April 21, 2014

You want to quit smoking?

For 25 years, I have smoked between 1 and 2 packs of cigarettes a day. Sometimes, when I went out late or worked long hours, I smoked up to 3 packs. People who know me would not be able to imagine me without a cigarette. Even worse, I couldn’t imagine myself without a cigarette. Whenever I considered quitting I would start panicking. In the past years, I’ve been thinking about quitting but thought that I was doomed to eternity with cigarettes. That I was not the “type” that could quit. I even convinced myself sometimes by saying “after 25 years, my body is so used to smoking, I would be sick if I quit” or used arguments like “I’d rather live a short happy life than a long and miserable life because I can’t smoke”. I told myself stuff like “it’s because I love cigarettes”.

Today, I’m in my fifth month without a single puff and without any replacements (no shisha, no chewing gum, no e-cigarette) and I couldn’t have been happier. It’s as if I’ve been released from prison. I feel great. I can breathe better, I can sleep better, food tastes better, I can smell things better and I can play sports 5 times better than I did only 6 months ago. It was so easy to quit, that I feel like I wasted years of my life being miserable because I thought that cigarettes were making me happy. The truth of the matter is, forget about the long term benefits of quitting, there are immediate rewards for quitting smoking. 

I know that many people want to do what I did but - like I thought then - they believe they cannot do it. I know that they think that they’re special, that they will never be able to quit, they are more addicted than the rest of us. But it’s not true, anybody can quit. So, I’ll share with you what worked for me and hope that it helps someone out there: 

It’s an addiction
Many people think that smoking is a habit. It’s not. It’s an addiction. A habit is when you leave your underwear on the floor. Smoking is an addiction. There is a physical dependency on Nicotine. And even though the withdrawal symptoms are nothing serious, if you don’t understand them, you start to panic when they happen and they’ll take you back to smoking out of fear rather than out of how they really make you feel. This website is one of the very good resources on cigarettes and Nicotine addiction: www.whyquit.com 

Make a plan
You will not quit smoking casually. You will not wake up one day and be like “Oh, I don’t want to smoke anymore”. If you want to quit, you need a plan. You need to know what your’e going to face, you need to know which moments are going to be the hardest and you need to prepare yourself for them. You might - in the first couple of weeks - need to avoid places and people who could tempt you to smoke. Nobody’s going to get offended if you explained that you are quitting smoking and need to avoid temptation. As a matter of fact, unless you’re hanging out with 16 year olds who have more hormones than brain cells, friends tend to be very supportive if you explain that you’re quitting. One of the best websites for making a plan and managing your quitting is: www.stayquit.co.uk It will help you prepare for your quit date and put a good plan. It will also help you monitor your quitting and make sure you don’t slip and that if you do slip, it will help you go back on the track. 

Practice quitting
On average, people will quit on the 5th attempt. It’s not because they don’t have will power, it’s because they need to learn about quitting smoking. It took me almost a year to be able to quit. The first few times I quit, I was very scared. I thought that my life as I knew it was about to end. The withdrawal symptoms scared me. That light headed feeling that you get from the lack of Nicotine, scared me. I used to quit for half a day and then freak out and go back to smoking. Then I would do it for a day. Then a couple of days, etc.. After trying a few times, I started not being scared of the feeling. It was a matter of getting myself ready for the final quit. 

You can’t half quit
For a while, I thought I was a genius. I came up with a plan that nobody else though of: “quit but keep the important cigarettes”. So, I tried to quit but only smoke when I’m drinking, or with friends, or with a coffee. Then I tried to quit but use an e-cigarette, nicotine gum or shisha. Smart!! No?.. No.. I failed every time. Because I usually stuck to the deal for a few days and then eventually went back to smoking all the time. Because, as long as you are still depending on Nicotine, you’re still addicted and an addiction by definition continuously grows and pulls you back into it. It was helpful though, in making me understand how my addiction works. After doing this a dozen times I could see the pattern and it prepared me much better for my last quit. 

Create a negative association
Smoking is typically associated with good times. When I spent that year trying to quit, I had many days where I didn’t smoke until the afternoon, sometimes I would even spend an entire day without smoking. When I took that first cigarette after a period of not smoking it felt like shit. It felt like I fell from the 4th floor flat on my face. After doing this several times, I started being scared of that first cigarette. It made me sick, it gave me a headache and when I smoked, at the end of the day I felt like a garbage can. By the end of that year, I really felt I didn’t want to smoke. I don’t think it would have been possible for me to quit without going through that period of creating the negative association. 

Even though I have a lot more that I can share from my personal experience, I think that it’s a very individual experience. I just wanted you to know that 1) quitting is possible because there is no one that is more addicted than I was, 2) it takes practice, understanding, several attempts and time, so don’t give up because it didn’t work out the first couple of times and 3) quitting is rewarding starting the first day you quit, it’s not only about the long term benefits, if you quit today you’ll enjoy your days much better, starting today. 

If you have any questions, ask me, I’ll be happy to help anyone who wants to quit. 


  1. thank you for writing this, i quit in 98 and have been doubting myself that i am just an exception, your words bring back some value to my decision :)

    1. You did the right thing.. life is so much better without smoking.. and I'm very impressed you quit such a long time ago.