If I can hold out for one more week, which I’m pretty sure I can — that is, if lightning doesn’t strike me between now and next Sunday and no pianos fall on my head and I don’t for any other reason pass away, go to a happier place, join the angels, buy the farm, cash in my chips, bite the dust, kick the bucket, make a call from the horizontal phone booth, take my final curtain or book into the Motel Deep Six (with apologies here to Johnny Carson), none of which I expect to do — then I’ll have survived a full two years without a smoke.
And, after 45 years as a smoker (not counting the three days in the 1970s when I tried to quit cold turkey), that’s about two years more than I ever thought possible. Which may not sound like much of an accomplishment to you never-tried-it nonsmokers out there, but the smokers and former smokers will know that it hasn’t been easy.
In fact, the first few months were murder. But I found that there are techniques, tricks you can use to fool yourself into soldiering on until, one fine day, without in the least expecting it, you discover that you’ve gone through an entire 24 hours without even thinking about partaking of the “filthie noveltie” that King James I of England tried to warn us about in 1604, but nobody listened. (Then, only 360 years later, another government official — the Surgeon General of the United States — suddenly discovered that cigarette smoking “may be hazardous to your health.”)
That was just a “caution”; it took Uncle Sam several more years to upgrade it to a “warning.” But old James pulled no punches: not only was smoking “loathsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, (and) dangerous to the Lungs”; he also saw (in his King James version of things) that it is addictive: “that many in this kingdome have had such a continuall use of taking this unsavorie smoke, as now they are not able to forbeare the same, no more than an olde drunkard can abide to be long sober.”
Among the tricks and ruses that I found useful were, first of all, nicotine replacement. For a few weeks, I used the patch and stepped down to lower and lower levels, then nothing at all. That pretty much takes care of the physical addiction, but then there’s the ingrained habit of having a ciggie before or after (or before, after and during) every daily activity. But to defeat these robotic reactions you can chew gum or keep mints at hand or even chomp on those flavored sticks they sell at health food stores. Or all of the above.
I also got rid of or stashed away all ashtrays, including the one in the car. And I tried those electric cigarettes, but found them unhelpful: what good is an oversize “cigarette” that weighs about 20 times more than it should, especially when you have to wonder whether it’s going to blow up in your face?
Another thing that can help is a support group, such as the “Tobacco Free Tuesdays” run by Geralyn Laut, the Meriden Health Department’s smoking cessation counselor (contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-630-4003). Research has shown that combining nicotine replacement and counseling produces better results, according to Lea Crown, city associate director of health. The program has been expanded to Spanish as well as English, with funding from the Connecticut Tobacco and Health Trust Fund.
There are also state smoking cessation programs. For information: Connecticut Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) or www.ct.gov/dph/tobacco.
Reach Glenn Richter at email@example.com.