There are many useful tips on the web on how to quit smoking. The advice varies from going cold turkey to finding a nicotine substitute. Amazingly, according to a study reported on by CNN, those smokers who quit cold turkey had a better success rate of quitting and staying smoke free than those who gradually weaned themselves off cigarettes.
No how, no way could I possibly be one of the cold turkey quitters! I had smoked for 45 years, since I was 13 and was up to two packs a day. That’s roughly a cigarette every half hour.
Of course, when I first started smoking there weren’t that many. Maybe I shared one with a friend a few times a week. Maybe I pilfered one or two from my parents. Or, maybe I purchased them on my own. After all, minors had access to cigarettes whether through vending machines or by going to the store and telling the shopkeeper that the cigarettes were for their parents. And, cigarettes were cheap! Back in 1980, the average price for a pack was 45 cents. An easy purchase for a teenager like me to make. Smokes barely cut into my babysitting income.
Alas, my teenaged smoking turned into adult smoking and here I am, at 58 years of age, smoking two packs a day. Something had to give and for me, it did. There was one cataclysmic event that happened late 2016. I lost my nice paying job. I did collect severance pay up until December 31st so until recently I did not really feel the high price of cigarette smoking. But now, my income has been cut into a quarter of what it had been. Unemployment paid $400.00 per week. Cigarettes (in Pennsylvania) cost $76.20 per carton and with my 2 pack a day habit, I was smoking a carton and a half per week. That added up to $114.00 per week on cigarettes. I have to tell you, I am a cheap person when it comes to spending my money. I don’t mind spending it on a nice dinner, Broadway tickets or, a good book. I do mind spending it on something that provides limited pleasure especially when I have limited income. So, that was event number one. Money!
Event number two related to my health. As my company was paying for Cobra medical until the end of December 2016, I decided to get all kinds of health tests done. And why not? I finally had the time to actually go to the doctor. One of the tests I took was a low dose CT scan on my lungs which checks for cancer and COPD related diseases. Sure enough, the test came back with COPD/Emphysema.
The first thing I pictured was those folks in Walmart. The ones in the scooter carts lugging around their oxygen tanks. I did not want to grow up to be like that if I could prevent it. And so, cataclysmic event number two was my health.
Here I had two very compelling reasons to quit and yet, I am addicted to nicotine and the habit of smoking. What to do? I decided that I would wean myself off cigarettes little by little and would recommend this method to other heavy smokers. I have not yet completely quit smoking (will provide further updates) but, there has been progress.
On the first day of my journey, I would have a cigarette once every hour. This would get me into the routine of limiting myself and fighting my cravings. The second day, I smoked once every two hours. In a 16 hour day, this brought my cigarette intake down to 8 a day which was quite an accomplishment considering I smoked 30 a day. By the third day, I was smoking only 5 cigarettes or one every three hours. From there, I continued to limit my intake until I got to the point I am today which is at 3 cigarettes per day.
I have to say that this stage is hard. I have supplemented my smoking with e-cigarettes (which to a smoker are a poor substitute). I tried nicotine pills but they only made me edgy without cutting down on the cravings. I am at the point where I don’t know if I can continue to reduce my intake. I want to but it is hard…..
Next blog – did I do it? Did I quit?