An Ex-Smoker’s Month Reflection

In two days I will reach one full month of no smoking. (Yes, applause is appropriate).

With this pretty significant length of time comes the questions: How did you do it?  And how can I do it?

My method of quitting was pieced together from things I heard worked for other people. So it’s an odd patchwork of quitting methods. I have no idea if this will work for others but I have no problem sharing my month journey.

First, I chose nicotine gum as a quitting aid. Some people don’t need quitting aids. I know I do… cold turkey does not work for me. I’ve tried a number of times with the same result — first I become a raging bitch and then I break down and smoke after the 4th day because I hate being angry all the time.

I chose nicotine gum OVER other quitting aids because it gives that immediate satisfaction. Unlike medications or the patch, you are actually DOING something when you used to be smoking. This was important to me because part of the reason I smoked was for that immediate gratification. The calming of the nerves, the act of doing something while driving, etc. Chewing on some gum seemed like a good replacement. Oh and I know that the gum tastes nasty, but you get used to it. You just can’t think of it as normal gum. It’s NICOTINE, people… it’s not gonna taste like Doublemint.

I took the time to acknowledge my triggers and then purposefully ignore them. Everyday. Triggers SUCK. I’ve mentioned a lot of mine in previous posts. My triggers come down to two things: Habit and stress. The habit triggers can be kicked just by repetition or forming new habits. For example: Every morning I sit down to a cup of coffee. I acknowledge that this is a moment that I used to smoke. But this time, I’m not smoking and it’s OK. Coffee tastes good, it tastes even better now that I have my sense of taste back from not smoking! I don’t need cigarettes to enjoy coffee. And then you repeat this everyday until you no longer think about smoking when you drink coffee. Feel the trigger, acknowledge it, and then move on. Repeat. Stress triggers are a little more tricky, but still essentially the same. Acknowledge the stress or anxiety, acknowledge that this is making you want to smoke, take a moment to the chill the hell out (deep breathing, meditate, scream, whatever), then move on.

Please note that I am still dealing with some of my triggers. It’s a process, be patient with yourself.

I changed my entire diet the very same day that I quit smoking. A lot of people are vain. And they (for serious) keep smoking (I’m not kidding) just because they don’t want to gain weight (insanity).  While this is not a good reason to keep smoking, I understand not wanting to put on those quitting-smoking pounds. I believe that if you actually make a conscious decision to eat healthy then you won’t go crazy with the snacking when you quit smoking. Period. However, if  you ever feel tempted to replace cigarettes with food, here are some things that helped me: 1. Drink a lot of water. I find that I want to drink a lot of water when I quit smoking. And water and cigarettes don’t really go hand in hand. So step away from the coffee and set down that beer and go get yourself some H2O. 2. Snack on celery. It’s easy, portable, and won’t put on the pounds. Oh yeah, and just TRY to smoking a cigarette after eating celery– I dare you. Celery makes cigarettes taste reeeeallly bad. 3. Eat nuts. They’re tasty and good for you. I like pistachios. The shell makes eating them entertaining and it keeps your mind off of wanting to do other things…  what was that thing I used to do again?? Starting to forget…

The diet I decided to adopt was heart healthy focused. No fried foods, more veggies, less red meat (sigh… yeah. But cigarettes and a slab of steak go too well together. Might as well cut out the temptation all together), less processed foods, etc. And from this my love for quinoa was born! So it can’t be all that bad.         Oh and I’m still skinny. After a month of not smoking. Booyah.

Tuna steak with quinoa and black beans

 

I started exercising. Slowly.  If you’re anything like me, then right around the time you became a “real smoker” you also suddenly stopped exercising. (Funny how that happened!). So it’s been a whiiiile. And I was terrified at the thought of exercising at all. Would my lungs actually be able to survive it? Did I even have muscle anymore??  Amazingly though, I found that a few days after I had quit, my lungs felt so much better and I had SO much more energy that I wanted  to start exercising. I also thought it might be a good plan considering everyone’s horror stories about those previously mentioned quitting-smoking pounds.

The key for me was to go easy on myself. I used to be an athlete – I was a competitive swimmer at one point and a decent one at that! So I made a decision NOT to head straight for a swimming pool. I didn’t want to be discouraged from exercising when I discovered that I can’t swim a hardcore two-hour practice like I did when I was 18. Oh and let’s be honest, I was terrified that my swimming skills had just up and vanished because it had been so long.

So for the first week of no smoking, I started doing some basic yoga. Calm, quiet, nice easy stretching — and it felt great. The meditation aspect also helped me to chill the hell out during my periods of anxiety or anger.  By week two I was ready for more. So I went and bought running shoes. This was significant for me because I don’t run. I never have. I have had bad knees since I was a teenager and have used that as my excuse to just never even try to go for a jog. Needless to say, I had no idea what shoes to buy. So I bought the pinks ones. Because hey! if I’m going to go out of my comfort zone, I might as well go ALL the way!

Pink shoes! Quitting smoking has turned me girly.

 

Since I was never a jogger or a runner in the first place, I have zero expectations for myself. I don’t care how long I jog or how fast. I jog for a while and I walk for a while and I enjoy this freaky warm winter weather for a while. And maybe some day I will figure out how many miles I went or how long it took me. But that isn’t important right now.

This is week four for me. And this is the week that I finally got myself into a swim suit and into a pool. It’s been at least 3 years since I was in a pool. Probably longer since I actually swam laps. But after enjoying jogging with no expectations for a few weeks, I was ready to approach swimming the same way. Yeah, it hurt. Yeah, I almost thought I had forgotten how to do flip turns (muscle memory is amazing though). Yeah, I was slightly worried that I looked ridiculous. But I love the water and now I finally remember that. And I don’t suck as much as I thought. Sure, I can’t swim for a long period of time…. yet. But I can still beat that girl in the next lane off of every turn – so my technique is still good (Yup, that competitiveness is already coming back…. uh oh).

Buy a pack of cigarettes. Ok this seems like weird advice. And I’m NOT encouraging anyone to actually buy a pack of cigs. However, if you feel the need — it might actually be beneficial. I had a super stressful night during this past month and during this time I felt like I needed to buy cigarettes. So I did. As soon as I had bought them and they were sitting in my car, I realized I didn’t want to smoke. Having the option to smoke calmed me down. I ended up throwing away the entire pack. Yes, it was a waste of money. But it would have been more of a waste if I had smoked them. I bought those cigarettes in order to prove to myself that I didn’t need them or want them. I bought them to throw them away — to prove to myself that I was strong enough. It was symbolic. And meaningful.

Symbolism is important. I also saved my last pack of cigarettes that I smoked (empty of course). It’s still in my purse as a reminder. And yes, I actually wrote “Last Pack” on the box just to drive the point home.

Lack pack of cigarettes.

 

And so far all these weird things put together have helped me through this month.

Now onto month two!

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About kellchris

I'm an artist and art therapy student. When I'm not painting or experimenting with ceramics, I'm usually hiking, cooking, or making the big bucks bartending. View all posts by kellchris

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