It’s been roughly 4 years since I quit smoking and I feel way better because of it. I want to share what worked for me while trying to quit in hopes that it may help those out there looking to quit as well.
I don’t recall exactly when I started smoking, I do remember starting with cigars or cigarillos with friends around the end of high school. It was a social thing, have a couple drinks and go for a smoke with the guys. Then I started to buy cigarettes because you got more in a pack and they were cheaper than cigars. Even when I got to the point of buying my own packs of cigarettes I never really considered myself a smoker. Fast forward a couple years and I'm working in the trades where at the time a high percentage of my coworkers smoked. I would go for smoke breaks at work and now it had become a habit.
I enjoyed smoking at first, even though I knew it was bad for me. I liked having a beer with friends and going outside for a smoke, and I liked going for smoke breaks at work. It got to a point where I could clearly see that I needed to have a cigarette and that I would smoke out of habit instead of choosing to have one anymore. I didn’t feel as good after smoking and yet I still wanted to have one every couple hours. I knew that smoking wasn't good for me, but I had finally reached the point where I wanted to quit, and in order to successfully quit YOU need to want to quit. You might be trying to quit because family or friends are getting on your case or because you think you should quit, but until you actually want and choose for yourself to quit, you never will.
While I was clearly addicted to nicotine and smoking had become a habit in my life that I had been doing for multiple years I still didn’t see myself as a smoker and I think this helped me quit. It was easier for me to disassociate myself from smoking because it was just something I did, I wasn't identifying myself with being a smoker. When I decided to quit I didn’t do it cold turkey, but I also didn’t use the gum or the patch. There were times when I really wanted a cigarette and the truth is I would have one. I found that if I didn’t buy my own pack it greatly reduced the amount I was smoking because I would feel bad about bumming smokes off friends or co-workers. The quitting process took time, I would just try and put more and more time between each cigarette and not beat myself up when I did have one. Eventually I would be going a few days without having a smoke and when I would have one I would noticeable feel worse which reinforced that I wanted to quit and helped deter me from the next cigarette.
Once you get through the first three weeks the nicotine is completely out of your system and after the first 3 days the majority of the nicotine is out of your system. If you can get through the first three days the rest of the battle will be psychological. Break up your habits at work, you will need to fill the space with something to distract yourself. I’ve heard of people doing pushups when the cravings get really bad, find something that gets you through the worst moments of your cravings. There will be times when you fall off the wagon, but don't let this deter you. If you're out with friends one night and have a couple cigarettes let that be it and don't resign yourself to failure and buy a pack the next day because you slipped up. You may feel worse before you get better, because your body is used to operating with nicotine in it you might go through a withdrawal period where you feel sick because your body is flushing the nicotine and readjusting to the new status quo.
Quitting is challenging, but I assure you it’s worth it. The biggest thing that helped me quit was that I wanted to. You have to quit for you, otherwise it won’t work. Picture your life, and yourself as someone who doesn't smoke, you’re not a smoker. Think of the positive things like not having to go out in the cold for a smoke, knowing that you're looking after your health, not having clothes that smell of smoke, living longer for your family, all of the money that you're saving. Whatever your biggest motivator is, think about that when a craving hits you. Before you know it the cravings will be gone and if you do find that you have the odd cigarette it will make you feel like crap and you’ll wonder how you ever enjoyed something that made you feel so terrible.
I’m not an expert on smoking addiction, I’m just a guy who used to smoke and doesn't anymore. Things that worked for me might not work for you, but don't quit quitting. If you want to quit, decide that you are quitting even if that process takes you a couple years, because its better than the alternative.