Looking ahead to the New Year is often the time we resolve to change things in our lives that need changing. As a former smoker I remember my perennial New Year’s resolution was to quit smoking but it took time before that resolution stuck.
Every smoker’s journey to a smoke-free life is different but all smokers can be put into two general categories. The first are those who decide to quit and actually do it and stay smoke-free for the rest of the lives. The other category has greater challenges. Those who decide to quit but find they lack the momentum to actually do it or if they do it they discover themselves slipping back into the habit.
If you are in the first category and have quit and left it behind for good, consider yourself very fortunate because wanting to quit and not being able to is both very frustrating and increasingly dangerous to one’s health.
This parable helps to understand the situation: A cigarette habit is like a friend who we allow to move into our house. At first there are benefits to the relationship (The pleasure we get from smoking and the socialization with other smokers, etc.). In time, however, these benefits begin to wear thin.
We find our friend is taking our money, leaving a mess and creating difficulties with our friends and family. This ‘friend’ always has an apparently rational argument as to why we should let him stay. He explains that it won’t be long and he will leave on his own. However, he never does. If we force him out, we find him knocking at the door at all hours of the day and night pleading to be allowed to stay a little longer. In the end it takes great determination and persistence to kick him out for good.
The American Lung Association has spent many years researching the patterns of those who are having difficulty kicking the habit and have presented us with some very helpful information. Here are some basic keys to help you put smoking behind you for good.
First, you must realize your motivation for quitting has to be stronger than the urges to smoke. The good news is there are techniques to develop and strengthen your motivation. When you constantly focus on your reason or reasons for quitting your inspiration to quit increases in vitality. It helps if you write down your reasons for quitting and review them often. Your main reason may be your health. Recognizing that smoking is the number one cause of preventable death is a strong reason to quit. Another motivation to quit is for people you love. If smoking is hurting your relationships it can push you to the point of kicking the habit. Another big motivation is the money being wasted. The average one-pack-a-day smoker shells out $3000 a year on their habit. In the last five years that’s $15,000 that has gone up in smoke! If every time you light up, your reasons for quitting come to your mind, you are getting close to that critical point where your behavior actually changes.
Another tip is to become aware of what the three most important cigarettes in your day are. Study when, why and where you smoke those three cigarettes. Next devise a strategy to find an alternative pattern of behavior. For example, if your most important cigarette is with your coffee in the morning then change where and when you have your coffee. Learning to break up patterns in your life helps your mind to adjust to a lifestyle without cigarettes.
Learning to deal with stress in a constructive way is a big help in breaking the habit. Prayer, meditation or relaxation techniques can be learned and practiced.
It is also important to establish a support group. Explain to family and friends that you need their help and support. In most cases it is surprising how much they will want to support you if you ask.
Over the past three years Bristol Hospital has successfully offered the American Lung Association’s program “Freedom from Smoking” to help smokers get free from nicotine addiction and stay free. The techniques that they developed in their years of research are taught and applied in very simple and practical ways. If your New Year’s resolution is to quit smoking and you feel it is your time to quit we can help. Our next program is beginning Jan. 14. For more information about this program call 860-583-5858.
Tom Berrill, BA, RT, is a respiratory therapist with Bristol Hospital and has almost 30 years of experience.