Stop Smoking

by on May 17, 2005

in Miscellaneous

I stopped smoking one year ago today. I started stopping smoking some time before that. I was reminded of my accomplishment recently when as I was cleaning, I came across a handful of packets of nicotine gum.

For what it’s worth, I will give you the David Erickson method for quitting smoking but you must indulge some thoughts from an ex-smoker first.

The Pleasures Of Smoking

First of all, you must understand that I am an unapologetic hedonist. So it should come as no surprise that I am particularly interested in things that are pleasurable. It is next to impossible to describe to people who have never smoked how incredibly enjoyable smoking is. Stereotypes persist because they often contain a grain of truth. And so it is with the stereotypes of smoking while drinking, after a good meal, and, yes, after sex. A cigarette tastes so much better with a beer, after a feast, and, definitely after flesh. I don’t know why, but there it is. Perhaps it has something to do with doubling the pleasure.

Anyway, if you’ve never smoked, trust me; if you have, you know what I mean.

Just the pure act of smoking is enjoyable–taking a long draw from a cigarette, holing the smoke in your mouth briefly before slowly inhaling it into your lungs. Mmmmmmm…..

How I Started Smoking

I was probably a smoker waiting to happen. Since I can remember, my father smoked a pipe but I never particularly liked it and, so, I cannot say he influenced my becoming a smoker. My mother smoked–menthols…uggggh–but I have no memories of her smoking. I do, however, remember card parties my parents had where the grown ups would play poker and smoke cigarettes and I remember the smell of those cigarettes in the air and how much I liked that smell.

The funny thing is, though, is now that I have quit, I still like the smell of cigarettes if it is in the air from someone smoking, but I find the smell of stale cigarette smoke on clothes revolting. If, for example, someone goes out to have a cigarette and then comes back and sits at the table, the smell of smoke on their clothes is disgusting to me. Go figure.

So I liked the smell of smoke as a child. I remember finding cigarettes and sneaking a puff here and there but not inhaling and so not really smoking. One time my older brother gave me a puff off his cigar after I nagged him into it.

"This is what you do," he told me. "You suck in a mouthful of smoke and then you swallow it."

I followed his instructions and then promptly ran to the bathroom to vomit. That was the extent of my experiences with smoking before I became an acutal smoker.

When I started smoking for real–at about twelve or thirteen years of age–I did it for the most universal of reasons: To be cool. I smoked Merits because they weren’t very strong and, as a new smoker, I didn’t yet realize that they had a horrible taste.

Shortly after I’d started, a gorgeous girl wise beyond her eighteen years of age warned me against smoking.

"Oh, take it from me," she advised, puffing her own smoke, "you ought to quit now. It’s so hard to quit, you should do it while you’re ahead."

If I was going to heed anyone’s warning it would have probably been her’s because she was relatively close to my age and, well, she was beautiful.

But, alas, I did not follow her advice. I graduated to Camels and Marlboros and topped out at a pack a day–sometimes more if I was out with friends. And I smoked my way through my twenties and thirties. When I finally began to seriously think about quitting and actually tried, that gorgeous girl’s words came back to haunt me. It was difficult. Tremendously difficult.

How I Started To Stop Smoking

I’ve never done heroin but I do believe that nicotine is the most addictive substance on the planet. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to quit smoking but they say it takes on average seven attempts before a smoker becomes an ex-smoker. That sounds about right. I had quit for nine months one time and even two years as well, so perhaps I am not in the clear just yet. I think I am, though.

For those of you who have never smoked, try and have some sympathy. I know it’s tough to show sympathy toward someone who inflicted their own addiction on themselves, but try and keep in mind that, like myself, most people start smoking when they’re very young and their judgment is suspect.

Enduring nicotine withdrawls is tough as hell. For me, while I was in the throes of nicotine withdrawl, I felt like I couldn’t focus because I was preoccupied with cravings for a cigarette. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to quit: So I wouldn’t require a cigarette to keep my mind sharp. (The other reasons were that I wanted to stop wheezing while playing football, and, not inconsequentially, there is cancer in my family). When you’re experiencing withdrawls, you can be very irritable and impatient.

The David Erickson Stop Smoking Method

Here’s how I quit: I used a Quitting Smoking Spreadsheet to track my progress. On the first day of quitting smoking, I consciously spaced out the time between cigarettes to one hour and kept track of it in my spreadsheet. On the second day, I had a cigarette every two hours. On the third day, I had a cigarette every three hours, and so forth.

I staved off the cravings by chewing nicotine gum. I got the generic gum because it was significantly less expensive (at I think it was $45 for a pack of thirty pieces) than the brand names. So my gum tasted like I was eating an ashtray–pretty bad shit, but it worked. I also snacked a lot and that helped to both get me through the withdrawl symptoms and gain weight.

I continued using this method until I got to the day where I had one cigarette. I quit the next day by not having a cigarette at all. I ate and chewed nicotine gum for about a month afterward. If you drink, the real test is having a few drinks and not smoking because that, at least for me, is when I craved cigarettes the most. About two weeks after I quit, I went out with friends and, armed with my nicotine gum, I got through it without having a smoke.

It took about two weeks for the cravings to subside enough to the point that it was just a minor irritation. After about a month, I substituted the nicotine gum with sugar-free Carless bublegum. I gained 15 pounds and had to readjust my football game because I couldn’t just run by people as I had been able to before. But thems the breaks and all in all, I’d rather be slower on the football field than wheezing.

I hope it helps.

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