Welcome to this week's installment of QMember Stories, featuring Froglady - who just celebrated a 14 year quit she started at the Q in 1999!
"I smoked at least two packs plus a day for more than 42 years. I tried to quit smoking many, many, many times. But once I joined QuitNet I was successful the very first time, and knew that I had found my forever quit!
"The worst part about my smoking was that 99% of my friends and relatives did not smoke; how they tolerated me I will never know. But, the main reason (other than #1, health concerns) I quit is that I had just bought a brand new silver convertible sports car (little old lady trying to hold on to her youth!) and I vowed that I would never stink it up with foul smoke!
"When I decided to stop smoking I went online looking for a support group, and on July 1, 1999 I found QuitNet. I had never belonged to an online group before so my first stop was the chat room. I was actually still smoking at that time and I was amazed at the warm welcome I received. From that moment on I knew that I had found a new addiction to replace my smoking .... QuitNet. With the help and support of my new found friends, I set a quit date of July 26, 1999, and it has now been 14 over years for me without a single puff!
"I quit using Wellbutrin and the nicotine patch. I had never tried NRTs before and I think that is what made the difference. Some people are against NRTs, but I say do whatever works for you.
"Today, I have freedom, freedom, freedom from being tied to the end of a cigarette! But, the MOST significant change in my life was being invited to visit my brother and sister in law in San Francisco. Because I live in Miami , we didn't get to see each other very often, and while it was never discussed, I knew that I was not invited to visit because I was a smoker. When I quit, I got my first invitation in more than 30 years, became a frequent visitor, and had some wonderful times that I would not have had experienced otherwise if I were still smoking.
"Unfortunately, my brother, who was 7 years my junior and not a smoker, died very suddenly of a heart attack in November, 2010. I never expected that I would outlive him. This is another reason why I am so grateful to QuitNet -- for making it possible to spend so much more special time with him that I otherwise would have missed if I had continued to smoke. My trip to the West Coast for the funeral was surreal and I was in a complete daze, but it wasn't until I arrived home that I realized I had not thought once about having a cigarette. At that point, I knew that I would never go back to smoking again NO MATTER WHAT, and that I was done with cigarettes forever.
"Without a doubt, the most interesting and memorable experiences I have had on the Q was the chance to attend two QuitNet 3D Meets - one in Chicago in 2007 and the other in Seattle in 2008. I met over 100 Q members in person! Real people, and most of them just as nice and caring in person as they were online! I can also remember my worst experience as a smoker -- when I had just started a new job and one of the benefits was a company car......that I promptly set on fire when I threw a cigarette out of the window and it blew back in and landed in the back seat. And, no, I wasn't fired! (pun intended)
"I suggest you use the tools offered to you. For me, the chat room was a place where I literally lived for the first few months of my quit. By using the Forums and reading, reading, reading, I gained invaluable information from people who had already been through the quitting process and applied their advice and experience to my own quit.
"My most valuable piece of advice to others trying to quit smoking? I would say never give up! Anyone can quit if they sincerely want to, and if they commit themselves 100% to reaching that goal. 'There is no can't, only won't.'"
Keep coming back, and KTQ,
Sheila, the Frog Princess (j/k!).
Welcome to QMember Stories, featuring Sindie033013 - who celebrates nearly a three month quit!
"I started smoking when I was 13 years old. I remember living in Dunlap, IL, and going out into the woods behind my house and trying a cigarette. Then we would go out behind the bus barn after school and smoke. Both of my parents smoked back then, so I guess it seemed like the thing to do to become an adult.
"We moved to California when I started High school and that’s when I really started smoking regularly. I would swipe Salems from my mom’s closet and smoke away. There was a smoking section at the high school, so it was pretty much accepted in those days.
"There are so many things I dislike about smoking. The worst thing has been the isolation. My addiction to cigarettes has slowly isolated me from people. I live in California where NOBODY smokes, and smokers are very frequently looked down upon. I have rebelled against that thinking for a very long time, but I now see that I was only hurting myself and isolating myself from other people.
"This time I stopped smoking on 3/30/13. I wanted to stop on or near my birthday…and I did, so I am very happy about that. I am using NRT in the form of the nicotine patch. I used this before in a former quit when I stopped for 6 months. I know that it will work for me as long as I stick with it.
"I went searching online for a stop smoking support group and found QuitNet. I am very grateful to have found it. It is a big part of my Recovery Plan. I Joined on my Quit Date, 3/30/13. Going to the Newcomers chat room during Hell Week (week one) was a life saver. I would like to help others by going there when I am more confident in my own quit.
"This is the 4th time (I think) that I have stopped smoking. Each time I have stopped in the past I have learned something. I know now that I CANNOT have just one cigarette. That I CANNOT go Off the Patch too soon; I must give myself enough time. And, just for me, that I CANNOT take anti-depressants as they increased my anxiety the last time to an unbearable point.
"In addition to NRT in the form of the patch, I've used Alan Carr’s Stop Smoking the Easy Way for Women, QuitNet Support, free youtube Stop Smoking Hypnosis, having an actual Quit-Buddy (a very good friend of mine), “smoking” cut off straws in my car and whenever else I feel the urge, being more active, making plans to become a runner, and taking the Daily Pledge every Day at QuitNet.
"My main inspiration for stopping at this time is an upcoming trip to Ireland. I have been fortunate to travel quite a bit but this is the first time I will be traveling solo with a group of new people. I decided I did not want to be smoking and isolating myself during this adventure. I hope that when I return from my trip I will find the motivation to remain smoke free.
"I am feeling so much better already. I had a terrible cough that would not go away. I’ve had it well over a year and would not go to the doctor for it. It is nearly gone now. I keep thinking I may have dodged a bullet and it really could be the very next cigarette that I smoked that would turn that cough into lung cancer. I want to stay alive … to see my son finish college…and to enjoy my future grandchildren.
"Also, I have overcome some life events in recent years and I have finally found a deeper strength within. I believe that I am finally ready to truly stop
and to be able to handle the uncomfortableness of quitting.
"My advice to newcomers? If you decide that you are going to quit, do not let anything stop you. Use each and every resource available to you, and Protect your quit at all costs. Recognize that you are an addict and that you are entering a period of recovery. Be good to yourself…and reach out for support from others…it helps a GREAT deal."
Keep coming back, and KTQ,
"P.S. I am thrilled to let you know that I have returned from my trip to Ireland and survived entirely smoke free!! What an amazing experience!" :)
Welcome to the this week's installment of QMember Stories, which features Kallikak - who celebrates a nearly 7-year quit!
"I smoked 35 years total, interrupted by several earlier quits. I’m not sure that any of us keep track of the number of attempts, once it gets beyond “several”.
"The worst thing about my smoking was that I had no control over my addiction, and that I knew it was killing me. No one in my family, or my extended family, smokes. I was the only addict. They were very tactful about it, but it was clear that they all wanted me to quit. The final straw was an angina attack in July 2006. I instantly became a quitter at that moment.
"I'd first found QuitNet the year before, in January of 2005, after an off-hand remark from someone (probably one of those relatives above) that there probably would be resources online to help with quitting. I did a Google search, and the rest is history.
"I quit on January 1st of that year, and the Q became my lifeline, a lifesaver. A couple dozen of us formed a club in January 2005, and we called it something really clever, like 'Jan2005 Quitters'. We shared a monumental goal, and we all started at the same time. I’ve never seen support like that, but I’m guessing that many clubs here have that magic about them. I’ll never forget the first time a new quitter responded to one of my posts that I had been an inspiration. Whoa, talk about a rush!
"I had 10 months on my quitmeter when I was laid off from a long-time job. That triggered my addiction. I began smoking again, and didn’t stop until the angina attack in July 2006. I've been smoke-free since then.
"In my 2005 semi-final quit, I used the patches, and they worked very well. This final time, I quit cold turkey when I had the angina attack. That served as a clue that I am mortal; that I will not escape the consequences of smoking if I don’t quit. In the early days, my inspiration came most strongly from the Q; it was like being in an intensive care unit.
"I have two outstanding suggestions for anyone thinking about quitting smoking: First, make a list of what smoking was doing to your life, and the reasons you quit; and second, take your quit 'one crave at a time'. Just take care of the next one, and don’t worry about the one after that.
"If you come on to the Q, you can call me Bill. My username is Kallikak - a tribute to a family that was the subject of a study by H.H. Goddard, an early 20th century psychologist who thought he could tell if you were feeble minded just by looking at you; he also gave us the word `moron`!"
Keep coming back, and KTQ,
There are some misconceptions about quit support products, specifically surrounding the ‘support’ part! Take Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) for example. As tobacco treatment specialists, we sometimes hear "My NRT is not working". Let's look at the role NRT plays for a basic overview of what to expect. NRT does not make you quit smoking. It does not remove the habitual want to smoke, or the emotional need to smoke. NRT does not eliminate withdrawal symptoms, nor does it prevent the detox process from occurring.
So what does NRT do? It takes the edge off cravings so you can focus on breaking your lifelong habitual, behavioral and emotional attachment to the daily ritual of smoking. NRT supports your efforts by reducing the physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms so you are more likely to stick with the quit process long enough to succeed.
NRT is not designed to match your smoking habit nicotine consumption milligram for milligram, but rather to reduce cravings by delivering a slow, steady dose of nicotine in your system based on the average amount of cigarettes you smoked prior to your quit date. This slow, steady dosing avoids the rapid and addictive 'rush/crash/crave' cycle that smoking provides (and makes quitting so difficult). NRT helps by lessening the intensity of physical withdrawal symptoms. Physical withdrawals will still occur as your body detoxes, heals and adjusts after years of inhaling toxic, chemical filled smoke, tar and gasses into your lungs and throughout your entire system. Nicotine is just one of the many thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke.
NRT is advised to be used for at least the first 8 weeks of your quit while stepping down gradually. Stepping down as directed ensures minimal cravings and maximum quit support. Why 8 weeks? Research shows it takes a good 8 weeks of practicing new behaviors, habits and coping tools to learn a new habit, such as being a nonsmoker! Doing so with overwhelming physical cravings often leads to relapse before any of the learning new behaviors or habit breaking part takes place. Nicotine and temporary cravings are a small part of the Big Picture. Long term quit success comes from having 8 weeks of practice and actively working to learn new behaviors and coping tools, not from 'using NRT'. The Quitter must actively work their quit process in order for NRT support to be most effective.
So, how do you work your quit process? Start by identifying your top 3 tobacco triggers. Then, come up with effective new coping tools that will work for You. This is where you want to put your time, energy and focus during the next 8 weeks you have NRT support. Practice getting through stress, boredom, relationships, disappointments and day to day life situations without using tobacco. Practicing new coping tools ensures your quit process gets easier as time goes by. No amount of NRT can do this particular part of the quit, which is a good thing! It forces the newly quit to start really thinking about living their day to day lives without a cigarette. In each of those moments where you choose to do something else instead of smoke, you will be laying the foundation for becoming a nonsmoker.
The key to success is to let NRT do it's job by using it correctly as directed, while you do your job - actively work your quit process! Along the way, you'll discover lots of new things to do as you enjoy your healthy, smoke free lifestyle.
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Don't quit alone! We can help:
First, some points to clarify:
1) QuitNet is not anti-cold turkey quitting. In 18 years as the world's first and largest quit-smoking website, we've had a lot of experience with what works best for the most, and what the research indicates -- and that's what we speak to here. If you can quit cold turkey, you should -- the sooner the better.
2) QuitNet does not receive revenue from the sale or advertisement of NRT or other quit-aids (in fact, you won't find any ads at the Q).
3) This blog isn't a debate on whether or not you should quit cold turkey, nor a response to anti-NRT theorists. The author doesn't work for tobacco companies, or any tobacco product manufacturers or distributors.
4) The author himself quit a three pack a day addiction cold turkey, 21 years ago. He knows from experience that cold turkey quitting can work. Further notes at the end of the blog.
Twenty two years ago, before the patch and other quit-aids were available without prescription, I quit smoking cold turkey (CT). Three times, in fact, the third time being, as they say, a charm. And after many years of easy access to over-the-counter quit medicines like NRT, i.e., the patch, gum, lozenge, etc, most smokers still try to quit cold turkey. CT is defined as any treatment method which does not include medicinal control of withdrawal symptoms, i.e., the smoker stops smoking, either abruptly or with a plan, and doesn't employ any chemical interventions to minimize detoxification. Hypnosis, acupuncture, and other alternative treatments are also considered CT because they do not directly address physical withdrawal, or detoxification.
So you won't ever catch me saying cold turkey is a bad way to quit, or that it won't work work for you. I'm living proof that it can and does work. But it's also important to address the most common misconceptions about CT quitting, so you can make the best choices for your next quit.
Myth #1. Cold Turkey is the most effective way to quit.
Decades of research repeatedly demonstrate that only 3-6 CT quitters, out of every 100, will succeed during any given quit attempt. This makes cold turkey the least effective of all treatments, even less so than medication placebos. The primary reason for these low numbers is that the physical, mental and behavioral parts of withdrawal sometimes prove too much to handle, and can negatively impact everyday life even for the most determined quitter.
However, this doesn't necessarily mean that any single quitter won't be able to quit using CT, only that, statistically, other methods provide better odds overall.
Myth #2. Cold Turkey is the safest way to quit.
Quitting smoking is rarely dangerous, and almost never more dangerous than continuing to smoke, but a slower, measured withdrawal from nicotine usually provides an more comfortable path to tobacco freedom. The sudden onset of cold turkey detox among the heaviest smokers can trigger risky fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure. Changes in metabolism can adversely affect prescription medication doses. CT quits can trigger acute depression and suicidal ideation among those with certain mental health issues, and/or massive chemical/hormonal rearrangements in the body.
Additionally, CT quitters are more likely to transfer smoking addiction to sugar, caffeine, or other addictive substances, causing acute or chronic difficulties with weight gain, depression and anxiety, and other mental and physical health issues -- all of which can generate higher rates of slips and relapses.
Myth #3. Cold Turkey is the fastest way through withdrawal.
The longest, most intense detoxifications are usually suffered by CT quitters (depending on the level of addiction). Three days is commonly referred to as the make-or-break timeline for CT withdrawal, but CT quitters can experience moderate-to-severe detox symptoms for weeks after quitting. Again, this is not to say you will suffer such withdrawal if you quit cold-turkey -- that's largely determined by your current addiction/smoking level and metabolism -- only that you're more likely to.
Myth #4. The intensity of a Cold Turkey quit inhibits relapse.
Though many CT quitters claim that their quit is/was so horrific that they never want to go through it again, there's no solid research demonstrating that past withdrawal experiences influence current quit-success, or that a bad past experience keeps one quit. What we often find instead is increased resistance to the idea of quitting because of past difficulties, and higher rates of slips and relapses during intense detoxes.
Myth #5. Most smokers quit Cold Turkey.
This one is not a myth. CT is still the most widely-used method, largely because it’s the easiest, and free. But most CT smokers will also relapse during any individual quit. This is why smokers are increasingly turning to quit-aids first, or after trying and failing with CT.
All that being said, cold turkey quitting may still best the way for you to quit. If you're a middle-aged man or post-menopausal woman, have successfully quit smoking before without medicinal intervention, and/or aren't being treated for depression or a bi-polar condition, your odds of quitting CT are better than average. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, weigh less than 120 lbs., or smoke less than half a pack a day, you probably should quit smoking CT. In any event, a CT quitter is wise to beef up their support network--which increases the chances of any quit succeeding.
But if you know, or fear, that severe withdrawal will negatively impact your life, or haven't been able to get through the withdrawal process unaided in the past, don't worry. There are more effective treatment methods available to you!
Good luck, visit QuitNet for help, and KTQ.
Alan Peters, CTTS-M
Regarding public health perspectives on cold turkey quitting: This blog is about CT quitting for individual smokers. Public health officials often, and should, promote CT treatment to large populations, because that's more cost-effective than offering, distributing and supporting compliance with quit-medicines on a large scale.
No QuitNet authors or experts receive research funding or other renumeration from pharmaceutical companies. Some tobacco researchers do, however, sign onto funded studies at various points in their careers. This is an indication that the U.S. doesn't adequately fund such research in general, not necessarily that the resulting research is biased or fraudulent.
A recent flurry of provocative headlines was based on a new Massachusetts population study (1), which concluded that "persons who have quit smoking relapsed at equivalent rates whether or not they used NRT." Aside from the inaccurate press coverage, we believe the study's implications aren't justified, or even appropriate, in light of its limitations. In addition, they contradict a large body of previously well-established research.
In our estimation, these are the primary flaws in the study's methodology:
- It's not a controlled study. A population study is good for gauging behavior of a diverse demographic, but is unable to identify all factors which may skew results -- such as differences in smokers' addiction levels, number of quit attempts, type of NRT selected and/or professional support utilized, and so on. In addition, other population studies which reached different conclusions were apparently not considered by the study's authors.
- The follow-up survey response rates weren't high enough. Only about 1/3 of the original group responded to the final population survey—again, making it difficult to identify factors which could or would have affected overall outcomes.
- The NRT-using group was too small. Only 15% of the recent quitter group actually reported using NRT for the recommended length of time, and no determination was made of whether the NRT was otherwise used as recommended (proper dosage, frequency, etc).
- NRT is not a maintenance or relapse prevention aid. It's a short-term tool to increase chances of quitting in the first six months. Long-term quit integrity really relies on whether (and which) maintenance strategies are employed after the quit -- such as peer and/or professional support -- and this study is light on those details.
- The intent of the study is in question. The authors use their findings to advocate more tobacco control funding for large public health programs, which they describe as competing with individual treatment programs, but this study was not designed to compare the cost effectiveness of these two approaches, and did not do so.
The Centers for Disease Control has already officially responded to the study, pointing out that systematic reviews of clinical trials find cessation medications substantially increase 6-month quit rates--which is what they're intended to do. Counseling and NRT are even more effective when combined, and are especially important in helping smokers weather withdrawal during the first few weeks of their quit.
Unfortunately, controversy about the study's NRT conclusions masks the most important takeaway, for tobacco treatment specialists and ex-smokers alike: No matter how you quit, ongoing support and a quit-maintenance strategy are critical for continued smoke-free living.
Alan S. Peters, MTTS; Ann Wendling, MD, MPH
1. Alpert HR, Connolly GN, Biener L. A prospective cohort study challenging the effectiveness
of population-based medical intervention for smoking cessation. Tob Control . doi:10.
Don't Quit alone: