Living with another smoker is one of the toughest challenges the newly quit can face. And if that 'other smoker' happens to be your significant other, you might agree the situation warrants a closer look! Let's say you are at the point where you've decided it's time to quit for You - your health, your life, your success and your future. You are finally ready to own your quit and own your daily choices. You're committed to keeping your precious quit no matter who you work with, who you live with and no matter what they say or do. Congrats ~ you have the motivation and winning attitude for a successful quit!
It helps to understand the potential roadblocks on your home front so you can navigate the murky waters ahead. You will want to keep your quit and your relationship intact. Since you'll also want support, encouragement and a little help, let's take a look at that smoker in your life! Did you know they have an emotional and habitual attachment to your smoking habit, as well as their own? This is perfectly normal. When you decide to quit smoking, their life will change, too. Here are some common thoughts, emotions and fears that the smoker in your life might subconsciously go through when you announce you are quitting smoking:
- You're changing and I don't like it. (Will you still like me/want me?)
- Change is uncomfortable to me. (Why are you doing this to me?)
- How will you spend your time now? (Will I be lonely?)
- What about our smoking friends? (Will I be bored/excluded?)
- We were smokers, what are we now? (I miss the smoking 'us'.)
- You can quit & I can't/won't/don't want to. (Are you better than me?)
- You'll judge me for smoking. (Why are you being unfair to me?)
- I feel guilty smoking now. (Why are you doing this to me?)
- I feel pressured to quit. (I resent you doing this to me.)
- You won't make it a week. (I feel threatened by your resolve/success.)
Your significant other may experience loss - losing a friend, losing your bonding time, losing your couples lifestyle and losing a part of your relationship history. You may feel some of these things, too! Be honest with yourself, process your feelings and be willing to let go of any underlying resentment towards your quit or your partner. Respect their choice to continue smoking at this time. Accept the process of change, and that it might be harder for them to accept since you initiated it. Change is good for everyone! Both of you can move forward successfully with mutual respect, empathy, consideration and open communication. Let your loved one know you recognize your choice affects them, you appreciate their efforts to support you and you don't expect them to quit until/unless they are ready to. If you socialize with other smokers as a couple, share how you plan to do things together just like before, once you get beyond the first few weeks or month of your quit.
Be sure to ask for help, and do so very specifically! Pick your battles. Identify your Top 3 requests that offer the most help for your quit. It helps to use "Please do" when possible, as "Please don't" may create resistance. Here are some examples:
- "Will you please help me by keeping ashtrays, cigarettes and lighters in this drawer?"
- "Will you please say "I'll be back in a minute" instead of "I'm heading out for a smoke?"
- "Will you please tell our smoking friends I quit so I don't feel on the spot?"
- "Will you please help me kick start my quit by smoking outside on the porch?"
Really brainstorm what would help you the most. Some people love to be made a fuss over, others like to be left alone. If your significant other is not very willing to discuss your suggestions, try giving options instead. An example would be: "Would you rather help me by smoking outside on the porch, in the garage or over at John's porch?" Support is a fair thing to ask for! You live there, too, and partnership is a team effort. Focus on what they will do to support you, get a commitment for how that's going to look, then thank them for taking the time to help you plan your quit.
Do avoid the "No matter how much I beg, promise you won't give me one!" request. This sets everyone up to fail. If you do beg, they don't know if they are supposed to honor the No Matter What rule or the intense, glaring person in front of them. Instead, let them know not to give you one unless you _______ or promise you won't get mad (and be sure you don't) if they hold steady. Have some clarification so they won't feel cornered!
With some effort and planning, you can increase your home support system, reduce tension, get along great and quit smoking in a smoking household. Chances are, as you celebrate each successful smoke free day, your loved one will become inspired to give quitting a try, as well.
KTQ in your happy, supportive home!
Vikki Chavez CTTS-M
For peer support from other Quitters, click here:
You’ve quit smoking and you’re glad you did. You’re happier and healthier for it! So why does the thought of facing society again without cigarettes strike fear into your heart? Why is it that all you really want to do is to crawl under a rock somewhere and hide?
Let’s face it: having a social life after cigarettes can be daunting. For many ex-smokers, that sense of “self” was wrapped up in cigarettes. Every work break, holiday party, after work drink, pool party, camping trip, and other social gathering involved cigarettes. Many people around you might still smoke—your friends, co-workers, family, and perhaps even your spouse. When you quit smoking, not only does your lifestyle change, but so might your relationships with people. But change is not necessarily a bad thing!
First recognize that there was always more to you than your smoking. Quitting smoking is an opportunity to re-discover yourself! Many people find that quitting unleashes a torrent of emotions. Consciously or not, you may have used cigarettes in the past to deal (or not deal) with emotions. Now you have to find new, healthier ways of coping with stress, anger, boredom, anxiety, happiness, etc. These new emotions may feel more intense and you may not feel like yourself. In time you will be feeling more like yourself. Perhaps even “new and improved”!
You can and will re-learn how to enjoy social activities without lighting up. If you are newly quit, you may find that you have to avoid social situations, at least until you are feeling more solid in your quit. Social gatherings, where alcohol and other smokers mix, can be a huge trigger. But social situations cannot be avoided forever. Eventually you will have to face the world! Here are a few suggestions:
- Avoid alcohol. Not only is there a strong association between alcohol and cigarettes, but alcohol lowers inhibition and judgment. Order a non-alcoholic drink when going out or eating at a restaurant. If you must drink, give yourself a limit. Plan ahead by creating an "exit plan," connect with other ex-smokers when you first get to the club, etc.
- Practice effective coping strategies. If you find yourself in a situation where you might light up, step out for a "fresh air break," bring your list of reasons for quitting and review them, chew some gum or suck on hard candies, have objects in your pocket you can fidget with--coins, dice, a stress ball, etc.
- Practice what you will say if someone offers you a cigarette: "No thanks, I've quit!"
- Bring a buddy (preferably non-smoking) who can help keep you on track.
- Find a smoke-free social activity like a dance or exercise class, join a sport, pick up a hobby (how about photography?), go to the movies, etc.
Ultimately, with a little planning and a lot of practice, you can still enjoy many of your old social activities, but without smoking. Perhaps you may find you do them better!
As for you how your relationships with others may change, some of them might. But hopefully they change for the better. Consider this: friendships should not be based soley on smoking status. You can enjoy shared interests or find new ones without smoking. Good friends, co-workers, and family should support you in your quit. And if they don't, then maybe it's time to hang out with a new crowd. Make new friends and connect with other quitters at QuitNet or in the real world.
You've quit smoking because you want to have better health, more time, more money, a better quality of life and freedom. Quitting smoking is truly something to be proud of! So come out from hiding and enjoy your newfound social life!
Meet Kathy. She is a lifelong athlete and 30 year smoker. She is ready to get back into the game! She is quitting in honor of her parents who both died from tobacco-related illness.
Research shows that peer support signficantly increases your chances of a successful quit. Reading about another quitter's triumphs and challenges can help you get through your own. It really helps to see that you are not alone, that struggles can be overcome and your fears and concerns are normal. Watching another quitter go through the process can help normalize your quit experience and provide encouragement.
Here at QuitNet, we often hear it was member testimonials that inspired another member to quit, or helped someone to keep going through challenging times. This month, seven Utah quitters were chosen to participate in a reality TV quit journey. We invite you to read their stories and lend your support. Please join them as they go through their self-documented journey to becoming tobacco free!
You already met Kathy; here are the remaining six Utah quitters and a little about them:
Gavin is a musician, writer, and smoker for over 20 years. He is quitting for his health, an upcoming race challenge and his future family.
Tanner is a young dad-to-be and smoker of five years. He is quitting for his unborn child.
Bob and Mary Beth have been in love for 37 years, and smoking even longer. They are quitting so they can grow old together.
Chelsea is only 22 years old, but has been secretly smoking for the last five years. She is quitting now to ensure a healthy future.
Scarlet is an aerospace worker and smoked for over 30 years. She is quitting for a brighter smile and freedom from addiction.
Chances are, their smoking history, motivations, concerns, struggles and successes are similar to yours. You can cheer them on through the BecomeAQuitter Facebook, Twitter and Youtube channel, as well as read more about each one of them here.
Would you like to share Your quit story? Stay tuned for information on how your quit can be featured right here on the Quit Blog!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
The most commonly asked question in tobacco treatment is, "What's the best way to quit smoking?" The best answer is: "That's not the right question." What most of us really want to know is, "How can I quit for good this time?"
The evidence tells us that Quitting is a Process, Not an Event. Very few of us quit by simply putting down the death sticks and then willing ourselves to not pick them up again -- though most of us try that approach at least once. Multiple quit attempts using various methods are the norm, not the exception. Why?
The US Public Health Service reviewed 8,700 quit-smoking studies, and declared that smokers enjoyed the best chances of quitting for good when they not only took advantage of quit-medications, but peer and/or professional support as well.1 Why the dual approach? Because tobacco addiction isn't only physical. It's mental and behavioral as well, and interacting with professionals and/or other ex-smokers is the most effective way of getting at the psychological reinforcers of our addiction. When we try to quit by dealing with the physical aspect alone, we're usually tripped up by long-held thoughts and attitudes associated with smoking (which can 'trigger' urges to smoke even years after quitting).
Make Quitting Your Idea
So how can we put together a quit plan that addresses the mental component up front? One good way is to develop our own reasons for quitting. Most of us first consider quitting smoking because of external motivations--the pleas of spouses or loved ones, health scares, smoke-free workplaces, or increases in cigarette or insurance costs. For us to be best-motivated, it helps to mentally position our quit as our idea.
A simple Pros & Cons list is one way to do this. Ask yourself: What do I like about smoking? Is it a welcome break from work, a reward, or time spent with friends? And what don't I like about it-- the smell, coughing, the expense, the hassle of smoking publicly? List these things so you can compare and contrast. Do your reasons for quitting outweigh reasons to keep smoking? Let your brain play with this list for a few hours/days/weeks; you'll notice your mental picture of smoking changing over time.
Another way of changing how you think about quitting is to imagine a smoke-free life, full of all the possible advantages of quitting. A dramatic improvement in health is one possibility, as is a longer life. But there are other benefits, as well. You could look younger, with fewer wrinkles, softer skin, and shinier hair. You might save a lot of money that would have gone up in smoke, or been spent on treating tobacco-related illness. You could have more stamina and endurance; sleep better; enjoy more tastes and smells; have whiter teeth; increase your self respect; be a better role-model for your children and grandchildren; save your loved ones from second or thirdhand smoke--the list of great reasons to quit smoking is potentially endless. Try listing as many of these benefits as you can think of, and then ask yourself: What are my 3 BEST reasons for quitting? Write these down, too, and return your thinking to this list whenever you find yourself obsessing about cigarettes in your mind.
Reframe Your Quit History
Though some of us quit smoking on the first try, most of us have made more than one attempt. We tend to think of such attempts as failures, so it will be helpful for us to reframe our perceptions of previous efforts. Actually, each quit-attempt teaches us something valuable, something we need to know to stay quit for good. This means that the more times we've 'failed' at quitting, the better our odds of succeeding this time!
Your quit-history is your greatest asset, so reflect on these questions, and change how you think about quitting: How did I quit before? What worked, and what didn't? Did I use the chosen quit method as recommended, for as long as recommended? How did I start smoking again? Are there other tools I could have employed that I could use this time? Has anything changed in my life that might make this quit easier or harder?
Do Quit-Medications Help the Mind?
Most of us can't put our lives on hold just because we're quitting smoking. Quit-meds help us deal with the physical aspects of withdrawal, but they also help us to stay mentally on track, and to be less affected by post-quit smoking obsessions, concentration or memory problems, or the irritation and mental restlessness that accompany tobacco detoxification.
Control Your Self-talk (Or It Will Control You)
Finally, consider taking charge of your thought processes altogether by controlling your self-talk. Self-talk is that conversation you're having with yourself right now, as you read this: I agree with this, I disagree with that, what am I having for lunch, etc. We tend to think of our thoughts as driven by our environment, our emotions, etc, but that scenario has cause and effect reversed. Our thoughts right now become our attitudes tomorrow, which determine our actions the day after, and mold our future next week.
Your tobacco-dependent mind will attempt to self-talk you into abandoning your quit before you start, or to slip/relapse afterward. It'll whisper things like, I don't want to do this now/anymore, or, This is too hard! or, I can have just one. Remember, the addicted brain doesn't have your best interests at heart; it only wants you smoking again, and it's going to lie to you in your own voice.
Pay attention to what you're saying to yourself. Whenever you catch yourself self-talking the idea of smoking again, or of throwing away your quit, you can literally interrupt that thought. Command yourself to , "Stop the presses!" as you visualize your mental machinery grinding to a halt. Then turn your thinking back to positive things. Remind yourself of the reasons you're quitting; grab that list you made earlier and read it. Affirm positive concepts like:
- I don't smoke, no matter what; no matter what, I don't smoke
- No power on earth can make me smoke
- If I do give in, how will I feel afterward?
- I love being a non-smoker!
- I have all the support I need to stay quit!
- I quit and can stay quit, regardless of anyone or anything!
- I am proud to be a non-smoker
- This, too, shall pass
The more you exercise control of your own thinking, especially regarding smoking and quitting, the less power tobacco will have over your thoughts. Eventually, your mind will stop trying to trick you this way altogether.
Good luck, and KTQ,
Alan Peters, CTTS-M
Many people put a lot of time and care into maintaining the largest organ in the body--our skin. We wear protective clothing to shield our skin from the sun’s harmful UVA/UVB rays. We lather our skin with sunscreen when we do go out. And we spend money on lotions, creams, cleansers, and other beauty products designed to keep our skin healthy, radiant and youthful. But one of the best things you can do for your skin is quit smoking.
Most people are aware of the risk smoking poses to the heart and lungs. But smoking is also one of your skin’s biggest enemies. Even if you don’t smoke, exposure to secondhand smoke can be damaging because the chemicals can act as a skin irritant and have a drying effect. There are over 4,000 chemicals in second hand smoke! These chemicals wreak havoc both inside and outside your body. Smoking is damaging to your skin's health because it:
- decreases blood flow to the skin which robs your skin of oxygen and vital nutrients;
- decreases the production of elastin and collagen; both are important in keeping skin soft and supple;
- deprives your skin of certain vital nutrients and minerals including vitamins A, C, and E;
- delays wound healing and increases risk for scarring.
All of these things can contribute to wrinkling (earlier, deeper and more numerous wrinkles), dull skin, loss of skin elasticity and suppleness, and premature aging. Smoking doesn't just add years to the face; it can also affect other areas on the body, including the neck and arms. The skin in these areas can become more loose and saggy. On top of this, smoking is a risk factor for skin conditions such as psoriasis (a chronic skin condition characterized by itchy, dry, red, flaky skin), adult acne (aka atypical post-adolescent acne), and squamous cell skin cancer.
The good news? While not all damage to the skin from smoking is reversible, it can be slowed down. Within weeks of quitting smoking you should notice an improvement in skin coloring and texture. Many people also notice their gums getting more pink and healthier, and the stains on fingers and fingernails fading. So with all of these improvements in skin, why do ex-smokers sometimes get acne? While not completely understood, "quit zits," may be part of the body's detox process (clogging of skin's pores due to increased sebum production, hormonal changes, etc.). Luckily, they are temporary, albeit annoying.
What else can you do to take care of your skin besides quitting smoking?
- Wear protective clothing when spending time outside.
- Wear sunscreen with at least SPF 15 (and reapply often).
- Clean your skin twice daily with a gentle cleanser (or just water) to help remove dirt and make-up.
- Wash/rinse your face with water after exercise, paying special attention to the hairline if you wear caps, helmets or other headgear.
- Avoid using harsh chemicals on your skin which may cause irritation or outbreaks.
- Drink plenty of water which helps moisturize skin and replenish cells and tissues.
- Eat a healthy diet. Fruits and veggies are filled with vitamins and minerals your skin needs to repair and maintain healthy functioning.
- Talk to your doctor first about over-the-counter or prescription medications for acne and other skin conditions.
Quitting smoking is an important step in improving your health, including your skin health! Healthier skin not only makes you look better, but feel better. By making a few small changes, you will find that healthier, more beautiful skin is within touching distance!
A healthy diet can be an effective quit tool to help reduce cravings, mood swings, withdrawal symptoms and weight gain. Fear of weight gain is a common barrier to quitting smoking, as well as a primary relapse trigger. Following a healthy diet can put you in charge of your weight and wellbeing. Myths surrounding diet and exercise create justifications for weight gain, continued smoking, and relapse. Many people assume the following:
- If I keep smoking, I won’t gain weight. Did you know many quitters are over their ideal weight, so smoking hasn't helped prevent weight gain?
- If I relapse, I will lose the weight I gained during this quit. Did you know most people do not lose weight when they go back to smoking, and that quitting is not usually the cause of weight gain?
- I can’t afford to gain any more weight; it is bad for my health. Did you know that the stress on your heart from a pack a day habit is equal to an extra 90lbs of body weight?
The Awesome Truth About Weight Gain
Weight gain does not happen overnight. To gain 5lbs of actual body fat, you'd need to consume 17,500 calories more than what is required to maintain your current weight! This means you are in control of weight gain - it does not attack you against your willl.
Weight gain is almost always a result of overeating. many people eat too much or eat foods high in sugar and fat. When this is done consistently without exercising, you take in more than you can burn off -- and you gain weight. Eating within individual caloric requirements prevents weight gain.
And, that weight gain alters your muscle to body fat ratio, further slowing your metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabiloc rate. The more fat you have, the slower your metabolic rate. Men generally lose weight faster than women, as they tend to have more muscle. People who are overweight tend to store more fat from the calories they eat than those who are slender. This is why losing weight is harder each time you give it a try. Overweight smokers may already have a reduced metabolic rate as a result of current eating habits, lack of exercise and weight gain. The key to managing weight successfully lies in making different food choices than those that led to weight gain. Adding exercise is a great way to help get a sluggish metabolism going again.
Nicotine is a stimulant, so stopping smoking can potentially affect metabolic rate to a small degree. Reducing calories by just 200 per day can offset any changes in metabolism after quitting. This is the equivalent of bypassing one tall mocha from Starbucks (no whipped cream) or half a ham & cheese sandwich per day. Preventing weight gain realted to quitting smoking requires minimal changes to current lifestyle.
‘Scale Weight’ fluctuates from day to day based on multiple factors, including food consumption, sodium intake, water retention, hormones, medications, amount of sleep and stress levels. Weighing daily is not advised for this reason, as it can needlessly discourage the quitter. Most quitters gain less than 10lbs, which can be managed by making reasonable daily diet choices.
Hormones and Weight Gain
Women who quit may experience symptoms from hormone fluctuations similar to PMS. These symptoms may include increased appetite, bloating, cravings and water retention independent of dietary intake. Women quitting during or after menopause may experience increased fat storage (usually in waist/abdomen area) and reduced metabolism independent of quitting smoking. Hormone levels usually balance out within several months of remaining smoke free.
Some studies show quitters who use nicotine gum, lozenge or bupropion to support their quit may be less likely to gain weight during their quit. However, this effect only lasts while on the meds.
The Best Kept Secret: Fruits and Vegetables!
Research shows that among current smokers, those who ate the most fruit and/or vegetables were more likely to smoke less than a pack a day and wait at least 30 minutes before smoking their first cigarette of the day. This reduced dependence on smoking is huge, and a testament to the importance of dietary choices during your quit. Research shows abstinence rates were higher for quitters that consumed the highest amount of fruits or vegetables, and 3 times higher for those who ate both. (1)
Fruit and vegetable consumption, non-caffeinated beverages and dairy products worsen the perceived taste of cigarettes. On the other hand, meats, caffeinated beverages and alcohol were perceived as enhancing the taste of cigarettes. Drinking coffee or a cold beer may increase your cravings, so choose wisely for success.
Fruit comes to the rescue! The sugars in fruit also increase dopamine levels and thus reduce the craving for a cigarette, resulting in fewer cigarettes smoked each day and less nicotine dependence. Fruit contains fiber and many other beneficial nutrients (such as vitamin C) which also interact with the dopamine system. By getting your sugar crave fed with fruit, the newly quit can avoid candy and other junk foods that lead to binging and weight gain.
Daily Diet Tips for Success
Eat small, healthy, frequent meals to keep blood sugar levels steady. This will reduce cravings, fatigue and mood swings while revving up the metabolic rate. This one tip alone may counteract potential metabolic changes from stopping smoking.
1. Eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables! Half of your plate should be filled with F&V.
2. Eat nonfat dairy products, lean protein and whole grains.
3. Drink plenty of water, for both fullness and cleansing.
4. Avoid soda, junk food and excess sugar,fat and sodium.
Pay attention to what you eat, how much you eat and how often while consuming as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. These steps will ensure you keep both your quit and your waist line. The quit process brings opportunity to reach your weight management goals, as well. Another key component to success is exercise, which will be my next blog topic!
Keep going and KTQ,
Vikki Chavez CTTS-M
You don't have to quit alone:
(1) Reference: A Longitudinal Evaluation of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Cigarette Smoking Jeffrey P. Haibach, M.P.H., Gregory G. Homish, Ph.D., & Gary A. Giovino, Ph.D., M.S., Nicotine Tob Res (2012) doi: 10.1093/ntr/nts130
Fake it Until You Make It, Part II
My first cigarette ever (smoked in the back of the high-school bus in response to taunting by Robbie the neighbor boy) left me vomiting and shaking behind the milk shed. I stumbled up to the house and collapsed into my bed on that sunny spring afternoon, my head spinning and stomach churning, certain I’d puke some more if I dared move a finger. Never again, I swore. Smoking is stupid. Next time someone taunts me or calls me a sissy for not smoking, I'll just tell them to forget it.
Even as I thought those thoughts, I felt the cold fist of doubt in my guts. If the cool kids smoked, and I didn’t, how was I going to fit in? I was the new guy in a rural school, and desperate for acceptance. I was also pretty small, barely 5 feet tall and 100 lbs, an easy mark for bullies. Being with the cool kids meant no bullying of me, so being made sick by smoking was a real problem.
When mom came home I told her I must have caught the spring flu, that I wouldn’t be able to keep down supper. It took hours before the headache and nausea were gone. I slept fitfully all night. I worried about what I’d do the next day, when I would certainly be expected to smoke again. I was at a real-life crossroads, for sure.
Robbie treated me differently the next day. He’d saved a seat for me on the bus, and invited me to hang out later with him and his friends at the ‘smoking doors’ (behind the gym at the back of the school). I begged off with a story of a typing class assignment that was long overdue.
All day, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about smoking. That night I watched TV actors smoking and laughing, smoking and beating up bad guys, smoking and getting the girl. I saw a parade of commercials about cowboys on horses roping cattle; sleek, sexy women coming a long way, baby; and other guys with black eyes who’d rather fight than switch. Was I the problem, I wondered, and not the cigarettes? Maybe I just wasn’t manly enough. Maybe I needed to toughen up and learn how to smoke right. After all, I saw smokers smoking everywhere I looked, and not one of them was getting sick over it. I resolved then and there to try the smoking experiment again. Maybe smoking would actually make me tough enough to smoke!
The next morning I asked Robbie if he was going to be at the smoking doors after 3rd period. When I showed up, there were half a dozen boys in jeans and flannel shirts, swearing and roughhousing and smoking. One boy held out his pack of Winstons and offered me a cigarette. I can still feel the thrill of that moment, the personal validation of the gesture, the implied respect and acceptance that came with not only being offered a smoke, but with accepting and smoking it. Even better was the social cachet of hanging out with the other smokers, or, rather, being seen hanging out with them; that was worth any amount of physical discomfort.
I took tiny little tobacco puffs while pretending to take big ones. I could feel the dizziness and nausea returning, but somehow managed to not lose control—until Mr. Benoit, the Civics teacher, burst through the smoking doors and caught us red-handed (smoking on school grounds was prohibited even then). Startled, I inhaled a monster hit of tobacco smoke and burst into a coughing fit. The other boys escaped, but I was too busy choking and drooling to go anywhere. Mr. Benoit collared me and hauled me off to the principal’s office.
This smoking-related trouble turned out to be a lucky break for me, however. It gave me street cred with Robbie and Co, while providing me the alibi I needed to avoid smoking with them for the rest of the year. It also gave me a break from my conflicted thoughts about smoking. In fact, I really believed my smoking dilemma had been resolved once and for all--in favor of not smoking.
Until my senior year in high school, that is. I fell hard for a classmate, Janice A. She was bold and brash. She did what she wanted when she wanted, took no crap from anyone…and she smoked. But I didn’t care about that; I would have done anything to get her to pay attention to me. All my previous bad history with tobacco fled my memory. Before you could say smoking kills I was at the local market (which regularly sold tobacco to underage kids) buying Janice’s favorite brand. And a fancy Zippo lighter.
As I remember it, I wasn’t really thinking about smoking those cigarettes myself. I had in mind a clear image of offering her a smoke, just like in the movies; of snapping the Zippo lighter to light the lady's cigarette; of cupping my hands just so around the burning end to shelter the flame from the wind. And surely, just like in the movies, love would flow from that moment.
I learned that Janice usually snuck down to the park to smoke during study hall, and so arranged to ‘accidentally’ bump into her there. My plan worked. Me, Janice, and a red and white pack of cigarettes wound up occupying the same point at the same time. I offered her a cigarette, gave her a light, cupped my hands just so to get the fire started…She looked at me quizzically and asked, “Aren’t you going to have one?”
“I just had one,” I replied.
“Well, I hate to smoke alone,” she said. So I grabbed a butt and stuck it in my pie hole. I lit it, but only pretended to take a real puff. I sucked some smoke into my mouth (taking great care not to inhale), held it in there while faking a deep dive into the lungs, and then slowly exhaled with my mouth pursed and my cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk’s. It was hard to hold a conversation like this, and after a few minutes of bemused observation, she came out with, “How come you don’t inhale?” I was shocked, certain I’d given a command performance.
“I do inhale,” I answered.
“Not today , you don’t,” she responded.
“Well, I’m in training,” I offered.
“Training for what?” she asked. “Training to smoke?”
I don’t remember what I said after that. Janice and I never did hook up, but I spent the rest of that school year avoiding smokers and telling myself they were losers.
Next time: An Army of smokers?
Alan P, CTTS-M
You’ve quit smoking so that you can live a healthier, happier life. Maybe after you kicked the habit, you picked up a couple of healthier ones like eating a more balanced diet, getting more exercise, or managing your stress. But what about sleep?
Sleep is something we often take for granted. We all need sleep, and yet it may be the first thing that is sacrificed in a busy day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25% of U.S. adults experience insufficient sleep or rest. Crankiness, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue can be a direct result of not getting enough sleep. A good night's rest is important to both physical and mental health. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to greater risk for obesity, depression and anxiety. Another alarming statistic estimates that, each year, 100,000 police-reported crashes are related to driving while tired!
Many ex-smokers complain of having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep after quitting smoking. While sleep woes are a common and frustrating complaint among recent quitters, they are also temporary. Nicotine’s effect on sleep is largely due to its stimulant properties which keep the body and mind in alert mode instead of wind down mode. In addition, since the body goes without nicotine for a long period during sleep, smokers may awaken earlier in response to withdrawal. Smoking is also a risk factor for an array of sleep disorders including sleep apnea, insomnia, and exaccerbation of restless leg syndrome. Ultimately, quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to rest easier!
Knowing you need more sleep and actually getting more sleep can be two different things. While sleep needs vary, the average adult needs roughly between 7-8 hours of sleep. Quality of sleep, however, is just as important as the amount of sleep you get. Here are some simple tips to getting more and better quality sleep.
First, invest in your sleep environment. Proper support, including mattresses and pillows tailored to individual bodies and sleep styles, can help improve sleep quality. Also keep your bedroom dark and the temperature cool.
Second, go to bed and get up at around the same time every day, including on weekends. Creating a consistent sleep and wake schedule helps regulate the body's internal clock. It's slightly more important to wake up around the same time of day as it's easier to force yourself to wake up than it is to force yourself to be sleepy.
Third, avoid alcohol and caffeine 4-5 hours before bedtime. Beer, wine, soda, coffee, tea, etc. signal the brain to stay awake and can take several hours to clear the body.
Last, restrict your bedroom activities to sleep and sex. This means keeping electronic devices—TVs, ipads, cell phones, books (electronic or otherwise) and other distractions—out of the bedroom. Even backlighting produced from these devices is a powerful cue for your brain to stay awake.
Pick up getting more sleep as a healthy habit and you will not doubt be rewarded with feeling good, alert, and energized.
New Year's Day often comes with resolutions and commitments to meet new goals. Taking stock and choosing to make changes that improve the way we live our lives is a good thing! It is how we grow and improve our overall wellbeing. Usually around this time in January, many feel themselves losing momentum and focus no matter how worthy the goals and sincere their efforts. Rest assured, that is just the natural ebb and flow of the change process. You may be second guessing your reasons for setting the goals in the first place. You may have commited to too much at once or got lost in the day-to-day tasks of living.
We tend to feel life gets in the way of reaching our goals. Life happens. Sometimes it is good, sometimes amazing and often it is boring or super busy. And sometimes, life is difficult or depressing. I have an important shift in perception for you :) This is not life getting in the way; this is Life! We must come to accept that moving forward with our goals means moving forward while we Live our Lives, regardless of what is happening to us or around us. That means we must keep going no matter what. How? All you need is one thing: Awareness. Be aware of when you are losing focus or feeling overwhelmed. Feel your feelings! Consciously reaffirm your commitment to work towards staying on track. You will succeed and any lack of motivation will disappear. This mind set is crucial to success.
Here is another shift for you. The actual process of reaching goals is best approached with flexibility. You may take 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. You may reach a standstill. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself permission to take a break! That is where awareness comes in. By making an assessment based on awareness that honors your personal needs, you can make an intentional choice to take a guilt free pause. Taking a time out from going full speed ahead towards a list of desired accomplishments is a healthy thing to do. You simply allow yourself to stop, and then pick up where you left off. This does not mean you allow yourself to relapse. It means you choose to slow down and give yourself a chance to reinforce the great changes and new habits you have made so far.
Maintaining your new habits, goals and accomplishments to date actually reinforces all those changes and secures them into your daily routine. If you have lost 5lbs, quit smoking, put money in a savings account or started drinking more water then hold those results steady. Again, taking a break does not mean relapse. Keep your current accomplishments going strong. A break means you maintain all of your great changes and celebrate your efforts to date while not pushing further ahead for the time being.
Take this time to reflect on how far you have come, how far you want to go and when you plan to start up again. This will help you focus and commit for the long haul and more importantly, prevents the ‘all or nothing’ mentality that leads to life long patterns of relapse and restart.
You have come a long way ~ Congratulations! Give yourself permission to stop, relax, enjoy, reward and regroup along your road to success. When you are ready to move happily forward on your journey to health, you will be refreshed, motivated and even more prepared after your well deserved break.
Keep going and KTQ!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Friends don't let friends Quit alone:
When we're planning to quit smoking, it can be helpful to think back on our smoking history, to learn from our own journey and experiences. How did we start smoking, and why? How long did it take for us to become addicted, or daily users? How have we tried to quit before, and why? What worked, or didn't? What did we like or dislike about being ex-smokers? How did we end up back on the death sticks again? What's different about this quit?
Sometimes it's enlightening, even fun, to tell our smoking story to someone else. In my next series of blogs, I'm going to write about my own descent into tobacco addiction, and my long, tortured rise out of it into smoke-free living. Hopefully both you and I will learn a thing or two, or at least be able to relate to each other better as we help each other stay quit.
Most smokers start smoking before the age of 18. I was no exception. In fact, smoking imagery was such a part of our culture that I remember pretending to smoke even as a four year old. My aunts and uncles thought that was cute, and from time to time handed me lit cigarettes to hold, just for laughs.
By elementary school, me and my friends were already stealing death sticks from adults (though none of us had the courage to actually light them). I remember being repulsed by the smell of them, unlit, but that didn't matter. All my heroes smoked in those days, and every TV show and movie showed folks puffing away, usually in situations of high stress or emotional drama. Cigarette smoke didn't just look cool, it solved problems, too. And tobacco was heavily advertised in all media, often with bogus claims from doctors about the health benefits of smoking!
The first time I remember deliberately breathing smoke into my lungs was in the sixth grade. My buddy Tom had swiped his brother's Zippo lighter and some lunch school milk straws still in their paper wrappers. We held the straws as if they were cigarettes, and practiced lighting them for each other and ourselves. They burned up pretty quickly, of course, being milk straws, but we managed to take in some heavy puffs of paper smoke into our young lungs. As we hacked and gagged, Tom's brother Larry came to investigate. "You stupid idiots," he barked. "Why don't you just stick your head in the burning barrel and breathe it in!" (I grew up on a farm in the rural Midwest; in those days we disposed of our own trash in large burning barrels, every Thursday night). We were embarrassed, and not feeling so hot, either.
I attended our country church school through grade school, and went to a seminary prep high school for two years after that. Smoking was considered a mortal sin by my religion, and punishments for being caught doing it were severe. So I was never exposed to tobacco smoke until I switched to the local public school in my junior year. Being the new kid in a small town, I was desperate to fit in, to be accepted by the other kids. Most of them smoked openly, and repeatedly urged me to join them. I was hesitant, remembering the smoking straws caper from years back and not really liking the smell of cigarettes anyway. But I also wanted the other kids' approval...
They say if you hang around in a barber shop long enough, you'll end up with a haircut. The day came when I could no longer refuse my peers' challenge to smoke. It all went down in the back of the yellow school bus, riding from school to the farm on a warm, sunny summer day. Some boy called me a sissy for not accepting his cigarette, and taunted me in front of a girl I liked.. I grabbed his lit cigarette and took a couple of big pulls. I don't know why I didn't explode into a coughing fit, but I was able to maintain for the next several minutes until we reached my stop.
As soon as I was off the bus, I dashed to the milk shed (where no one could see me) and vomited until I was dry heaving. Then I staggered up the driveway to the house, and collapsed into my bed. The room spun around me, and I swore I'd never smoke again. I have rarely been that ill since.
Next time: Faking it till I 'made it'...
Alan P, MTTS