Nowadays, it’s next to impossible to watch TV without being bombarded with commercials encouraging us to quit smoking. But do they work? They didn’t for me. Not even my own father having emphysema worked for me. He’s had the disease for a long time now, at least fifteen years. He quit smoking in May of 1998, after being a smoker for over forty years. One day he just got up, smoked his last cigarette, and went to the store to buy Nicotine gum. He hasn’t smoked since. And now, nine years later, he still chews the gum. It’s a million times better than smoking, but it’s quite an expensive habit. I think I’ve found a better one, or at least one that worked for me.
I started smoking when I was thirteen years old. I did it for the same reason a lot of teens start smoking: to be “cool”. It was something all the “cool” kids did, especially this one cool girl I really wanted to become friends with. Back in junior high, I’d go to the deli before school and buy a pack of cigarettes and then once I got to school I’d whip them out, in front of everyone, so everyone could see how cool I was. Soon one person would see them and then another and another and then everyone, all the “cool” kids would come hover around me asking me for a cigarette. It was an awesome way to fit in, and at the age of thirteen who thinks about diseases like cancer, emphysema, or death? We’re all immortal at that age.
I never thought to quit smoking because I always had it in my mind that I hadn’t smoked for very long. At twenty-five, I didn’t realize that the reality was I’d been doing it for over twelve years. That’s just about half my life. I didn’t like that. As a very overweight female, smoking just added to my propensity for disease. One day I made a decision, and it wasn’t because of any commercial, it was because of something my father told me, having nothing to do with his own disease.
One night, I was down in the kitchen making some dinner for myself, and my father told me about a study he’d heard about. The study said that the number of people who smoked decreased as the amount of education they’d received increased. So that means that like, say, high school dropouts who never went to college will smoke more than like a college professor with a PhD. This intrigued me, because I always wanted to be smart. I was always the “fat” kid in school, and when I was younger I wanted to be beautiful, but at some point in my life I remember thinking that I was never going to be a great beauty, so I wanted to be smart. So I worked hard in school instead of slacking off (because all the “cool” kids slacked off; I was a huge follower, in case you hadn’t noticed). As a graduate student, I didn’t want to be in the category with the high-school dropouts. This study my father told me about said a lot about people who are willing to do harm to their bodies, knowingly. It said that the smarter people get, the more wise and educated they become, the less likely they are to willingly do harm to themselves, and that fascinated me. I had come so close to quitting in the past, through my own method, but was never able to just go that last mile. Here is what worked for me.
No matter how much you smoke, whether it’s ten cigarettes a day, a pack, two packs, three packs, it doesn’t matter. Not for this method. Remove one cigarette a day for one week. If you smoke a pack a day, smoke 19 cigarettes a day for one week. Then go down to 18. Then 17. If a week is too short of an amount of time, do it for two weeks. Keep decreasing how much you smoke by one cigarette per week, or however long you need to do it. I was smoking like a pack a day, and it took me like a year, but I got down to like ten cigarettes but then I was stuck there for a while. Then I got down to about five cigarettes a day and I was stuck there for awhile. I just couldn’t kick those last few. And then one of my closest friends quit smoking, cold turkey. She just threw in the towel, no gum, no patches. And I thought about her, and my father, and how I wanted to be that college professor with the PhD (literally, I’m planning to go for my PhD after I get my MA), and I didn’t want to be in the minority. I wasn’t a teenager anymore, “cool” no longer applied. So I did it. Granted, it’s not easy. Sometimes, when I see someone smoking in the street or on TV I’ll remember that smooth menthol joy, and I’ll just curse the air and wish I had a pack, but I’ve managed to remain smoke-free. I realize it is not just a one-time thing, and then boom – it’s over. It’s an ongoing battle, like weight loss, like getting through any addiction, but if you force yourself into the right mindset, I think you can do virtually anything.
I want to make it clear that I am not saying that my way of thinking or my technique could work for everyone; they sure didn’t work for my father, who had to choose the gum (he says it’s what saved his life). And there are exceptions to every rule. Maybe the patch would work for someone else, or one of those herbal supplements; I don’t know. All I know is what worked for me and I wanted to share it with people in the hopes that it could work for at least one other person. My next goal: losing weight. Wish me luck.