Hi everyone, my name is Tim and I am an addict.
(insert “Hello, Tim” in a monotonous, droning chorus)
It has been 2 months since I smoked my last cigarette.
That’s right. The expensive, health-sapping habit that I followed for 7 years is no more. I’d like to share what led to me quitting, and how this can be applied to quitting ANY habit.
With New Year looming (damn, it’s been a fast year!), now is a good time to equip yourself with the tools that you need to achieve the goals that you will likely set for yourself in the coming month.
Now, I don’t usually do new year’s resolutions. Mostly because they are notorious for not lasting beyond the second week of January. But since I have never seriously done it before, I am giving it a shot this year.
My resolution is to write more content for you guys, and there are a few more things that you will see around TruthInjected in 2017 which I will be unveiling in a more detailed update nearer the time.
That isn’t why I am writing this post, though. As I mentioned, I quit smoking at the beginning of October, and I would like to offer some of the rules of habits that I have learned throughout the process.
Do it for the right reasons and COMMIT.
“Have you quit smoking yet?”
It’s the question that I got sick of hearing. Any time I ran into a former colleague, a long-lost friend, or when with extended family, the question would come up in one form or another.
After informing them that I hadn’t, this was invariably met with an “oh…” and an awkward silence. Sometimes the question didn’t even need to be asked, as they could see the smouldering stick of cancer in my hand, and the disdainful look that they would give me served the same purpose.
That result was that I didn’t want to quit. The mere suggestion of the “yet”, along with the accompanying facial expressions in some cases, bore an element of smugness that made me not want to quit.
A rebellious part of me actually enjoyed that my smoking, something that they were not affected by given that I always smoked outside and away from everyone, got under their skin so much.
But I get that not everyone is a narcissistic troll like me.
Social pressure to “start doing Y” or “stop doing X” (you probably should, X is a hell of a drug) is a major reason that people have for deciding to quit a habit.
But quitting a habit for someone else is a hollow, superficial reason and as a result, you are less inclined to stick to your commitment than if you do it for yourself.
The “why” is the most important factor in any decision you make.
If you are doing something out of guilt, shame or obligation, you are doing it for someone else, not for you.
For me, I reached the decision that it was time to quit the cigarettes towards the end of September. I didn’t know how at that point – all I knew was that it was the next challenge I would be tackling.
There was no external factor that motivated me to make the decision. Even the health risks of smoking along with the ridiculously high excise tax that New Zealand places on tobacco didn’t make my decision.
As if out of nowhere, I just decided it was time to pack it in.
So that’s number 1. Whatever your habit is, don’t even try to quit until you have made a conscious decision for yourself that it is something that you are going to follow through with. You don’t need to know how it will happen, but the switch needs to flip in your brain.
Once you have made this decision and are ready to commit to quit the habit, it is time to move onto the next step.
Replace the bad habit with something better.
Let’s imagine that you are addicted to fast food. Every day, you go to the same place for lunch and get the same greasy meal.
Of course, the obvious suggestion would be to pack your lunch instead, but let’s say that is too much of a step for you at the moment.
You could still go to the same food chain, but instead of getting the double-cheese artery-clogger, you got a chicken and salad wrap. Now, that isn’t quite so much of a step psychologically, but you are taking a step in the right direction. Maybe after a couple of weeks of that, you can start making your own healthier wraps to eat.
That’s not the analogy that I wanted to use, but using a hypothetical meth addiction as an example could get me in trouble with some drug counselling agency.
But regardless, the principle is universal.
You can apply the approach of taking smaller, easier steps towards the same end goal to achieve almost any goal – not just quitting a habit.
So naturally, that’s exactly what I did with those damn cigarettes.
After I had decided that I was going to quit smoking, the very next day as I was going outside for a smoke break, I ran into one of my colleagues.
We got into a casual conversation consisting of the usual office small talk like the weather or the game on the weekend, when out of nowhere, he mentioned that he had quit smoking by switching from cigarettes to vaping, and suggested that I give it a try.
Now, I’m fairly superstitious when it comes to synchronicity. And here I was, having decided that I was going to quit smoking the day before, and this guy from the office just out-of-the-blue told me how he quit smoking and referred me on to where he bought his vapourizer.
It just lined up so perfectly that I couldn’t ignore it. When the Universe, God, Buddha, the greater good, or whatever you want to call it, is dropping the breadcrumbs that closely together, I take note.
So I ordered a vapourizer that cost about the same as 5 packets of cigarettes and some e-juice and I waited.
You don’t have to fix it all right now.
I’ll try to pre-empt the comments about how vaping is not proven to be completely healthy by saying this.
I don’t care.
My decision to switch to vaping wasn’t because I thought it would be as good for me as not smoking. Of course it isn’t.
But, I am not taking in all of the horrific toxins that are present in cigarette smoke (like hydrogen cyanide). I am filling my lungs with a vapour instead of thick stinky smoke from combusting organic matter. I have broken my habit of “needing” to go outside to have a smoke. I don’t stink like a cigarette smoker – I smell like apples. And I have saved a small fortune in the time that I haven’t been smoking.
Whether it is perfectly benign remains to be seen, but the benefits are too good to ignore.
The bottom line is that it is a lot better than smoking, and vaping is a means to an end for me. I don’t even plan to be vaping next year, but it has been invaluable in the quitting process.
Because I’m quite an obsessive person.
If I set out to achieve something, I want to do it as fast as possible, whatever the cost. When I started my career as a junior in my industry, I wanted to be promoted to a senior faster than anyone else in the company’s history.
I get frustrated if I can’t achieve my goal in a short timeframe. Yes, I’m a Millennial.
If the above scenario resonates with you, I would hazard a guess that you take a similar approach to quitting bad habits (as well as forming new ones).
But a phased approach is often the best approach for anyone when tackling a psychologically colossal task. It works for big businesses in the form of project managers, whose job it is to do just that – break a large goal into smaller steps.
Cold turkey isn’t the answer.
Unless you are our friend in the above example, in which case cold turkey is a tasty, lean alternative to chicken and may be a useful substitute for you to try.
But the simple, sexy approach to quitting a habit by just cutting it off entirely doesn’t work for the majority of people.
I have tried to quit smoking that way, as well implementing other physical and behavioural changes, and the only thing it seems to do is notch up another failed attempt to change whatever it was that I set out to change.
And since every failure makes it harder psychologically, my suggestion would be to avoid it where you can.
Sure, there are exceptions. I know people who have quit smoking without the phased approach, but their success seems to be the exception rather than the rule. If you do choose to take this approach, you will need a lot more willpower than I, and a lot of people, do not possess.
Be kind to yourself.
If you do slip up, accept that you are human and that you make mistakes. But get back on your bad-habit-smashing crusade and keep going.
All the best with your goals.
To success (and pink lungs).