The Nancy Reagan Way To Stop Smoking
by Tony Yost
Do you want to stop smoking cigarettes? I donâ€™t mean your wife/husband, girlfriend/boyfriend, mother/father, or doctor wants you to stop smoking.
Do YOU want to stop smoking?
If you do, then I can help! If youâ€™re just trying to please someone else, donâ€™t bother. Quitting is very, very hard to do, and doing it because YOU want to is the only way youâ€™re going to be able to do what it takes to quit.
Some backgroundâ€¦ I smoked like the proverbial choo-choo train for about 20 years. Not â€śI didnâ€™t inhaleâ€ť, or â€śOne cigarette every now and thenâ€ť… I mean â€śchain-smoking, if you canâ€™t smoke there, I donâ€™t want to go thereâ€ť, 2-3+ packs a day, smoking. See, I smoked before the â€śnon-smokers revoltedâ€ť. In those days, you could smoke on airplanes. You could smoke at work. (In fact, the CFO at one of the places I worked had a (humorous?) sign that read, â€śThis is a smoking area. Please smoke. If you persist in non-smoking you will be asked to leave.â€ť So I could chain smoke, even at workâ€¦no waiting for â€śa smoke breakâ€ť. You could smoke at restaurants, too. And I did.
Later, I became an independent computer consultant. Somewhere around 1991 companies started restricting smoking. I began to have a tough time with some of my clients. After about 45 minutes in a non-smoking meeting, I would agree to just about anything…if they would just let me take a quick break (this was not a good negotiating tactic).
I also found that I didnâ€™t really enjoy smoking any more. I just had to smoke. I was addicted to smoking cigarettes. And the coughing that came with it didnâ€™t make me feel better either. I made the decision that I was going to quit.
There are many reasons to quit.
- You will have more money for things that you do enjoy (cigarettes are expensive!)
- You will not stink to your non-smoking friends (yes, I know you canâ€™t smell it, but they can)
- You will get your sense of smell back (I didnâ€™t even know mine was gone until a few weeks after I quit, I started smelling things again).
- You will be healthier. (I am told that after 10 years, an ex-smokerâ€™s lungs are about as healthy as a non-smokerâ€™s).
- Ultimately, you will feel better, have more energy, and live longer.
- If youâ€™re a lady, maybe you donâ€™t want to develop those wrinkles around your mouth.
- You may have other reasonsâ€¦
If YOU REALLY WANT TO QUIT, for your own reasons, I can tell you how I did it, and how YOU CAN DO IT, too.
Some of the things I will suggest are the exact opposite of what others say to do. I am not a doctor, or psychologist. I am not giving medical or psychological advice. I am just telling you what worked for me. I quit on Saturday, Feb 22, 1992 and I havenâ€™t had more than 6 cigarettes since. (I had those with my Mother when my Dad passed away).
Step 1: You have to decide that, this time, you are going to do it. â€śThere is no TRY, there is only DO, or NOT DOâ€ť. (I thought that was an ancient Chinese proverb, but someone told me it came from Star Wars). Regardless, either decide you are really going to quit, or donâ€™t put yourself through the pain of trying.
Step 2: Decide on a nicotine-containing product to help you with the withdrawal. There is a real physical addiction to smoking, and you should get help with that. I used the Nicoderm patches. In those days, you needed a prescription for them. It was a 10 week program. The large size for 6 weeks, the medium size for 2 weeks, and the small size for 2 weeks. The patches have the advantage of giving you the nicotine without you doing anything that reinforces the habit (chewing the gum, â€śsmokingâ€ť the fake cigarette, etc). At the same time, it gives you the mental strength to know that you are only fighting the mental habits (no small feat), not the physical ones too. If you have questions about this one, ask your doctor.
Step 3: Decide when you are going to quit. I purposely decided on Saturday at noon. I could smoke as much as I wanted until then. (And believe me, I did! I sat in a chair and smoked and smoked until noon.)
Step 4: On the designated day, throw out all cigarettes, except for one unopened pack. You donâ€™t need them anymore, right? So, throw them out. The one unopened pack is to remind you that this is a choice that you have made. No one is making you quit, it is your own choice.
Step 5: Keep it a secret. This is where I differ from most people who would give you advice. To me, keeping it a secret gave it power. While inside my head I would be screaming â€śI NEED A SMOKE!!!â€ť, on the outside I would play a game. â€śWould these people notice that I am not smoking? I mean, how could they not? They never saw me without a cigarette before!â€ť I was surprised how long it took most people to notice. If they did notice, I would very casually say, â€śNo, not right nowâ€¦â€ť. That kept the game going. It was powerful!
The other reason to keep it a secret, is that well-meaning, non-smoking friends will try and encourage you. They mean well, but they really have no idea what you are going through, and so their advice seems hollow and useless. Maybe thatâ€™s just meâ€¦
Step 6: Do NOT allow the internal argument about smoking. When you quit smoking, you will almost certainly begin to have internal dialog, usually depicted by the devil sitting on your shoulder talking to you.
It goes something like this:
devil: â€śA cigarette would sure taste good now, wouldnâ€™t it?â€ť
You: â€śYes it would, but Iâ€™ve quit smoking and Iâ€™m not going to have one!â€ť
devil: â€śIf it would taste so good, then why not?â€ť
You: â€śBecause I want to feel better.â€ť
devil: â€śOh, you feel real better now, huh?â€ť
You: â€śWell, no, I feel like @#$%^*!â€ť
devil: â€śJust 1 cigarette will make you feel better. You can cut down…then quit.â€ť
You: â€śWellâ€¦â€¦I guess 1 wouldnâ€™t hurtâ€ť
To me, this is the single most important step, and itâ€™s the reason that I call this the â€śNancy Reagan approachâ€ť. Ms. Reagan started the slogan â€śJust Say No!â€ť Please donâ€™t dismiss this as just a shallow slogan. Hear me out.
You must not allow this inner conversation to take place. If you do, there is a very good chance that you will lose. What I did, and what I suggest that you do, whenever this conversation starts in your head, immediately just say â€śNo!â€ť and force yourself to think about something else. Do not let that conversation begin. You will have to do this many timesâ€¦ that devil (a.k.a. your habit) is very persistent. And it will come at you when you are the weakest. Just say â€śNo!â€ť
Step 7: Make the rule for yourself that â€śAnything goes, as long as itâ€™s not a cigarette.â€ť You can eat, run, exercise, take a vacation, swim, drink, watch TV, shopâ€¦anything as long as itâ€™s not a cigarette.
One thing I did was to eat sunflower seeds in the shell. That kept my hands and my mouth busy. I also took my family to the lake for weekend vacationsâ€¦boating, walkingâ€¦etc.
Looking back, I really donâ€™t think I could have done it without this rule. But I have to be honestâ€¦for me it did have one undesired side effect. Since I mostly used eating to compensate for not smoking, I gained weight. Given the choice, it is a trade that I would make again, though. I watched my Mother gasp for air, unable to breathe properly for the last three years of her life (itâ€™s like drowning very slowlyâ€¦ a very unpleasant way to go) because of cigarettes.
Maybe you can make this step work for you without the weight gainâ€¦or work on the weight issue after you’ve quit smoking. The point is…you chose to quit smoking, whatever it takes.
OK, thatâ€™s it. After you get through the hardest part (for me it was about 10 weeks), life begins to get good again. One day, I noticed that I could smell things again (and I found out why people say that smoking stinks). And food tastes better. And I could go the distance in long business negotiations. And I will more likely live long enough to play with my grandchildren (if I ever have any).
Good Luck! If I can do it, you can do it!