One of the things I’m most proud of achieving so far in my life has been managing to quit smoking. Mainly because, if I’m being honest, I loved doing it – even though I knew how objectively terrible it was for me. I picked up the habit quite young and it became something integral to a huge part of my personality, yet people were always really surprised to discover I was a smoker. Maybe I should have taken that as a clue about smoking not really being meant for me.
Like most smokers I struggled to quit, but I was always doing it for other people and my heart was never really in it; so when I tried and succeeded in quitting for the final time no one was more surprised than me. If you’ve found your way here because you’re looking for pointers on how to give up the ciggies for good, whether you’ve smoked for a long time or not, let me share with you the three simple things that actually worked for me: a dyed in the wool smoker of 24 years who, if she was honest with herself, didn’t think she’d ever manage to do it.
As a byproduct of trying to quit so many times over the years I’d naturally managed to cut down to a very small number of cigarettes a day. Before I finally quit for good I was smoking maybe four or five per day at a push. I was also buying menthols (r.i.p.) by this stage too, and they weren’t very strong. I think this unintentional groundwork put me in a really strong position to stop smoking and prepared me for the next steps. However, I want to mention that cutting down isn’t always recommended as the best course of action for everyone so, as with all my tips here, your mileage may vary on this one.
I hate SO MUCH that this TERRIBLE book worked! I read it from cover to cover in the first week of my quit: it’s poorly written, repetitive, and some of the language is unfortunate but it did so much for my frame of mind regarding smoking and quitting. Essentially, it placed the thought in my head that I wasn’t giving anything up, in fact I was gaining the chance to not have to smoke any more. Of everything I did while quitting, I’d argue it was the fundamental shift in belief reading this book gave me that made the biggest difference.
There are tons of versions of Easy Way, but I read the classic Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. You can pick up a second hand copy from most places for around a quid. I’m conflicted about recommending it because, although it very much worked for me, it was written on the 80’s and some of the language surrounding women and bodies hasn’t aged very well at all. I’d love to see a rewritten and modernised version published that I can proudly recommend, if I ever find one I’ll come back here and update.
I found using a tracking app to be a fun supplement to quitting. There are tons on the app store but I went for the Smoke Free app as it is, on the surface, a little like Pokemon Go. It shows you how things in your body, like your circulation and energy levels, are improving in real time as your quit progresses. You can see how much money you’re saving, which is incredibly motivating, and you collect badges for achievements like time milestones and amount of cigarettes not smoked. There’s even a quit coach AI bot that you can check in with to waste a little time if you’re having a craving or need a pep talk.
I only intended to use this app to mark time with, but it ended up being an invaluable resource, especially during the hard slog of the first three weeks. I still use it every day to check in with myself, although I’m looking forward to the time I need to use it less and less. I started out with the free version and ended up paying a one off fee of £4.99 for access to a few more features but you don’t need to, all the important parts are free.
And that’s it. The three elements I’ve outlined here make up the recipe that led to success for me. I don’t have to smoke anymore because I’m no longer a smoker and the feeling is wild. I haven’t had any real cravings for ages, they stopped completely after I realised that checking the stop smoking subreddit was the only time I was having cravings or thinking about smoking, so I haven’t recommended anything like that here.
As I said at the beginning, different things work for different people. You may not get on with something I’ve recommended and of course none of my advice is intended to replace that of your doctor. Similarly, if you don’t like the sound of my recommendations then try something else, there’s a wealth of stuff out there to try. Ultimately, if you’re considering quitting then why not just give it a go, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.