Six years ago, I did something people say is almost impossible. I quit smoking, and I haven’t touched tobacco since.
Here’s a secret: it’s very, very possible.
I smoked about a pack a day of cigarettes for over 7 years, and as I was about to get married, I thought about how I had to prioritize my health now that someone else would be depending on me. What’s more, I knew all the disastrous health impacts, and wanted to quit eventually anyhow. But I had always pushed that date conveniently into the future.
Until January 20, 2015. That was the quit date I set for myself. In the two weeks prior to quitting, I reduced my consumption from about a pack a day (20 cigarettes) to 10. I maintained that for a week, and found it fairly easy. This was based on the concept of drug tapering, which I learned about working in medical organizations as a software consultant. I had tried Chantix in the past, a prescription drug designed to help you quit smoking, but I found the taper more effective.
A week later (January 13), I reduced that to five cigarettes a day. That’s when things got interesting. I experienced a degree of nicotine withdrawal and cravings, but I could still have a few cigarettes per day, which helped salve the wound.
When January 20 came along, I was actually looking forward to quitting. I had already gone through a lot of the withdrawal. And I was looking forward to the benefits of not having to go outside in the cold to smoke and not incinerating money, among others.
I remember tossing away that final cigarette, a Camel Turkish Gold, on a cold day and heading back upstairs. I was done. And although I expected to feel dread, I actually felt glad, if a little whistful.
Within 3 days, I felt my brain and body functioning better. It felt like oxygen was actually hitting my system for the first time in years! I felt exhilaration and energy, which is something not many people mention when quitting smoking. If you can make it through those first 3 days, there’s likely a big payoff waiting.
Nearly 6 years later, I’m able to do things I could never have done before. When I sprint up stairs or hike up a mountain or do a hardcore strength training session, I think to myself that my lungs could’ve never withstood this before. I’m also not a slave to a habit that has me going outside every few minutes in any weather, desperately counting the hours until I can get off an airplane, and scurrying to convenience stores for the next fix.
The reality is, if you are ready to quit, and you make a plan and stick to it, it’s really not that hard. Imagine yourself sitting on the couch all day watching TV, gut sticking out, eating Doritos and cake. If you’re quitting smoking, and you didn’t smoke that day, that day was a 100%, unqualified success! How often can you say that about such an unproductive day? You see, the bar is set very low: just don’t do this one thing.
On the 20th, I plan to take myself out for a nice dinner. Whatever it costs will be a fraction of what cigarettes would have. And more importantly, I have a longer and healthier life to look forward to.