10 Things You Wish Someone Told You About Quitting Smoking

My quit smoking attempt started as a joke, but then I decided to go all-in. Here’s what I learned.
by John Percy | Sunday, May 19, 2024

Photo Credit: John Percy, 2021

When I decided to quit smoking, I did so in a very public manner. A dozen people or so, all of them my colleagues and smokers, watched me proudly throw away a pack of Marlboros I’d bought in the morning.

As someone who enjoys a certain amount of public ridicule, I proudly accepted the challenge of my boss to quit smoking just so that I could grow a quit-smoking beard.

What started as a joke a year ago turned into something no one — including myself — expected. Not only did I manage to stop smoking (and grow a beard), but I haven’t had a cigarette since that day.

In any event, if you want to stop smoking, here are a couple of things to keep in mind before you finally quit the nicotine fix.

1. The first week is the most challenging

Once you’re off cigarettes for just one week, the cravings go way down.

It’s not that you’ll never have a craving, but if you can make it through the first week, you’ll start to realize you have more capacity to withstand the yoke of addiction than you ever knew before.

Breathe deep. Smile.

Make it one week, and it’s all pretty much gravy after that.

You’ve got this.

2. Being active is everything

Walking is good. Running is better.

A proper jog can, at times, feel like it’s ripping your heart out. But that actually is a good thing.

When you’re forced to say, “Welp, at least I can still breathe.” This will inspire you.

Throwing out your pack is one of the best things you’ll ever do, but quitting becomes even better after you’ve hit a few major milestones.

These can be anything from just walking for an hour to running your first 5K.

3. Find yourself a quit buddy

If you can socialize with people who are quitting smoking too, even for just 5 minutes a day, you’ll be so much better than if you do it alone.

If you know someone trying to quit, ask them if they would like someone to talk to.

Just don’t try to set them up with someone else. It doesn’t work like that.

4. Do not, under any circumstances, let your goal keep you from enjoying life

If you do, you will fail.

Smoking works just like any other addiction. It is something people mostly do to make themselves feel better.

That’s why being miserable after you quit smoking is a straight road to relapse.

So do your best to enjoy life. A nice walk outside on a sunny day, a “special occasion” that involves a bubble bath, or a conversation with a long-lost friend on the phone will boost your mood.

If you feel as if you’re isolating yourself from social events because you’ve stopped smoking, your job is to correct the behavior.

Live a smoke-free life but don’t hide from life itself.

5. Understand your “why” to prepare for bad days

If you ever find yourself on the side of the road, having an existential crisis and wishing to smoke a cigarette, better have some answers prepared in advance.

Yes, you will get stressed out, and you will certainly get to experience some bad days. Everyone gets to.

Understand the reasons why you’ve quit and why you don’t want to be a smoker anymore now, and you will make better choices in the future.

6. Treat yourself to something nice

There is nothing in this world that cannot be improved upon with the right kind of chocolate.

Whether it’s a box of Godiva in a pretty red box or an original Whitman’s Sampler from a conveniently located Walgreens, quitting smoking is always better with a nice little chocolate treat.

You hear?

7. You will not pass go

Once you decide to quit smoking, you are not allowed to give yourself even one more cigarette.

Because you are doing this for yourself.

And so, you won’t pass go.

You won’t collect $200. You won’t win any free board games. You will not redeem any frequent flyer miles.

You will not get a prize, because you’re the only one who could give yourself that prize.

It’s all up to you.

8. There has never been a better time to quit smoking

That’s right. Your life will probably never be easier than it is right now.

The good news is, the things you think are so awful about quitting smoking are not terrible at all.

You’ll just look back on them as comedic memes that happened to you.

You’ll laugh.

You’ll smile.

You’ll maybe even cry, but not because you’ll miss smoking, but because it’s just so good to be free.

9. One less cigarette is one more victory

And when you get to one month smoke-free, you’ll be able to go anywhere with this one.

You’ll have more courage and more self-esteem to achieve new things in life.

You’ll be proud of yourself, and so will be the people around you.

Just stay away from that smoke-free anniversary cake kind of thing. That stuff is cheesy.

10. You’ll be fine, and it will be fine

You may quit smoking on a whim or on a #NewYearsResolution. And the whole thing might be a bit more challenging than you foresaw.

But make it a solid week, and you’ll start to feel yourself coming out the other side.

This is not about beating addiction. This is not about eliminating an undeniable carcinogen from your body.

This is simply about surviving during a time when you feel a bit off.

A year from now, you’ll be telling the same people, the ones that laughed at your futile attempt to quit smoking, “Remember when I told you I’d quit? That was real.”

Extra tip

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