How I stopped smoking …as soon as I found my INFALLIBLE method
Obviously I discovered my infallible method for giving up smoking only after many years of hesitation in which I ended up starting over again with much satisfaction and a lot of guilt. In the end I found a ”recipe” that gave me the necessary motivation and not suffer too much while not having to give up the enjoyment (the act of smoking), that for so many years had given me hours of pleasure, together with a continuous cough, chronic bronchitis, sinusitis and a continuous stink on my clothes. I said goodbye to all of this – I started to breathe!
Breathe, steady, go!
Wouldn’t it be great if it were so easy uh? And yet starting to breathe was the main change of mentality that allowed me to stop smoking and at the same time start to feel good, rather than suffer for having deprived myself of one of life’s pleasures. Delighting in every breath allows you to comprehend that the real pleasure is in… breathing. So if you find this conversation interesting, think about it for a second…
air enters your lungs, the very air of the place you’re in, and goes out taking with it some of the stink left from your last cigarette. For how much longer will my lungs be so dirty? Also the air I’m breathing in isn’t exactly pure and clean itself.
Maybe you don’t realise, but you’ve already taken the first step. If you’re anything like me, you’ve taken this first step many times, you swore you’d stop smoking, then at a certain point you started again and you don’t really know why. You blamed stress, or exams, maybe just life, or you told yourself you liked it too much. But this time it could be different, this time you could enjoy every clean breath even though the first ones after a cigarette aren’t actually that clean.
And when friends or colleagues will ask you amazed “what are you doing? won’t you come out with us for a smoke?” you’ll be able to avoid that sad face typical of who says “no… you go guys… I’ve given up” or worse “no thank you, I’m trying to stop…“.
rather smile and say happily: “no thank you, I’ve started breathing“. Some will observe you amazed, others may be annoyed, you may even be asked what you mean… and this is the most important part. Knowing that that phase of your life when you were always in company of your cigarettes is gone forever and that a new part of your life has started. As long as you think only about what you’ve lost from your life, you won’t realise what you have actually started doing and what you have gained. To understanding this change of mentality the next point is important:
Find one good reason
At this point you need to find one reason that’s really important to you; you don’t need two or three reasons, just a good one. If you find yourself in difficulty and feel the need to smoke, think about why you’re doing it, think about your reason… if you do light up that cigarette, the next time change the reason or consider it more deeply. I, for instance, like to sing, and I noticed that as a smoker it was almost impossible for me to ”catch” certain high notes, my throat was always tired and made me suffer a lot. What could your motivation be? Health? Pregnancy? Weight control? (it’s not true that stopping smoking always makes you put on weight). It doesn’t have to be a reason of worldly importance, it just has to be important to you. If you’re interested, ask me, I’ve written a list of common good reasons that can be useful if you want to stop smoking on your own.
The desire to smoke is a very heavy chain to bear and it can only be broken if you have a good reason to do so… and the strength to believe it. <Believing in your personal reason and having willpower are two different things, don’t confuse the two.> You’ll be needing this important reason in the difficult moments, those in which the desire ”calls” hard. You could think “I’ll put off this desire… later I’ll be rewarded”.
For example, if your mouth isn’t stuffy with the taste of smoke you’ll start to enjoy more what you eat, be it sweet or sour. Flavours will become more delicate, and you’ll taste them all! Not only the strong ones (and I suspect this is the reason some people put on weight when they stop smoking… they substitute one pleasure for another), so watch out. <This reason could also be important for you too… or is it more probable for a professional chef who has dedicated his life to flavour and taste?>
Shall we recap?
- start breathing (or grasp what it means)
- find yourself an important reason
and three… in my case it was finding a friend with whom to share the adventure of giving up smoking. This was huge luck, also because I often shared with Antonio a smoke on the office balcony, so we also shared for a long time one same moment of pleasure; the cigarette after mid-morning coffee.
We also sing in the same choir (of Fonni), and one day we both noticed how hard it was for us to reach certain notes and we realised how much we were blocked by smoking. Almost joking we asked each other “what should we do? stop smoking?” We always saw it as plural, and during the darkest moments we were there for each other. Once in a while I asked Antonio “what do you say Anto, shall we have a smoke?” and he answered “no! be strong, you’ll be rewarded!“.
If you don’t have a real life friend out there, maybe you’ll have to find him ”inside yourself”.
Obviously I also read some books along the way, from ” stopping smoking is easy if you know how” to ”lessons on breathing” (although after many years, a “not-doing” theory is still my practical and spiritual guide). And in the end, I just thought that this renowned life’s pleasure was something I’d already tried… for many years.
Maybe it’s about time to start a new pleasure? Difficult without doubt at the beginning… but with much more real satisfaction after the first few weeks.
The benefits you’d have if you stopped smoking… NOW.
- after 20 minutes your blood pressure returns to a normal rhythm
- You could watch a film? Work? Read a book… take a walk?
- after 8 hours the carbon monoxide in your blood will be reduced by 50% and oxygen levels will be back to normal.
- this is one of the most difficult moments, considering often a cigarette can be smoked every half an hour… are you ready for this challenge? This is when the need ”bites” hardest.
- after 12 hours… the carbon monoxide has practically disappeared from your blood circulation.
- You’ve reached your first goal and maybe you’ve started to notice some perfume in the air… (I was living in Sardinia and I could definitely smell the wonderful perfume of the flowers!)
- after 24 hours: your lungs have started their long cleaning process and the probability you could have a heart attack is already less…
- well done, there is hope! One day has passed and it’s time to bring out the heavy artillery… remember your important reason and hold it tight! Use the time you would have employed to smoke a cigarette to think about how to reach your goal, or do something!
- after 2 days: the senses of smell and taste are on the right track to becoming normal again. Also, by now most of the nicotine has been eliminated from your body. Your physical dependency is over, now to face the psychological one.
- Is it time to celebrate? Maybe a nice dinner out? Or maybe it’s time to reflect…more time passes and the further you are from hardship… think about it, one day it will be easier than this.
- after 3 days: your bronchial tubs are starting to clean up, breathing becomes easier.
- You’ll also get back that long gone energy .. how many great things could you do, maybe stay out later in the evening?
- after 2 weeks: your circulation is better, as is your breathing. You clearly feel how the benefits you had in the first days were just the beginning.
- after 6-9 months: the smoker’s cough has practically disappeared and your lungs have already gained back about 10% of their capacity. You don’t need to blow your nose every few minutes any more and you have drastically reduced the probablity of getting sick, from flu or similar illnesses.
- after 1 year: you have halved the risk of having a heart attack.
- after 5 years: the risk of having a heart attack is the same as a non smoker.
- after 10 years: the risk of lung cancer is half that of a smoker.
Generally speaking, I think that to stop smoking is one of the greatest and bravest actions one can make in a lifetime. Cutting the chains of an addiction can be painful in the beginning, but soon you’ll be able to smell how wonderful clean air can be and you may even find that living in a large town or city or being near heavy smokers is extremely irritating… but who cares! Seeing them in the prison of their self inflicted commitment makes your understanding of that part of your life in which you were tied to self inflicted punishment and bad health even more rewarding.
Since I stopped, I’ve smoked at least 2 cigarettes
So did I have my last cigarette that day of July in 2007? No. Just like Zeno Cosini, the last cigarette is never alone. A year later, I don’t remember exactly when, without even particularly wanting it I was curious to see what it would be like to smoke again so I took a few drags from a borrowed cigarette; it was disgusting.
In 2009, the fact that my girlfriend still smoked irritated me so much that out of desperation I took one from her packet one day and told her that if she continued to smoke I would start again. I lit it up and took a few drags. She watched me horrified and the day after decided to give up too. Today (writing in 2013), she’s the mother of my daughter and the woman I love.
In 2011 I was on the balcony of a new office in Milano and I accompanied a colleague who had gone out to smoke. It was a beautiful day and watching him enjoy his cigarette in the sunshine brought back the long dormant desire. I said , “I just might smoke one today” he answered ”do you want one?” I said ”yes” He looked me in the eyes and said “No. l won’t give you one. Be strong, you can do it“. Fabio, that day, was a real friend.
So basically, I do think there can be exceptions to the rule, but your reason has got to be good otherwise with the excuse of the exception it’s too easy to start again, especially if you don’t have a ”strong” friend at your side like Antonio and Fabio have been to me.
Thinking back about my experience and the ups and downs that lead to me stop smoking, I realised that sometimes a good reason alone isn’t enough. A combination of circumstances are often necessary to ”support” this reason, that alone may be weak, no matter how significant.
Among these ”things” there could be the right book, the right place, the right persons. I wish you luck, not only in finding the right reason, but also in finding the right context of people and places in which to consolidate your decision.
Reducing the cigarettes
Reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke can also be a good start although obviously it’s not the same thing as actually stopping. Reducing helps you to understand which of the smokes you take during the day are ”useless’, taken because of boredom or influenced by the situation. Even while you’re still smoking you can understand how strong are the chains we accept upon ourselves, you can feel how your lungs suffer and how your body does too. I had managed to get down to one cigarette a day, and I continued like that for years. The so-called ”real” smokers used to tease me, but I continued in my choice, spending very little money and convinced that I was enjoying my small pleasure and all seemed well for quite a while. The truth is though that even with only one cigarette a day I still had chronic bronchitis, sinusitis and the stink up my nose, and and all the very negative effects of smoking remained. Even when we reduce the amount we smoke, we still have to keep in mind our real objective; starting to truly breathe.
Friends of cigarettes (and joints)
I think that one of the fundamental steps to start to understand what was happening to me and what I’d got into was realising that the friendships formed around the ritual of smoking, exactly like the friendships formed around sharing a joint, were weak friendships, destined to blow away at the first gust of wind. I realised completely that all of those friends linked to rituals were not mine, but friends of the rituals themselves, and if I weren’t there they would be continued nevertheless with someone else. This role of interchangeable friend was useful to me to comprehend what I didn’t want in my life. I didn’t want interchangeable friends or collective suicide habits masked as a modern habit, because that is what smoking is.
A commercial addiction
The fashion of smoking comes from exclusively commercial origins. What today is considered the last of the dangerous pleasures is only one of the pleasures invented by advertising and pushed by force into our subconscious. Watching stars smoking in movies, beautiful women on the brink of a nervous breakdown or adventurous cowboys have all etched into our brains that smoking is cool, that it’s an expensive luxury, that it gives courage, that it is forever tied to our hardest moments as it is to the happy ones. This is the first myth to be busted, seeing as giving up smoking on our own nowadays, in a context where everyone goes out for a cigarette, is stating we are different. That we can make our own decisions even if all the others still consider it a pleasure. Lets start by being honest with ourselves: there is no valid reason to continue smoking. We can keep all the same old habits (like going outside with our smoking friends), we can just chat, or stand by and watch them harm themselves waiting in silence that they too realise what they’re doing.
Fat and phlegm
When we stop smoking we put on weight, it’s true. It happened to me too. I read that smoking causes many side effects in the body and that even the intestine’s capability to absorb food is compromised. When we eliminate cigarettes, the body starts a long cleansing process that lasts years. During this cleansing process we retrieve some of the lost intestinal flora, our circulation improves, our lungs need to clear out the accumulated filth from all those cigarettes and in the beginning the phlegm will increase. Due to the improvement of the intestine’s absorption, if you eat the same amount of food it’s probable you may put on a little weight, especially if you substitute the desire to smoke with the desire to eat (it happens often because the taste and smell of food become much better in very little time). Eating a little more without increasing physical activity will no doubt add a few pounds.
The habits that cloud our lives
Life can be very hard, and understanding by ourselves why we are born and what is our potential is equally difficult. This may seem a subject that has nothing to do with the bad habit we’re talking about today, yet if we try to understand which could be our last cigarette, it can be useful to go back to the beginning, the day of our first cigarette. Do you then remember what made you smoke the second? Or the third? Do you remember the moment when you lost count? At some point, almost by chance, we had discovered a silent companion that gave us the sensation of being adults, independent, brave (maybe because we were smoking behind people’s backs), and after a few months we even realised we’d lost that extra weight as if by magic. What a friend we had found in smoking! And maybe years have passed since then and everything seemed normal, and we started to think that this was our life, us and smoking, two friends who never put their friendship into discussion.
It seems so difficult to truly stop smoking because after so many years it has become an essential companion. The substances released by the tobacco mix with the brain’s normality, It begins to feel sensations of well-being on command and it all seems perfect. The force of habit acts like cement between the bricks and facing the addiction becomes having to face what we are.
By starting to smoke, we have, without realising it, put a great big obstacle between ourselves and our goals. The role smoking takes on in our lives becomes ”central” because cigarettes contain all the perfect substances that go to create a radical and intense addiction… right when those same substances are giving us a small instant of satisfaction. Therefore the brain also is satisfied with the little pleasure of smoking and puts off the more important goals in life. Faced with engaging work we mentally ”switch off” when searching for cigarette support. We end up working on our goals in the free time between a cigarette and the other, continually blocked by the desire to smoke that interrupts our mental processes.
Now matter how strong one may feel, any person with a cigarette in their hand is hiding a deeply rooted weakness that was part of their personality before they started smoking. There are many scientific publications that testify to the bi-directional link between individuals vulnerable to depression that become smokers and vice versa, smokers that become depressed when they stop. If you know you have a tendency for depression (and inside yourself you know it, even if no doctor has ever diagnosed it), then finding a dear friend to be by your side during your trial can be very important. ( and by ”dear” I don’t only mean the psychologist’s bill but also someone from the family!).
I smoked my first cigarette with Mauro, my second to last one with Antonio and my last with the woman I love. Today, many years have passed since my last cigarette yet if think about it, that ”unresolved” question inside me is still screaming for attention. I don’t need to cover my ears while smoking any more, but I want to try and help others with my same problem by writing this text. I speak about these things with whoever wants to listen to what may seem like a confession, about my intimate desires, my goals in life, and the more I look inside myself and in those who want to tell me about their lives, and more I feel I’m on the tip of a submerged iceberg.
But I… suffer!
You know what? You don’t suffer because you miss the cigarettes… to be honest we all suffer for something else. Deep emotions that are merely touched and pushed aside by the cigarettes. The addiction to nicotine is a mischievous beast, who pretends to help us, offers distractions for painful and stressful thoughts, gives us the illusion that our problems can be put aside until ”after the cigarette”. And yet, that problem would be even easier to resolve with a clear mind… and with clean lungs and toxin-free blood!
A real smoker or something better?
When, during an illuminated phase of my life as a smoker, I managed to get down to just one cigarette a day, I totally ”enjoyed” it. It was a happy moment and I would wait for it for hours. I managed to put off all the useless cigarettes (smoked through boredom, stress, with a coffee, etc), and I passed directly to the evening smoke. When I told my smoker friends about it there was always someone who said ”oh, you’re clearly not a real smoker, lucky you”. Obviously they had a precise mental image of the exact role and actions a real smoker should have. They considered themselves real smokers, I suppose. I don’t know if this symbolic status can be acquired with the classic one packet a day or if just 10 a day can be considered enough. What is certain is that I felt judged and excluded by these people, it upset me, and I tried reminding them that for a whole year I too had been smoking two packets a day. At that point something in their expressions changed, they became curious or disappointed, basically they didn’t understand. What was I? A real smoker? A lucky smoker? Or was I someone already on the way to giving up smoking?
In order to understand if an obstacle is within their grasp, people need to be able to empathise. When I stated that I was happy with one cigarette a day, rather than admit it could be possible (so possible for them too), they invented the mythological figure ‘the real smoker”. Someone who’s destiny is dramatically tied to cigarettes as though by a law of Nature itself. Let me for a moment lower the quality of this page by saying… total bullshit. The real smoker doesn’t exist, a divine law that ties you forever to cigarettes doesn’t exist and above all, there is no human desire that cannot be won over by another desire. In our case, maybe the desire to live will become stronger than the desire to die. Nothing to be ashamed of, it happens.
All of this is normal, within the battle between pleasure and suffering, sooner or later pleasure will win. Therefore, when I realised, and felt, how much pleasure there was in breathing with clean lungs, and when I realised that this need in my life to breathe was greater and more mysterious than I had expected, I understood that in order to reach my goal I could go beyond one single cigarette a day. I could reach zero and simply breathe. Then I discovered that the word ”spirit” derives from the latin ”spiritus” that means ”breath or vital spirit”. By finding my breath, would my spirit also find a greater will to live?
I believe that somewhere in a smoker’s head there is this acknowledgement: I am a smoker. This acknowledgement can arrive in any moment of our lives, and it goes deep like a seed that grows roots.
Do you want to start… now?
If you just need any old excuse, the most simple… to start breathing, I can give you one. The best one is ”what have I got to lose?” Nothing. The most important question however, is ”what will I gain?” The answer can only arrive if you try, one breath after another. You will soon not be satisfied with almost clean lungs, you’ll want them super clean. You may feel the need for trees, for fresh clean air… not easy to be found in the city!
Well, this guide to giving up smoking ends here. As you will see, it’s different from the others because it’s free and I published it without asking for anything in return. I wrote it with passion, trying to be helpful to people with the problem I had many years ago. I won’t force anyone to pay with slogans like ”satisfied or money back”, because your satisfaction depends on one person alone… you!