I apologize for the extreme lateness of today’s post, and ask only that y’all bear with me during surgery recovery, I’ll bounce back to an AM schedule soon, it definitely wasn’t for thinking today’s topic was any less important. It’s actually SO important that I kept trying to start working on it ahead of schedule last night and just kept falling asleep from the meds and the pain and the healing and all of that. With my body fighting so hard to heal itself when I treat it pretty good as far as what I put into it, I want to help you all fight to let your bodies heal too if you maybe have been less kind about what you put into it. As you can see from the above image, the sooner you quit smoking, the sooner your body can get to work on the healing. It tries to work on healing it every time you come up for air. It doesn’t know you’re going to deliberately poison it some more, so it’s doing everything it can to fight for you.
So that’s our popular New Year’s resolution to focus on today. Be your body’s ally in healing and quit smoking. We all know smoking is bad for us. In this day and age most of us have known that our entire lives. People do it anyway, whether because they saw someone cool do it on TV or a movie or because Joe Camel was a cartoon that made smoking seem awesome or because their parents or grandparents smoked or they met that really cool friend who did it or because it’s an easy way to create social time and bond with classmates or coworkers who all go outside and smoke during breaks. It doesn’t really matter why you started, it matters why you should stop.
When I was VERY young, something in the neighborhood of 5 maybe, I have a memory of my parents discussing how my grandma’s doctor wanted her to stop smoking and it would be hard for her and we all needed to try to tell her we loved her and she should stop smoking when she came to visit. Or at least that’s the simplistic version of what my child brain gathered from it. So she came to visit and I ran directly up to her in the airport and hugged her legs and said “Grandma, please stop smoking” and everyone had a big laugh about it and I didn’t understand why. It was the 80s and my encounters with cigarettes had been such things as expecting the smell from cigarettes put out just outside movie theaters and malls or smoke wafting over the salad bar in Pizza Hut. I think my brain mostly associated cigarettes with food, but all I knew was I love my grandma and if a doctor told her to stop doing something I wanted her to stop doing it, because doctors take care of you and they want what’s best for you. I’m pretty sure that’s still my stance on smoking.
To the best of my knowledge she still hadn’t quit in 2007 when we lost her too soon. She’d been through a wild amount of health problems including I believe throat cancer in the 90s, and congestive heart failure in the end, and it’s hard thinking so many of her issues could have been avoided and she could still be with us. She had come from an era where people didn’t understand the health risks they took with smoking. Most of us can’t say that anymore. We now know that it even affects a LOT more than just your lungs. Smoking harms almost every single organ of the body, causes heart disease, stroke, lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema, osteoporosis, and cataracts. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke exposure cause an average of 438,000 deaths every year in the US. 40% of those deaths are from cancer, including cancers of the lungs, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and cervix, along with acute myeloid leukemia. 35% are from heart disease or stroke. 25% are from lung disease including chronic lung diseases like bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. My research didn’t give a percentage to infant mortality, but pregnant mothers who smoke are putting their babies at risk of SIDS and low birth weight among chronic lifelong health issues.
If you do everything as possibly “right” as a smoker can and smoke outside away from your children and never let them see it and change clothes before entering the house so they never get the second hand smoke you’re one in a million, but still don’t put your kids through seeing you die a horrible death, and don’t pass the habit on to them. Be a positive role model for them and be there to chicken dance at their weddings and your grandchildren’s weddings.
Smoking is now also proven to cause long term chemical changes in your brain, like the ones that occur when someone uses heroin or cocaine. Think about that. That’s caused by nicotine addiction alone. Those of you who know me on a personal level know how much I hate drugs and consequently in my face-to-face life will have nothing to do with the people that use them. Those of you I know on a personal level tell me how much you despise people that use cocaine or that use heroin. And long term nicotine use can give you the same changes in brain chemistry that those drugs are inducing. If you ARE a drug user, know that while my personal priority for safety would prevent me from spending in person time with you, it doesn’t mean I don’t want you here. We’re here to help each other get better and stay better from anything and everything going on in life. That includes drugs, and one definitive side effect to quitting smoking cigarettes is that it also lends itself to quitting other drugs, or to never starting them in the first place because you just don’t find yourself in that environment.
While I was researching for this article I came across a meme that said the one thing the creator of it had learned from watching anti-smoking ads was that smoking is okay if you don’t have a family, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, it’s better that if you’re going to smoke you don’t expose a family to the side effects they’ll get from it or to the chance of losing someone they love so much to a horrible death to one or more of these diseases, but you need to love yourself too, your body takes care of you and it needs you to take care of it, and beyond loving yourself you need to respect yourself, and all of the people you will be encountering on a daily basis. Sure maybe they’re never getting exposed to your second hand smoke (but someone is, as someone who doesn’t smoke and still has asthma and chronic bronchitis I’m gonna throw out a plea for myself too that you quit smoking because encountering it makes my life so much harder too.) but they’re also going to be working with you when you’re in a foul mood and just thinking about that next cigarette and haven’t been sleeping because nicotine is a stimulant so it keeps you up nights and your work suffers and eventually you become that person who has smoked long enough that you have the brain chemistry of a heroin addict and people are scared of you and your temperament even if they don’t know why.
You’re also fighting a losing battle with your paychecks. Cigarettes are expensive. The more often you smoke the more expensive a smoking habit is. Cigarette taxes are high. Colorado, the home of legal recreational marijuana, just passed another cigarette tax hike this year. Every non-smoker, every idealist, every health professional, we all turn up at the voting booths and every single time a tax increase is proposed on a worthless harmful habit we vote in favor or it.
Not too many years ago smokers were up in arms about their rights being infringed upon because we were passing a law about having designated smoking areas in parks and other such public places instead of allowing it everywhere. Now I don’t think anyone is a bad person because they smoke, but if it comes down to your right to smoke wherever you want to or my right to breathe clean air wherever I want to, my vote is going to go against you and I’m going to win every time. You’re running out of places to do it. Restaurants have banned it, parks have those designated spots, bars have banned it indoors, hospitals don’t allow it within a certain radius, I’ve worked for places that banned it on the company grounds at all. You are going to eventually be confined to back decks behind bars where fights break out, hookah lounges, and the outside of your own home. Even work places that do allow it outside on the ground you have to go outside in all kinds of weather and freeze or get soaked or sweat. This is really just no way to go through life. Even if you care about none of the health benefits or who you’re affecting, care about your own freedom to not have your location, activities, schedule, and budget dictated by a substance.
Beyond that… think about how you would choose to die. Everyone I’ve ever discussed it with has said the way they would most hate to die is being burned alive. Don’t be that person that lets themselves get so hooked that they fall asleep with a cigarette in hand and burn their house and themselves to the ground. Don’t be that person flicking cigarette butts out your window while you drive either, or dropping them on the ground wherever it’s convenient for you. It’s littering, it’s filthy and inconsiderate, and we have had so many wildfires that it is insane, and a great way to start them is by a smouldering cigarette butt hitting grass that is just dry enough to flare up. There are people who will take down your license plate information and report you. I haven’t been one of them yet, but if I have to go through another Colorado Springs wildfire destroying everything beautiful about my city, it wouldn’t take much of a shove to add me into that group.
We’ve talked about budgets and saving money already this month. I don’t think we even factored in habits like smoking to that post. It varies wildly by person depending on how much you smoke and how often. But multiply how much money you spend on cigarettes (or chewing tobacco, don’t think you’re off the hook) every day by 365 to see what you spend per year on smoking. Think about all the different things you’d be willing to do to make that money, and the only thing you have to do is to stop putting a flaming bundle of tar and nicotine into your mouth. For a fun treat, multiply that number by the number of years you’ve been smoking. Then add on the cost per year by ten and tack that on to the total to account for the next 10 years. If you smoke a pack a day you’d be saving over $15,000. What do you want to do with your life that you could accomplish with $15,000? Start a special savings account for the money you used to spend smoking and put it aside to make that dream a reality. That doesn’t even account for how much money you’ll be saving on dentists, doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies. Of course there are also damage deposits paid to landlords that you may never see back because of dropped cigarette burns or smokey carpets and walls. Nevermind that if a landlord has to choose to rent to a non-smoker or a smoker they’re going to chose the one that isn’t going to raise their insurance rates. The same goes with employers, they may not talk about it, but employers want the employee that is going to cost them less in health insurance, smoke breaks, and decreased productivity.
Still not convinced quitting for you? Do you like the way you look and feel? Does your breath have a certain stench that comes with it? Stained teeth? Smell that lingers in your clothes and hair? Yellow fingers or fingernails? Wrinkly skin, particularly around the mouth? Hair going grey? Smoking ages you. Quitting smoking will make you look younger. It will also give your skin a healthier fresher complexion instead of that yellowish shade and lack of elasticity that comes with being a smoker. It can age a person in their 20s the way a person ages in their 30s. Quitting starts reversing the aging process within only two weeks. You’re gonna find yourself more attractive, and so will other people. If you’re still dating, or finding yourself back in the dating game, consider that in addition to affecting how physically attractive you are, smoking will usually also limit your dating options to other smokers. That means you’re limited to 21% of the adult population.
So, any or all of those reasons have added up to “I want to quit smoking.” Now what? Depending on who you are as a person, the lifestyle you lead, the support system you have, what kind of routines you have, and how much you’re used to smoking or how often can all add up to different answers to now what. You might be able to quit smoking cold turkey. You might be able to adopt a system of decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke. You may need to gradually decrease your nicotine usage over time. You may have the best luck with gum or patches or medications to treat withdrawal symptoms. You may want to join a nicotine support group like Nicotine Anonymous. You can try acupuncture, cognitive behavioural therapy, counseling, or hypnosis. There’s no one right way that works for everyone, but there is an individual right way out there for everybody. You do NOT have to continue being a smoker. You’re bigger than that, and you’ve got us in your corner, and together we’re sure as hell bigger than smoking.
One of my friends has been weaning himself off cigarettes over the course of at least 2 or 3 years now. He used to have a three pack a day habit, now he’s down to less than one. A friend, and member, that I spoke with shortly before I sat down to start writing this article was on his 2nd cigarette of the day near 2 in the afternoon and suggested that when trying to quit smoking he finds it helpful to keep track of how many he smokes in a day, keeping that mental tally and gradually lowering the limit over time. He said that it helps to stretch out as far as he can until the cravings start affecting the way he treats people, and that it can be challenging because people can be so irritating, but that forcing himself to stick to the set amount for the day helps him to save money AND build willpower, which is really what everyone needs to be able to make quitting a reality. He said he also had to change how he thinks about cravings. That he recognizes his body WANTS a cigarette, but that he has had to train his mind to recognize the difference between wanting and needing, and that when it comes down to it he doesn’t NEED it. Changing his mindset and the wording he associates with it helps him to maintain control over the fact that it’s his choice whether to smoke or not to smoke, and that gives him more control to keep the routine going of gradually decreasing.
One of the advised methods out there to quit smoking is to start your quit smoking plan with START.
S: Set a quit date.
T: Tell your family, friends, and coworkers that you plan to quit and need their support and encouragement. Look for a quit buddy who wants to stop smoking too so you can help each other through rough patches.
A: Anticipate and plan for the challenges you’ll face while quitting. If you quit cold turkey, most people that start again will usually do it within the first 3 months. Plan ahead for nicotine withdrawal and cigarette cravings and how you intend to do it.
R: Remove cigarette and other tobacco products from your home, vehicle, and work. No emergency pack. No “I’ll quit after this pack is empty.” Throw away all of your cigarettes, snuff, dip, lighters, ashtrays, and matches. Wash you clothes, shampoo your car, clean your drapes and carpet, steam your furniture, and febreeze the hell out of anything that smells like smoke. You may even need to do some dry cleaning.
T: Talk to your doctor about quitting! They’re going to be in favor of it and can prescribe medication to help with withdrawal and suggest other alternatives. If you can’t get in to see you doctor right away look at over the counter items like nicotine patches, lozenges, and gum.
Don’t do e-cigs. They’re not better for you. More and more the same information is coming out about vaping. Don’t replace a cigarette with a different kind of cigarette. That’s not quitting.
Start writing in your journal about your cravings and what’s going on when they happen. Is it a timing interval or are their situations, activities, feelings, or people that trigger your desire to smoke. Start figuring out how to avoid, replace, or deal with those things in a way that doesn’t involve the use of tobacco. Consider therapy to find other coping methods that work for you, or support groups that can help you through with advice on what worked for them. If you are someone who smokes when you drink either avoid alcohol (which you should already be doing for this month anyway), or only drink in places that don’t allow smoking and when you’re feeling the cigarette urge go for snacks or chew on a straw or cocktail stick to take care of that oral fixation. If you’re dedicated to quitting don’t go outside to socialize with the smokers on your breaks. Go for a walk around the building or take advantage of a work place gym or hang out in the break room mingling and watching tv or clean your desk or read a book or get to know some of the non smokers or hang out with your quit buddy.
Something I didn’t know before but encountered in my research is that some smokers consider the end of a meal the signal to smoke. The advice for dealing with that trigger is to replace that cigarette with a piece of fruit, a square of chocolate, a stick of gum, or a healthy dessert so you still have your end of the meal finale, but can do it without lighting up.
According to helpguide, which largely seems to focus on the cold turkey method, the timeline of nicotine withdrawal symptoms is: Your craving for cigarettes will be most intense for the first week but can last longer and linger for months, for which they suggest waiting it out with distractions and brisk walks. You will likely have irritability and impatience for 2-4 weeks. They suggest exercise, avoiding caffeine, taking hot baths, and relaxation techniques. Insomnia may also last 2-4 weeks. They recommend avoiding caffeine after 6, using relaxation techniques and exercise, and planning activities such as reading when sleep is hard. I recommend reading my post from a few days ago about getting better sleep and following it. You may experience fatigue for 2-4 weeks. Nicotine is a stimulant. That’s to be expected. They say to take naps and not push yourself. You may also experience a lack of concentration for a few weeks for which they suggest avoiding stress and reducing your workload. As if it were that easy 🙂 But maybe see about getting your partner or children to chip in more around the house to give you less to do while you transition to being nicotine free. I bet they’ll think it’s worth the extra effort. You may experience increased hunger for several weeks. They recommend drinking lots of water (!) and other low calorie drinks as well as eating low calorie snacks. We concur. You may experience coughing, dry throat, or nasal drip for several weeks. Drink plenty of fluids and use cough drops. You may experience constipation and gas for 1 -2 weeks. Again, drink plenty of fluids! Add more fiber to your diet, and exercise more.
Beyond smoking in social situations the biggest hurdle I see people encounter is that oral fixation. In addition to chewing on straws and bar snacks it’s also a good habit to get into carrying mints, hard candies and gum, and having carrot and celery sticks or sunflower seeds on hand.
Check out the free resources you have available to you like smokefree.gov, those local support groups, and I know here in colorado we have the Colorado Quit Line at 1-800-784-8669, and really, set yourself up for success. Look for online support groups even if you don’t think you’ll need them, have them handy just incase, set a goal for what you will reward yourself with when you have won the smoke free battle, make a list of all the things that motivate you to stay smoke free and make copies of it and keep them place you’ll see them often and keep one in your wallet or purse to pull out when you need inspiration. Do talk to your doctor about how much you smoke and your plan to quit and make sure to take advantage of any help they offer you. Listen to a hypnosis or subliminal CD daily whether you think it will work or not. And check in with us. Let us know how you’re doing and what we can do to help and let us celebrate your victories and help you up from your falls. Just because I’m not a smoker doesn’t mean I don’t understand how hard it can be to give something up and we want all the best things for you.
As for daily tasks, I know it’s LATE in the day (sorry again), but I’m going to include them in case you have time to sneak them in today as they’re actually relatively quick, or in case you’re finding us in progress and working behind schedule anyway, or so you can sneak them in tomorrow if you’ve been with us since day 1 and don’t manage to get them done today.
For our frequent guided meditation or subliminal track I’m going to stay on topic and go with an antismoking option for both. If you already don’t smoke go with them anyways, they’re great for relaxing and it never hurts to reinforce good habits.
Clean your front porch. Or stoop. Or step. Or welcome mat in the hallway. Whatever makes up the front entry to your home. So that does include the door itself. If the hinge squeaks or the lock sticks give them a spritz of WD40. Polish up the metal fixtures and windex the peephole or any windows in the door and any glass on a storm door. Beat the dirt out of any welcome mats, sweep off the rest of the porch or step or what have you. Or snow shovel it as the case may be. If your Christmas/Holiday decorations are still up go ahead and take the time to put em away (unless you’re diehard on enjoying the season, in which case you get till February 2nd to continue enjoying them.) If your door itself is dirty give it a good dusting or windexing or spray with the hose or whatever it needs to look good. If you’ve got hanging or potted plants out that have died go ahead and take them down or out and compost or toss them unless you think there’s any chance that a little indoor time and intensive care can bring them back to life.
Hop on either your the recumbent-bike or real bicycle and put in at least a good 15-20 minutes of cardio.
Fit in a detox food or two with your regular daily meals. Suggestions include almonds, artichoke, asparagus, bananas, beets, blackberries, cocoa powder, cold potatoes, collard greens, detox water, grapefruit, guacamole, hibiscus tea, kiwi, legumes, lemon water, mustard, oats, spinach, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turmeric, white tea, or wild salmon. You don’t have to do em all, or limit yourself to this list. Just pick something from it and work it in with what you’re already going to be eating.
And that, my friends, is it for today! The Question of the Day is already up and waiting on Facebook since I’m so late today. I make no promises about times tomorrow since I’m still recovering from surgery, but I will do my darndest to at least beat sundown 😉
A word about music: We include songs for a reason. Music helps us deal with the world, helps to soothe the soul, and gives us something else we can focus on when everything is too much. Listen to the songs we post. Even if you already know them. Listen to them like you don’t. Pay attention to the lyrics. Pay attention to what the instruments are telling you. They all have a message, they all have a purpose, they’re all chosen for a reason. If you like the song, please support the artist by purchasing the MP3 or Album that features it.
Today’s music can be found on Amazon.com:
MP3: Three Cigarettes In The Ashtray
Album: 3 Classic Albums – Patsy Cline