How love can make you stop nicotine craving and my 3 simple tips to quit smoking

Smokers are also addicts.

The addiction is to nicotine, a drug found naturally in tobacco. Some findings suggest that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol.

“Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals; hundreds are harmful, and about 70 can cause cancer.”

So to say that you reduce your risk of developing diseases from smoking or dependence to nicotine is a no-brainer.

I had two or three attempts to quit smoking and I hope that my last attempt will last forever.

First attempt

no smokingMy very first successful attempt was way back in 1994. That was immediately after I had a car pool with a lady at the old PLDT building near the corner of Ayala and Makati Avenues. I had no car then so I requested if I can get a ride.

She agreed and we planned to dine at the old Dean’s Street Café along Pasay Road in Makati. The Tito’s and Tita’s of Manila would remember the place.

While waiting for her brand-new beige Nissan Super Saloon to arrive, I was smoking on the roadside. Obviously, there were no bans on smoking then, and you can puff practically anywhere and anytime.

The moment I entered the car, the lady said in a sweet yet straightforward manner, “ang baho!” That’s “how obnoxious” in English.

I replied with all conviction, ‘from now on, I will stop smoking.” Cold turkey.

And the girl soon became my wife of 23 years.

It became an unwritten rule that if I go back to smoking again, that meant not caring or loving her anymore.

What to expect when you stop smoking

Like other people who stopped smoking, I experienced these nicotine withdrawal symptoms including stress and weight gain.

I was able to experience the following nicotine withdrawal symptoms and you may experience one or all of them:

  • Irritable and anxious (hindi mapakali)
  • Troubled and worried
  • Feeling hungrier than usual

BaguioThere are treatments proven to be effective for smokers who want help to quit. These include doctor’s advice and assistance about quitting; individual, group, or telephone counseling and behavioral therapies. Medications for quitting are also available: nicotine replacement products that can be bought over-the-counter, prescription and non-nicotine medications.

According to the World Health Organization, the immediate and long-term health benefits of quitting smoking are as follows:

  • Within 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • 2-12 weeks, your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
  • 1-9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • 1 year, your risk of coronary heart disease is about half that of a smoker’s.
  • 5 years, your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.
  • 10 years, your risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker and your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decreases.
  • 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker’s.

Interestingly, WHO says, depending on your age, that you gain a certain number of years if you quit smoking:

  • At about 30: gain almost 10 years of life expectancy.
  • At about 40: gain 9 years of life expectancy.
  • At about 50: gain 6 years of life expectancy.
  • At about 60: gain 3 years of life expectancy.

That’s almost an additional decade for me to enjoy my future grandchildren.  This gives me a reason to have a longer life as my wife and I never had daughters.  A granddaughter will probably make us feel younger.

My 3 simple tips

I didn’t take any medication and never visited a doctor for advice to quit smoking nor participated in any counseling sessions.  You can follow these simple tips:

  1. Be guilty

Find a reason for guilt. You don’t have to look far enough.  Look at the people who love you and care for you. When people around you offer you healthy food, vitamins, good nutrition and engage with you in a healthy active lifestyle, it is probably because they don’t want you to get sick.

Just imagine yourself at the sickbed and family members have to surround you and have to take care of you because you were too stubborn to quit.

It is like forcing them to be in that place, when in fact, you, the smoker, had the option to spare them from such situation.

I was sick for nearly a week, and all my loved ones gave me the most tender loving care that they’ve got. I sprang back to my energetic self as quickly as possible but I felt guilty thinking about them not deserving something that can be avoided.

So be guilty, there must be something that will move your conscience. You are human, so it must exist somewhere there in your heart.

  1. Get distracted

Smoking sessions, in my case, gave me time to think, reflect and be creative. These sessions, were, in a lot of times, gave me the ‘aha’, ‘eureka’ moments.

These sessions were creative moments, not just smoking. Important personal decisions and corporate directions in my life were made during my smoking sessions. These smoking sessions were like golf to me, where businessmen close their deals.

Okay, hold on here.  Let’s pause a little.  The last two paragraphs make smoking seem to be enticing and worth trying.  Something that makes you feel good.  But that is how smoking will hook you into addiction.  One stick will make you feel good.  Two sticks will be better.  Three sticks will be ecstatic. A pack is awesome.  And without you knowing it, that will be non-stop.

I smoked on extreme occasions – every time I was sad and when I was joyful.  While in both, my mind was very active and that’s where ideas were conceived.

So find a new distraction that will make you think. A distraction that can keep your mind preoccupied.

I started writing a blog. I wasn’t just a blog. It was creating a website with a blog that needs total focus. But something that is not continuous. Something I can do, only when I feel the urge of smoking. And something that you can do when there you feel that urge.

Find that distraction. There’s a lot out there but make sure to make it creative, productive and satisfying at the same time.

  1. Celebrate every moment 

I used to consume two packs a day. Ironically, I had even more when I’ve worked in the most prestigious hospital in the Philippines where I reported to four vice presidents. That was the most stressful part of my corporate life and my buddies back then were Philip and Marlboro.

As you experience this milestone – of not lighting a cigarette – celebrate every moment. An hour of not smoking is a huge undertaking. A day of quitting is a big deal. A week without nicotine is a grand event. A month is like New Year’s! And so on and so forth.

And you must verbalize it. Let people know that you are not smoking anymore. Either they support you or tempt you to go back to the old habit. If they do the latter, go back to Tip #1.

Remember that only those who really really love you will be there in your sickbed.

And only those who want you to live would want you to quit.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization websites