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Giving Up Smoking

I've just given up smoking (again). I'm just past three weeks now. A friend (another recidivist smoker) asked: how did you manage it?

I followed an unusual technique, which came from the ever-helpful wikiHow. It really seemed to work for me. I didn't quite do it like they said. This is what I did.

Get addicted to coffee

Not instant coffee, the proper stuff. All right, I admit that I actually skipped this step, as I was already addicted to coffee! My level is probably around 2 - 4 cups of reasonably strong coffee a day (what you'd hope for if you ordered an americano). If you're not already a coffeee freak? I don't know. Purely in health terms, trading a nicotine addiction for a caffeine addiction is a very smart move.

Read Allen Carr

He is good, if sometimes a touch patronising. I think the advice that I personally found most useful is a little bit of positive thinking: whenever you start thinking "oh no! I can't have a cigarette and I really want one", replace that thought with "oh yes! now I am a non-smoker".

Find your reasons to stop

You need to have personally meaningful reasons to stop. Once you start looking, they'll appear. In my case, about 5 reasons came up in as many days. The most poignant was my 4 year old nephew saying "Uncle Toby, there's something on your teeth". (Not really Jonny, that's just staining. I hope you look after your teeth better than I have mine.)

Write those reasons down

Make a physical list, using pen and paper, of all your reasons to stop. I reckon you should have a dozen or so. (If you can't easily think of 10 good reasons to stop smoking, you're not ready. Better just keep puffing till you can!) You will need to refer to this list frequently in the first 3 days, and at different times different things will appeal, so it's good to have a variety.

Have a Last Cigarette

The Last Cigarette is an Allen Carrism. I think it's worth giving up from waking up one day, as this means you've already dealt with the first 8 hours by being asleep. So, the night before, have your Last Cigarette. Notice it, enjoy it, savour it, extinguish it. Go to bed a non-smoker.

Stop smoking AND drinking coffee

So you've had your Last Cigarette. Next day, you won't be smoking, nor will you be drinking coffee. That's right, give up both at once. It sounds stupidly impossible. Dangerous even! But it's not that bad. In fact, my experience was that I didn't even notice the lack of coffee!

Deal with it for three days

It's hard. Really hard. Make sure your list of reasons to quit is to hand. Refer to it as often as you need to. Remember Carr's advice: "oh yes! now I am a non-smoker". Use mints, or other sweeties. (Carr says not to do that. So I pick and choose my advice!) I found, as I did the last time I gave up, that during these first three days there are moments of black despair: times when you can't see the point of anything. It's hard. (But it doesn't last as long as emphysema.)

Resume coffee

On Day Four, start drinking coffee again. Your body will be so grateful, it will forget all about the nicotine. It worked for me. Notice that the idea isn't that every time you fancy a cigarette you have a cup of coffee instead -- that could be a really bad move! I just resumed drinking coffee at about my normal level.

Keep it up

As Allen Carr points out, there is no such thing as "just one cigarette". I know this to be true from bitter experience. Actually, I did bum one cigarette in the first week, and it just made my stomach feel sick. If I'd had another one, I would have started getting used to them again, but fortunately I stopped myself. I've done the hardest part already! I'm not going to put myself through that again, not for a lousy cigarette!

So...

Playing the caffeine and nicotine addictions off against each other really did seem to help me. Since those first 3 days, there have been maybe 2 times I've really craved a cigarette, both in the first week, and only for a few moments. I haven't used my nicotine gum. I do still have a packet of mints handy, but I'm not over-indulging those. And I'm not drinking any more coffee than I was before I stopped smoking; if anything it's rather less.

I don't know if it works for everyone, but it's got to be worth a try! Let me know how you get on.