By Angela Jenkins, MA, Wellness Consultant, AllOne Health Wellness Team
Growing up in the 80s, cigarettes were easily within my reach. Both of my parents smoked as well as numerous aunts and uncles (my dad being one of fourteen kids). Over time and consistently exposed to this lifestyle, my brother, best friend, and close circle of friends became smokers. This was considered “normal” as there wasn’t as much knowledge, research, or social media to communicate the health risks as there are today.
I started smoking cigarettes on and off when I went to college. At first, it was mostly a social habit while hanging out with friends, going out socially, and driving to and from college on the weekends. I didn’t think it would become an everyday habit, but I was wrong.
At first, I didn’t smoke every day. But over time, this lifestyle from my childhood subtly became my new norm as a young adult. I ended up becoming a “true” smoker mid-way through college. I continued that habit until I ultimately quit just after my 30th birthday.
I clearly remember my quit day and the experience. Having almost 20 years under my belt, these are the practices that helped me quit:
- Get mentally prepared for your quit date. Think about what challenges you might encounter and have a backup plan for each of them!
- Picture yourself as a non-smoker/non-tobacco user. What do you see when you are free of not having to think about when to buy tobacco products or use them?
- Think about and document your “why.” Are you quitting for yourself or are others asking you to quit? What is your true motivation to make this change?
- Be patient with yourself – period.
- Celebrate any successes, no matter how small or big. Some days can seem longer than others, but try to pull one small success out of each day.
- Find support wherever you can. Reach out to family, friends, support groups, or therapy. Use any means necessary to become a successful quitter!
- Journal your experience. Writing down your challenges and accomplishments can be a powerful tool and provide a record to look back on when you need inspiration.
The journey toward becoming a non-smoker wasn’t easy. After nearly 20 years, there are days that I think about smoking. Though I am confident that I will never smoke again, the habit will stay with me for some time, if not my lifetime.
I’ve had days where I remained a non-smoker and days where I experienced setbacks. Changing any behavior has challenges, and I was not always gracious or patient with myself at first. However, having more successful days under my belt gave me the confidence and motivation to continue on my nicotine-free journey. My dad quit in the 80s and my mom quit in the 90s. Having their motivation, determination, and example have been a large part of my continued success.
Here are a few additional considerations to keep in mind while quitting:
- Take it one day, one moment at a time. The urge will pass! Do your best to stay strong and find something that keeps your mind and hands busy.
- Remove any smoking or nicotine paraphernalia. The saying “out of sight, out of mind” can be impactful when a nicotine craving hits. Removing access to cigarettes, ashtrays, etc. can help you stay on track.
- Think about how you feel physically and mentally about smoking. My mom confided in me that she loved smoking cigarettes, but over time, the benefits of quitting helped her find the motivation to quit.
- Consider using Nicotine Replacement Therapy. If this is an option you have been thinking about, talk with your provider about what options may work best for you. Do not hesitate if this is what is going to help make you successful!
My personal and professional advice would be: If you are thinking about quitting, try it! Start with smaller accomplishments. Prolong the first or last cigarette for the day and monitor how you feel physically and mentally. These small changes can build your confidence in making this huge, somewhat difficult, and necessary change in your life!
It’s also helpful to understand what your body goes through when quitting tobacco. The American Lung Association discusses the Benefits of Quitting, which allowed me to check off the milestones I completed and see my progress over time. I found this to be my most helpful tool in helping me become a successful quitter.
Remember, if you want to, you can quit! The saying is cliché, but “Don’t quit quitting!” You can make this commitment with motivation, determination, resources, and support!
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