AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

How I Quit Smoking Cigarettes… And How You Can, Too



They tell you that smoking is really addictive: once you start, you can’t stop.

It’s true, but it’s not the whole story. It doesn’t cover just how addictive smoking is. It doesn’t tell you about the intense relationship between cigarettes, your mood, your friendships, and your lifestyle (all of which start revolving around who smokes and where you can smoke). It doesn’t begin to elaborate on how you fall in love with the nicotine, the cigarette between your fingers, the 5-minute “break” from life and work (like a drug that coats everything with a layer numbness).

To smoke is to be a smoker, and a smoker is a person who functions in a world vastly different from the one that non-smokers know. It’s a world where smoking is as vital as your ten fingers and toes, as vital as your blood. Without it, you are not yourself.

I smoked for a total of eight years, averaging one pack a day.

I had my last cigarette in July, 2014. I was 29, and it was the first time I tried to quit.

Here’s what worked for me:

1. Don’t Let Your Cognitive Biases Screw Up Your Logic
This is really important. You are a slave to your cognitive biases, and it’s really very hard to make smart decisions unless you’re aware of these biases and how they affect your thoughts. Case in hand: the amount of times I’ve heard stuff like “I’m not addicted to cigarettes, I can quit any time”, or “Smoking is just as bad as all the other things I eat, anyway.”

No. You are an addict. Admit it, and understand it. Self-awareness is the first step to a solution, even if you don’t want to start with the solution immediately.

2. Be Scientific About Quitting
Deciding to quit smoking is like deciding to chop off your arm. It isn’t easy. It affects your body physically, mentally, and emotionally. The good news is that this is a topic heavily researched by all kinds of researchers and scientists, so spend some time reading research.

This is really important. Read more about withdrawal symptoms, and the changes you can expect to happen to your body. It makes it easier when you’re really down to stop and say “Okay, this is a symptom. It will be gone quickly. I am stronger than my addiction.” You can also turn the odds in your favor with some science, like the fact that using nicotine-replacement therapy makes you much more likely to really quit in the long term.

My nicotine-replacement therapy of choice for a while was argeeleh, which I know is just as bad, but it was really helpful for me. I had to wait till 8:00PM to have argeeleh, which helped curb the cigarette habit and made it a lot easier to quit.

Today, I use an e-cigarette with a negligible amount of nicotine once a week or so, when I know I will be around friends who smoke very heavily. The funny thing is that I’m constantly being told stuff like, “That’s so much worse than cigarettes” or “You’ll grow water in your lungs when you smoke that.”

What? Water in my lungs? No, cause science, bitch.

In reality, the latest research has indicated that e-cigarettes are at least 90% less harmful than smoking, according to research by the very credible Public Health England.

The point is: do whatever it takes. You’re not being weak if you use the patch, nicotine gums, or pills. Use whatever will stop smoking or going back to smoking is. Don’t let your cognitive biases cloud your judgement. You might want to opt using a dry herb vaporizer as it is made to be more healthy than smoking the real cigarette.

3. Treat Yourself as a Lab Rat
This step was very helpful for me. I downloaded an app on my phone that gave me daily updates on how my body is changing. You know, the human brain is really simple, everything revolves around rewards. The app, Cessation Nation, offered me the best reward of all: little snippets of information that told me how my body has improved since my last cigarette. It worked like a charm.

I also kept a daily log of how I felt mentally and physically that I updated before I went to bed every night. This was also very helpful, because it turned me into an observer of the awful process of nicotine withdrawal, instead of the subject.

Here are snippets from the first week of my log:

Sunday, 13: Zero cigarettes for the first time in years. I did not crave it too badly for the most part except after certain activities like after dinner and after having an emotional discussion. Had a can of Red Bull and was still okay with not smoking.
Craving: 8/10 Bad at times, did not cave in

Monday, 14: Consistently googling how long cravings last, so I guess it is getting quite bad. My mind does not want to miss out on the associated lifestyle of smoking, which sucks. At the same time though, I know it is just a stupid addiction and I don’t need to be a slave to my addiction. It’s just my brain on drugs. Dopamine.
The night was awful. I was very agitated and on edge until I had argeeleh at night.
Craving: 10/10 Awful

Tuesday, 15: It’s 2:00PM and pretty good so far. Not a single overwhelming craving yet. I am just worried I will cave in though when the office is back to life outside of Ramadan because I can’t stay seated for 9 hours! S.B. sat next to me just now and oh, holy shit, people who smoke really stink. Do I smell like that? It’s disgusting. The night wasn’t bad either.
Craving: 4/10 Not bad at all

4. Have a Support System
I am lucky that my fiance doesn’t smoke. It made it so much easier to just call him when I was excessively craving smoking. Get your own support system, whether it is your mother, your brother, your boyfriend, or a friend. Just make sure your support system isn’t a smoker — smokers tend to want the whole world to smoke.

5. Pat Yourself on the Back on a Set Date
Feedback is really important in remaining motivated. Give yourself feedback on a set date every month, until you feel you’re totally and officially a non-smoker. My feedback to myself is always pretty simple: I love that I go to bed at night not stinking like an ashtray. I haven’t woken up with congested lungs in a year and a half, which is AWESOME. I’m not that idiot in a glass room smoking in the airport. I don’t get fidgety in long meetings. I don’t have to step outside in freezing temperatures to have a cigarette every 20 minutes. Exercise is now difficult because I am pushing my muscles, not my lungs. Good job, Roba! It wasn’t easy, but it’s done.

This is how I quit smoking. I hope you can use it to quit smoking too.

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14 Comments

  1. Honestly, one of the best news I have heard in 2015 :)
    I know one or two things about “quitting smoking” but I do not want to go there, I just want to congratulate you (50% of the people who smoke 1 pack a day for a minimum of 1 year cannot quit smoking) and thank you for sharing these details and tips.
    It can be done, surely. Not easy but doable.
    Points 2, 3, & 4 are key. It is just as any project; needs planning, executing, and rectifying your process as you go along.

    I never smoked in my life (so far!) but I (anyone!) can imagine a situation where we are hooked on something – whether material or immaterial.

    Well-done Roba.

  2. Wow, really? That’s a surprising stat!
    Yes, it wasn’t easy. But important :) In 2016 my goals are exercise and stop drinking diet soda :D What are yours?

  3. Chris

    Awesome :) I’ve always smoked, quit for a bit, but now I’m back at it. Yuck. It’s nothing like this though: I drank about a 6-pack of beer 4 or 5 times a week in the evening for many, many, many years. Didn’t really get in the way, I thought, and then it did, just out of the blue. Well, I’m around 6 months in with almost no drinking and it’s been, well, not pretty. Not pretty at all. It’s now painfully obvious that I pretty much was going through the motions of life just to get to beer time, and now all that’s left is depression, anxiety (it probably kept those at bay all along), craves, and, well… nothingness. Bleak. Just… shit. Addiction and whatnot, damn. So, OK… :)

  4. Chris, it seems like you need to take a vacation :) And keep doing it… addiction really sucks. Especially psychological addiction.

  5. Chris

    Yeah. Over time the alcohol *was* the cause all of what I’m going through, it does that to people. As for smoking, there’s the crave, but it also adds anxiety over time that’s separate from the crave. Addictive substances change you over time, and it’s quite possible that some of the things that really bug you are from your use of tobacco throughout your adult life. Just a thought. But we’ll get on with it with a big life lesson in our pocket :)

  6. Faisal

    Hi Roba,

    First of all, let me congratulate you on being on the healthy lifestyle. It sure takes a full determination and commitment to fully quit smoking.

    I have been a smoker for the past 7 years and from this day I have been nicotine sober for 2 years, if I did it I’m sure you can and everyone can once they put that thought in that head of theirs.

    You get to smell things way properly, can you believe that I didn’t smell laundry soap in the years I used to be a smoker?? Unbelievable. Now I smell it and it has been my favorite scent ever since.

    What you have wrote should be written in manuals and should be distributed in clinics and not to mention hospitals. Way to go, my friend!

    Congratulations once again.

  7. Chris, I wish my hate of noise was a symptom of that. Unfortunately, it just gets worse.

    Faisal, congrats on also quitting smoking! Yes, the enhanced sense of smell is wonderful, though I feel perhaps Amman is too smokey, and that’s one of the things that now really get to me.

  8. Craig

    Looks like awesome advice, Roba! I quit cold turkey twice, once at 25 and once at 30. Both times it was pretty rough for me. Hardest part was my routines that involved smoking, such as lighting up whenever I got in the car. Of course, I wouldn’t, but then I’d be thinking about smoking. Other thing that bothered me was the inexplicable mood swings. Both times I quit were when my life had taken a turn for the better, at 25 when I got out of the Marines and at 30 when I got married. I think that might have made it easier. Both were events that disrupted my normal patterns, too, which may also have made it easier. But still not easy! Gratz, Roba :)

  9. Craig, yes, the habits suck! It’s really the toughest part, which is why I still use an e-cig when going out on Friday night or something, I still don’t feel a 100% confident that I can resist the habit of drink + cigarette.

  10. And congrats to you too, belatedly. I hope you’re still off them :)

  11. Soda, here we come :) – it is a hard one too I must say

    My goals are “one”; finish the PhD before summer! (the rest can wait :()

  12. Best of luck with that my friend :)

  13. Dear Roba,

    First of all, congratulations on quitting smoking – this is a glorious feat! I’ve smoked for 13 years, ending the battle in January 2010, so I’ve been free for over 6 years now and it feels GREAT! :)

    After quitting smoking, I was miserable for months, until I read ‘The Easy Way to Quit Smoking’ by Allen Carr. It revolutionized my life and led me to write my very own book, ‘Sorry, I don’t Smoke’ (more details can be found here https://www.facebook.com/sorryidontsmoke), which is based on Allen’s book but tackles smoking from the perspective of an Arab. The book also puts major emphasis on shisha and the illusions we live in here in the Middle East.

    I am very proud to say that my book helped many people to quit smoking, but more importantly, it helped prevent young kids from picking up the deadly sin and above all, strengthened the belief of ex-smokers like you and I in never lighting up again.

    I have appeared as a guest speaker in various mediums including TedX to talk about the book and my journey. I would be honoured if you get a chance to read my book and I hope that it would help you (even though you have already quit smoking, but to shed more light on other angles of smoking and above all to support your quest). I can send you a PDF copy via email (my email is sherif_zaki@hotmail.com). Please don’t try to contact me via the Facebook page as I no longer use social media (this is another addiction I quit – but that’s another story altogether) :)

    I will wait for your email so I can share the book with you. Meanwhile, keep it up and be proud of yourself, because this is an achievement that cannot be topped.

    Long live the non-smokers!

    Kind regards,
    Sherif

  14. Maher Z

    Congrats…
    I found ur blog while searching to undertand how to quit as I am planning to start on April 1st cold turkey. Wish me luck.

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