How to quit smoking – for good
I quit smoking in February 2016 – almost 15 years after I bought my first pack. If I were to do the math, I could say that I've puffed half of my life away.
What started out as an attempt to fit in with older, seemingly more sophisticated peers in college developed into a full-blown habit. I've written about my failed attempts to quit smoking a few years ago, but did not find the resolve to quit for good until much later.
Some of you may be going through the same struggle. You know it's not good for you, but you're stuck in a cycle of feeling deprived and craving and relapsing. It's all right – I've been there too many times to count.
I've been asked how I managed to kick the habit for good, so I thought I'd share it with those who are trying to do the same thing. Note, however, that each person has a different way of coping – what worked for me may not necessarily work for you.
1. Going cold turkey. There is no other way. I was down with the flu when I had my annual physical exam in December 2015, and a month after, the results came out.
The reading said, "Suspicious mass on upper left lung." I was advised to see a doctor for further examinations. Thankfully, the anomaly was just because of the bad flu, but was good enough as a wake-up call. If that doesn't jolt you, I don't know what will.
2. (Temporarily) ditch your friends who smoke. I get it, you love your friends. You've been busy with work, and meeting up with them is a great respite. But if you're trying to quit, and your friends happen to smoke, you may want to take some time off from them.
You will be at your most vulnerable 3 to 6 months from the day you stopped smoking, and a relapse may just happen. Caveat: If you think you'll hurt their feelings, you can choose not to tell them the cold, hard truth about your absence from barkada nights out. Just say you've been busy, which isn't exactly a lie.
3. Change your routine. Smoking is built around a habit, which may or may not be a greater addiction than nicotine. I'm a stickler for a regimented lifestyle, so the adage "old habits die hard" fits to a T.
There are two stairwells leading up to my apartment. One leads to the clubhouse, another to a fork in the road leading to more apartment buildings. My routine before going to the newsroom consists of going down the clubhouse-bound stairwell, booking a car, and smoking a stick or two while I wait.
During the first week of my no-smoking challenge, I switched things up a bit. I would go down the other stairwell, and wait for the car by the fork in the road. When I got more comfortable with my new routine, I incorporated more changes, such as joining a non-smoking colleague for lunch. Those little changes in my routine helped my resolve to keep going, until passing by the smoking area no longer triggers the urge to puff.
4. Get busy. Or busier. The day I quit smoking coincided with the beginning of the campaign season. As a producer for Rappler, I had to deal with new workflows that had to be put in place and help manage the influx of material from reporters and videographers on the ground. It was more than usual, and the energy I was expending on top of adjusting to my new smoke-free lifestyle was exhausting.
But that was a blessing in disguise. I no longer had to light up a couple of sticks to put myself to sleep at the end of the day. When your body's recalibrating because of the energy you're expending, sleep comes to you much easier.
5. Download a tracking app. Not only can you track how many days it has been since you made the resolve to quit, you also get to review all the money you saved from not smoking.
At Day 476, I managed to save P19,100, since I used to smoke half a pack each day on the average. I recommend the LiveStrong MyQuit Coach or Quit That apps if you have other vices you want to add on top of smoking – sugar, alcohol, or a toxic relationship.
6. Involve the people around you. As mentioned in #4, I quit smoking in the thick of the election season. I was spending most of my time with my colleagues. My boss, a non-smoker, was especially helpful – she made sure I stayed on track and cautioned me from unhealthy diversions, such as eating too much.
There is a sense of motivation if your colleagues and loved ones are involved in your resolve to kick the habit. For one, it would be a shame to disappoint them, and it's great to have people supporting you, whether as cheerleaders or drill sergeants.
7. Indulge yourself. Try to be as comfortable as possible during the first few months of being smoke-free. If you feel exhausted, go get a massage or book a spa appointment. Be kind to yourself; weaning yourself from an addiction can be daunting.
Another good thing about quitting smoking is that you have more disposable income. Go shop for new clothes, or treat yourself to your favorite, fancier-than-usual meal. You deserve it.
8. Work towards a goal. Whether it's saving up for that trip to Japan with your family, running a marathon, or starting a small business, your resolve to quit a habit that you struggled to break free for years is just the beginning. For me, being able to quit after almost 15 years is empowering.
At the risk of sounding condescending, I urge you to quit – not tomorrow, not later, but now. The first few months are the most taxing, when migraines and mood swings get the best of you, but when your skin clears up, and you have greater stamina while getting through your day, you will realize that it's all worth it. – Rappler.com