Smoking Cessation – Did you make it? (Part 3)
Ed. Note: Earlier in two installments, Mountain Echoes columnist Frank E. Baker recounted the toll smoking took on his immediate family and how he eventually managed to quit. He also offered tips on how to quit smoking, noting organizations such as the American Cancer Society, which offers smoking cessation classes. In this installment he checks in simply to offer encouragement and reinforcement to those who have been unsuccessful in their efforts to kick the habit, or currently in the throes of nicotine withdrawal.
For those who smoke, enjoy it and don’t want to quit: this article is not for you.
I am not on your case, because I am a fierce defender and champion of individual freedom. But for those who want to quit…
While waiting at the Walmart checkout counter awhile back, a Star reader and friend told me that my article prompted her to give up cigarettes. I asked her how long ago that was, and she answered, “three days.” I concealed my alarm, but asked with genuine concern: “How are you doing?”
“Quite well,” she said, adding that she was using one of those nicotine substitutes to get her through the rough, early days.
I was surprised by her cheerfulness. During my first smoke-free days, my dog cowered in a corner with his tail between his legs. Work associates agreed with everything I said, even my political opinions and taste in music. My lovely wife Rebekah, a hard-working teacher at Birchwood ABC, stayed at school a lot longer than usual. If I knocked on friends’ doors, curtains moved, but no one answered.
The fact this person was only now trying to quit, months after my article appeared, got me to thinking… perhaps there are others out there who tried and didn’t succeed, or some who are presently in the throes of nicotine withdrawal.
As we bid farewell, the word that immediately came to mind was reinforcement. At some point in our lives we all need someone to offer approval, affirmation, whether it’s a compliment over some of our work, acknowledgement of a good deed we might have done, or recognition of an attractive item of apparel we’ve worn.
No, I’m not suggesting a Saturday Night Live Stuart Smalley “Daily Affirmation,” i.e. “You’re good enough, smart enough…”
But in the case of people trying to quit smoking, reinforcement is critical. This is an unbelievably difficult thing to do alone. We need supportive buddies.
I wanted to follow the woman and talk to her some more, because I know that at the three-day mark, she is deep in the woods. And it is dark. It could be days, even weeks, before she sees light break through the trees.
For those who have tried repeatedly to quit—even if it’s 15 times—don’t give up.
If you make it on the 16th or 20th time, you can proclaim victory. You can revel in the fact you have enhanced your quality of life in immeasurable ways, beyond your wildest dreams, and probably added years to your life, not to mention saved boat loads of money.
Quitting smoking is basically, day-to-day trench warfare. Make it a mission, a battle, a crusade, a siege, whatever best marshals your strength and resolve. Involve others. Find distractions. As I mentioned in my last installment, for me it was repeatedly cleaning my garage, chewing on plastic drinking straws and hiking without taking rest stops. Eat at will, and worry about the weight you gained later.
Check out professionals, like the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association. They conduct smoking cessation classes, and an important part of their programs involve follow up – that critical reinforcement I mentioned. Hypnosis sometimes works, as long as there is follow up.
Those out there who have tried and tried and haven’t succeeded, the word failure shouldn’t be in your vocabulary. If you still want to quit, you haven’t failed.
Here’s something that I learned along the way: The longer you smoke, the harder it is to quit. But the longer you want to quit, the better chance you have of actually doing it.
We all know that health is the most important thing in our lives, and quitting smoking, as a doctor once told me, is the most effective way to dramatically improve our health. Good luck in the New Year, and to those who have finally quit, CONGRATULATIONS!
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River. firstname.lastname@example.org.