#9 & #10: Find a support group, tell your friends & family your plan

These two pretty much go together, so I hope you don’t mind me combining them.

Finding a support group is key, and it doesn’t need to be friends and family. A quasi-anonymous message board of other quitters is an awesome way to give and get positive feedback and encouragement. Friends and family are great, too, of course, but sometimes life gets in the way and you just need to brag or gripe to an unbiased listener.

Telling your friends and family the plan ahead of time is important because you can gauge their reactions and find out how supportive they are and how they would be willing to help by nagging you about cigarettes or taking your mind off the cravings, etc. Most of your circle will be very supportive and helpful. Not all, though, especially if they are smokers and not ready to quit. There is no need to cut the smokers out of your life if they are not going to hassle you about it. If you find yourself in a situation (like I did) where you’re living with someone who smokes, and they are unwilling to quit with you, let them know that you are sticking to your plan and need all the help you can get. If they don’t offer to at least take the smoking outside, and you can’t or don’t want to move out, you’ll need to really dig deep and find the fortitude to continue.

That’s it! I’m not promising my plan will work for you, but it’s a good place to start if you don’t have a plan yet… Quitting sucks, but once you get through the first little bit, you will feel SO much better! I’m nearly 6 YEAR smoke free (not one puff!), and extremely happy about it!

#8 - Stick to the N.O.P.E. philosophy (Not One Puff Ever)

This one is immensely more difficult than anything else on my list. Most people think, “Oh, just a small drag on this smoke won’t set me back.” And yes it is a cliche, but I love cliches - the SLIPPERY SLOPE. The GATEAWAY DRUG. The one little puff you just took is going to lead to a few more puffs, and eventually, even if it’s weeks or months later, that leads to just one cigarette, or, “I’ll just smoke when I drink…”

It happened to me the first few times I quit. About 10 years ago I quit for about six months, but I kept making excuses to just have one puff here or there, and eventually I thought I’d be strong enough to just smoke occasionally, but it didn’t work for me. Yes, I do know people who can only smoke once in a while, but those people are the exception, not the rule. If you’re reading this, you’re most likely the rule, and you need to resist the temptation. Don’t risk having to start the quitting process all over again just because of one puff. You’ve worked so hard, and the beginning of the quitting process is the WORST. Keep going. I don’t personally agree with the supermodel philosophy that “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” but I DO believe that the satisfaction of a drag on a cigarette doesn’t even come close to the feeling of being completely smoke free: not panting on your way up a flight of stairs, not stinking all the time, even when you don’t notice it, and not having to spend $5 a day on a bad habit.

#7 - Collect inspirational quotes for staying positive

Maybe you’re not a motivational poster type person, but almost everyone I know likes a good, strong quote. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, a quote that inspires you is just a Bing or a Google away. Write the quotes in a notebook, save them in Evernote, or somewhere else on your phone so you can pull them up whenever you’re feeling weak.

#6 - Buy lozenges or gum… just in case.

I won’t pull punches here. Commit Lozenges are effing disgusting. They just are. But if you are having a nic fit, a few minutes with one of these in your mouth can be a good cure. I can still taste them just by thinking about them, and it makes me cringe, but it also reminds me that the stuff in the lozenges is the same stuff that’s in cigarettes, and it is just really disgusting.

FIVE YEARS SMOKE FREE!

Today (January 24, 2012) I have been completely smoke-free (not one puff) for FIVE YEARS. In addition to finally sticking to something, I got this good news: “Once you are smoke-free for 5 years, you are less likely to die from lung cancer and other lung diseases than if you were still a smoker.” The health benefits just get better from here…. 

#5 - Decide how to minimize the weight gain

Pick an activity, any activity! You can walk, run, swim, jog, cartwheel, or hop on one leg, as long as you find a way to move whenever you have a craving. Don’t sit inside and wallow, and definitely don’t wallow with a snack in your hand. If you do this, you will most likely not gain weight when you quit smoking. Just NOT SMOKING doesn’t cause weight gain; that’s a myth! It’s the snacking and depression that some people experience after quitting that causes the pounds to pile on. I personally chose to train for a half marathon. It took about six months, and I ran about 3-4 times a week. At race time, I wasn’t the turtle beating the hare or anything, but I finished, and when I did I was twelve pounds lighter than I was the day I quit smoking. Just sayin’. image

#4 - Figure out what you’ll do with your hands when you’re out drinking

image   If you’re anything like I was when I quit smoking, your worst fear is how you’ll get through a night at the bar without bumming a smoke from a friend. The answer to avoiding this is not to have a lozenge, a patch, or gum (the patch doesn’t help your fidgeting and the gum and lozenges will clash with the taste of your drink!), but something else - something that will satisfy your busy hands. I’ve seen some people use popsicles or popsicle sticks, but my choice was cinnamon toothpicks. I never even left the house without them. There are candy cinnamon toothpicks that are OK, but in my opinion your best bet is these tea tree oil & cinnamon toothpicks that you can pick up at either Whole Foods or almost any health food store. Carry them in place of your pack of cigarettes. Pretend they ARE cigarettes. People may think you look silly, but it worked for me, and I hope it works for you. Three and a half years later, I still keep some in my purse “just in case.”

#3 - Make a shopping list of healthy snacks

Kumquats! I know people think I’m crazy when I say it, but kumquats saved me for the first two weeks without cigarettes. Kumquats are a small, citrus fruit, like super-mini-oranges. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to peel them, but I didn’t, because they’re too small. I ate them whole, and if you’ve ever eaten a citrus peel, you know it’s very bitter. The bitterness made my face pucker, and the feeling was so intense that I completely forgot about wanting a cigarette. The juicy inside of the kumquat was a bonus. Try the kumquats, or maybe you’re a celery person. Just make sure your substitute snack is not potato chips, chocolate bars, or something like that - that’s where the common complaint about gaining weight when you quit smoking comes from. If you’re conscious of your diet post-cigarettes, your life will be better and your quitting will go more smoothly.

kumquats

#2 - Make a list of things to do instead

In order to distract yourself from cigarette cravings, it’s important to have an arsenal of things to do instead of reaching for a pack… Do you have any hobbies? You can blog, do sudoku, puzzles, crossword, video games, write in a journal, draw, paint, go for a walk! Make your own list of things you like to do, maybe something you haven’t made time for in the past. Think of all the time you spend smoking and what you can do with all that spare time! Once you have this list handy, keep it with you in case the cravings are so strong that it’s hard to think straight.

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