If you are interested in quitting smoking, I will share with you what worked for me. I smoked for a long time, first with my friends on the railroad tracks that we would walk down to get to our junior high school, and then until my late thirties.
I know and understand your plight. One of my customers said, “Smoking is like romancing yourself.” It’s true. It’s taking time out several times a day to be with yourself. There is a certain charm to that. However, taking a few minutes to meditate, read, or get up and get a clean, cool glass of water is also very satisfying. My biggest problem with giving cigarettes up was that it was like they were my little friends. They were always there when I needed them. But then I figured out I don’t have time for them anymore with all the positive things I have going in my life.
Smokers have it really rough right now in America; it is perfectly acceptable in most people’s minds to be rude and comment on your smoking even if you never light up in front of them. I find it amazing that people who usually try to be kind and considerate think it’s perfectly okay to go right up to a perfect stranger and reprimand him or her on this habit. Someone once said to me, “It is such a bad habit.” And I thought to myself, smoking is not nearly as bad a habit as the need to tell other people how to conduct their lives.
How to quit
Begin right now to forgive yourself for this habit. If you catch yourself reprimanding yourself for smoking, just say, “I am going to enjoy this cigarette, every puff.” Inhale and enjoy. I know this sounds a little like you may start enjoying your cigarettes more, and therefore start smoking more, but that is not the case. What it does do is improve your relationship with yourself, help you feel better about yourself, and allow you to be more accepting of yourself. Just try it; you’ve probably tried everything else.
Stop smoking in one domain of your life that will be fairly easy for you not to smoke. For example, I first stopped smoking in my office years ago. If I wanted a cigarette, I just went out and smoked one, but I broke the habit of smoking wherever or whenever I wanted.
Employ the Lily Method. Look over the list of fun and positive things to do and start bringing them into your life: yoga, walking, swimming, hot springs, baths, herbal teas, etc. As one becomes a natural part of your life, pick another one.
Whenever you want a cigarette, instead of just reaching for one, first take five deep breaths; hold them each for five seconds, and then blow them out.
Eat a piece of fruit to replace one important cigarette in your day; for example, if you smoke everyday on your way home from work, eat an apple instead.
Hang out in health food stores. Do shots of wheat grass and try smoothies. Check out all the homeopathic and herbal tinctures to quit smoking. Buy some teas to help your cravings. Buy some licorice root sticks and start chewing on them. Buy some herbal cigarettes and start replacing your old cigarettes with those. Talk to the people in the natural living department to get more ideas. Drink eight glasses of purified water a day.
After you have stopped smoking in one place for at least a month, pick another place not to smoke; for example only smoke in one room in your house or go outside. Or quit smoking in your car entirely.
Go for a short walk after all meals.
Begin working out, walking, or doing yoga and meditation daily, even if only for ten minutes.
How I quit
One day at home, very soon after my return from a vacation in Belize, I was doing my daily yoga first thing in the morning. When I went to take a deep breath, I had a little trouble. Now that had happened a thousand times before, but it just came to me in the middle of a yoga pose that I was no longer going to smoke.
It’s funny; all of a sudden after over twenty years, no more! Now I say it was all of a sudden, but in reality I had been taking the positive steps for a very long time. I had quit smoking in my office several years ago, I had quit smoking in my car, I had quit smoking with my morning coffee, and I had brought all the positive things into my life that I describe throughout this book.
I never said to anyone that I was going to quit. I never sat there and took a drag and said how I really need to quit. I either smoked and enjoyed it or put more positive things in its place; finally, the positive things took precedence.
That is really the bottom line for you, too. Simply put so many positive things in your life that you no longer have the time or desire to smoke.
Yes, I still think about taking a puff here and there, but essentially my desire not to smoke is stronger than my desire to smoke. It would be very difficult to do everything I do in a day and still find the time to smoke.
A friend of mine who stopped smoking before I did said, “I don’t look at not smoking as a sacrifice, or as something I can no longer have, or as a desire I don’t get to fulfill. I look at it as a gift to myself, my lungs, and my health.”
I often still think of that comment she made if I ever feel like having a cigarette. The desire to be healthy outweighs my desire to smoke.
All in time
To quit smoking, your overall desire to love and take care of yourself must override your temporary desire for instant gratification, and this takes time to develop. When I smoked, I really was hurt by and resented people telling me I should quit. If you really want to help someone quit, love them unconditionally and give up your need to tell them what to do. Smoking is an addiction. Cigarettes, the little friends the smoker can always count on to be there, are hard to give up. So let your friends smoke without the extra burden and stress of your judgments. People need to do what they need to do. Everybody is doing the best they can. To add more negativity to the smoking experience is truly causing the smoker more damage and anxiety that just reinforces their dependency on the cigarette.
I really appreciated my family for never nagging at me for my smoking. Thanks, Mom. Nobody really smoked in my family. My dad had given up cigars years ago, and his pipe long before that. One of my brothers would smoke occasionally. Even though my mom and sister were seriously into healthy lifestyles, when we dined out they would always tell the hostess to seat us in the smoking section so I could smoke. My sister would always warn, “Don’t suck any negativity down with that cigarette.”
My dad had pulmonary problems the last decade of his life, and because of his sort of sad reaction to my smoking, I just couldn’t bring myself to light up in front of him. If did light up, he wouldn’t say anything, but he would look at me and lower his eyes with a sorrowful expression on his face. I could read his mind; he wanted to reach out and help me avoid the physical pain that he was suffering from long-term smoking, but he would never really say anything. I knew what he was thinking and I couldn’t bear to see that look on his face, so I stopped smoking in front of him years before I ever totally quit, to ease his pain and my guilt.
Preventing mood swings
I quit smoking for five days about a year before I really quit for good. I noticed how much emotional upheaval it caused. I was mad at a lot of people, and everything upset me. I don’t think it was only the withdrawal; it was not having those little friends to light up. Not smoking had left a space where I could see the unrest and the anxiety that was underneath the surface of my life.
Joko Beck says in her book, Nothing Special [Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special: Living Zen, New York: Harper San Francisco Publishers, 1993.], that if any of us looks beyond the surface of our life, we find discontent, unrest, and anxiety. She says we keep ourselves busy with work, friends, drinking, exercise, travel, food, drama, drugs, and smoking, and just about anything not to have to face that unrest below what appears to be our lives.
This is why meditation and mindfulness are so fundamentally important. Do we have any idea who we are? Do we know why we do what we do? Do we dare face ourselves? Our lives are made up of our thoughts and our thoughts manifest our lives. Therefore, it is pretty important to witness and understand what goes on in our heads.
My mom states that there only two motivations in life, love and fear, so if you’re not operating from one, you are operating from the other. I understand we are still talking about smoking. Smoking is deep-seated. It is a beautiful little vacation from your life twenty times a day. To really quit and not replace smoking with another addiction like food, we need to look deeply inside ourselves.
The most effective way to quit smoking forever and not to gain weight is to quit logically, mindfully, to look into why you smoke to begin with, and to implement positive lifestyle changes to ensure your success. I did not gain one pound when I quit. Instead, I lost weight because I was working out and walking instead of sitting around puffing. I was busy riding my bike, doing yoga, and journal writing. I didn’t give up anything; I gained great health, breath, and freedom from an addiction.
If you start the Lily Method of bringing these healthful things into your life—yoga, meditation, reaching for a refreshingly crisp apple, hanging out in health food stores, going for long walks—sooner or later you will no longer need the cigarettes in your life.
Be good to yourself and good luck.
You can call the American Lung Association at (800) 586-4872 to get further information on quitting smoking.
For more information and beauty tips you can purchase Beauty, Health and Happiness–A way of life an online version for only $2.99!