I know that you don’t want to quit.
But you know that everything will be better in the long haul if you can quit.
You will feel better. You will be less depressed. Anxiety will get a million times better. You will actually start sleeping at night. Your bones will get stronger, arthritis will start to heal finally, pain will decrease, your heartburn will improve. Heck, you won’t smell like a cat that’s been dead for a week because it got ran over by a fire truck in a grassfire anymore! Because that really is what you smell like when you smoke and then lean over to talk to me.
Here are 5 tried and true, non-research based hacks that you probably won’t find in the medical literature because they have no great evidence to back them up. But hey, just because no one pays for a research study does not mean that there is nothing to these hacks.
Pray every day. Ask God (or whoever you pray to, your High Power, Allah, whoever) once a day to help you to quit tobacco. This worked for me the first time that I quit smoking back in my early 20s. You should only ask once a day so that it does not become an unconscious mantra. I would write it down in a journal. “God, please help me to quit smoking. Thank you.” That’s all you have to do, just ask once a day. You don’t have to remind God, but asking once a day is a reminder to yourself, and lets everyone (you and God) know that you are serious.
Cream of Tartar.
Another hack I did that first time was to put a teaspoon of Cream of Tartar in a small glass of orange juice and drink it at bedtime. I know of no research to back this up, but the theory is that Cream of Tartar binds to nicotine while you are sleeping and cleans it out of your system. That way, while you are asleep, you are essentially fasting from the effects of nicotine. A few hours physically free of nicotine, and your body will resist nicotine easier the next day. BE CAREFUL with this stuff! It is not meant to be a laxative, which will happen if you use more that 1 tsp. Also, it is high in potassium, which in excess is quite fatal. Furthermore, like I said, I’ve got no research to back up this idea. But, that’s why it’s a “hack” and not a “miracle cure”.
Speaking of mantras. Mantras are good. Come up with a mantra to repeat to yourself frequently. “I smell good because I don’t smoke.” Come up with 5 mantras like this. “I have less back pain because I don’t smoke.” “My depression is getting better because I don’t smoke.” I am not sure how to write great mantras, but anything should help if it is worded as a positive. Even if a mantra is blatantly not true, just saying it may help change some brain wiring, and help you to quit smoking eventually. This is different than praying. Praying is consciously asking someone else to help. That’s why praying mantras kind of makes you sound like an annoying little kid. But repeating a phrase to yourself is a psychological hack that can make a difference.
Be okay with not feeling normal.
A common emotion that accompanies addiction is summed up by saying, “I just don’t feel normal unless I have that drug.” Practice mindfulness, or yoga, and just focus on your breath and that weird feeling. It is uncomfortable, so be compassionate with yourself.
Tell someone that you are wanting to quit smoking. I know you feel stupid because you have not quit yet. It’s easier just to say that you aren’t interested in trying because then you won’t feel like a failure. It’s okay to be a failure. We all fail, all the time, at doing good things that we know we should do. Telling another person about your plan to quit is psychologically helpful because it increases the stakes a little bit.
An epic way to really quit is to put money and pride on the line. Write a check for a large amount of money (for me, that would be $100, but for you maybe $500). Write the check to a group that you really hate, for example, the KKK, or a neo-nazi group. Then, give that check to a mean friend (not a nice, easily manipulated friend), and set a date by which you will be done smoking (or set another goal, like cut down to 1/2 pack per day). If you have not reached your goal by that date, then your friend mails the check to the group that you hate. Posting it on social media will help, also. I got this idea from Timothy Ferriss who has studied habit change extensively.
Count your cigarettes.
You can’t change a habit unless you first quantify that habit. Try a free app, or just carry a notebook. Besides my morning Five Minute Journal, I carry a spiral-bound, college-ruled notebook with me all day. I have been tracking every fitness activity that I do, including stretches and pushups, lifts, etc. You could simply write the date, and then put a hash mark every time that you smoke a cigarette. This simple act will make a huge difference.
Roll your own.
Commercial cigarettes are more addictive than if you roll your own. Start rolling your own. Preferably, roll them one at a time, so that you are counting them more accurately. Set out your papers the day before, so that you are allotted only a specific amount. Some people smoke more when they switch to home-rolled smokes. My theory is that they have less of the toxic hallucinogens, like Sorbitol that are extremely addictive. If you smoke more at first, I still think that you will be able to wean down easier from home-rolled smokes.
Use nicotine products.
Be careful, these things are addictive as heck. Especially the gums and lozenges. They are short, quick acting, high-dose nicotine. Longer acting things, like patches, are less addictive. Hey, try menthol cigarettes. The nicotine combined with the menthol gives a longer half-life so you can go longer without needing a smoke. Nicotine replacement doubles smoking cessation rates. Lozenges, gums, and patches are cheap at Walmart. You can buy them cheaper on Amazon.
Nicotine gum provides blood levels of about 1/2 of between-cigarette levels of nicotine. Acidic beverages (coffee, tea, soda) decrease absorption of the nicotine, so don’t use before, during, or after the gum. Long-term use of nicotine gum is probably safe.
Nicotine lozenges give the highest level of nicotine of any replacement product.
Nicotine patches give blood levels about 1/2 of that of cigarette smoking and are good for all-day coverage.
Breathing hard takes your mind off of wanting a cigarette. Getting outside and taking walk breaks fulfills part of the psychological benefits of taking a smoke break. Once you start exercising and realize that you can’t breathe, you will be even more motivated to not smoke. Smokers don’t realize how very little activity they do as they get older. You start to compensate for not being able to breathe with activity by just sitting on the couch not moving. Get up and move! Smoking causes osteoporosis and arthritis inflammation so any weight bearing exercise will help to reverse those bad side effects of cigarettes.
Schedule a 12 hour fast from smoking, say 10 pm to 10 am.
This goes along with the Cream of Tartar hack. Try to go as long as you can without smoking. Do this when you are sleeping, so you get an automatic 8 hours or so without nicotine. Then, set your alarm clock for about 2 hours after you wake up, and see how long you can go in the morning before lighting up. Research shows that the sooner that you smoke after waking up, the harder it will be for you to quit smoking.
Have a backup plan.
Quitting an old habit, like smoking, or binge carb-eating is not as hard when life is easy. But, what happens when life gets stressful and crazy? Your spouse leaves you, a loved one dies. Boom, right back to smoking and eating donuts. You need to be ready for life to hit. Write a list of worst-case scenarios (Stoicism) and what you would do to avoid smoking during that time. Maybe not worst-case, but bad scenarios. Happy people–emotionally healthy people–think about death and dying and bad outcomes. My point is, be ready for stressful times. You will be less likely to fall into old negative coping mechanisms, and you will be happier overall.
There are so many other hacks that people have used successfully to quit smoking. Do you know any good ones? Leave a comment or send me a message and I will compile a Part Two of “How to hack smoking when you don’t want to quit.”