The time of the year from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day is loaded with triggers to smoke. A successful quit depends on your ability to remain focused on your goal of a smoke-free life. This is no easy task, especially for the newly quit. The holiday distractions and being with people in places where you used to smoke can lure you back into old habits and lifestyle. Be prepared and get your game plan in place before the festivities begin.
Keep Your Stress Levels In Check
Holiday travel, traffic, shopping, finances, and family issues can pile on the stress and trigger strong cravings to smoke. Do your holiday shopping early and stay within your budget to prevent debt-incurred stress. Homemade gifts or planning a family draw for a gift exchange will keep the costs down but still express the sentiment. Plan your trips, give yourself plenty of time, and avoid travel during busy traffic hours. Exercise is one of the best stress reducers, so get moving daily to boost your mood, relieve tension and any urges to smoke.
Family members grow, move away, pass away, and sometimes hold grievances against one another. Try to be accepting and understanding. If you find yourself getting stressed at a holiday gathering, just step aside and take a breather by going for a walk and getting fresh air. Or simply take in a few deep breaths, hold, and slowly release. Make sure you take some alone time if the holiday cooking, cleaning, and entertaining are getting to you. A hot relaxing bath or listening to soothing music may be all you need to quiet your mind, focus inward, and calm down.
Don't Overindulge In Food Or Drink
Food often seems to play the biggest role in holiday celebrations. Tables are laden with family members' favorite recipes. Expect the temptations to be looking you square in the eye and make the decision beforehand to enjoy in moderation. If you let yourself go hog wild, it may be easier to give in to other temptations or find yourself craving a cigarette to squelch the over-stuffed feeling in your stomach.
Stay away from or limit drinking alcohol. Your resolve not to smoke dissolves the more you drink, making it easier to slip back to smoking without thinking. Alcohol is a smoking trigger for many, so stick to juices, club soda with a splash of cranberry juice, apple cider or water with lemon. Have a plan in place on how you will navigate your way around the table and bar. Promise yourself a reward for getting through the holiday event smoke-free. By not overindulging in food and alcohol you will remain in control, able to make wise decisions and stay strong in your quit.
Seek Out Support
Going to gatherings or parties where others are smoking can be challenging when you are quitting. It's beneficial to let your friends and family know ahead of time you have quit smoking and ask for their support by not smoking around you. Keep your distance. Watching others smoke can trigger strong cravings to light up. Move away from smoking situations and socialize with nonsmokers. Go outside for fresh air at times when there's no avoiding the smoke. If possible bring a nonsmoking friend or support buddy with you to the holiday event. There's no need to quit alone; with a Smartphone you can always find online quit smoking support in our QuitNet forums or chat rooms. Getting through the holiday season with your quit intact is absolutely do-able with careful planning and support!
Happy Holidays, and KTQ!
November is Diabetes Awareness month and a fitting time to speak of the harmful consequences of smoking cigarettes with diabetes. Awareness is also needed regarding the associated link between smoking and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a group of diseases which are on the rise, including more than 29 million Americans and 380 million people worldwide. The most familiar types of diabetes are: type 1 -- formerly known as juvenile-onset or insulin dependent diabetes, and the more common type 2 -- formerly called adult-onset or non insulin-dependent diabetes. People who have diabetes have blood sugar levels that are abnormally high because their body doesn't make enough insulin to process the sugar, or can't use it properly.
Over time, diabetes can be wearing on the body and is associated with serious health complications. Presently diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed, and complications reduced. Quitting smoking is especially important in not only the management and reduction of health complications for those with diabetes, but also in reducing a person's risk of getting the disease.
The Negative Impact of Smoking with Diabetes
- Smokers with diabetes tend to have more difficulty with insulin dosing and poorer control over blood sugar levels than non smokers, making management of their disease more difficult.
- Those with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to get heart disease, and the chances of having a stroke are doubled. Smoking worsens and speeds up the growth of plaque build up on the walls of the arteries, causing narrowing and reducing the oxygen and blood supply to the affected areas in the body. Smoking also raises bad cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It's plain to see how smoking with diabetes multiplies the risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Diabetes presents a risk for developing long-term complications affecting the eyes (diabetic retinopathy), kidneys (diabetic nephropathy), and nerves (diabetic neuropathy). Smoking will aggravate these conditions and could lead to more serious symptoms and require much more treatment.
Smoking Increases the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
If you are still smoking, here’s another great reason to quit. A smoker’s odds of developing diabetes are 30 to 40 % higher than a nonsmoker's. The longer you smoke, the higher your risk. Smoking raises blood sugar levels. The nicotine and other chemicals in smoke can impair your body's response to insulin and lead to insulin resistance, a precursor for the disease. To prevent diabetes it's necessary to quit smoking, stay physically active, and lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
The Benefits of Quitting Smoking Now
- Better management of blood sugar levels.
- Improvements in insulin sensitivity.
- Reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are already a risk factor for those with diabetes.
- Reduces aggravating diabetic complications involving the eyes, kidneys, nerves and vascular system.
- Decreases the chances of premature death.
Diabetes and smoking is a harmful mix. If you smoke, it’s especially important that you stop now to prevent serious health complications. There’s no need to quit alone; you can always find online non-smoking support, or find ex-smokers in your family or circle of friends. If you don’t smoke, continue to keep up the good work and stay that way. Quitting smoking now will benefit your health immediately, whether you have diabetes or not. It's the best thing you can do for your wellbeing!
Keep Going and Keep the Quit!
It’s common knowledge that smoking poses serious health risks. No wonder, as tobacco smoke is made up of at least 7000 active chemicals, most of them toxic, including 70 that are known to cause cancer. Let’s face it -- smoking harms every organ in the body. So, what comes to mind when you think about the health effects of smoking tobacco? Heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and emphysema are familiar health risks to most people. Smoking increases the risks for developing eye disorders. Here are some of the visual consequences of smoking.
For Your Eyes Only – More Reasons To Quit Smoking
Cataracts - When a cataract occurs the eye lens becomes cloudy, causing vision problems. Cataracts are common as we age. Smoking reduces the supply of antioxidants in the eyes and increases the risk of getting a cataract. The more you smoke the greater the risk and severity of the cataract. If you smoke a pack or more a day you double your chance of getting a cataract. If you quit smoking you can lower your risk level to almost that of a person who never smoked!
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – AMD involves degenerative changes in the macula, the area of the retina that is responsible for detailed central vision. Vision with AMD may appear distorted, blurred or dark in the center. The central vision loss with AMD can interfere with everyday activities we may take for granted, like reading, driving or seeing faces. Smoking reduces blood flow in the eye and can cause damage to the retina. Studies show smoking triples the risk factor of developing AMD. The risk is increased the more you smoke, and the longer you have smoked. Smoking also affects the nonsmokers who live with smokers by increasing their risk for AMD. Quitting smoking will not only reduce your risk of developing this eye disease, but also keep those you care about safe.
Diabetic retinopathy - Smoking can double your risk of getting diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is an eye complication related to diabetes that can harm vision. In this eye disease the blood vessels that supply the retina become damaged. Smoking increases blood pressure, reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood and raises blood sugar if you have diabetes, making it clear that smoking is not only a risk factor for developing the eye disease, but also aggravates the condition by damaging the blood vessels. The best way to avoid the complications of diabetes is to stop smoking, or never start.
Thyroid eye disease (TED) – Graves’ disease is caused by an overactive thyroid gland. A complication of Graves’ is thyroid eye disease. This condition may cause protruding eyes, eye irritation, and vision problems that could lead to blindness. People with Graves’ who smoke not only increase their chances of TED by four times, but also increase the severity of the problem. Graves’ is an immune system disorder and the chemicals in tobacco smoke impair the body’s protective abilities. Giving up the smokes for good is imperative to protect your eyes.
Eye Irritation - Tobacco smoke can aggravate conditions such as dry eye syndrome, which is caused by a chronic lack of sufficient tears on the surface of the eye, with smokers being twice as likely to get it. Tobacco smoke irritates the eyes and can cause a feeling of burning, scratching and dryness, especially in those who don’t smoke.
As you can see, exposure to tobacco smoke, either as the smoker or passively, increases the risk for eye disorders. Smoking is a major preventable risk factor. Protect your eyes and those around you by never starting to smoke, quitting now if you do smoke, and staying quit for good.
Keep Going and Keep the Quit!
It’s a known fact that smoking is no good for you. Cigarette smoking causes many types of cancer, increases the risk of stroke, heart and lung disease and many other health problems. Smoking is also expensive and may cause financial hardship for some. Even armed with this knowledge, most of us find quitting smoking a major struggle, but for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD ) it may be even more difficult to stay on track with their quit.
ADHD is a neurological condition that effects focus and concentration and presents as restlessness in adults. ADHD is not actually a deficit of attention, but more of a problem with controlling one’s attention span. Individuals with ADHD will find it difficult to focus on tasks that bore them, but have the ability to hyper focus on activities that interest them. They may become completely absorbed in an art project for hours, while the paperwork at the office is piling up.
Smoking is much more prevalent in folks with ADHD than in the general population, (41% ADHD to 26% general population). This group of smokers begins at an earlier age and is apt to be more nicotine dependent. Nicotine temporarily changes brain chemistry with the increase of dopamine and norepinephrine, and may improve attention and performance in people with this disorder. This reduction in ADHD symptoms may be one of the reasons tobacco can easily become the drug of choice for teenagers with this diagnosis. Teens with ADHD are more easily influenced by their friends and the need to be liked and fit in. So, smoking that starts off as peer pressure may end up being a way to self-medicate the ADHD.
For those of you with ADHD, know that quitting smoking is a doable goal. It will take a bit more persistence, work and energy than other quitters may have to exert, but you are resourceful and those are strengths you possess. After all, you have had lots of experience learning to overcome the ADHD obstacles in your life. Here are some tips for staying on track with quitting smoking.
● Seek out support and encouragement. Let your family and friends know your quitting plans and how you feel they may be helpful. Reach out for social support and create quit friends here on the Q!
● Talk to your doctor about the options with stop smoking medications to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings when quitting smoking. Nicotine dependence and withdrawal symptoms are likely to be more severe when folks with ADHD stop smoking, so a quit medication may be helpful. Nicotine replacement therapy appears to work the same in people with ADHD as those without the condition.
● Identify your triggers to smoke and create ways to avoid them. Have a plan in place for high risk situations. Your trigger may be boredom or idle time. Come up with ways to beat the boredom. Go for a walk, read a book, hop online and visit your friends on the Q! A high risk situation may be socializing with friends who smoke. A solution is going to a smoke-free restaurant or bar, where the smoking won’t be in your presence.
● Use relaxation exercises. The quitting process is stressful and added stress may increase your ADHD symptoms, so practice some coping strategies such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga or tai chi to reduce tension.
● Think positive. Use your ability to hyper focus on all the benefits you will reap by remaining smoke-free.
● Include some exercise into your day. It will help burn off the restlessness and release those feel-good hormones in the brain.
● Keep a sense of humor. It will boost your mood, reduce stress and create a happier life.
Quitting smoking is a process that takes time and practice before you get it right, so just take it one day at a time. Stay on track and you will get there!
Keep Going and Keep the Quit!
What are some challenges you can expect during the detox process? Will they ever end? Can you make it through? Those are all great questions; and ones we will answer in this installment of the QBlog!
First and foremost, re-frame your experience. The more you focus on healing, detox and healthy changes, the less difficulty you will have with the overall process. This is a lifelong gift you are giving yourself. Instead of 'Poor me', think 'Hooray for me'! Celebrate your efforts and accomplishment each and every day. Doing so inspires you to keep going.
Next, know that side effects will happen, and detoxing after years of smoking will bring some degree of discomfort. Accept this, and let temporary symptoms pass. They are unavoidable, and simply the reality of the quit process. Rest assured, there is an end in sight! Let's take a look at some of the challenges you may encounter:
If you have ever stopped caffeine or been on a diet, you know how grumpy you can feel. Quitting smoking causes similar changes in the brain. Feel good neurotransmitters are no longer being stimulated, and the rebound effect combined with hormone fluctuations and physical withdrawals can leave you angry, sad, irritated and on edge. In addition, if your only coping tool was smoking, you now find yourself with outlet for entertainment, reward, relaxation, or comfort! You want a cigarette and can't have one, so that adds to the frustration. This phase can last a few weeks to a month, and is best addressed with new coping tools, rewards, distractions, and activities. Stay busy, reach out to friends for support and limit your sugar intake to avoid mood swings.
Fatigue Or Insomnia
Many quitters feel exhausted or cannot sleep. The former do not feel better no matter how much sleep they get; the latter are exhausted as they cannot sleep even though they want to. This adds to the irritability and anxiety already being experienced. It also adds to the lack of focus many quitters report, which adversely affects performance at school and work. These symptoms usually pass in the first few weeks. You can try limiting caffeine, exercising, keeping blood sugar levels steady via healthy, small and frequent snacks, managing stress through deep breathing and going to bed at the same time every night in a quiet, cool, dark room.
Cravings, hunger, flu-like symptoms, headaches, bloating and stress are common side effects during the detox process. Don't get discouraged. These symptoms will pass, and it will be worth it. It may be easy at this point to dwell on how much worse you feel as a nonsmoker, so redirect your thoughts towards how well your system is healing after years of smoking! Exercise can help reduce physical symptoms and side effects. Get up, get out and take a brisk walk! Breathe the fresh air, clear your mind and get your heart rate up. You will feel better in no time.
Lack of focus, new routines and the unfamiliar change in your day to day life can leave you feeling out of sorts. It takes time before the new nonsmoking you feels as comfortable as the old smoking you once did. This is normal. It requires patience, practice and most of all - not smoking. The only way to get to the easier, happier, and healthier part is to keep going. No matter what happens to you, or around you, keep your quit your number one priority. Commit to waking up a nonsmoker, and celebrate your success!
Knowing what to expect means you will not be derailed by symptoms. It allows you to embrace the process, plan ahead, and move successfully towards a healthy, smoke-free you!
Keep going, and KTQ,
Vikki Q CTTS-M
You don't have to quit alone, and you can join for Free:
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!
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
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
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!