How to quit smoking – the real way

This post is for smokers who actually want to quit but are fed up of the nagging, berating, and sundry nonsense surrounding the quitting industry. Ex-smokers who want to edify, support and encourage those trying to quit are welcome as well. Let’s begin with some correct and well-known information:

Inhale exhale

Smoking is bad for you

There. That done now? I know, it’s not news. I’ve known about it for almost every one of the forty-six years I smoked. Second, let me be clear, I’m not selling you a ‘cure’. This is my free gift to you. It will cost you though. It’s going to cost you your life. Some people were actually shocked that I smoked. After all, “you’re Christian aren’t you?” Yes I am. But accepting the Lord doesn’t automatically result in the cessation of bad habits, nor of sinful behaviour in a myriad other ways. If it did, we would already be living in a perfect world. And if nagging or berating me to quit had even a 0.1% chance of working, then my mum’s admonitions would have halted the habit back in the seventies.

[1] 1s3d is old UK currency and equates to about 6p sterling, or 7 US cents, or as much as 12c in Singapore. Oh and Number 6 was a ‘premium’ brand from Players.

If price increases had caused me to more than flinch, well that would have taken care of the problem when 20 Number 6 went up to one and thrupence[1]. If I had truly reconciled the increased likelihood of having a heart attack due to smoking, then I would have quit in the mid 80’s when my boss was wheeled out of our hotel bar to a waiting ambulance. If knowledge of the “facts” of increased chance of lung cancer had woken me up, I would have quit by the 90’s at least. If patches or gum had worked for me, I would have quit in the late 90’s or at least by the noughties. If a shadow on a chest X-ray and the two-week wait for a lung cancer test didn’t frighten me enough in the mid noughties. If my own self-disgust at the persistent “smoker’s cough” and pathetic manner in which I came to depend upon white tubes of burning tobacco didn’t get me to quit… What would?

I’ve tried.

Of course, I’ve tried. I even went a whole week once. Boy was I in a bad mood. So I thought, just one… Just one more then… I remember taking one of the first Singapore Airlines A340 over to New York on my way to a conference. Great flight, very comfortable. But 22 hours without a cigarette!!! And then, you arrive in the US and, unlike every other civilized place on the planet, you aren’t allowed to smoke anywhere inside the building. Not even one of those smoke-filled cubicles they laughing refer to as smoking rooms. Even the pavement outside the building. I, like every other desperate nicotine addict discovered a corner away from security and cameras and it-up. By now it had been a whole 24h37m!

And on and on it’s gone. 46 years of increasingly pathetic excuses.

I’ve heard testimony after testimony at my church of those people who confess their righteousness in Christ every puff of a cigarette. And within days or weeks they just stop desiring to smoke. They simply stop. And it seems without any withdrawal effects. Simple. Easy. No struggle. Oh how I have been praying, nay begging the Lord for deliverance.

“Whatever you need to do Lord” I last said to Him.

“Whatever?” He graciously asks.

“Whatever, Lord. I just want to lose this bondage to smoking. My lungs hurt. I’m scared.”

“Anything at all?”

“Anything. I trust you”

“Sure?”

“Absolutely.”

Six hours later I’m stuck in a bed unable to visit the toilet, let lone nip outside for a smoke. Did He cause me to have a heart attack? Not a chance. Did He allow it? Oh yes, you think the devil can do anything he wants to do? He made sure that I was in a place where I would be helped, and quickly. I believe He sent His angels to attend to me (if you haven’t read a “Brush with Life” you might want to catch up.)

The twitches, the aches, the cravings, the incessant buzzing in my brain…

Habits don;t go away on their own. You have to change your thinking.

Habits don’t go away on their own. You have to change your thinking.

The first few days in hospital were difficult. My arms started that twitchy ache by the second day. By day 3, I could hardly keep a train of thought for more than 30 seconds. Day 4 and I am home. Thank God my wife had thrown out every single pack of tobacco, every packet of rolling papers. Every lighter. I am not strong enough to take the dog out for her walk yet, so I stay in and can more easily resist my usual routine and start this journey of changing a lifetime habit. Day 5,6 and 7 and every minute is filled with thinking about wanting a cigarette. How easy it would be to pop down to the store and buy a pack? I’m fit enough to take the dog out and on day 8, alone for the first time. I walk past my smoker ‘friends’. The whiff of cigarette smoke quickly enters my brain and sets off more cravings deep in my soul. Or more precisely. In my thinking. Sure my body is missing it’s does of nicotine. I’m feeling pretty low spirited. That would be the lack of nicotine in my brain then. Insufficient dopamine or serotonin to compensate. And I’ve been used to lot of this drug on mys system. Yet the biggest enemy is my thinking. My body can cope. Yes it is unpleasant. Even painful at times. But compared to the 10 ton elephant of the heart attack, this is a mild irritant… rather like a mosquito buzzing in the ear.

So how to do it?

Cold turkey. It’s the only way folks. For those who have found nicotine replacement, e-cigs whatever works for them, great. Way to go folks. But that’s not you is it? If it were, you wouldn’t be bothering with reading this.

No you need to know how right? 1. First off. You need Jesus in your life.

Sorry, it simply doesn’t work without Him.

2.  Next. You need to get rid of the stinking thinking that rolls through your head along the lines of “I need/want/desire/am desperate for a smoke.” To get rid of toxic thinking, you’re going to have to replace the toxic thought with a new Jesus centric thought. Mine is: “I only need/want/desire/am desperate for Jesus. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Use any pharse that suits you adapted or directly from scripture. That’s it. Every single time you catch that thought. Replace it deliberately, repeatedly and keep thinking it, saying it, muttering it until the desire has changed. The moment it rears it’s head again. Repeat.

Let me share some of the questions I get when I have shared this personally:

Won’t people think  am a little crazy if I am saying this out loud?

Yeap. They will. But then, most people thought you were utterly crazy for smoking but were too polite to tell you. And anyhow, who cares what they think?

Question: what’s your usual excuse question? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Does it take away the carvings?

No. But they do diminish over time.

Don’t you get into bad moods?

Not just bad moods, bad temper tantrums. Lashing out at those nearest and dearest to me for minor, silly things. Getting especially annoyed by the tiniest of infractions. Yes, sure do. And I have lashed out verbally on my nearest and dearest. They really need to be on board with you during this period. I can even understand now why so many in the US check-in to rehab clinics. At least they get paid for your abusive, disgraceful behaviour.

I use my journal as a means of venting when I need to as well. I keep a journal pretty regularly anyway and it’s called “What’s better today?” so that has even more meaning for me now 🙂

Doesn’t seem to be very Christian to “lash out” at your wife.

It isn’t. It’s not right anytime for anyone. That’s why they need to be completely on board the quitting bus. If not, find fellow ex-smokers or quitters. A group of people who are going through it together. Like AA or NA, it will help. Not one near your locality, then start one. Which reminds me, if you are in central/western Singapore and want to chat, get in touch.

Do the cravings, feelings ever go away?

I’m sure that they do, and when they do I’ll let you know how long it took me. Some people have told me they were good after 6 months.

So its about just taking it “one day at a time”?

I don’t think that works so well. I’ve chosen to look at it as the next 46 years smoke-free. And every single day is a bonus to have lived and done something meaningful.

But I don’t want to quit.

Understood. Neither did I. And that’s fine. You can continue if you want too. Just know that if you do get into that hospital bed, whether it’s a heart attack, a stroke, lung cancer or any other of the thousand or so diseases associated with smoking, then you will then have a chance to make a more life-enhancing choice.

When should I start this?

Now. In an hour. After you finish that last cigarette. Just make it sooner rather than later.

What about E-cigarettes?

I know some people who have quit that way and some who just smoke those now. Of course that would not be the case in Singapore where the authorities have decided to declare such as illegal and unavailable. But I tried pretty well everything and none helped. It’s no better and no worse than going cold turkey. The benefit of cold turkey is that your nicotine addiction and possibly the habit of holding a cigarette should be overcome faster. And less time through a painful experience is better, right?

 I thank my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, for delivering me from the snare of the fowler. His truth is my shield and buckler. (see Psalms 91)

Question: Have you quit? What was your experience? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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