Pack It In! Quit Smoking Guide – Now Available on Kindle!

Well folks, it was a long journey but I have finally published my first book about quitting smoking. Unlike other books about quitting, it is more experiential and reflective about what I and others have had to think about when quitting. Simple questions like why you should quit, when you should quit, which support system is best suited to you, and how you will manage to stay quit are just some of the covered topics.

I have tried to make the book as personal as possible, taking into consideration that after several years of participating in forums and discussing quitting on a one-to-one basis, I have come to the conclusion that there is no single formula for success. Instead, each of us smoke for different reasons and each of us want to quit for our individual reasons. Therefore, unlike other quit smoking books, my book is not formulaic. It embraces whichever method you choose to quit while at the same time pointing out some typical difficulties and fallacies that everyone encounters when they decide to quit. In parts I even challenge the experts! See for yourself.

Pack It In Small for Blog

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01634ADU8

Would you do it if it were harmless?

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It’s a resounding “No!” from me, and yet, if you’d asked me the same question just a few years ago, my answer would have been a triumphant “Yes!” It’s quite a common question on quit-smoking forums, and it usually goes something like this: “Would you start smoking again if it were entirely harmless?” It’s an interesting proposal because it makes the person who has quit think about the potential of returning to smoking.

A large number of people, particularly those having only recently quit, respond affirmatively. I suspect that this reaction is caused by the fact that early on, quitting smoking is a chore. It takes time and energy to refrain from smoking and, therefore, the idea of finding a safe way of going back to their habit provides them with welcome relief. This may be one of the reasons why companies touting electronic cigarettes as a ‘safer’ alternative to tobacco smoking are so successful, but I digress.

What does harmless mean, anyway? No more cancer? No more COPD? No more strokes or coronary heart disease? No more asthma attacks? No other smoking-related illnesses? For a deeper look at what smoking does to your body, see this article from CDC. If smoking were harmless, all those problems would be gone, and the world would be a happier place (insert deep sigh of sarcasm here).

But, let’s pretend for the sake of argument that the potential for illnesses has successfully been eradicated. There would still be a number of other considerations, such as the expense, the tobacco tar that covers everything, the bad smell (including second-hand smoke), the butt ends and empty packs littering the streets, not to mention the slavery of it all. I’m sure I have forgotten some of the other harmful side-effects of smoking, but for me, the slavery was probably the thing that annoyed me the most. I’m a very independent person, who dislikes being controlled by anyone or anything, and yet I allowed myself to be a slave to cigarettes for over twenty-five years! To me, that was harmful behavior.

“Ah, but you asked, Would you do it if it were harmless?” This is true, so let’s get rid of the expense, the tar, the bad smells, the litter, and the slavery at the same time. What are we left with? Fresh air. It’s a resounding “Yes!” to fresh air from me, and I’ll even high-five you for it!

Quitting vs. Having Quit!

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When some people stop smoking, they refer to it as ‘quitting.’ If offered a cigarette they may say “No thanks, I’m quitting.” Similarly, they may say that “Quitting is difficult,” or “It feels lonely when quitting.” I sometimes fall into the trap myself, saying things such as “You need to be on your guard when quitting.” However, there is something fundamentally wrong with talking this way, and I’m not just pedantic!

The reason it is wrong is because quitting smoking is an event, not a process. When you say that you are kayaking, swimming, running, jumping, solving a problem, arguing with someone, or doing whatever, the assumption is that at some point you will cease that activity. In the same way, saying that you are quitting smoking implies that quitting will end at some point! It may all seem very futile on the surface, but deeper down it can have implications because it sounds so tentative. When someone tells you they are swimming, you fully expect them to stop swimming at some point. When someone tells you they are quitting smoking, it appears as though they’re making an attempt to no longer smoke, but it’s unclear at what point that process ends. It’s not definitive enough!

To be clearer, we should refer to having quit from the point we stubbed out our last cigarette. We are not quitting. We have quit. We should say “No thanks, I quit,” “Refraining from smoking again is difficult,” “It feels lonely now that I have quit” and “You need to be on your guard after you have quit.” I emphasize this way of thinking because it reinforces the fact that the event of quitting has already passed. You have already quit! There is no endpoint in sight, no time by which you will revert to smoking, and no time or circumstance to measure when you have succeeded. You are already a success! The goal from that point onwards is to learn to live without smoking.

Just to finish off, quitting smoking is not an object either. You can lose your car keys, but you cannot lose your quit.😀

Bored of Quitting?

Bored lion

Let’s face it. Quitting smoking isn’t exactly a barrel of fun. There may be some initial excitement at the prospect of living a smoke-free life, and you may have made some plans to carry you through the first few days. There may even be times further down the road when congratulate yourself about how far you’re come from the days when you used to be an addict. But, in the meantime there is plenty of time to kill, and unless you’re well prepared, it can be easy to slip back into your old ways.

I talk about preparing to quit more than having quit because I firmly believe that preparation is the foundation for success. Very few people succeed in life without planning unless they are extremely lucky, and usually not in disciplines where a certain level of effort is required. The same is true for most people when they quit smoking. The better prepared you are, the more likely you are to be successful. Just one area in which you need to be prepared is how you will cope with boredom.

Psychologists have determined that the human being has an individual learned repertoire of coping mechanisms to combat boredom. Some of us are more skilled than others at addressing boredom, partially due to experience or circumstance and partially due to the creativity of the individual. On top of this, it has been determined that we tend to lean naturally on our learned behaviors to cope with boredom. By default, the easy way out is to resort to what we already know. This effectively means that if we get bored while quitting smoking, the easiest way to deal with the boredom would be to smoke. That is unless you have already foreseen the fact that you are very likely to be bored at times.

We all get bored from time to time, regardless of whether we smoke or not. The question you need to ask while quitting smoking is what you are going to do about it when it happens. This is particularly true in the beginning when you haven’t yet encountered the many situations where boredom is likely to set in, and you haven’t yet built a new repertoire of coping mechanisms. People often talk about ‘craving’ a cigarette. Initially, this is due to the nicotine addiction, but as time passes it becomes more of a psychological issue. Notwithstanding multiple other reasons for craving (or desiring) a cigarette, boredom is a situation that can be managed quite efficiently if you are prepared.

The first step is to understand that you may get bored. You may have nothing to do and not much interest in doing anything at that particular time. This may come about as something very short-lived such as having to wait five minutes for a bus, or something more significant such as having to stay a whole evening alone in a hotel room. Whatever the situation, it can easily lead to thoughts of filling the gap by smoking, as that would be one of your default coping mechanisms to combat boredom. To prepare for this, you need to recognize that boredom will likely happen at some stage while quitting and that it is okay to think about smoking under those circumstances. Tell yourself “I’m only thinking about smoking because I have nothing better to do right now.” Just by understanding this fact, you are more likely to succeed.

The second step is to build a set of alternate activities that can be carried out during those times when you are likely to be bored, from that five minutes at the bus stop to the five hours in the hotel room. I could list off thousands of activities for every circumstance imaginable, but I think it’s better for you to explore what suits you best. Books, puzzles, and computer games are among the favorite activities when you are alone, or participating in events with other people is always enriching. Whatever you choose to occupy yourself, be aware that it should be something you find enjoyable and not just something to do to fill time. Otherwise, that activity may bore you too! Also, try to find things that you can do in the longer term because your goal should be to build new ways of coping with boredom and not smoking. If you are at a loss for ideas, use Google to search for “100 things to do when I’m bored.”

Lastly, while building your list of activities to keep you from being bored, remember that your surroundings may dictate what you can and cannot do during those boring times. For example, you’re unlikely to be able to use your desktop computer at the bus stop and some environments may prohibit the use of mobile phones, or you may have no signal. Also, you may get temporarily bored of a certain activity, so be prepared to have a few alternatives that can be applied to the same circumstances. The key is to think ahead and be prepared for as many eventualities as you can imagine. After all, you have a lot more opportunity to control your life than the bored lion at the zoo!

Independent Review of Quit Smoking Products from The Quit Company, LLC.

Quit Tea and Quit Support

Before I begin, I would like to point out that this is an unpaid non-commercial product review, based entirely on voluntary and unbiased product testing as an individual contributor. My quit smoking philosophy has always included a strong focus on the psychological aspects of tobacco cessation, including the adoption of good habits to replace the bad ones. No single product will make you quit smoking, but some products are designed to help supplement your desire and willpower to quit. Such is the case with those I tested in this article.

I was recently offered the opportunity to evaluate a couple of quit smoking products from The Quit Company based in Greenwich, CT. The first is called Quit Tea® and the second is called Quit Support™. These products are designed to be used as quit smoking aids, particularly during the early stages of quitting. My first reaction was to make sure that they did not contain any nicotine, which they don’t. This was particularly important to me, as I’m not fond of replacing a product containing an addictive substance with another product containing the same addictive substance, except when clinically approved and used in strict accordance with the prescribed instructions. Both products from The Quit Company are labeled as an herbal supplement containing only natural ingredients, which was a great start to my assessment.

When the parcel arrived, it contained a box of twenty tea bags and a plastic medication bottle containing sixty herbal capsules. The packaging looked professional, fresh and modern, with clear labels and instructions. Each tea bag was individually wrapped in sealed plastic sachets, and the medication bottle had a tamper-proof plastic seal around the screw top. Another tick for the products’ presentation and safety.

The first product I tried was the Quit Tea, of which I gave a couple of samples to my partner. As a first impression, we thought that the taste might be too strong because of the strong spicy smell emitting from the teabag before it was used. However, this was not the case, and both of us agreed that the taste was really great. We are used to drinking herbal teas from other brands, and this one was right up there with our favorites. I could easily see myself having a few cups per day. A quick look at the ratings on Amazon confirmed my thoughts, with an overall 83% positive rating for the product from a sample of over 200 voters. That’s good going for any product, especially as some of the most negative reviews were from three years ago, whereas the tea has undergone a continuous improvement process.

Due to the fact that I quit smoking over four years ago, I cannot vouch for the tea’s effects with regard to curbing cravings. But once again, a look through the comments on Amazon clearly indicates that it helps the consumer focus on something other than smoking, which is one of the main goals. Aside from that, the tea has a definite calming effect, which is a good thing because quitting smoking makes a lot of people nervous and agitated. It says on the box that some ingredients may cause drowsiness, so use with caution. Also, the box warns against use during pregnancy or while nursing. That also makes sense.

The second product I tested was Quit Support, which comes in vegetable cellulose capsules containing a mix of finely ground herbs. At a dose of two per day, the bottle contains enough capsules for a thirty day supply. One of the listed ingredients in my sample bottle is St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), which is known for its calming effects on nerves and anxiety. However, it is also known to interact with prescription medications, and therefore you should consult a doctor before use. It is possible that the St John’s wort may be replaced by one or more other ingredients, as was the case with Quit Tea, but for now it does not seem to be the case.

Quit Support appears to be a newer product than Quit Tea, at least based on the ratings on Amazon, for which it currently has an outstanding 88% approval rating based on 16 customer reviews. Again, I cannot vouch for its effects on quitting smoking. However, I have been taking the capsules for several days with no noticeable side-effects.

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend trying these products as part of your quit smoking arsenal because they are professionally made from natural products, they help focus your attention on something other than smoking, and they both have good success ratings.

For more information about Quit Tea and Quit Support, please visit:

http://quittea.com

http://quit-support.com

From Happy Meals to Nicotine Addiction

Happy Meals / Nicotine Addiction
From Happy Meals to Nicotine Addiction

I remember when my daughter was 11, she was still asking for Happy Meals whenever we went to McDonalds, which wasn’t very often. As a divorced Dad, I would sometimes stop at a hamburger place on the two-hour drive home for the weekend. My son and I poked fun at my daughter, wondering why she was still interested in silly plastic figurines at her age. She stood her ground as she always has, leaving us wondering how it was possible to play with imaginary characters and stupid toys, but at the same time, we respected her for being so determined. She was always forthright, calculated, scheming, devious and absolutely charming. She’s a very street-smart girl. I love her so much.

Within just a couple of years, her mother told me that my daughter had been caught smoking. I suspected that if she’d only just been caught, she’d probably already been smoking for a while. Perhaps she’d even been smoking before her last Happy Meal. It wouldn’t have surprised me. After all, I’d been smoking on and off since I was 12 years old because that’s how it was back then.

In many ways, I see my daughter’s character both positively and negatively reflecting my own. I feel proud and ashamed at the same time. I feel worried because I don’t want for her to take as long as I did before quitting. I want for her to have the best possible chance to live healthily. It makes me sad to think that I quit smoking more or less around the same time as she started. I was 48 and she was 11 or 12.  I had smoked for over 25 years and was elated at having managed to quit.  I thought that my exuberance at the time was contagious, giving the message that smoking is an evil thing and that no person should ever have to endure nicotine addiction. For me, that’s how it felt.

I can only hope now that with a little persuasion, some open conversation and a lot of support, she manages to rid herself of her dependence on nicotine. I will be there to help.

Turning a Blind Eye

Being a donkey
Being a donkey

Smoking can destroy you but only if the worst comes to the worst. Not everyone who smokes falls terminally ill. Most illnesses happen to unhealthy people who live unhealthy lifestyles. Smoking is just one way you can degrade your health. There are much worse things you could be doing than smoking. At least you’re not doing hard drugs. Besides, you know that you’ll quit smoking one day, just not today. It’s not important enough today.

The arguments are valid. You wake up the next morning and life moves on. You made it! You can make it again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. What’s there to worry about? Practically nothing. Even if you do worry, time has shown that you’ve been wasting your energy on senseless thoughts. Your friends smoke and your parents smoke, yet none of them has cancer. In the back of your head, there’s something telling you that you might be the one to change that pattern, but every day proves that you’re not the one. You’re a survivor. You can beat all the odds and live a long, happy, healthy life regardless of the warnings. With a wry smile and some nervous laughter, you’ll admit that you could be the one, but you hope that you won’t be.

Cut back to the 90’s when my son was in intensive care with a rare form of auto-immune disease (AIHA). He was 11 months old at the time and his life was on the line. Lucky for his mother and I, we had an excellent oncologist taking care of him. The situation was overwhelming, not knowing if he was going to live or die. He’s 19 now, but I still reflect on how difficult it was accepting that his life may be taken away by nature’s course. Even more significant to me was the fact that my son was only one of the few facing a potential death sentence. The oncologist’s waiting room was filled with children with varying degrees of cancerous illnesses. I’d never known that so many people could be so sick and all at the same time! Every one of them was hoping for the best, as were their parents and loved ones.

These children came from everywhere. If you lived in a small town or a village, you might have known one, or perhaps none. Statistically, they didn’t count for much. What’s one in one thousand, or one in a hundred thousand? The numbers seem irrelevant when taken individually. You could walk around for weeks and months and never hear of another child with a life-threatening disease. And yet, they were all gathered here, all of them very sick and all of them needing expert care and help. They hadn’t chosen their fate. Fate had chosen them. All of them. Seeing so many of them gathered in one place made me realize that my son wasn’t the unfortunate one. He was the unfortunate one of many.

Turn a blind eye to the potential for being the chosen one who succumbs to cancer or another smoking-related illness. Not everybody has the privilege of attending the oncology clinic of the chosen few. Your friends and family may miss you but rest assured that, for the majority of people, you’ll be nothing more than a statistic. At least at the clinic you’ll find yourself among friends of a similar disposition.

Can’t Quit Smoking? Switch Gears!

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Anyone who has been smoking for a long time and has tried quitting without success will know that it requires some forethought, such as:

  • When will I quit?
  • Which method will I use (cold turkey, NRT, hypnosis, acupuncture, meditation)?
  • If I go for NRT, which product will I use (Champix®, Chantix®, patches, gum, lozenges etc.)?
  • What kind of support system will I use (friends, family, doctor, Internet forums etc.)?
  • What will I do instead of smoking?
  • How will I fight the nicotine cravings?
  • Will I still be able to socialize with smoking friends and colleagues?
  • Will I be able to drink alcohol and stay strong?

These are just a sampling of some of the more common questions that people ask themselves when quitting. You probably have your own list of concerns. If this is the first time you are attempting to quit, you may be drawn toward online resources on the topic, especially as there is so much information out there on the Internet. You may have bought one or many of the available books. There is a wealth of ideas and opinions about how to quit, which methodology to use, which products work best, and how to manage your life after having put down that last cigarette. There are even statistics showing which method works best. However, bear in mind that these are just ideas, opinions and statistics! I’m not dismissing their value because the more informed you are, the more choices you will have to prepare yourself and manage quitting. Knowledge is power!

What is important to realize is that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another, even if the ideas, opinions and statistics show certain trends. For example, if 80% of people quit by going ‘cold turkey’ and it didn’t work for you, it means that you are part of the 20%. But, that is all. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be part of the 80% during another attempt, and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with being part of the 20%. Perhaps you need to try nicotine replacement therapy or another method of quitting. Similarly, you may have chosen to quit at the wrong time. For example, during a period of high stress at work or a relaxing holiday (both situations cause people to want to smoke). You may have had a few drinks and temporarily lost your ambition to stay quit. You may have had a ‘quit buddy’ who started smoking again, causing you to cave in. There are so many things that can go wrong!

If you have attempted to quit but haven’t succeeded, then take the time to understand what went wrong. Was it the method you used, or the fact that you had a few drinks? The two are not necessarily directly linked. Just because you went cold turkey at the time doesn’t mean that the method was the problem, nor was drinking definitely the problem. You need to delve deep into the cause at that moment in time. It could be that the sight of other smokers made you want to smoke too. Perhaps you were cajoled by one or more smoking friends into having just one cigarette. Maybe it was at that party when your quit buddy decided to succumb. There are so many combinations and iterations of what could cause a relapse that it would be impossible to talk about all of them here. My point is for you to try to understand the circumstances of the relapse and to question yourself about the underlying cause. If you can pinpoint the cause, then chances are that you can avoid those situations in future, particularly when you quit again.

By building up this self-knowledge, you will be better armed for your next attempt. It doesn’t matter whether you choose the same method or a different method, use the same or a different product, the same or different support system, drink or not drink, or which activities you choose in lieu of smoking. If you ask around, people will give you ideas and opinions and the statistics will continue to show the same trends. Use this information to your advantage, judging it carefully to determine if it suits your style of quitting. If it doesn’t, then don’t try to force it. Everyone is different, and it doesn’t matter whether you are in the 80% or the 20%. What matters is that you keep track of what worked well and what didn’t work and switch gears for the subsequent attempt!

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill.

What the Funk?

Man in a funk / depression

One of the most common feelings when first quitting smoking is being in a funk. Your intention to quit was great, but you quickly realize that time passes very slowly without a cigarette and thoughts of smoking are filling your head. You start engaging in an internal dialogue about your choice to quit, whether you can manage, and everywhere around you people are smoking and talking about smoking. Suddenly, instead of going about living life and incidentally being a smoker, everything in life revolves around smoking and quitting smoking. It can be all-encompassing!

To draw a parallel, it reminds me somewhat of getting divorced. Whether you made the choice yourself or if it was forced upon you, your whole world is suddenly turned upside down. Everywhere you look, there are reminders of happy relationships, marriage and divorce, whether you’re watching a TV show, reading a magazine, browsing the internet or talking to friends. It feels like there has never been such an overwhelming amount of information about the topic, and it feels like it’s all targeted towards you. Everybody has ganged together to remind you of what’s happening, making you overly conscious of your crappy situation.

The truth is that nothing has changed, except for the fact that you’ve quit smoking. There is no more or less information or talk about smoking than there was before you decided to quit. What is happening is that you are more aware of smoking. Whereas previously it was something that you just did as part of your daily routine, it has now become something that you need to focus on not doing. That focus amplifies everything you see and hear about smoking.

There is not much you can do to stop noticing this sudden emphasis, but you can at least tell yourself that it is a phase that will eventually pass. Just like a divorce, the passing away of a loved one or a beloved pet, or many other of life’s crises, you will reach a point where you get over the funk and are able to rebuild a new life.

You’re Almost There!

golf hole

One of the things I have seen too often is people managing to quit for several months and then suddenly declaring that they have had a relapse. They have smoked one or more cigarettes. Sometimes and hopefully most of the time, this is a once-off situation; a little blip. The person can stop themselves from smoking again without too many problems. Sadly, at other times it leads to the individual going back to smoking full-time and having to quit smoking again at a later date.

Based on my observations there are two main timeframes in which relapses occur. The first is during the initial few days or the very early weeks of having quit. This is when people feel most vulnerable and prone to cravings caused by the depletion of nicotine from their system combined with the psychological aspects of changing their daily routine. The situation is understandable considering the immediacy of the problem. But what of those people who smoke a cigarette out of the blue after several months?

Of course, there can be many explanations. A traumatic event can lead to a sudden relapse based on your past experience of smoking to relieve tension. A few too many drinks can lead you to letting down your guard and thinking “Just one won’t hurt”. It could be that you’ve become so comfortable with not smoking that you’ve lost sight of how addictive it is. It may even be that you think “I’ll just have a few this evening,” or “I’ll just smoke casually at weekends”. I’m sure there are many other situations that I have not mentioned and some that I cannot even imagine.

The depressing thing for me is that these people have been through a lot of effort to quit. They have often suffered physical and psychological withdrawal. They have started to build a new life as a non-smoker (or ex-smoker if you prefer). They have seen others continue to smoke, and they have resisted the temptation. They have found new habits to replace the old. Their bodies have started to heal, and generally they have managed to distance themselves from smoking. Sure, there may still be some reminiscence of the ‘good old days’ (I still have this after over 4 years), but by and large they are well on their way to success. It’s only a putt shot away.

I’m a firm believer in planning to quit and understanding the stages of quitting. That means being aware that once you are over the hump of the first few weeks comes a stage of slow change, and that once you have been quit for several months, you still need to keep up your guard and never forget why you decided to quit in the first place. You’re almost there!