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.