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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

You, Too, Can Be Smober

Posted by on Wed, Jan 8, 2014 at 4:45 PM

Eight years ago today, I smoked my last cigarette. Before that, I smoked at least a pack a day for twelve years. My smobriety—yes, that's the actual, hilarious word some smokers use to talk about their non-smoking lives—has been a relatively easy one. I haven't been tempted to smoke a cigarette at all in the years since I quit. I'll occasionally still have dreams in which I'm smoking, and then I realize what I'm doing and I get annoyed at the fact that I'm going to have to quit all over again. But I never wake up from those dreams craving cigarettes. I know for a fact that I'm never going to smoke another cigarette again.

I quit smoking thanks to a book by Allen Carr called The Easy Way to Stop Smoking. It worked for me because it explained exactly why my body wanted a cigarette (it wasn't anxiety or stress I was feeling, it was a craving for another hit of nicotine) and it explained exactly what the process of quitting would be like. That turned out to be the most important part for me; taking all the drama out of the quitting process and laying it out, in plain and supportive English, for me to understand. The book hasn't worked for all of my smoker friends. I know people who've quit smoking using just about every method that there is. (Except for e-cigarettes, which I think are just a clever way to lure people back into smoking with the gimmicky sheen of technology.) There's no one definitive way to quit smoking.

Life without cigarettes is better. I have more money. I don't stink like old cigarettes. Everything feels less stressful. I can go for long walks without worrying about losing my breath. People aren't trying to bum cigarettes off me all the time. There is no downside to being a non-smoker. I love not smoking.

Every smoker has a come-to-Jesus moment where they decide they're through with smoking. If you're ready to quit, you should think about it a lot. Investigate the different methods and choose one that's right for you. Think about the other times you tried to quit smoking, and about why this time is different. Set a date. Talk to your friends. See if any of your friends will quit with you. Read about people who successfully quit smoking. Envision what not smoking will feel like. (And if you know someone who smokes, don't nag them to quit. I swear, every time someone nagged me about quitting smoking, I smoked at least another pack in retaliation.) If I—a sedentary jackass with no willpower—can quit smoking, you can, too.


Comments (47) RSS

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I got in a relationship with a guy who hated smoking so I stopped. I just refrained from taking a cig out of the pack, raising it to my lips and lighting it. It's cheaper than buying a book.
Posted by jeffy on January 8, 2014 at 4:58 PM · Report this
Paul Constant 2
@1: Or you can buy the book, which is cheaper than buying nicotine patches. Everybody's way of quitting smoking is different.

Why would you bother expending the energy to shit on the way someone else quit smoking?
Posted by Paul Constant http:// on January 8, 2014 at 5:14 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 3
I think when I read your first (annual?) post on this I rolled my eyes, but then a few years back I wound up quitting. Your matter of factness makes this very helpful.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on January 8, 2014 at 5:19 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 4
@1 - And you did all that without any bootstraps at all? Incredible.
Posted by MacCrocodile on January 8, 2014 at 5:23 PM · Report this
Paul Constant 5
@3: So glad to hear! I don't put up a post every year, but I happened to remember this year.
Posted by Paul Constant http:// on January 8, 2014 at 5:26 PM · Report this
My mom struggled to quit cigarettes. Finally did it. Never completely lost the craving (she smoked from age 14 to 48.)

At the time, "they" said that if you go 12 years without getting lung cancer after quitting smoking, your odds of getting lung cancer are similar to non-smokers.

My mom got cancer in the 12th year.

Her bitter/funny comment? "I could have been smoking this whole time."

And yeah. Cancer killed her.
Posted by bareboards on January 8, 2014 at 5:29 PM · Report this
Fnarf 7
Yup yup yup yup yup.

I quit the fun way, with chewing tobacco. Gets rid of the hand-to-mouth action, then, because you constantly have a mouthful of repulsive slobbery gelatinous tobacco scum, getting rid of that part is relatively easy.

It also helps if you have a partner who doesn't smoke but is starting to take one now and then just to cope with the smell; killing yourself may be the American Way, but dragging other people you care about down with you is hard to bear.

I have no idea what day I quit, though; it must have been seventeen years ago, though.

You're wrong about one thing, though, Paul: "no downside". A cigarette masks the smell of a stale beery tavern like nothing else. With your new nose, you're going to notice all kinds of tastes and aromas, some of them very pleasant, some of them much less so.
Posted by Fnarf on January 8, 2014 at 5:40 PM · Report this
Never had trouble with it when I quit in school. Just decided not to waste the money and lung capacity.
Posted by ultrasuedecushion on January 8, 2014 at 5:41 PM · Report this
dnt trust me 9
tough circumstances you write about, but you told it really well. like a poem.
Posted by dnt trust me on January 8, 2014 at 5:44 PM · Report this
I hate cigarettes with a burning passion. Smoking is one of the most repulsive things a person can do. I hate even being close to smokers. If I know someone's a smoker (and you can usually tell because of their teeth and skin), I keep a conversational distance. I don't want to be close to that, even if the person's not smoking at the time.
Posted by floater on January 8, 2014 at 5:50 PM · Report this
Dougsf 11
I've know a few people that book worked for as well.

I'd quick my pack-a-day habit, but let that only-smoke-when-I-drink bullshit linger another few years. Turns out, I drink a lot, and would end up smoking half a pack of cigarettes in a night.

Eventually a good ol' fashioned lung infection that had me on an inhaler for a few weeks put me off smoking long enough to where I just kinda walked away from it.

@10 - You're an insane person.
Posted by Dougsf on January 8, 2014 at 5:58 PM · Report this
Dougsf 12
@7 It's a fair enough trade-off, but you're right about the unique bouquet each room has now that the air has cleared. 15 years ago, I don't ever remembering saying about a bar, "fuck that place, it smells like gym socks [deep fryer/cat pee/etc]."
Posted by Dougsf on January 8, 2014 at 6:04 PM · Report this
TVDinner 13
I, too, found it very helpful to understand what the withdrawal process was and to learn that it would pass if I just white-knuckled it through. I remember going for a lot of clench-fisted walks during breaks at work for a while, but holy jeebus, am I glad I quit. That was - my god - in 1993. 1993. Fucking hell.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on January 8, 2014 at 6:38 PM · Report this
biffp 14
@1, the sun shines out of your behind. Nice combination of cheap and self-righteous. Paul tried to help others, but you're better than that and should tell everyone else what to do.

Paul, do you have a recommendation for a similar book for drinking? To supplement, not supplant, a group and sponsor.

Posted by biffp on January 8, 2014 at 6:44 PM · Report this
“I got in a relationship with a guy who hated smoking so I stopped”

Apparently sticking a dick in your mouth was no problem though, right?
Posted by Holy Rollers on January 8, 2014 at 7:12 PM · Report this
I used this book after reading your "3 years in" post, and it totally worked for me (though I had a little help from Wellbutrin after the terrible mood swings the first attempt). It's been 4.5 years, and I couldn't be happier about it- I honestly think one of the keys to success (and saving yourself a TON of grief) is making the commitment to never touch a cigarette again. After a month I had very few cravings, and after a year I had none at all... meanwhile all my friends who "only smoke when they drink" have all had an incredibly difficult experience with stopping smoking.
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on January 8, 2014 at 7:22 PM · Report this
@14 Allen Carr also has a book called The Easy Way to Stop Drinking. This one helped me out and definitely changed my relationship with alcohol for the better. It uses the same tactics which are discussed his stop smoking book.
Posted by JJPhat on January 8, 2014 at 7:36 PM · Report this
Funny. I quit smoking about ten years ago, never looked back and didn't have too rough a time with it. I have the exact same recurring dreams every so often, and also experience waking up agitated by the prospect of starting over. I've had that dream maybe 15 times or so.

In my case, to quit, I knotted a hemp string around my wrist and played with it every time I wanted to smoke. By the time it frayed and fell of, I was over the habit.
Posted by Racing Turtles on January 8, 2014 at 7:47 PM · Report this
I can vouch for this book finally convincing me to quit 7 or 8 years ago after 20+ years of on-and-off smoking. I smoked the whole time I was reading it, found it dumb and repetitive, and when I was finished reading, smoked my last cig and ceremoniously flung it and my lighter off the deck and onto the street. Haven't had a cig since.
Maybe I was finally ready to quit after 1,000 attempts, but this book did it. I've recommended it to many.
It might be noted that Allen Carr died of lung cancer a few years ago, but he also claimed that he had smoked 100 cigs a day or something like that before his transformation and book writing.
Posted by crone on January 8, 2014 at 8:17 PM · Report this
#1, I believe your signature line should be "Sincerely, Superior Douchebag".
Posted by krillio on January 8, 2014 at 8:25 PM · Report this
The book is great. The book helps. The book is like a dollar at most used bookstores because once you quit using that book, you don't start again. Seriously.
Posted by Finish Tag on January 8, 2014 at 9:16 PM · Report this
Cut way down from a pack a day to only smoking at the bars, then only smoking when drinking whiskey, then finally allowing myself one extra drink at the bar instead of the smoke as a reward of a kind. Didn't hurt that my honey would never had said yes at the Grand Canyon 7 years ago if I had had an American Spirit dangling from my lips...
Posted by Chili on January 8, 2014 at 9:23 PM · Report this
Just to give a different take on it, I quit using Chantix. It has caused suicidal thoughts in some people so I told my therapist to watch me really closely for that, but besides some weird intense dreams it didn't have any negative psychological implications for me. What it does, which is genius, is fill the nicotine receptors in your brain. So you don't crave nicotine but also smoking a cigarette doesn't give you any pleasure. You keep smoking for the first week or so that you're taking it and by the end of that week, it's hard to finish a cigarette because it just doesn't *do* anything for you. Without the physical cravings, you just have to deal with your psychological addiction which is much easier to do when you're not irritated and distracted by cravings.
Posted by goreedgo on January 8, 2014 at 9:29 PM · Report this
I was a very militant, 25 year smoker. Loved every minute of it. I made two serious attempts to quit. First attempt I was at 35 and I managed 18 months. Not a day went by when I didn't dream of smoking. After 18 months said, "Don't care if it kills me" and happily went back and smoked for another 10 years, militantly, happily, hating all you non smokers. Almost took a job in Beirut, just because I loved smoking in the office so much! Then, October 2012 had a tough trip to a dentist, strange feeling of aging, and a nasty cold so thought, "let's try it again." Due to the cold, didn't feel like smoking too much for about a week. No patch, no Nicorette. After ten days was not even thinking about cigs too much. This attempt was not painless, but was much, much, much less painful than when I was 35 and I'm now a pretty happy non smoker of more than a year and pretty certain I will never smoke again. My point? 1) Growing old cures most people of smoking. When you are 30 something, still hot, still invincible, smoking is fun, fun, fun. Don't believe the anti smoking puritans. It IS fun. 2) If you are a non smoker / never smoker with a loved one who smokes, please know that nagging and guilt only makes the militant smoker more determined to never give up. You wisely do not smoke, but what you do need to understand is that smoking is not some pointless activity we've been tricked into doing by the tobacco companies. It is, for the smoker, fun, pleasurable, and worth every dollar spent. You must understand this truth and stop rolling your eyes. I think I would have quit earlier but was so fed up with obese, non smoking, well meaning friends asking me why I had so little concern about my health? It would be considered the height of bad manners to tell a fat friend, "What the hells wrong with you? You want to die young? Leave orphaned children? You pathetic dupe of advertising, pull yourself together, lay off the food, and get off your ass."
Posted by Jail Bush Now on January 8, 2014 at 9:41 PM · Report this
There is a downside to not smoking: you get less breaks than your coworkers who do because everybody is worried about keeping the smoker from having a nic-fit.
Posted by treehugger on January 8, 2014 at 10:10 PM · Report this
@1: Cute of you to water down your experience, but quitting isn't as simple as just not taking the cigarette out of the pack and lighting it.
Posted by treehugger on January 8, 2014 at 10:12 PM · Report this
@10 So you live out in a shack in the woods, right?
Posted by treehugger on January 8, 2014 at 10:16 PM · Report this
@24: Yes. The best thing you can do with a militant smoker is stand downwind and be supportive if they do decide to try to quit. Shame just doesn't work.
Posted by treehugger on January 8, 2014 at 10:19 PM · Report this
@23 Chantix did not work for me at all... sure, it filled the nicotine receptors in my brain, but what that did was just make me frustrated when I smoked, so I was perpetually pissed off and smoked more as a result. That, and the pills made me incredibly nauseous for a few hours every day after taking them.

(Not trying to trash your method for quitting, but just saying that not every method works for everyone.)
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on January 8, 2014 at 10:21 PM · Report this
I smoked 3 packs a day for 15 years. I went to a hypnotist who I thought was stupid and incompetent. I left his office intending to immediately smoke a cigarette but did not, and continued not doing so for the last 30+ years. The only time I picked one up, I dropped it. I had absolutely no physical withdrawal symptoms. The fact that hypnosis worked annoyed me because I thought it was a sign of a weak mind. That may have been correct, but who cares; it worked.
Posted by sarah70 on January 8, 2014 at 10:41 PM · Report this
I quit after I realized that I had been getting sick much more often as a smoker and I was sick of being sick. For about fifteen years I thought it was worth it, that I enjoyed it and didn't care if it was taking a few years off my life: I'd rather die at 70 from cancer than 85 from Alzheimer's. Then I had a random conversation with an ex from high school and was telling her how this was like my third cold or flu of the year, and she commented how strange that was because I used to never get sick. I thought about that and realized I'd been getting sick alot each year for at least 10 years, and came to the conclusion that it was probably the smoking. If nothing else, it is a lot more time with fingers near mouth each day. I stopped a few years ago, and last year didn't get a cold or flu once. so much happier!
Posted by sanotehu on January 8, 2014 at 10:41 PM · Report this
I really liked the way you told that story :)
I smoked a pack a day for years. My gf teasing me was the final straw. I had wanted to quit for a month, but I kept dallying, so she started calling me a "tender timmy". I don't know what it means but it was a great motivator!
The hardest part was finding something else to do with all that time you suddenly have. 7minutes times 20 cigs equals over 2 hours a day. Its kinda weird when you think of it.
Posted by JonCracolici on January 8, 2014 at 10:59 PM · Report this
My parents raised us to believe that smoking was a disgusting habit of the weak-willed. So they were super snobby about smoking, not unlike @10, but their attitude rubbed off in the right way. I never dreamed of touching a cigarette -- yuck! -- and neither did my siblings. Grossed out snobbery sometimes works.
Posted by Amanda on January 8, 2014 at 11:03 PM · Report this
disintegrator 34
I quit about eight years ago after smoking heavily for about six. My roommate at the time and I both quit, and went on a little bit of a fitness binge. It was really helpful to have someone to do it with, especially since almost all of my friends at the time were smokers.

One point I'd like to make is that since then, I've screwed up several times, bought a pack, and smoked a few out of it during stressful stuff (or just momentary rebellion) before I realized it wasn't what I wanted. You can, and I did, just throw away the rest of the pack, break them in half, toss them in the dumpster, and get on with your life.

The only way to be a non smoker is to not smoke. But if you relapse, it doesn't mean you should just say 'fuck it' and fall back in to old habits, and it doesn't make you a failure. All you can do is make the next choice be the right one.
Posted by disintegrator on January 8, 2014 at 11:38 PM · Report this
raku 35
If you have tried and tried and can't give up smoking (and it is certainly genetic - it's easy to quit for some because they don't have the genetic predisposition), a good approach is Fnarf's harm reduction strategy while working on quitting altogether.

Case study- Sweden has one of the highest tobacco usage rates in the EU but has by far the lowest rates of lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. The reason is because while trying to quit or instead of smoking, many Swedes use snus (pronounced "snooze") - which is like a better, non-disgusting version of chewing tobacco. Snus are banned in the EU due to a stupid law to curb promotion of tobacco, but Sweden got an exemption due to their cultural history with it. It's likely over 95% safer than smoking - it doesn't cause lung cancer and has only a small increase in cardiovascular risk. Also appears to be less harmful than American chewing tobacco and way less gross - no spitting or brown goo, and the good snus come in a small clean pouch, very woman-friendly.

Snus are legal in the US and most smoke shops (not convenience stores) sell them. Ask for a Swedish brand like General and make sure it's the pouch kind, not the grosser loose kind unless you want that. Camel started making snus a couple years but it's gross as hell. You can buy other brands direct from Sweden online for not too much money, including organic snus (Skruf Selection) or nice euro-flavored kinds like licorice or maple.

Nice graph of EU tobacco use vs. related deaths:…
Scientific article on snus and health:…
Another scientific article on snus and health:…
Posted by raku on January 9, 2014 at 12:06 AM · Report this
JensR 36
Raku: Yay another Swede?
I'm planning on switching to Snus (and move from that to quitting) since most of my friends have kids and I don't smoke next to them meaning I have to constantly "go somewhere else" which sucks.
Posted by JensR on January 9, 2014 at 1:00 AM · Report this
Bento 37
I used that book too, and while I found it kind of stupid and repetitive at the time, it worked. I think for me the effective part was that the book explained not to expect some epiphany days/weeks/months down the track. The quitting is the point at which you finish the book and stub out that last gasper, and things just keep getting better from there. I've recommended it to dozens of people since. I love love love being a non-smoker.
Posted by Bento on January 9, 2014 at 1:09 AM · Report this
tainte 38
you needed a book to tell you that your body craved nicotine? do you have to read a book before you take a shit too?
Posted by tainte on January 9, 2014 at 5:31 AM · Report this
hey paul - I'm going on my 6th year now of non smoking cigs. yeah. I read that same book and it helped bigtime. I smoked cigs unfortunately (worst single habit of mine, ever ever ever) from age 15 till early 30s. read the book ya'll. book is not magic or self help mumbo jumbo. it's truth.
Posted by weedisking on January 9, 2014 at 6:36 AM · Report this
Rotten666 40
1 week! The urge to murder my family has passed, so things are looking up!

@24 Yes to everything you said.

I just have to convince myself I am a non smoker. The part that really sucks is staying away from booze; I figure at least a month since it is trigger numero uno.
Posted by Rotten666 on January 9, 2014 at 7:28 AM · Report this
the large, devious tobacco companies know that your nicotine addiction grows little tree like structures in your brain that cry out for nicotine every morning and need a certain level in the chemical brain soup or else they scream at you biologically. the three days of "cravings" when you quit is these structures literally shriveling up and dying. they are the same functionally as the structures that addictyou to heroin, etc.

so you are not a "smoker" which implies your "choice". you are an outpost and tool of the phillip morris company or amercan tobacco company -- they have literally damaged you, converting your body into their tool and ally and in a sense colonizing you.

when I quite after learning this it was because I could put Philip morris in the picture as a monster with an IV into me and my brain, putting in nicotine, and another IV into my pocket sucking out thousands of dollars. it was my desire to not be enslaved that triggered in me the strength to quit.

I find it ironic to say the least that "smokers" also have sucked up the "rebel" or "independent thinker" identity the tobacco companies have propagated after studying the psycology of Americans. far from it. total tools. if the person is a politically aware one, an activist on the left, then in fact they are 100% enslaved as their beliefs which are sort of anti corporate are in contradiction to their status as a physical slave with an altered brain structure.

it reminded me of the science fiction of Philip k. Dick. At the point I realized how insidious this colonization was, I realized I was not strong enough to "overcome" these monsters through will power or any else .....I just had ot quit to save my life...and to not be stupid, stupid, stupidly enslaved by these monsters. once I put Philip morris in the picture as a sort of Nazi doctor that experimented on my brain, smoking lost its allure and I quit. I also realized that people talk about you and me as a "smoker" or "quitting" smoking as part of the tobacco company images that foster the belief the problem is you -- removing the spotlight on the fact they literally have physically changed the brain structures of smokers. Few consented to or "chose" that secret operation. The antismoking movement would be well to keep the focus on the corporate monsters and keep them in the picture and not discuss things without reference to their special brand of "marketing" which is a physical tort that inflicts torture on you if you try to quit.
Posted by "rebels"? Tooled Slaves Actually. on January 9, 2014 at 9:02 AM · Report this
I bet the SPL has that book
Posted by bookbookbook on January 9, 2014 at 9:45 AM · Report this
Paul Constant 43
@14: I don't know from personal experience about a book on drinking, but @17's news that Carr wrote a book on drinking seems like a good place to start.

A little further: I think that what Carr is doing in his books is basically a low-rent, intuitive version of cognitive behavioral therapy. Soon after reading the smoking book, I read the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns. It's about using cognitive behavioral therapy to break yourself from bad habits, or to help yourself out of those little spirals of negativity that subsumes your brain sometime. I recommend that book to everyone. I think it's maybe the only self-help book that really works. (It's not a cure-all by any means, and it's not a replacement for therapy, obviously, if you're experiencing serious problems like depression.) It might be another resource for helping with drinking, too. Good luck!
Posted by Paul Constant http:// on January 9, 2014 at 12:01 PM · Report this
Paul Constant 44
@34 makes a great point, too: Just because you relapse doesn't make you a failure. You can stop again. You're not a failure just because you made a little mistake. It's okay.
Posted by Paul Constant http:// on January 9, 2014 at 12:06 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 45
Congratulations to all of you for quitting smoking. I know it's not easy.
Posted by Matt from Denver on January 9, 2014 at 12:38 PM · Report this
I quit drinking with Carr's 'The Easy Way to Quit Drinking'. Coming up on a year of booze sobriety this month. If you're ready to quit smoking or drinking, these books are an incredible tool.
Posted by horse apples on January 11, 2014 at 12:00 PM · Report this
Canadian Nurse 47
@40: A week's a week! Congrats!
Posted by Canadian Nurse on January 11, 2014 at 12:07 PM · Report this

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