. If you are reaching for food when stressed, lonely, sad, etc., address the issue and consciously replace the desired food with something else. Examples: When lonely, call a friend. When stressed, meditate. If bored, go for a walk; it helps to distract from the craving and burns calories.
Include physical activity in your daily schedule. Physical exercise not only boosts metabolism, improves sleep quality, and burns calories, but also releases 'feel good' endorphins in the brain that help reduce stress, depression, and cravings to smoke. Of course, overall health, including medical issues, needs to be considered before starting any new exercise program, so get a physician's nod of approval.
Choose physical exercises that you enjoy and look forward to doing. If you like to run, go jogging. If dancing is your thing, join an aerobic dance class. If you find walking 30 minutes a day fits better in your schedule, then go for it. It's the consistency and regularity that matters.
Little things add up. Increase your daily steps by parking the car further away from your destination. Take a walk during your lunch or dinner break at work. Use the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
Focusing on these realistic diet and exercise changes when quitting smoking helps to avoid the pitfall of gaining excess weight. Quitting smoking, being physically fit, and maintaining your weight by eating healthfully promotes self-care and feelings of well being. Keep in mind that the health benefits of quitting always outweigh any health risks associated with weight gain.
Keep Going and Keep the Quit!
Last week we talked about how stress affects the body, and about how some thought processes amplify stress. By learning how to manage stress effectively, you can reverse physical damage brought on by stress and enhance your overall state of wellbeing. This week we will look at a few ways to manage stress like a pro!
Meditation and relaxation techniques reduce stress, increase focus, and create an all around happier life experience. This helps you feel grounded during the ever-changing situations that surround us. For those of you who think meditation means sitting cross legged in a garden as water ripples over rocks and bluebirds bring you tea, think again! You can practice these techniques at any time during your day to day life.
Mindfulness and relaxation take many forms, many of which you are probably doing already! The secret is to focus on the task at hand. Stay in the moment. If you happen to be cooking, then cook. Notice the food, texture, feel, smell and ritual of preparing a meal. Drink a beverage you enjoy. Try water with ice and lemon in a tall, frosty glass. How about a freshly brewed cup of your favorite flavored coffee, or maybe open that bottle of wine your friend gave you? No matter what else is going on in your life, right now you are making dinner. Breathe deep, exhale slowly, and experience the task at hand.
Do the same thing when you are driving, gardening, washing the car, walking the dog, taking an elderly parent to a doctor appointment, mailing a package, talking to your child, having a lunch break at work, grocery shopping, reading a book, watching a movie - be present in your life. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not today's worry, and what you are doing now deserves your attention. The quality of each moment is up to you. Practicing mindfulness in all everything you do helps you relax, enjoy and live stress free.
Stop Your Mind
When you feel yourself getting stressed, stop your mind. State specifically what you are feeling, but do not use the word stress. "I am feeling ___________ (rushed, pressured, angry, exhausted, taken for granted, unprepared, disinterested, afraid, sad, paranoid, unloved, run down)." Once you identify the feeling, you can move forward with a plan of action instead of feeling stressed. If you feel sad, what will cheer you up? If you are bored, how can you have fun? Practice sitting with your feelings and finding ways to meet your emotional needs in nonsmoking ways. That way, you will not feel stressed or crave a cigarette.
Count Your Blessings
Last but not least: count your blessings! Focus on the positive aspects of your life. What was fun today? What went right today? Relax, stay in the here and now and celebrate your awesome quit.
Vikki Q CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Stress is the most commonly reported relapse trigger among new and long term quitters. Stress happens to everyone, but how you manage it can literally save your quit, and your life!
The Stress/Smoking Connection
Most smokers lit up at the first hint of stress, setting into motion a lifelong pattern of smoking in response to stress. This constantly reinforces stress as a smoking trigger, year after year! Even worse, it ruled out any chance for effective coping tools to be identified or practiced. This leaves the newly quit with little clue how to deal with stress. Most quitters smoked for so long, they do not recall what they used to do when stressed. A lifelong absence of emotional coping tools, combined with a strong association to smoking when stressed, requires new coping tools and behaviors that actually do manage stress effectively.
The truth is, smoking never managed stress. It caused it and masked it. What? Yes indeed: smoking caused stress through a constant cycle of crave, fulfill crave (smoke), crash (nicotine decline) and crave. If you felt better after smoking, it is only because you were stressed about needing a smoke fix in the first place.
Smoking also masked stress in your life. Chances are good that instead of identifying what you were feeling, needing, wanting or working through whatever was really going on with thought and action, you merely smoked and went back to whatever you were doing. That allows stress to wreak havoc with your system.
Stress Damages Your Body
Stress that goes unmanaged leaves a person feeling overwhelmed, even hopeless. Anxiety and depression often result from ongoing stress. Stress creates a 'fight or flight' response that negatively affects the system in many ways. The release of adrenaline elevates blood pressure and cortisol reduces digestion and increases blood sugar levels. Stress damages your heart, reduces immune system response, alters sleep patterns, increases fatigue, insomnia and lack of energy, reduces memory, prevents mental focus and even alters the brain!
Face Your Fears
When you feel fear, is there really a life threatening event in the right now, or are you going down the rabbit hole of 'what if' scenarios? Did you know most 'what ifs' never happen? And yet, many people stress their lives away as though it did. Instead of dwelling on end-of-world thinking, take action. Do what can be done right now, and then let go of the rest. It takes practice, but letting go of imaginary outcomes will change your life in many wonderful ways.
Attitude of Gratitude
We all have things to be grateful for. If you focus on all that is good in your life, you will see good in your life! You'll also naturally draw more good towards you. Next week, we will talk about ways to manage stress like a pro. Until then, keep going and KTQ!
Vikki Q CTTS - M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Eric Lawson was born in Glendale, CA, on December 28th, 1941. His father, like half of all Americans at the time, was a cigarette smoker. Eric followed in his father's footsteps and began smoking at an early age.
Though studies about the dangers of tobacco smoke first appeared in Europe in the early 1930's, it wasn't until 1957 that the U.S. Public Health Dept officially postulated a connection between smoking and lung disease. By then, 16 year old Eric Lawson had been hooked on tobacco for two years.
As smokers questioned the safety of cigarettes, Marlboro manufacturer Phillip Morris began pitching its filtered cigarettes (previously marketed exclusively to women) as safe alternatives to traditional, unfiltered smokes. Print and broadcast media were soon flooded with macho 'Marlboro Men' -- cowboys, pilots, hunters, weight lifters, and miners -- smoking filtered cigarettes. Cowboys and western imagery proved most effective in making these cigarettes appealing to men.
In 1962, under pressure by public health groups, U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry convened a committee of experts to comprehensively review existing tobacco studies. On January 11, 1964 (a Saturday, to minimize impact on the stock market and to ensure Sunday newspaper coverage), he released Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General. According to Terry, the report, "...hit the country like a bombshell. It was front page news and a lead story on every radio and television station in the U.S., and many abroad."
The Surgeon General's report wasn't perfect. The tobacco lobby influenced the committee to insist that smoking be characterized a habit rather than an addiction (though manufacturers already knew of nicotine's addictive properties), and to avoid recommending actual remedies. But the report unambiguously declared cigarettes responsible for the high mortality rates of smokers over non-smokers, and for elevated risks of lung cancer, COPD, and coronary heart disease. More importantly, it noted that quitting smoking diminished those risks.
We don't know what Eric Lawson, by this time smoking up to three packs per day, thought of the Surgeon General's report. There were no quit-smoking programs or telephone quitlines to assist him in quitting, had he wanted to. And the tobacco industry, often aided and abetted by the medical establishment, waged a full-scale assault on anti-smoking research, confusing smokers with contrived debates and illegitimate studies.
Despite this, the report triggered a sea change in public opinion. While only 44% of Americans believed smoking caused cancer in 1958, 78% thought so by 1968. Congress required cigarette hazard warnings on all packs sold in the U.S., and banned cigarette ads on TV and radio.
Meanwhile, Eric Lawson went to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. He became the next face of of the Marlboro Man in 1978, representing the brand in print and billboard ads for three years. He capitalized on his cowboy image to land a number of roles in TV and movie westerns, too.
1986 saw another landmark Surgeon General's Report, released by Dr. C. Everett Koop. It accused the tobacco industry of deceptive advertising, and issued the first government warning about secondhand smoke. Koop called for restrictions on workplace and public smoking, urged government prosecution of the tobacco industry, and envisioned a smoke-free society by 2000. Smoking rates dropped from 38% to 27% during his tenure.
Ironically enough, several Marlboro Men led extra legitimacy to the Surgeon General's cause. Within a year of Koop's report, the first-ever Marlboro Man, David Millar, died of emphysema, generating negative publicity for Phillip Morris.
Wayne McLaren followed in 1992, at age 51. He spent the last two years of his life a vehement anti-tobacco activist, publicly condemning the cigarette advertising he'd been a part of. Images of his rugged visage wasted away by late-stage lung cancer prompted many smokers to quit for good.
Then, just as the U.S. Justice Dept. charged tobacco companies with racketeering, a third Marlboro Man, David McLean, died of lung cancer. His passing helped turn Americans solidly against cigarette manufacturers, and after cigarette billboard ads were banned in 1999, Phillip Morris finally retired the 'Marlboro Man'.
Although he was unable to quit smoking at the time, Eric Lawson became the next Marlboro Man to speak out against tobacco use. He was particularly proud of this 1997 American Cancer Society PSA parodying the Marlboro Man, and warning against secondhand smoke:
Lawson left acting after a movie injury. He continued to smoke. His wife Susan later stated, "He knew the cigarettes had a hold on him, yet he couldn't stop.” He was still smoking heavily in 2006, when he was diagnosed with COPD. He died on Jan. 10, 2014.
A week after Eric Lawson's death, U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak published The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. The good news is that an estimated eight million lives have been saved since the original 1964 report. The bad news? Smoking still remains the #1 preventable cause of early death in the U.S.
Nearly 21,000,000 people have been killed by tobacco since 1965, several million of them from secondhand exposure. Annual economic costs of smoking have hit a third of a trillion dollars. Despite the lowest rates of smoking ever (hovering around 20%), the yearly mortality rate has remained well above 400,000 for more than a decade, and isn't projected to drop for years to come. Worst of all, this new report predicts that nearly six million of our youth, currently under 17 years of age, will die prematurely from tobacco disease -- unless we can offer intervention.
Quit-smoking programs are more urgent and relevant than ever, and a big part of how millions of smokers' lives get saved. We intervene effectively, one smoker at a time. Tobacco treatment work supports our Surgeon Generals' campaigns against tobacco addiction, and helps prevent current and potential smokers from suffering the same fate as the Marlboro Man.
Alan Q, CTTS-M
I quit smoking seventy-two days ago, and for the first time I'm not sure I'm going to make it.
I smoked proudly for fifteen years. I started as an occasional smoker, but over time I needed more and more nicotine (I later learned that most addicts develop dose tolerance to their addictive substances). By the time I quit, I was smoking three packs per day, every day. I smoked during meetings, while walking or driving or eating meals. I woke up in the middle of the night to have a cigarette, and even kept one burning in an ashtray on the toilet tank while I showered, or on the bed stand while making love. I considered myself a smoker's smoker, and couldn't imagine life without cigarettes. Until I met Mary, that is.
Mary was cool, confident, smart and lovely, certainly out of my league, and I immediately fell in love with her. I had to have her. There was one problem with Mary, though -- she was a non-smoker. And not the self-righteous, moralistic type of non-smoker I'd been avoiding for years, either. No, Mary vehemently and absolutely hated tobacco, with a passion I'd never seen. Tobacco had killed her mother, and she held a big-time grudge against it. She made no bones about her refusal to date any smoker, ever.
My self-image hung in the balance. If I entertained any notion at all of hooking up with Mary, I would have to quit smoking. Telling myself that I'd stay quit only long enough to win her heart, and resume smoking sometime after that, I went online to look for quit-smoking info. I registered at a quit-smoking website, picked a quit-smoking date, and announced to everyone that I was quitting -- including Mary, who hugged me at the news!
Being a heavy smoker, I figured I was in for a rough nicotine detox, but decided to quit cold-turkey, anyway. Partially because I wanted to be tough about quitting, but also because it cost $50 for a hundred count of nicotine gum. $50! Never mind that a carton of smokes runs almost twice that; I needed them. Besides, the drama of a severe withdrawal could maybe get me some special attention from Mary... .
Day One wasn't bad at all. I fidgeted a lot, and drummed my fingers madly against things. I kept putting my hands to my mouth, expecting something to be there for me. I sucked on a ton of Lifesavers, but had no overwhelming urge to smoke. Quitting seemed do-able.
Day Two was a little more intense. Mary called to cheer me on and tell me how proud she was of me. My nose started running a bit, and I developed a headache. Felt like I might be coming down with a cold, but suffered only a few severe cravings to smoke. Despite the physical discomfort, and trouble getting to sleep at night, I thought that people were making too big a deal out of quitting smoking.
By Day Three I was a space cadet. I laughed uncontrollably, as if I was stoned on acid. Colors seemed very intense, and my brain raced wildly with bizarre thoughts. (My doctor later said I was experiencing a sustained rush of new oxygen to the brain). My whole body ached, and someone at the quit-smoking website wrote that I'd probably contracted the 'Quit Flu'. I obsessed non-stop about either smoking or not smoking, and became painfully aware of every lit cigarette within sight or smell.
And then a blow to my motivation, on Day Four: Mary left the country with her family, and wouldn't be back for two months! So much for her shoulder to lean on while I quit. A part of me whispered, "You can smoke now and re-quit later, and she'll never know," but I decided to soldier on and have more smoke-free weeks quit under my belt when she returned.
By Day Twenty I was already feeling better. I still wasn't sleeping much (my sleep patterns wouldn't stabilize for another month or two), and I was coughing up a lot of brown goo, but the flu-like symptoms were gone and I was going hours at a time without thinking about a cigarette.
And so it went. I sailed through my quit, noting one surprise benefit of quitting after another. Sleep deprived or not, I felt more alert and like I was really in my body. I took morning walks, and during one of them I suddenly wanted to run. It was exhilarating! I joined the Y, and started lifting weights. I wondered why people seemed to be wearing stronger cologne and perfume lately, until I realized that my sense of smell was returning. When I did have a smoking urge, I logged in to my quit-site and distracted myself. I finally stopped spitting up old lung tar, too, and noted that my wallet always had a lot more cash in it. Why had I never tried quitting before? Doing so had triggered changes in many areas of my life; I even made a couple of new ex-smoking friends, and began thinking of myself as an ex-smoker.
Until this morning, that it is. Mary got back from her long family vacation and introduced me to Mark, her new boyfriend. That was bad. Worse, he reeked of cigarettes! Filthy, stinking cigarettes. I was stunned. After a short, awkward silence, I blurted out something like, "Glad to meet you and by the way I'm still not smoking," and beat a hasty retreat. I felt betrayed. What was Mary's problem? Why would she sell out her values for love? How could she do this to me, after I'd changed my smoking life to be with her (though I never did tell her that, truth be told)? My thoughts turned to smoking. "I'll show her," I resolved. "Screw this quit."
So here I am on Day Seventy-two, and my motivation for quitting is gone. I'm at the convenience store, counting out bills for a pack of my old deadly comfort. In walks one of my new ex-smoking friends. She smiles, sees the pack and the wallet in my hands, and looks at me, silent. "They're not for me," I reply to her unasked question. In that moment I get some clarity. Cigarettes really are not for me, not any more. I'm about to punish myself because I'm upset with Mary? How can I blame her for selling out to follow her heart, anyway? Hadn't I sold out my smoking values to follow mine? Hasn't that been working out pretty well for me?
My quit isn't about Mary, and it never was. She may have been my inspiration to change, but it was my decision and my effort that got me to this place. The benefits of my new, healthier lifestyle are mine alone. I've earned them, and I'm not going to throw them away just because I got my expectations dashed.
I hand the cigarettes back to the clerk and buy a roll of Lifesavers, instead. I walk out of the store with my friend, still smoke-free. I didn't get the girl in the end, but I got a lot more than I expected. Seems I'm the fish I've been trying to catch all along (and quitting smoking was the hook).
Alan Q, CTTS-M
As you begin your quit smoking journal, you may be wondering, "How will I quit smoking?" Journaling is a private way to vent and record how you feel under moments of stress, happiness, joy or frustration. There are no rules to follow; use a notebook, scrapbook, diary or your computer or tablet. Use your creativity. Include your favorite slogans, poems or affirmations.
Imagine for a moment: Anytime you have a thought about your quit, good or bad, you can record it. Journaling is most effective when done regularly. Write for several minutes at a time, and do not stop writing to edit your work. Your journal can be kept private or you can choose to share with others.
QuitNet offers a Q journaling tool, available under the My Quit tab. The journaling tool includes a new QComic to greet you each day. You can choose to make your journal visible to other Qmembers or keep it private.
Here are 5 ways journaling can help you with your quit:
1. Define your purpose for quitting
Journaling allows you to reflect. For example, observe your smoking patterns. Ask yourself, "How many cigarettes do I smoke a day? When do I tend to smoke less? Do I smoke more when I am bored?"
On another day, list what you like the most about smoking versus what you like the most about quitting. Create another column and list what you like the least about smoking versus what you like the least about quitting. Compare your responses. This is an effective evidence-based exercise called The Decisional Balance. It will help you decide why you want to quit smoking. Here are some other suggestions for journaling:
-Write about the vision of your quit.
-Write about lessons learned from previous attempts and what would you do differently.
-Write about the people or life experience that has motivated you to quit.
Stay focused on your quit
Journaling will help you stay focused. Write down your reasons for quitting. Review your reasons daily. It will help you stay strong. Determine if you want to journal in the morning or right before bed. If you want to make additional lifestyle changes such as losing weight; devote a journal entry about it.
If you belong to a QuitNet forum or a QuitNet club, write about your experience (i.e., connections with other members, finding a quit Q buddy); include anything that will inspire you, such as another quitster's Q testimonial or suggestions, quotes, poems. The choice is yours!
Journal your way through a craving
Each time you have a craving, grab a pen and write about something else (i.e., write about going to the beach, your next vacation, a party or fun event you went to). The key is to keep writing about a topic that will keep you distracted. Empower yourself to work through this alone, especially if your support network is not available. Cravings typically last several minutes; overcoming a craving will help you develop a non smoker image, greater confidence and higher self-esteem.
Track your progress
Monitor your progress. If you are cutting back, maintain a smoking log. Write down every time you are triggered to smoke and how you handled the situation. Keep track of your savings. List ways to reward yourself. Document your treatment plan. Reflect on how you feel. Make reminders of when your dosage changes. Include how many days you've been quit.
Utilize the QGadget together with your journal. The QGadget will automatically compute the lifetime and money you'll save by quitting (a quit date has to be entered for calculations). Devote journal entries to reflect on your stats! Document any recommendations made by your doctor, including the quit smoking medications you are using. If you have discontinued a medication, write about what worked and what did not work. If you are not sure you want to commit to a quit date, write about your reasons. Discuss what information would help you make a decision. Journal the steps to obtain the information you need.
Manage your stress
If you are stressed about quitting, consider writing about these stressful events. It will help you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health. Listen to music while you journal. Write about how good you will feel after you quit. Write about the immediate health benefits and your strong reasons for quitting. After writing, you will feel in a more relaxed state. Review your previous entries, and notice your progress.
In conclusion, journaling is a therapeutic method that will help keep you close to your quit. It can be very liberating. You will feel a sense of control over your quit. Rereading your entries can be empowering and offer insight and understanding about yourself and your quit!
Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Keep Going and KTQ!
Are you in the process of planning your quit? Are you overwhelmed and not sure where to begin? Are you going through withdrawal symptoms and not sure where to get answers? Quitting smoking is an empowering and life-changing experience. Taking control of an addiction involves some commitment. Make QuitNet part of your quit plan. QuitNet will help you set goals and keep you informed about the quitting process. Every member can benefit from QuitNet's Community, Expert Support, and Resources.
Do you have limited social support for your quit? As a QuitNet member you have access to thousands of other members. You can interact with them through 10 forums, 98 clubs, Qmail, and chat rooms. Former smokers are always on standby, ready to answer questions, in the QuitStop forum. You can ask them about their quits. Create friendships and find a quit buddy. Let them know how they can help you.
The QuitNet community holds virtual events like bonfires and pledges that you can participate in, and commit publicly to keeping your quit. As a member of QuitNet, your Qmunity is there to support you! It might not be long before you say to yourself "this isn't so bad." You will find yourself with an abundance of Q social support.
Need advice from a Q Counselor? Help is available in the Ask an Expert forum or through 1-2-1 Counseling (under the Expert Support tab onsite). Post a message in Ask an Expert Forum and a trained Tobacco Treatment Specialist will respond to your question. Other members can see your questions and the responses. You can also read previous posts, thus increasing your knowledge about the quitting process. If there is a post you would like to keep you can add to your library. If you prefer more privacy, your other option is to send your question by 1-2-1 counseling and communicate through qmail.
Expert advice is also available through Expert Qchat, offered twice a week. Members have the opportunity to interact directly, in real-time, with QuitNet Expert counselors and each other -- as well as occasional Special Guests. Previous topics include Tools for Smoke-Free Socializing, Making Healthy Choices and Keeping Your Quit during Holiday Triggers.
Avoid boredom and play a QGame! Enjoy some humor and read a QComic. Need more information? QuitNet has put together a variety of resources to help you. There are downloadable QuitGuides and MedicationGuides. If you are not sure what medications to use, try the recently updated Medication Wizard; it will assist you in deciding which medication is best for you. Find links to more quit resources and information. Read the latest Tobacco News or read a QBlog here. QBlogs are written by our Q Counselors covering a variety of topics.
As you can see, there is light at the end of the tunnel! Quitting could be easier than you think, and you do not have to quit alone. QuitNet has a variety of tools to help you quit for life. Stay close to the Q and protect your Quit! Keep The Quit!
Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Keep Going and KTQ!