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Quitting: A Former Smoker's Story

Every time I attempted to quit smoking was a valuable rehearsal, and every method I tried brought me that much closer to finding what ultimately worked for me.

Remember this, and keep trying. You will find YOUR best way to quitting smoking. Every time you quit and start again is one time closer to the final quit. If that hardly seems like a pep-talk, well, a non-smoker reading this really doesn't get the picture anyway; they never can. And nothing about quitting is peppy to a smoker.

So here are some of your choices if you're looking at quitting…. again or for the first time.

1.Cold turkey. (Really, this is a turkey of an idea.)

Some people do it successfully, but it's a set-up for most of us. There are all kinds of triggers in your environment that will make it psychologically tricky to resist lighting up. You'll have behavior patterns to overcome - cold turkey. Plus, you're going to have physical withdrawal symptoms. But go ahead and use this strategy if you're determined. Every time is a rehearsal of the final quit, so you win no matter what. Just consider this: why not set yourself up for some success instead?

2. Gradual reduction. You can accomplish this in different ways.

a. Get rid of one light-em-up trigger in your environment at a time. Make a rule about when and where you can smoke, and then stick to it. Start with a likely success. My first trigger to eliminate was separating coffee and cigarettes by at least 15 minutes. I could have both of them, just not together. Eventually, I stopped associating coffee with smoking.

Maybe your first light-em-up trigger to eliminate will be having that last one before bed. Whatever it is, pick one that you're pretty sure you can do. When you're over that trigger, eliminate another, and so on.

b. Reduce the strength. This means going from a Camel straight -to a filter - to a light - to a light 100 - and by that point, it's almost a why bother?

3. Nicotine replacement therapy.

a. Patches. These allowed me to create some new behaviors without also experiencing the physical discomfort of nicotine withdrawal. At the time I used them, they were by prescription only because there is the danger of over-dose. Nicotine is of course a powerful drug - that's why it is so addictive, right? Now you can get the patches over the counter. They're expensive either way because insurance companies generally won't cover prescriptions for smoking cessation. They know that most of us will quit a few times, and insurance companies don't want to foot the bill while you practice your way to being a non-smoker

b. Nicotine gum. You don't actually chew this gum, except just long enough to release the dose, and then you 'park' it between your gum and cheek, where the thin tissues there allow it to be gradually absorbed into your system. This worked pretty well for me when I was getting that tired feeling and unable to concentrate because of the lack of my usual dose circulating in my blood. What the gum didn't really help was the behavioral stuff. Finishing dinner and sitting back with a chunk of gray gum 'parked' against my inner cheek just didn't have that same relaxing closure as lighting up.

4. Herbal remedies.

Well, I guess you could say tobacco is an herb. Still, there isn't another 'herb' on the planet that even comes close to the versatility and pure compatibility with your system that makes smoking tobacco so addictive.

Ginger cigarettes. Calming herb teas. Herbal supplements for helping you eliminate the toxins. These might help your speed of recovery. Might make it easier to quit. Try them and see.

Whatever quitting methods you're using, drink lots and lots of water, as little alcohol, coffee and soda as possible. And hey, you might put on a few non-deadly pounds, but you can keep that to a minimum by having mostly wholesome foods lying around the house (leave the Cheetos and red licorice at the store).

5. Zyban.

My personal favorite, and the thing that finally worked long-term for me. Zyban has a generic name. Ask your doctor and the pharmacist. You still need a prescription for this one, and here's what's interesting - it wasn't designed for smoking cessation. It was originally an anti-depressant, and researchers found that people who were on this medication lost their desire to smoke; it was actually repulsive to them. I read that research, went to my physician and said, "Let's go!" She wrote the scrip. I followed instructions: take the medication for several days before quitting so that it has time to get into the body's systems. During those days I applied all the stuff I had already learned during my previous quitting 'rehearsals.' Eliminate the environmental triggers, cut down on nicotine intake, get some healthy food and some herb tea in the pantry.

It worked. I really didn't want to smoke. I felt good. It was finally done!

One thing I read somewhere was the question, "How do you get to the point of enjoying life without smoking?" And the given answer was to go 6 months without smoking. "Very funny," is what I thought at the time, but half a year is about how long it was before I really didn't notice its absence in my life. I had smoked for 20 years. I grieved - but that's a whole different subject. Now, it's been two years, and I feel free. I won't pretend it is easy, but I can say without hesitation that it is worth it.

Two notes:

A. I am not a doctor. I am a successful former smoker writing from personal experience. If you want to try some of these strategies, please see your personal physician for trained and professional advice.

B. There are support groups in most US states and many other countries as well. They are usually free. Go to your local health center or ask your librarian to help you find the resources and support you deserve and that is there for you. Everyone has to find your own best way to quit, but you don't have to do it alone. You can do it, though. You can.

Judith Schwader has written extensively on health topics. She has a background in social science and addressing chronic health conditions through nutrition and lifestyle. Judith's articles appear in: and

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