I’ll never forget that fateful day. I was at a friend’s house and a girl I knew lit a cigarette, smoked it, and told me to give it a try. I was 15 years old, and I knew this day would come, and that was the day.
Right at that moment, my thought was “I’ll try it, I won’t like it, and I’ll never smoke again”. I’d never pictured myself as a smoker.
Boy, was I wrong! From that day, and for 17 years more, I smoked half a pack of cigarettes right up until I finally quit smoking for good.
I didn’t like the taste, nobody likes it the first time, but the way that girl looked at me made me feel like the coolest kid on the block.
The next day, and after a cigarette at school, I felt even cooler. I smoked for the coolness and was clueless that I’d created an automatic pattern in my brain called a habit. The reward of this habit was feeling cooler than before.
In an effort to be better accepted by friends and at school, I created a habit that soon turned into an addiction.
I’ve since learned that most addictions are closely related to our incapacity to manage a certain type of emotions. That’s why they can be so hard to break.
17 years, smoking every single day
As the years went by, I got used to that nasty taste. I couldn’t smell the smoke on my body or my clothes. I came to learned to truly enjoy my cigarette after morning coffee, before and after a work meeting, and with a glass of wine or a beer.
I used to smoke around 10 to 17 cigarettes a day, but, from those, I really only enjoyed two or three. All the others were smoked mindlessly and automatically. I had no option; my cravings screamed for one more, and the habit did the rest. After one cigarette, my addiction was rewarded and quieted, until the next craving that is!
I couldn’t just smoke a few cigarettes; I always wanted more. Smoking was affecting my health. It was hard to breathe during intense exercise such as running. I’d also lost most of my sense of taste and smell.
I experienced a big internal battle every day. I wanted to quit but my smoking habit always got the best of me. I wasn’t free; my addiction ruled me. This situation led to a continuing state of frustration.
During my 17 years as a smoker, I tried to quit on three separate occasions, and I failed each time. On my last failed attempt, I managed to give up for 30 days. After that, I felt victorious!
I thought I had broken the habit and I was so convinced I was no longer addicted. As a reward, I smoked just one cigarette but, before I realized it, I was smoking again.
I thought I had broken the habit … As a reward, I smoked one cigarette but, before I realized it, I was smoking again
After that, I didn’t want to try to quit again because I didn’t want to fail. That first week without smoking was so hard and I didn’t want to go through all that pain just to fail again. I wanted to give up but was too scared to try again because I thought I’d fail. I couldn’t find a way to break the spell of smoking.
I couldn’t picture myself smoking all my life, but I was doomed to that fate. Yet, something inside of me still couldn’t imagine myself as that person. Something was about to change. I didn’t know when or how, but, I still believed I had hidden skills that would help me succeed.
I finally broke the habit
I traveled, I set a new mindset, and everything changed. I finally broke the habit.
Last year, I stayed for a couple of months in Australia, visiting a great friend of mine and his wife. I stayed in their lovely house in Brickworks drive, Melbourne. Both of them had quit smoking four months ago, and, when I heard this, I thought “If they can do it, so can I!”
I thought “If they can do it, so can I!”
I was deeply afraid to fail again, but I felt like this was the best moment to do it. I never thought about using nicotine patches or gum. For me, only one way could work: cold turkey, the same way my Aussie friends did it.
On my previous failed attempts, I always tried hard to suppress my urges to smoke, and it never worked. This time I decided to go a different way.
(I used the same approach as for the 20 No-Sugar Days Challenge, you can read about this challenge here).
I admitted my addiction
I couldn’t manage cigarettes. If I smoked one cigarette I would smoke more and more.
I accepted my desire, the urges, the cravings for smoking. I didn’t fight them. I simply chose not to smoke. I could do it, but I aimed for a bigger goal. I chose to quit smoking.
I didn’t fight the urges, I accepted the cravings, I allowed myslef to smoke but I chose to quit smoking
When you choose not to smoke, you trade the few seconds of pleasure of smoking a cigarette for days, months and years of not smoking ever again. I’ve chosen freedom, better breathing, more energy, less wasted money, over one more cigarette.
The first week was hard. Every time I felt the urge to smoke, I had to take a moment, sit down, and remind myself of what I was doing and why. I let the cravings flow through me but chose not to give in, even if I was desperate for a smoke. I would breathe deeply and slowly and, after a few minutes, the cravings passed.
I said to myself “Don’t give up! You’re aiming for the biggest goal of your life! You have quit smoking, and you will never smoke again.”
Whenever I had any cravings, I tried to distract myself and especially tried to use all the energy produced by my anxiety into things like cleaning, working, reading, or sometimes eating. Anything I did was better than smoking.
I repeated to myself “These are hard times, but easier and better times will come.”
“These are hard moments, but easier and better times will come.”
I started a Journal
During these tough moments, I made a journal. I wrote about my feelings, the struggling, anxiety, and all the other emotions I felt. When writing, I released the pressure and understood better what I was going through. It was like self-guided therapy.
Writing has always been an effective form of meditation for me. Writing allows me to reduce the speed of my thoughts, and that helps me to better understand what is going on.
I also wrote about the differences and sensations I felt when not smoking.
One of the most unexpected feelings were my high energy levels. I had so much extra energy that I didn’t even need my morning coffee. When I smoked, it was the exact opposite; I felt tired and sleepy all the time. This was a great victory, and one of the rewards that helped me to rewrite my smoking habit.
For every cigarette I didn’t smoke, I had more energy, and felt more focused and aware. I repeated to myself over and over: “Remember, every time you feel like smoking, if you do it, you’ll feel tired, sleepy and unfocused.” I had found a much more rewarding and valuable benefit for not smoking.
I changed the habit
My old smoking habit reward was no longer valid. The automatic pattern of smoking no longer made sense to me. The habit of not smoking was much more rewarding.
The habit of not smoking was much more rewarding.
I felt a lot of crazy cravings, and instead of suppressing them, I listened to them and tried to relax my mind. I tried different behaviors to calm my cravings. I listened to music that made me feel happy. I did push-ups. I constantly wrote in my journal writing daily quick notes and a longer, weekly, update.
Naturally, cravings came and went and some days were worse than others.
When I was stressed, I took a moment, sat down, closed my eyes, and listened to my mind yelling for a smoke. It was like an angry man shouting!
I breathed slowly and deeply, picturing my mind as that angry man. I was calm looking at him. His madness could not affect my state of peace.
I’ve made my choice of not smoking. I had to show my mind that nothing would change that.
Cravings are very strong, but they come and go.
Like in life, when somebody is very nervous and yelling at you, if you remain calm and don’t say anything to the other person, they will not get the reaction they want, and will eventually go away.
As time went by, the power my cravings held was transferred to me. I was in control of myself, and my cravings were getting less and less powerful.
Cravings are way more powerful than one can imagine.
One month after my last cigarette, I had a crazy nightmare; I was smoking in my dream! When I woke up, I was so angry and frustrated, thinking that I had lost this battle. But, when I realized it was just a dream and I hadn’t failed, I was so happy! I knew then that giving up smoking was much more important than smoking ever was.
There were tough and almost desperate moments when I constantly felt like having a smoke. During all those times, I always believed that I was up to the task. Failure was not an option.
I always believed that better days would come. And easier days always came. I always believed I would win.
My cravings started to get weaker and I got stronger. But, I never forget my weakness, my smoking addiction. You can rewrite the smoking habit, but you can’t shut down an addiction.
Today, one year later
I’m still not smoking. I don’t crave cigarettes, I can work out better and more effectively. Running is easier, and so too is my recovery after exercise.
Since I rewrote my smoking habit and I have:
- more energy
- less anxiety
- more focus
- better breathing
- fewer stomach problems
- my allergy symptoms have disappeared
- improved smell and taste
- smoother and clearer skin that glows and looks healthy
This journey was a real life-changer. I’ve quit smoking and learned to deal with my emotions better. I’ve found natural ways to relax and be at peace with myself. I no longer have to smoke to give myself energy or reduce stress.
Some days, I look at myself in a mirror and I think, “You have the freedom to change your habits. You can always choose what you want to do. I choose not to smoke.” I find that this is a good way to reinforce my new habits and avoid restarting old, unhealthy habits.
Now, I ask you: What about you?
The method I used to quit smoking
On my journey to quit smoking, I’ve tried different hacks and tips. I’ve attended Narcotic Anonymous meetings. I’ve talked with other smokers. I’ve read a lot, and investigated the science behind human habits.
Because of my journey, I’ve produced a program, The 7 Step Program to Quit Smoking.
I created this program so I could share my solution and the motivation to other smokers who want to change their habits. It’s completely 100% free, and you don’t need to buy any products or services to follow the program.
You just need commitment and belief in your willpower. Believe that you too, will one day, never smoke again.
I have also created a Facebook group called the 7 Step Program to Quit Smoking, and you can find it here. A Facebook group is a simple and easy way to create a supportive community. In this group, you can share your thoughts and struggles, as well as your successes. Together, the group will help you to calm your cravings and rewrite your smoking habit.
You can also change your habits
Commit yourself to change one habit, and I’m sure other changes will follow. Start my 7 Step Program here.