Keeping Resolutions: How I Quit Smoking

It has been almost a year since I quit smoking. That was my new year’s resolution for 2011. I had been smoking for fifteen years before that and it is still hard to believe that I was able to do it. I wanted to share the circumstances and thought process that made it possible for me to quit smoking. It goes without saying that this successful attempt was preceded by numerous failed ones. Lasting success often has failure as its foundation. My hope is that this will comfort and inspire you in equal parts, comfort in knowing that our struggles are the same and inspiration from the knowledge that we can succeed eventually.

Let me begin with the extent of my habit first. I was definitely not a casual smoker, you know the type, someone who smokes only while drinking and rarely buys their own cigarettes. I smoked whether happy or sad, stressed or relaxed and sometimes just out of sheer boredom. It was a rather integral part of my existence. I tried quitting on multiple occasions and did not succeed. Smoking was like a crutch that I needed and also a little treat that I looked forward to. Thinking about quitting always triggered this feeling of looming tragic loss as if I was about to part company with a dear friend. Pardon me if I appear to romanticize smoking, that is not my intent. On the contrary I merely wish to illustrate how warped our thinking can be. We are almost afraid of giving up something even when we clearly know the said thing to be harmful to us.

This is not helped by the way we think about long-term cost and short-term benefit. This is specially true when we are younger. We perceive an immediate benefit to smoking whereas the health cost is in a distant future. Human brain is particularly adept in these dark arts of rationalization. So naturally the battle has to be won in the mind first. It is fair to point out at this juncture that I was prodded into action by my wife. She was also a smoker and she insisted that we both stop smoking before thinking about kids. I gave a non-committal sort of grunt but she was having none of it and under pressure I suggested an arbitrary quit date, Jan 15th 2011, in this case.

Setting deadlines does not guarantee success however. It was the summer of 2010 when we set our quit date. Deep down I must have known that I would need about 6 months to truly convince myself that I needed to quit. That was probably the biggest difference compared to previously unsuccessful attempts. Everyday I thought just a little bit about the idea of quitting. Slowly it crept into my resistant brain and I started to “buy into” the whole concept. I effectively reprogrammed my brain. I am proud to say that I achieved this without any external aids (Nicorette, Chantix etc). On the face of it you could say that I quit cold turkey. But that is not the case. It is worth remembering that I gave myself plenty of time to come to terms with the reality of the situation. So while on the surface the transition was quite abrupt, in my mind it was smooth and facile.

It had to be that way. I don’t know about you but my brain has a built-in resistance to change. I had to come up with a more “organic” solution so to speak. In this case it involved chipping away at my own resistance in a slow and steady fashion. Once I conquered my mind, the physical struggle was practically non-existent. I am convinced that the same principle can be applied to achieve success in all endeavors of life. I look forward to hearing other people’s experiences on this topic.

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8 comments on “Keeping Resolutions: How I Quit Smoking

  1. Kapil, thank you for sharing your struggle and ensuing success with nicotine dependency. We have a friend who recently had a mild stroke and after being released from the hospital his doc told him that he would not be so lucky with the next stroke (he had a mild stroke 40 years ago) unless he would stop smoking plus losing weight. His struggle is enormous in spite of a patch as well as a drug.
    I do believe that we all have something within us which we need to explore in order to find the strength to turn our backs to the ‘master’ which enslaves us. For me it was becoming pregnant nearly 40 years ago and from smoking one pack of Marlboro or Camel I was able to say good by to this ‘master’ from one day to the other.
    Your writings always inspire me!!!!
    Happy New Year to you and Carmen
    Lovingly, Claudia

  2. Kapil

    You told about your quitting, but you said nothing about Carmen. Did she quit, too? I certainly hope so.

    As I mentioned in an e-mail, I quit on January 1, 1958. I had smoked since i was about 15 years old, 1946. I started because I thought it made me look mature. All the movies of the day showed everyone smoking. In a war movie, you always saw someone lighting a cigarette and stuffing it in some wounded soldier’s mouth.

    As a chicken young kid, it certainly didn’t make me look mature, but rather stupid. As I grew older, I found that the cigarette ashes got all over my Navy uniforms and they had to be cleaned more often. After I had smoked my way through the Korean War, I was up to three packs a day. In those days, however, weeds cost only about 15 to 20 cents a pack.

    In 1957 I was enrolled in the Naval School of Hospital Administration at Bethesda, MD. I started developing a hacking cough, and, in late December, decided to give myself a Christmas present by not smoking any more. On December 31 I put my open pack of cigarettes in the dresser drawer, and there they remained. My biggest problem was what to do with my hands, because I found I often used a lighted cigarette for poise when talking with my Navy buddies. But that was transitory.

    Several months later, Sharline asked me about that moldering open pack of smokes in the dresser drawer. (I tried not to smoke at home around the kids.)

    A Happy New Year to you and Carmen, and to Claudia, since i saw her reply to this blog.

    John

    • John, Yes, Carmen and I both quit. It probably would not have worked otherwise. You know, I relate to all your reasons for taking up smoking. I thought it looked cool too. All my favorite actors in Indian movies smoked on screen. Thanks for sharing and a Happy New Year.

      Kapil

    • Hi grandpa…Carmen here:) …YES I absolutely quit smoking as of one full year yesterday…Kapil and I haven’t even had a puff since then. Happy New Year to both of you too! I hope you’re enjoying the snow today 🙂

  3. Your wife sounds like a very wise woman! 🙂 It’s a nice connection you made between quitting and the loss of a good friend and how you processed the loss or future loss over a 6 month period. I have to admit I surprised myself that I actually quit smoking. The whole process made me realize that we really can reprogram our brains in a way. I think it’s important to maintain the same routine and/or daily patterns when you quit smoking so that it allows you time to “reprogram” your thoughts and all those situations that once triggered a cigarette craving. I remember 3 months after quitting I flew to Chicago and the moment I got off the plane I experienced an overwhelming craving for a cigarette. This is because previously I would have had a smoke right after walking outside. But the next time I flew the cravings were nonexistent.

    And just yesterday, the day of my 1 year “quit” anniversary, I had a similar craving that appeared out of nowhere. Interestingly, it was because I was in the middle of an activity that once included smoking, but it was an activity I hadn’t encountered for more than 17 years…I was driving down I5 to salem with my close friend, and ironically, the person I first started smoking with at age 18. A nice way to punctuate the 1 year milestone. 🙂

  4. Hello there! Quick question that’s entirely off topic.
    Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My site looks weird when browsing from my iphone 4.
    I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to resolve this issue.
    If you have any recommendations, please share. Appreciate it!

  5. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is needed to get set up?
    I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very internet smart so I’m not 100% positive.

    Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Many thanks

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