Cold Turkey 101

I realized the other day that it has been 3+ years since I last smoked a cigarette.  The road to my cessation has been a long and arduous one but, it has been worth it.

I was in 6th grade, my sisters were much older and smoked.  I wanted to be just like them..."cool."  My sisters smoked and my parents let them.  Well, they smoked too and it was the '90s so, the topic of cancer/COPD or oxygen tanks were not on the horizon.  It was the "cool" thing to do.  Fast forward to age 15 where my grandmother smoked 2 packs of Doral lights every single day.  The walls were a wonderful bile color that accented the kitchen where I sat with her every day for two years.  At 16, I started sneaking cigarettes and smoking them from my car.  Later at college, I would rebel and start smoking about a pack a day.  When I became a bartender, this was the norm.  You smoke because, hey you are in a bar and everyone smokes.  It was the norm.  I tried to quit and failed.  I tried to quit again and failed.  I quit for the pregnancy of my son and postpartum depression along with working in the hospitality industry made it easier for me to light up once more.  Until I moved to Nashville, I smoked about 1 pack a day/night at work.  Our move to Nashville slowed the habit but nothing major.  At this time, I am about 30.  I was up late one night, as per usual, and I saw a commercial on the TV.  It was a lady named Terri.  She showed me what it was like to get ready in the morning for her.  Those of you who personally know me know that I pride myself on fashion, my looks and vanity in general.  She proceeded to put on a wig because she lost her hair, scarf for the hole in her throat, false teeth because all of her original teeth fell out and all because she smoked. Right after the 2 minute commercial, I literally went outside and smoked my last cigarette.

No one said that the "cool" thing that I did at 10 years old would turn into a lifelong battle.  I knew that if I wanted to quit smoking for good that I would have to do my research.  I had learned that your body will begin to heal itself after your last drag of a cigarette but, I wanted to know in depth details so that I could visualize exactly when and how my body would recover and how I could do so.

My mantra during this challenging time was "You just need 5 minutes of courage and you can do anything."  Yes, it comes from a movie that I saw at the time called "We bought a Zoo" with Matt Damon.  With the above information, I decided that in order to overcome this huge impediment in my life that I would need to throw an all out assault on smoking.

Also, you need to get in the frame of thinking that your addiction to smoking is addiction. So, I  researched ways in which others had quit smoking and apply them in a collage of thoughts tailored to my own cessation and I took it one day at a time.  

Week 1-Day 1 Hell Week
Throw everything away (cigs, lighters, etc...) and clean everything that smells like smoke.  Throw away your ashtrays, smoke paraphernalia and even move the chair you sat in to smoke.  If you go through the entire day without single drag of a stogie...reward yourself with whatever you are craving/wanting/etc...  My vice at the time was chocolate chip cookies, baked from my oven.  So, I did and I ate the whole tray!!

You will always have cravings.  I am 3+ years out and I still have cravings.  You just need 5 minutes of courage to let those cravings pass.   

Day 2-7
Each day that you go without a cigarette, reward yourself big!  Be aware of the behavioral part of the addiction.  Taking a break during work, kids or life in general can be what you need but, you don't have to smoke in order to take a break.  Chew gum, fiddle with a pen, do anything you need to not smoke.  Also, be sure to not put yourself in tempting situations within the first month.  This is difficult, don't make it harder than it already is.  Stay out of smoky bars, the party scene or even co-workers or friends that smoke.  Just the smell of smoke may entice you to begin again.  Don't chance it.  

Day 8-14 Heck Week
Each day continue to reward yourself at the end of the day that you do not smoke a single drag/cigarette in that day.  Chocolate Chip Cookies...New Purse...Steak Dinner...Reward, Reward, Reward!  You are worth it!

Day 14-30
Make sure everything is cleaned that once smelled like smoke.  Be sure you detail your car, throw away all of our lighters and any other smoking paraphernalia and get your jackets dry cleaned.  Keep rewarding yourself but move to weekly rewards and make them bigger.  For instance, if I make it out this week without a cigarette, you'll go to the mall and buy an outfit, take yourself to dinner, etc...  

Keep a print out of the picture above where you would normally go smoke, like out on your front porch as a reminder in case you have a moment of weakness.   

Day 30+
Continue to reward yourself weekly especially if you had a hard week.  Congratulate yourself on a great job of not smoking for one month.  Your body and mind will thank you later!

Three years later and I still have cravings.  Even after all this time, I can look back and say that I am a proud quitter.  It really came down to believing that I am worth it.  I want to be around for my children and grandchildren without an oxygen tank that I would need to roll around.

Cold turkey might not be for you.  But, I am an all or nothing kind of a person.  The patch made me sick and I feared that I would gain an addiction to the gum.  I do suggest talking to your doctor before you start any sort of regimen.  There will be withdrawal symptoms that will make you feel like you are dying but, I can almost guarantee that you are not.  See a doctor though if you are having any adverse reactions.