I started smoking at the age of 18. Over the years, I tried quitting many times, but nothing worked. This is what I did to quit for good.
How it begins
Like many others, I started smoking at a young age. I was 18, and I was away at college. I could say I started smoking out of curiosity, but it was also because I wanted to be cool. My friends at the time were doing it—so that led me to wonder, "why not?" I started smoking regularly with my friends, and I didn't quit until many years later. It was a long journey, but I was ready.
Before I actually quit smoking for good, I had tried quitting many times already. I tried different methods: cold turkey, smoking cessation products, and guides I found online. None of these things worked. I was in college and having the time of my life, and it wasn't the "time" for me to quit. I wasn't in the right mindset to give up cigarettes. I put off attempting to quit smoking until my life changed enough where I was in the right mindset to quit for good.
That life-changing moment came when I met a girl named Deanna. We were together for close to five years, before we eventually broke up for other reasons. During our time together, she donated a kidney to save another person's life. She ended up going through the transplant as a smoker. After the transplant was done, she never picked up a cigarette again. She said she didn't have cravings for them anymore. Because we were living together at the time, I was forced to make a choice between continuing to smoke and possibly losing her as my girlfriend, or trying to quit. That is where my journey toward successfully quitting began. We aren't together anymore, but I live a happy and healthy life because of her.
If you are in the right mindset, and you feel that now is the time in your life to quit smoking, then let us begin this journey together. I have outlined the steps to quit, and I explain in detail the hard truth of what you have to understand to be able to do it successfully.
Understand that "quit smoking" products don't work
There are many different "quit smoking" products out there, and I've tried most of them. The truth about these products is that they don't really work. They don't work not because of what they are designed to do, but because with most of these products you are still simulating the act of smoking. Let's take the nicotine patch for instance. You use the patch, and it supposedly gives you a steady flow of nicotine so that you can cut down on smoking. Those companies bank on the image that the less cigarettes you smoke, the easier it will be to quit.
The real truth is that while smoking is an addiction, you are just as much (if not more) addicted to the action of smoking than you are to the nicotine and chemicals in the cigarettes. The nicotine patch does not help you quit the action of smoking, therefore you never really learn to stop.
E-Cigarettes bank on the image that there are no chemicals and you still get nicotine from them. The real truth about this, is that you are not only addicted to nicotine, but you are addicted to the 100+ chemicals in the cigarette. If you switch to the E-cig, you will get nicotine from it, but you won't be getting the other addicting chemicals that are in cigarettes. Eventually you will end up back at where you started smoking regular cigarettes, and having a useless electronic smoking device. E-cigs do not help you quit the action of smoking, therefore you are continuing to do the same action you've done for years.
Understand that your friends can't help you quit
The biggest mistake people make is thinking that if their friends quit with them, it will make things easier. Any friend you have that smokes, is not someone you want helping you try to quit. Leave them behind on this journey, they can't come with you. Quitting smoking is very hard to do, and the biggest challenge for you will be to make it to the end of the road without faltering. If your friend isn't as strong as you are, and is not in the right mindset to quit, they will use you as a crutch to lean on which will bring you down. They will end up breaking, and when they break, so will you. It may be hard to understand this, but you can't trust your friend to want to quit as much as you want to. If your friends don't have the desire or the will power from the beginning, then you've already lost. Leave them behind. If this was the zombie apocalypse, act as if they've already been bitten. Continue running and don't look back.
This journey will affect your friendship with your friends who smoke. In my experience, the friends that I had who smoked never really understood what I was trying to do. I tried to explain it to them but they just couldn't grasp the concept of these steps to quit smoking. They couldn't understand why I was willing to let them go as friends if they didn't give me the space I needed. They may be some of the best people you have met in your life, but if you want to quit, then you have to be willing to stay away from them during this time. You can still talk to your friends over the phone, but you will need to avoid physical contact with them at all costs.
When I was first starting this process of trying to quit, I would spend time with my friends. We would hang out like we normally would, and eventually we would end up outside where one of them was going to light up. Of course at that time I wasn't reaching for any smokes out of my pocket because I was trying to quit. When your friend realizes that you may not have any cigarettes with you, they most likely will offer you one. Many times I failed myself because I reached out and took the cigarette. Peer pressure, or whatever you want to call it came over me. You have to make it a mission to avoid that scenario.
Even when you tell your friends that you are trying to quit, they say something like "Oh yeah I tried that before but I wasn't able to do it.", or something similar to that. Even though you just told them you are trying to quit, they will still light up right in front of you. Most of them won't be considerate enough to walk away from you or hold off on smoking until you are gone. The reality is that they don't care that you are trying to quit. Their method of thinking is that if they tried and failed, you will try and fail; so in their mind, they are thinking that you shouldn't even bother trying to quit.
Understand that your social life has to be put on hold
You will need to decrease your social interaction from people during this time. If you are someone that likes going to clubs and bars on a weekly basis, you'll need to find other activities to do. Avoid bars, clubs, or any atmosphere where there could potentially be smokers and alcohol. Granted, you won't be able to do this everywhere you go.
I used to be big into clubs and bars, so I just stopped going. I didn't really know how to cook very well, so I started a project on learning how to cook. This kept me busy, and it kept me indoors away from people. Sure, I was sacrificing social interaction, but I was also staying away from people who smoke, or my friends who could lead me astray.
Understand that exercise is necessary
Since you are on this road to quitting, you will need plenty of exercise. Your routine should include a lot of cardiovascular exercises such as running, swimming, biking or using the elliptical. Weightlifting isn't going to have an effect as much as cardiovascular will. Sure you will regain some of that strength you may have lost, but the key is doing enough cardiovascular exercises so you sweat out the nicotine and the many other chemicals already in your bloodstream. This will also help get your lungs pumping.
Imagine yourself holding a balloon filled with smoke, and you are holding it tight so that the smoke can't escape. Imagine that you loosened your grip from the balloon just a little bit. Some of the smoke filled air would eventually escape the balloon and potentially replace itself with cleaner air from outside. That is what you are doing with exercise. You are increasing your heart rate on a daily basis to get your blood pumping so that you can push out the chemicals, nicotine, and smoke from within your body.
Understand that you need to avoid the "big three"
There are three different times that people crave cigarettes the most. You will want to try and avoid all three of them. The first one is when drinking alcohol. For some reason alcohol and cigarettes go together. If you start drinking during this process, your cravings are going to become irresistible, and you'll most likely break down and start smoking. Throw away any alcohol you have before you begin this journey. As I said earlier, try to avoid bars and similar settings.
The second biggest craving that people have is after they eat a big meal. Avoid stuffing yourself by eating too much. Don't eat at any buffets! When you are at that point when you are starting to get full, stop eating! If you stuff yourself full, you'll then start having cravings. Try to avoid foods that fill you up and take a long time to digest. Breads, starches, potatoes, etc.
The third biggest craving comes from sexual intercourse. Now I'll be honest, I didn't exactly avoid this one, but for the first week or two I became celibate. If you can hold off for 1-2 weeks at the beginning, that will help tremendously. I can understand this might be more difficult than avoiding alcohol for some people. I never said quitting smoking would be easy.
Understand that after you quit, you will still crave cigarettes
It's been years since I've quit smoking, but even to this day I still want to smoke a cigarette. Once you quit you won't ever be the same again. Every time you do one of the "big three's", you'll still have a small craving. It's not enough to make you want to smoke, but it's just enough to make you think about having one. Every time I think about a cigarette, I think about all the sacrifices I had to make to actually quit. My craving for one goes away after that.
Pre-Game: Join a gym three months prior to quitting
Prior to quitting smoking, you'll want to join a gym of some kind. For three months, your objective is to start going to the gym 3-4 times a week. Your workout will need to consist of mostly cardiovascular workouts. You can throw in some weights if you want to bulk up, but as I explained earlier, the key to quitting is through cardiovascular exercises. You are still a smoker at this point. We haven't gotten to the quitting part yet. You are mainly "prepping" your body to handle the intense cardiovascular days after you quit.
If you are currently going to the gym, and your workout consists of cardiovascular, then you can skip this step and continue on to the next step in the process.
The journey begins: Quit on Friday Night
The end of the week is now here, and it's finally time to quit smoking. Friday night before you go to bed, throw out every pack of cigarettes you have. Make sure they are not in the vicinity of where you are. You may ask what is so significant about a Friday? The answer is simple: the weekend. Most people don't have time to smoke during the week days due to work, so the weekend is where you do most of your smoking. This is the perfect time to quit smoking because by the time you actually get really bad cravings, (which usually is 2-4 days after you quit) you're going to be at work Monday and Tuesday with limited access to smoke anyway.
Friday night, you'll want to make sure you do not go out to any social settings. You don't want to chain smoke the night before you quit. That will just make the cravings worse.
Day 1/2: Saturday and Sunday
The key to the weekend is doing lots of exercise. This is your chance to get your blood pumping and sweat out the toxins in your body before you start to have really bad cravings on Monday and Tuesday. You're going to have cravings throughout the day, but they shouldn't be bad enough that it will make you go buy a pack right away.
Eat a decent breakfast, and then start your day by going to the gym. Do cardiovascular as much as you can. If you have a friend that doesn't smoke, you could ask them to come with you for company. Once you are done with some cardiovascular exercises at the gym, try going hiking or biking. Both are good exercise and will keep you busy. They will also keep you sweating out the toxins. Keep active the entire day and make sure to keep hydrated. Drink lots of water.
Try to do at least five hours of cardiovascular exercises on Saturday and Sunday. The more cardiovascular you do the better off you will be. You are essentially "overdosing" your body on cardiovascular exercise which will cause your body to sweat and breathe out the toxins in your body at an abnormal rate.
After you are done with exercising, you shouldn't want to smoke at all. This can vary depending on the person however. Make sure to keep yourself busy for the rest of the day at home. Keeping yourself busy is the key to not smoking. Find a project or craft that you like to do and go home and do it. If you like video games, play them! Don't stay outside where you are prone to bumming a cigarette from someone. If you even smell cigarette smoke, that's going to wake up the cravings.
Day 3/4: Monday and Tuesday
These two days are going to be the hardest days to get through. Since you will most likely be at work, you won't have much time to smoke and you should be busy for at least eight or nine hours of the day. After you get off of work, go straight to the gym and do more cardio exercise. Only spend one hour at the gym. Don't do more than that because you need to let your body rest from the weekend. You do not want to skip going to the gym and doing your exercises because your body still isn't rid of the toxins yet. Exercising will keep most people from smoking. After the gym, go home and keep yourself busy again. Repeat the same process on Tuesday.
Day 5/6: Wednesday and Thursday
If you made it to Wednesday without smoking, then you are on the right track. You still may have some cravings, but I promise you, you're almost through the worst cravings you'll ever have again. Go to the gym after work, and still only do one hour of cardiovascular. Go home and again, keep yourself busy. You are very close to a healthy life.
By Thursday you may still have some cravings, but you will most likely be very tired from all of the exercising you are doing. Go to the gym after work, but this time only do 20-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercises. After the gym, go home and stay smoke free.
Day 7: Friday
On Friday you won't be going to the gym after work. This is your rest day. You will need a day for your body to rest after all of the cardiovascular exercises you have been doing the entire week. You will want to take it easy the entire day and make sure you get lots of rest in the evening.
Day 8/9: Saturday, Sunday and beyond
On Saturday and Sunday, you are going to spend another weekend doing cardiovascular exercises. If you went biking last weekend, perhaps this time go hiking up a mountain. You can also go swimming, or try running at a park.
Try to do at least three hours of cardiovascular exercises on Saturday and Sunday.
By Sunday evening, your system should be pretty clean of the toxins that were in your body from cigarettes. Your cravings should have lessened by now, and you are on your way to starting a healthy life. Make sure that you keep yourself busy, and keep going to the gym. You haven't quit 100 hundred percent yet, but you are well on your way. If you made it this far, you should have the willpower to take yourself the rest of the way.
Make sure that you don't go back to your old lifestyle after you make it this far. You are still getting used to the fact that you aren't smoking anymore. As the weeks go by, and you make it further and further without smoking, you'll have to decide when the time is right to re-socialize yourself with your friends, and continue your normal lifestyle again. Cigarette smoke will smell different to you, and if it smells terrible, you'll realize that's what you smelled like while you were a smoker. Perhaps that alone will keep you from smoking again, but I wish you the best of luck on your journey to a healthier life.
Final thoughts: The cold hard truth
I never said quitting smoking would be easy but if you are able to follow my advice, it will help you to quit. However, there is one thing that you must realize before starting this journey towards a healthy life: If you don't want to quit, you won't. If you don't quit, you will pass away many years before your natural time. Smoking causes cancer. Cancer equals death. That's the cold hard truth. Be the change in your life so that you may live to see your kids grow up, or don't change it at all until it's time for you to fade away. By then though, it's already going to be too late for you.
I can understand if some people out there may not want to follow my extreme advice. It may be hard for some to sacrifice their friends, give up the things they like doing in their life, and overload their body on cardiovascular exercises. Some people may think that they are sacrificing too much time in their life to be able to do this. The one thing you'll want to understand is that you aren't giving up time, you're gaining it back. You are gaining back the time that was otherwise lost to you had you kept smoking. If there is just one person out there who follows the advice in this article, and is able to quit smoking from it; then you could say that this article helped them save more time in their life. In my mind, that's worth every second that it took me to write it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
RD on September 04, 2017:
Thank you for the article. I read it twice and was helpful. I'm at the 9 day point and feel so much better.
Iona on September 10, 2014:
I'm a 19 year old smoker and I've been smoking for 3 years. Just joined a gym today and found this. I've quit for 3months before but it's the social pressure and the 'why not' that brings me back to smoking. This was a really helpful article and I like that it is 'real' it's not perfect but quitting smoking shouldn't be portrayed that way, because it is hard.
Thank you for writing this article!
Great Article on September 07, 2012:
I have quit smoking for 3 months and 3 days. I also quit cold turkey (while suffering from a case of the flu).
I don't have much to add as the author of the article encompassed most of the issues I faced during the process, however, there are a few differences in our stories.
One, I did not avoid alcohol or other smokers. My best friends are smokers and regular drinkers and I felt it would be very important to face that demon early on and often. With the support of MOST of my friends this transition was not too difficult. I have managed to reduce my overall alcohol intake and at the same time I did unfortunately have to shorten the number of people on my friends list also.
Secondly, I love food and I love a big meal on occasion. While I was willing to give up my little buddies after 28 years I was not willing to alter the way I ate when I first quit smoking. I still enjoy eating and I have learned to deal with the expected cigarette craving that comes after a healthy sized meal (on one of my cheat days).
Lastly, I have begun an exercise routine in conjunction with a change in my meal portioning. I began a program called Body for Life and it has been very helpful. Maybe not for everyone but it was an effective way for me eat and exercise while maintaining my sanity. I don't follow the diet to a tee but I do take advantage of the overall premise.
I still crave cigarettes on occasion and I expect I probably will until the day I die, however, I have a least given myself a fighting chance to live a longer life with those I love and those that love me.
Good luck to all.