Giving up cigarettes a year ago was an enormous achievement for me. Since I smoked heavily for over two decades, several friends have asked me how I did it. In honor of completing a year without one, here are my top three tips for anyone thinking of quitting.
First, and definitely most important for me, is to build up your own determination. Every time I’m struck with a craving, I think: “I want a cigarette, but I want to not smoke even more.” Before quitting, I listed out all my reasons and made sure I always had them accessible in rough moments. We probably all share many reasons in common (health, financial, political, etc.) But I recommend writing your own. Success will come down to your own commitment to your goals and priorities, so these reasons will be your foundation.
Second, when really tempted to cheat, I would think: “the cigarette is the problem, not the solution.” The drug is creating the addiction and the withdrawal, not satisfying it. Even if you cave and have a smoke, it won’t actually fulfill what you want, it will actually just make your next craving worse. But if you push through the moment without a smoke, your cravings will gradually become less frequent and less severe. A year in, I still get the occasional craving, and I still use the misery of that moment to remind myself “I don’t want this to be for naught, I don’t ever want to go through this again.”
Finally, remember you’re not alone: more than a million people quit every year. If you know what kind of support you need, there are tools to help.
I use one of these apps to track my progress, but I have also used music as a support. Letting go of something that has comforted me daily for most of my life felt at times like a real loss, so I created a “freedom” playlist to help me re-frame it as a gain. Listening to these songs fortified me against momentary cravings by grounding me in the liberation I was winning through my persistence. I’ll just choose one song to leave here: for anyone trying to break free of cigarettes, get Breathe, by Sara Tavares, into your playlist. You’re welcome.