I’ve quit smoking four times; every time I did, I couldn‘t believe how great I felt. Physical training became so much easier, the gravel came out of my voice and I felt refreshed and renewed. I finished the three-mile run on the Physical Fitness Test faster by two minutes, and all of the working out and preparing for it wasn’t torture anymore – it was actually fun, and I had the energy and motivation to do it.
I also had extra money in my pocket, and didn’t have to take breaks from spending time with my family to “step out back.”
But I would always seem to forget. I would miss having a morning cigarette with my morning coffee. I would go out and have a few drinks with buddies, and wind up smoking one of theirs. Summer comes, it gets warm outside, the days last longer, people are over more often for barbecues and parties, and I remember how social and fun smoking can be. I would have one here and there, telling myself that this time would be different, and that I wouldn’t buy them, only bum them from people, and then before you knew it, I was back to three quarters of a pack a day, and wheezing through my runs in the morning.
Quitting is a difficult thing to do – and staying a nonsmoker is just as difficult, but in a different way. It wasn’t until I learned some very basic rules that I was able to put the butt out forever. You have to know how to quit smoking – and then you have to know how to stay quit.
I’ve written this article with military men and women in mind, so spouses and children who are reading this, pass this on to your loved ones and don’t forget – the advice will work for you, too!
- Set a date, and take leave. That’s right. Take some time off of work. Get away from the stress and the yelling. Get away from the day-to-day grind, the work piling up, the thousands of demands on your attention. If you’re working at home, ask your spouse to take the time off of work and help to take care of the house and the kids while you quit. You’ve got to get away from juggling all the problems you have so you can focus on the hard work of quitting – it’ll be much more bearable, and your chances of succeeding are much better.
- Take good care of yourself while you’re quitting. Line yourself up a week of your favorite things. Maybe you’ve got a bunch of bookmarked posts on Military Family you’ve been meaning to read. Maybe you want to spend some quality time with your Xbox, or gather up a bunch of movies or books and spend some time on the couch. Avoid a vacation (long trips in the car really make you want to smoke) and avoid anything that will take a lot of planning or will be stressful. Buy groceries to make all of your favorite meals, and come to terms with the idea of gaining a few pounds. It’s okay to put on some weight when you’re quitting smoking, because you’ll be in such better physical shape that working the weight off when you’re done will be easier and more enjoyable.
- Quit at the same time as your spouse. You need to get all of the cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays and everything that reminds you of smoking out of the house, especially on the third and fourth days, which are the worst. If your spouse is still smoking, you probably won’t be able to stay away from his or her pack. Also, though you may be at each other’s throats for a while (quitting smoking will really bring out the demon in you) you’ll both benefit from the support and encouragement of the other, and frankly, misery loves company. It’s helpful to see someone else working through their own struggle, because it gives you strength to work through yours.
- Use the patch or gum. These are really useful tools to help quit, especially, if you start the regimen before you get ready to put out the cigarettes for good. If you can wean yourself most of the way off of nicotine, rather than trying to go cold turkey, the pain and frustration will be much, much less when the day finally comes.
- Don’t use Chantix unless you absolutely have to. Chantix is a prescription drug that helps a lot of people quit smoking. I’ve used it myself, and it’s wonderful. But the side effects that come along with Chantix are, for some people, more dangerous than smoking for the rest of your life. Chantix has shown to cause suicidal thoughts in people, alongside anxiety and depression. If you’ve already struggled with any of these problems, stay far, far away from Chantix. It’s not the “easy road” that many people think it is, anyway – it still sucks to quit, no matter what you’re taking – and it could end up harming more than helping.
- Cut out the drinking. There are few things that go together as well as drinking and smoking. For a month after quitting, don’t drink a drop (unless you’re addicted to that, as well, in which case you need to get help to quit drinking before you quit smoking.) By not drinking, you’re eliminating cravings, taking away the chance of getting drunk and relapsing in a moment of poor judgment, and most importantly, you’re minimizing contact with friends who smoke when they drink. You’ve got to totally change the way you spend social time with people for a while – at least until you can get your body used to being nonsmoking. After that, feel free to have a beer or two with friends, but don’t drink to excess, or you might find yourself lighting up again.
- Don’t get discouraged. You’re going to keep craving cigarettes for a long time. The cravings will eventually turn into wistful memories that don’t drain your willpower, but you may be one of those people that wants a cigarette every time they smell the smoke. This is not only okay, it’s perfectly natural. But you have to train your brain. Every time you want a smoke, remind yourself of five reasons why you quit: Maybe for your kids, maybe for your health, maybe for your pocketbook. Think of why your life is better as a nonsmoker, and get your mind in the habit of making an automatic connection with something positive every time you’re reminded why you quit.
- If you fall off the horse, get right back on. So, three months after you quit, you went out, had a great night and smoked three of your cousin’s cigarettes. Put that away in your mind like it never happened. You’re not in trouble, you’re not failing, and you’re not going to start again. Be firm with yourself.
- Reward yourself. When you’ve been successfully quit for a month, splurge a little and buy that jacket or those shoes you’ve been eyeing at the PX for a while. After all, you’ve got some extra money in your pocket from not smoking. After three months, do the same thing. For the first six months you’ve quit, spend the money you’ve saved on things that are just for you. Every time you buy those things and use those things, remember that you’re enjoying them because you quit.
- Make sure all of your friends and family know that quitting smoking takes at least a year. Ask them to not smoke around you (when reasonable and possible) for at least a year. Ask them to keep you away from temptation, and continue to support you. It’s really only difficult to quit smoking for about a week, but as soon as it gets easy to stay a nonsmoker, it also get easy to become a smoker again. Keep it in perspective, remind yourself why you quit, and get support from everyone who is willing to support you.
You know something about self-discipline and commitment if you’re in the military (and especially if you’re in a military family) so you’re better equipped to handle a challenge like this than most people you know. Pick a date, plan for it, and put out your cigarettes forever.