If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, it’s time to quit smoking. There are a lot of benefits to quitting smoking: you smell better (as in what you smell like to other people—let’s face it, smokers stink,) you can taste food better, you save money…..oh, and you live longer!
I was a pack a day smoker for over twenty years. I tried quitting numerous times, it’s the same for a lot of people. We may quit for a day, or a week or even a month and then something happens and we use it as an excuse to start all over again. It doesn’t matter what the excuse is, it’s just that — an excuse. Stop looking for excuses and start looking for other ways to occupy your hands…..I used a cinnamon stick for almost a year after I quit. I had a kinesthetic desire to hold a cigarette between my fingers and a cinnamon stick is about the same circumference as a cigarette. Maybe that will work for you.
But I also know there has to be more than just a substitute, there has to be a real desire. I remember hearing a speaker talk about how he quit smoking, it happened because he accidentally burned his two year old son in the face with a cigarette. That incident was so powerful that he quit right away and never looked back. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever have something that powerful happen to me. I watched a beloved Uncle die from emphysema and I didn’t quit. My sister had a lobe of her lung removed because of lung cancer and I didn’t quit. But something did happen, when I was 41, I saw my mother do a stress test. She was 83 and never smoked and she barely started the test before she was heaving. I realized that I would be like that in 10 years if I didn’t quit.
I wrote about that moment last year in How I Quit Smoking. But there was also a second incident that week that just reaffirmed my desire and took it to the next level. The night before I quit, sitting with my last new pack of cigarettes and a box of nicotine patches, I reached for the new pack and saw that it was open. Now, I might have done it and forgotten about it, but when I opened up the pack I also saw that one cigarette was missing and it was from the center of the pack leaving a hole where the cigarette had been. That wasn’t how I took cigarettes out of the pack and I knew that either my son or one of his friends had done it. And that was it. I wasn’t going to allow children to become smokers because of me.
I will admit, the nicotine patch was a big help in quitting smoking. It was weeks before anyone realized that I quit because they never noticed a change in my moods. But there were two things that really helped me. One was that the day I put that patch on I went on a road trip from Connecticut to Virginia to pick up some friends who were hiking the Appalachian Trail. And the day that I took off the last nicotine patch, I was on a hut hike in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Both events removed me from a house in which my then husband was still smoking. As bad as our relationship got during those last six months of our marriage (at one point he was actually blowing smoke in my face in an attempt to make me fail at quitting so he could call me a loser,) I NEVER picked up a cigarette. I did go through a lot of cinnamon sticks!
The winter after I quit smoking, I was bowling with my sister. Back then, you could still smoke in the bowling alley and that night it was as if everyone’s smoke had only one place to go to — my jacket. I watched as each cigarette curled a path and just settled into my coat. I even moved my coat and the smoke forged a new pathway. I drove home with that jacket in my car (even though it was winter, I couldn’t bear to put the coat on) and then left it there and went in to take a shower to get the smoke smell off my body and hair. The next morning, when I got in the car to go to work, I was overwhelmed by the smell of smoke still there. As I drove to work, I started calling all of my friends and apologizing to them. I apologized for every time they came over to my house and they left smelling like smoke. I used to light a candle and tell them that the candle would take away the smell. No. It doesn’t. When you quit smoking, not only can your nose smell things better, but you start to smell better to your friends.
If you are interested in quitting smoke there are several resources out there. The American Lung Association provides tools and support to help you quit smoking. The American Cancer Society hosts the Great American Smoke Out each November. The Great American Smoke Out is always the third Thursday in November. This year, it’s November 19th. (The 19th is a special number, I quit on May 19th in 2002 and my second marriage started on the 19th.) If you quit on November 19th this year, the following Thursday, you’ll be able to celebrate on Thanksgiving (and you’ll be able to taste that food a little bit better!)