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Susie's top tips to quit (and stay quit)

Susie quit smoking after 35 years. She shares some valuable tips on how to battle cravings, how to stay calm and how to keep happy.

I would like to share my tips for quitting smoking successfully - cold turkey.

I have now quit for five months and will never smoke again. I know this for sure. I have absolutely no doubt. I feel fantastic and happy.  I breathe deeply into my lungs now. My skin and hair look and feel fresh. My teeth are whiter. I no longer feel paranoid about smelling like an ashtray. I no longer worry about dying from a smoking related disease.

I am 45 and have smoked since I was 15, ranging from 10 to 20 a day over the years. Of course I wanted all the above before I quit, but it took me several attempts to finally go for this long. I couldn’t even tell you how many - more than ten though.

I had all the irrational thoughts I had read about. I felt life was boring without smoking. I always felt lost, depressed, irritable and anxious. I had symptoms at the end of month two that represented the worst cold ever. Maybe I did have a cold, but it was exacerbated by coughing up black speckled phlem (tar I presume), and a constantly running nose. I had flatulence like I had never known and my breathing needed assistance which I found in the way of Ventolin.

I ate way too much for that first couple of months and seemed to have constant cravings for caramel popcorn, which I ate every day for two weeks until I finally got tired of it. Apart from all that, people were telling me I looked healthy—and I did feel pretty good, when I wasn’t feeling bad, if that makes sense. People who didn’t know I had stopped even said I was looking great and even younger. So that kept me going.

I distrusted the smoking sites that were trying to sell me nicotine replacements. Remember—They are trying to sell you a product. Be sceptical! Listen and talk to people like me have smoked for years and have tried to quit many times. I tried using those products, but they just kept me thinking I needed nicotine. They cost way more than they should too!  It was my mindset that needed work. Those products don’t help with ‘reverse brainwashing’ which is what is really needed. I had a friend who was addicted to nicotine gum for years, and constantly had mouth ulcers which we believe was a direct consequence.

Tips

  1. Pick a date you’ll remember easily. I picked the 1st January, since that was coming up. I don’t believe in counting days. I think it is unhealthy and unproductive to say “I have now stopped for 62 days”. I picked a date that is easy to remember and then just got on with it and set my mind to not thinking about it. If you count days, you are thinking about it EVERY day! When I get to the 1st of a new month, I know I have gone for a whole month (without having to count.)
  2. I am not trying to sell anything here and get nothing for mentioning this, but the Alan Carr book on quitting smoking was the best investment I ever made. I had spent years being brainwashed by advertising or seeing my parents and friends smoke. I subconsciously must have believed all the rubbish I was fed about it relaxing me, helping me be more social, etcetera. The Alan Carr book helped to ‘reverse’ the brainwashing. In fact this is what he calls it. He does not believe in nicotine replacement either. He believes in rewiring the brain in how we think and feel about smoking. Even if you don’t feel strong enough yet to stop smoking, read it anyway to get a headstart. It took me about a dozen more attempts over about five years—after reading the book, before it really sunk in properly and me finally quitting for good.
  3. Each time I stopped, I learnt more about myself and why I went back to smoking, when deep down I really wanted to quit. Remember you were ‘brainwashed’ for many years. Reverse brainwashing will not happen overnight, but stick with it! I learnt to change my language, as Alan suggests 'change your language' - for example instead of ‘giving up’ change it to ‘quitting’ or ‘stopping’. Instead of ‘craving’ change it to ‘a passing thought’. It does pass and eventually those ‘passing thoughts’ become less often and now I go for days without even thinking about it.
  4. Instead of ‘feeling bad, irritable etc’ change it to ‘I am deeply cleansing my body and mind.’ Instead of saying ‘I enjoy smoking’ say ‘I am addicted to nicotine and that is why I smoke.’ Anyway, think up for your own changes to your own language. Be constantly aware of the irrational, dysfunctional language you use to describe your smoking and change it. It takes time, but please persist, and eventually you will get there and it really does make a difference on how you think about smoking. Alan talks about the ‘enjoying it’ comment as being the most common irrational language we use. How many things do we really enjoy that we would never want our children to take up or wish we never took up ourselves. Don’t kid yourself. It is only the addiction talking. 
  5. Buy a yoga DVD and do at least 20 minutes every day, if you can—or as often as you can. Meditate too for at least 10 minutes. These processes helped me heaps! Helped me keep off too many extra kilos too. I absolutely love Susan Fulton’s “Yoga for Beginners’. It is gentle and progressive.
  6. Take magnesium vitamins if you get heartburn like me and have heartburn chewables on hand. The heartburn eventually went away after about 10 weeks after stopping.
  7. Drink plenty of fresh water. I am not good at drinking cold water in winter, so I switched to boiled water with a bit of cold. It is actually really nice and feels like a bath on the inside. I highly recommend it.
  8. Remember, 3 months seems like forever sometimes, but it goes by quickly. By the end of 3 months, I knew I was over the hardest part and the ‘passing thoughts’ barely exist now. Don’t listen to people who say they still ‘crave’ after 17 years! I read a website that said that. If that is the case, they didn’t do it right and didn’t work hard enough at ‘reversing the brainwashing’.
  9. Treat yourself at the end of each month with the money you would have spent on cigarettes—a massage, a facial, a hair cut and colour, new skincare, a good book. Whatever you like! Celebrate how good you feel. Love yourself throughout. Be kind to yourself throughout. Cry if you want to. I wanted to in those first three months and I did quite a few times. It’s ok. You are doing an amazing thing and it will feel hard sometimes. Remember those who have gone before you and have succeeded. We are rooting for you and want you to feel as good as we do now! You will be so proud of yourself if you succeed! And you deserve to feel proud and strong and loving of yourself. Remember, no matter how you feel now, it will get easier as each month passes. Eventually you will be like me. Over the hurdles and on to the other side, knowing you will never return again!

I have left no. 10 blank for your own ‘tip’. I’m sure you will have one. Everyone deals with this differently. I would love to hear your tips. Wishing you a long happy life!

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