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I recently received an email from a woman in Georgia who wrote me about her experience in quitting. I offer it here with her permission because it describes the experience of addiction and quitting in a way that I think will be helpful to everyone on the long road to recovery. click

Below that is a question and answer with a woman who asks about a loved one who is addicted to tobacco and ideas on how to respond. click

 


HI! Thanks for your site.

Today makes my 9th day of being smoke free.

This time has been the easiest to quit (albeit still VERY difficult) and I want to share my journey to quitting and ask if how I am doing it this time (COLD TURKEY) is what is making it easier for me physically and mentally this time.

I am a 41 year old female and I started smoking regularly at 16. At 25 I became pregnant, and after five months of agonizingly trying to cut down to be able to quit, (which cutting back never worked), I finally put them down out of pure guilt of being caught sneaking around to smoke by my non smoking husband, while carrying our first child.

I was able to stay off of cigarettes for the next 5 years, giving birth to another son within a year and a half of our first. My first child weighed 8.5 lbs (very fussy), and my second 9.5lbs. (Very happy) I think the smoking during half of my pregnancy with the first child made him a very fussy baby.

A few years later, my brother moved in with us, I set him up downstairs.

Every morning the cigarette smoke would rise up through our bedroom vent while the coffee was brewing. After a few months of this, one day I had a really stressful day at work, and asked my brother for a cigarette. "JUST GIMME ONE OF THOSE!"

I smoked it, got a huge buzz as always the first one gives you, and I was hooked again, just like that.

One was all it took.

Over the next few days I was smoking his butts he left around, (disgusting I know but, the urge was overwhelming) and finally I succumbed to buying a pack within a few days, and within 2 weeks, I was right back to buying the cartons again and back up to a pack, to sometimes, while drinking, 2 packs a day, for another TEN years!!

All the while hating that I started back and feeling like a real idiot, but never feeling like I had the strength to quit again, ignoring the wishes of people who love me and wanted me to quit, saying to them, "You just don't understand how hard it is, I have tried, and I just can't do it, and no, I don't want to try again right now."

I would always say to myself and family, "when I get over this stress, or that hump, I will quit again," but there was always something really stressful going on in my life.

I did try to quit a few times during that ten years.

I tried the Habitrol patches that the VA gave me (I spent six years in the Navy after high school), several different times, but I would always go back to the cigarettes even after a month of quitting, and still wearing the patch while I lit up again after that month.

Then that familiar buzz of the first cigarette, and BAM! No more patches, and back to the store I went for another pack...and the cycle begins again.

I tried all the different pills...anti-depressant based and others, and quit for a few days at a time, but they seem to raise my anxiety level, with all the side effects, and that gave me good excuses to say this is just too hard and I would always go back to smoking.

I even tried staying on the pills for a couple of months, and nothing was working. It was still too hard. I was expecting the pills and patches to make withdrawal easy and permanent for me. That would never come from a pill patch, gum, or lozenge.

So for the next three years I resigned myself to believe that this was it for me, I will smoke for the rest of my life. I will die a horrible death, just like my grandparents, one suffered a stroke, then died of lung cancer that spread to all of his organs, the other from emphezema, a heart attack and then COPD. In the end she couldn’t breathe at all and the pain was unbearable. I think the worst part for me was seeing my grandmother in the intensive care with tubes running down into her lungs to suck the fluid and phlegm out into transparent jars on the wall. That happened three different times. Both had horrible lengthy agonizing deaths that were caused by smoking two to three packs a day.

I recently graduated from Massage Therapy School. I couldn't quit during school, it was just too stressful of a time...I told myself.

Among other things, we studied anatomy and physiology...more specifically the brain, and how it works.

A few months ago I had been thinking that I would like to try to quit again someday and was looking into the new pills on the market now, but I didn't hold much hope in another "magic pill." I figured it would be just another wasted hundred dollars or more, plus the cost of the doctor visit.

One thing I did in the months prior to quitting was to stop buying cartons, in order to stop making the cigarettes available to myself at all times.

Instead I would only buy 2-3 packs at a time, and I normally smoked Marlboro lights, so I started buying the Marlboro 27s, then the Mediums, then the Medium 100's...and would alternate depending on which ones I could get on the buy one get one free, or buy 2 get one free, and I don't know if this aided in my quitting decision or not to tell you the truth.

Then NINE days ago, I ran out of cigarettes, again...I had smoked all the butts in the trays again..., and was disgusted with myself once again.... and sick of that gnawing urge to run out to the store for more smokes before I have a complete anxiety attack...again.

The longer I would put off going to the store, the more I would chain smoke once I got them to make up for time lost...it seemed like I couldn't get enough nicotine if I put off going to the store for too long.

I was so sick of being addicted and feeling like my life revolved around making sure I always had a pack of smokes with me no matter how late I was for anywhere I was going, and making sure that I only went to the restaurants that still had a smoking section. (My choices are very limited on that these days).

So instead of running out to the store this time, I started researching ways to quit again online.

I found the most helpful web page that finally clicked with me.

Having studied the brain functions and the way neurons work, it did not make any sense at all to try using a nicotine replacement or any other drug available.

After reading ONE page titled "The Pharmacology of Nicotine Addiction" by the PAXIS Institute, I realized that COLD TURKEY IS THE ONLY WAY to REBOOT MY BRAIN and RID myself of this monkey!!

It finally made sense to me why all my past attempts have failed.

It is because I never changed my brain patterns (neuron pathways) and dependence on nicotine by using the patches and other meds continued making the brain crave that nicotine. I haven't changed anything with using the patch except for the method of delivery for my nicotine!

With this information, I do not understand why so many cessation programs and doctors advice revolve around nicotine replacement.

It seems you can never give yourself a chance to withdraw from the addiction; therefore you will never be rid of it, because your brain still craves it.

I am living proof and just about everyone I know who have tried to quit using nicotine replacement therapy has the same story with that as mine. I used to see them rubbing on the patches to somehow try to get more nicotine out of it…then see them smoking again the following week.

If I only knew that the worst of the cravings would subside after only 2-3 days cold turkey, I would've quit a decade ago.

After nine days of not smoking now, I still think about them, want them in times of stress, times of "completion" of anything, find myself checking my purse or jacket pocket for my pack before I go anywhere, and many times I find myself feeling lost or lonely without them......... then remember after a few seconds.... I have QUIT...

And I keep saying to myself,
"I am a non smoker, I do not smoke."

Then I take a really deep breath of fresh air, and hack up a big ole nasty glob of tar, and feel good about it, knowing I am clearing my lungs of that horrible stuff forever.

My side effects are minimal compared to the ones I had with using pills or patches; the anxiety of not having a smoke lasted 2-3 days only. Then I had horrible indigestion for a week solid, and now sinus and sore throat. I thought it was a cold, but can it be from the quitting?

All that and I still feel better than did if I had my pack sitting next to me. I can breath deeply again. I feel fresh again, renewed and clean inside and out.

So....My real question is....Why are the nicotine replacement products recommended when they have such a high failure rate and it has been proven that the brain must be "re-booted" in a sense, in order to create new pathways of neurons, like creating uncharted territory in the brain and getting off those same old addiction paths....

Thanks Again,

Lori from Alabama
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I am a NON SMOKER Now and forever.
Nothing in my life can happen that will ever make me take another puff.

Thanks again for your site, I learned a great deal by reading others stories and questions. Mostly I learned that the general population (including myself) needs a lot of education when it comes to learning the simple fact that nicotine is an addiction.

No matter what we say our reasons for smoking are, we are lying to ourselves and everyone that we try to convince otherwise.

We don’t smoke because we just plain enjoy it or because our parents did it, their parents did it, and its just what we like to do; we do it because we feel like we cant live without it, and of course we will never admit that we do it because we are addicts, no one readily admits to that. “Hey it’s only cigarettes,” “right.” That’s what I used to say. Anyone who says they only smoke because they like it is a liar, and if you are sitting there reading this and saying to yourself I can quit anytime I like, I am not an addict, then I challenge you to do it, at least for 7 days, prove me wrong.

No cheating allowed, not even a puff. Good luck to all who are brave enough to stick with it no matter what comes your way.

Every day for me it keeps getting just a little bit easier to stop thinking about them, especially when it keeps getting easier to breath, and I am really starting to feel good in my own skin again.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Today makes SIXTEEN DAYS SMOKE FREEEEE…WOOO HOOO!

(Ohhh, and By the way, if you could change your home page to say Lori from Alabama, I would appreciate it. You say I am from GA, and that is close, but I am kind of proud of my home state.)

It hasn’t been easy, but I do have maybe one less craving every day that passes.

I searched Google for the document that I cited in my story and couldn’t find it again. It took some looking. I forgot where I even found it in the first place. Fortunately I saved a copy in my computer at the time I read it, so here it is. (Attached) I still couldn’t find the web site though.

This document is the main reason I decided to go cold turkey, so I thought it would be important to add the link in my story.

Here are some other things I printed out at the bottom of the page here, and put on my refrigerator that I read daily for the first week, it helped me a lot, in addition to an outlook calendar I printed out to mark off each day. Keeping count is so important to me.

I am also writing in each day the different symptoms I have that are related to the nicotine withdrawal, like sore throat, sinus, indigestion, heart burn, insomnia, anxiety, coughing up globs of tar, food cravings.. Etc…so I can see how many days each symptom last in order to help others through it in the future.

Another huge help is that I say out loud every time I am feeling like I need a cigarette, “I AM A NON-SMOKER AND I DO NOT SMOKE!”, and I have asked my family and friends to chime in at that moment and give me words of encouragement, like, “That’s right mom, you are a non smoker and we are proud of you for being so strong.” “You are doing a great job, hang in there!”

Or, “Keep up the good work, and WOW, I think your teeth are looking brighter, they aren’t so yellow anymore “ “You are doing GREAT!”

My husband tells me, “And you are looking so much healthier”, or “The circles under your eyes are gone, and your complexion is looking so much younger, its amazing,”…”I love the way you smell now it makes me want to be so much closer to you all the time ”, as he gives me a big hug.

We kiss more often now too, now that my mouth doesn’t taste like a Marlboro. We also snuggle more now that my hair doesn’t smell like cigarette smoke all the time. It’s like falling in love all over again, even after 16 years of marriage.

I also love it now when I take a shower and stale smoke is not the first thing I smell when the water hits my hair.

What a great feeling that is and it gives me the will power to say to myself…”Never another cigarette, not even one, ever.”

I have also set up support over the phone, with only three people, my mom, my dad, and my husband, for times that I am alone and need to talk when I am having craving for a smoke.

All of them are non smokers and have never smoked, but none the less, they are very supportive.

I start every conversation with them stating….”Hey!, guess what? I’m on day 15! (Or whatever day smoke free it is that I have made it to) and they all reply with “GREAT, KEEP IT UP! WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU!”

I call at least one of them most every day, and they never tire of me beginning each conversation with that statement. We don’t even talk that long, just an affirmation of their support is all it takes to get me through that minute of weakness.

Well, I will sign off for now, just wanted to update you on my progress and forward you this info I found helpful.

Not Even a Puff

By taking ONE puff, the smoker either goes back to full-fledged smoking or goes through the withdrawal process AGAIN. 98% don't opt for the withdrawal symptoms again.

Not Even a Puff

Don't look for loopholes in the law of addiction. You will be convicting yourself back to smoking. While it may seem harsh and unfair, to many, smoking is a crime punishable by death. Don't try to cheat the system - NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!

Remember that there are only two good reasons to take a puff once you quit.

1. You decide you want to go back to your old level of consumption until smoking cripples and then kills you, or;

2. You decide you really enjoy withdrawal and you want to make it last forever. As long as neither of these options appeal to you –

NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!

Most people who abstain from smoking for three months can be cigarette-free for the rest of their lives. Your risk of heart disease and lung cancer drop steadily after you quit. Three years after quitting, your risk of dying from a heart attack is about the same as if you had never smoked, according to the American Heart Association.

But even after you've abstained for a while, don't be lulled into letting your guard down. Because the nature of nicotine addiction makes it impossible for most people to be occasional smokers, "you need to treat cigarettes the way an alcoholic treats booze," he says. "Don't take even a single puff."

MONEY I WILL SAVE ON CIGARETTES OVER NEXT 20 YEARS: $58,000


I have received so many questions like this, I decided to publish this right up front in hopes that it will help both those who smoke and those who care for someone who does understand some of its implications and consequences.

Message: I am in love with someone who has been smoking since he was like 14 and he's 18 and i want to help him quit but i read that Nicoderm and Nicorette don't work because they only help you with the >nicotine not the sugar because its really a sugar addiction. I've tried telling him facts about smoking but he wont listen so can you give me some good solid information that will scare him to death and make him quit cold turkey?
>signed, Chelsea

Response:
Chelsea, There are many forms of addiction but they share several elements in common:
1) There is an addictive chemical component which in this case is nicotine. Nicotine is a narcotic drug that elevates blood pressure and binds with certain chemicals in the brain to enhance feelings of pleasure. Other narcotics such as heroin and crack have identical effects in the brain.
2) Another element of addiction is that it saps our will power to differentiate healthy behaviours from unhealthy behaviours. In the case of smoking people continue to smoke to maintain a nicotine high even though it is very expensive and very injurious to health. The tar and many chemicals in cigarettes have a wide number of well-documented negative effects on our health from heart disease, high blood pressure, emphysema, reduced stamina, the high probability of some form of lung, liver, stomach, throat or mouth cancer.
3) Another element is various psychological effects that using a drug have.  Denial is one effect.  There is not a shred of doubt as to the injurious effects of smoking but smokers continue to claim that it won't effect them.  In fact, all smokers are severely affected and it continues to get worse as time goes on.
4) Another element is the physical effect of withdrawal.  This effect is perhaps the most dangerous to relationships and yet it is the least well understood. Within minutes after every smoke the body begins to go into withdrawal.  The symptoms are increasing anxiety, agitation, loss of focus.  The initial symptoms are hard to find and most smokers find ways to cope.  However, it is always there.  Like alcoholics, smokers are always calculating where and when they can get their next "fix".  Many smokers report that they smoke because they have a lot of stress. Chelsea, the big secret is that the stress is induced by withdrawal symptoms.  Once a smoker gives up the habit and their body as recovered (usually takes several weeks), the stress they thought was ingrained in their life disappears.
Some people experience stress and anxiety and even anger when they try to quit. Generally, this is not related to physical withdrawal but a response to the feelings of "loss" people experience when they give up any long lasting habit or behaviour or friend.
5) The last element that is common with addicts is that they create co-dependents out of the people who love them. A co-dependent is some one whose life becomes intertwined with an addict and feel that they love the addict and they have to change the addict. Many people confuse co-dependent behaviour with love. Love involves mutual caring and reciprocal feelings whereas a co-dependent becomes fixated on the addicts behaviour and feels that if only they can get the addict to change everything will get better. Chelsea, only addicts can change themselves and only when they are willing to face what they are denying. That is an internal process that can take years.  Most addicts misinterpret co-dependent behaviour and believe they really love them the way they are and sometimes that is true. Some relationships come to an abrupt and stormy end when the addict cures themselves. Other times if a co-dependent succeeds in "changing" an addict, they may become the focal point for rage and will often blame the partner when they can't maintain their clean state. When an addict becomes clean for another person, they are not really clean.  Addicts must come clean because they have decided that health and life are too important to continue to live in disease.

There is no direct link between sugar and nicotine, although enough sugar can mimic a nicotine high and some can develop a psychological and even a physical dependence. However, sugar is just not in the same league with tobacco / nicotine.

Best advice, say to your boy friend:
 "I love you a great deal but as long as you persist in health destructive behaviour we can never have a deep and lasting relationship.  You love your addiction more than you love me. You are already married to your cigarettes.  You will do anything to maintain your habit. I want to get high on life with you, not watch you get high on a drug. I know that eventually the smoke and chemicals are going to effect your health and one day I will probably watch you gasp for air and watch you die a long and painful death. I know that if we had children they will miss more school and have more health problems because of your smoke - just as you will get sick much more than I will.  I know that if you are still smoking when one of our children asked about health and life that your moral authority would be fatally compromised. You can never look anyone else in eye and say that you value life more then death as long as you pollute your body.

Therefore, I must sadly turn away from you because I know that the pain of separation now  will be much less than in thirty years when I and the children watch you slowly, painfully struggle to take even one breath. Perhaps this will be the final straw you need to quit and stay quit but I don't want you to quit for me but to quit for yourself and all your unborn children.
I want you to quit for life itself.
Goodbye"

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