Keys to quitting smoking
December 21, 2003
In the great cyber space in the sky there is a void. Into that void disappeared this column, which was to run before last week’s smoking cessation piece. How many of you scratched your head when it started “Part 2”? It is back, though, and here we go
‘Tis the season! Those words ring through my head every December. It is the reminder to pull out the Christmas music, decorate the house and warm up the jacket and gloves for Christmas on Broadway. It always seems clear and cold that night, and if you’ve never been, you don’t know what you’re missing! This year in particular it rang another tune, though.
I’m always looking for ideas for this column of mine so please send your questions in, stop me in the street or drop them by the office. Running into some good friends at a recent holiday party put this idea into my head – a primer or “how to” of sorts. Then some special patients came into the office with a problem and a big commitment.
So, this year I hope the words ” ‘Tis the season” ring a special message for you: “Tis the season to get healthy!
Dear Doc: I’m finally ready. I know I need to do it. What can you do to help me quit smoking?
– Sick of Being Sick in Eagle
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Dear Sick of Being Sick: Congratulations! Best Wishes! You’ve made an incredibly important decision. It is one which will change your life more than I hope you’ll ever know.
Perhaps most importantly, you’ve made the biggest step – commitment. All the ideas, suggestions, help and encouragement won’t help a bit if you’re not ready and committed. There is no magic bullet, pill or patch that will quit for you.
If you’re not quite ready, think about this: It is a rare person who doesn’t quit smoking. It sounds simple, but it is very true. The only people who don’t quit are those who die of some tragedy, usually prematurely. A terrible car accident, sudden massive heart attack, or other life-ending event takes the smoker before his or her time. For many it is the impending tragedy that signals the motivation to quit.
Your doctor is usually the bringer of the bad news: “I’m very sorry, but that spot on your lungs is cancer and we’ll need to start chemo .”
“You are ready to get discharged from the hospital. I’ll arrange for the oxygen to be delivered to your house because you won’t be able to breathe without it. Make sure you don’t smoke or you could blow up.”
“Yes, you had a small heart attack. I’m so glad you are recovering. It is very important to quit smoking so you don’t have another one.”
That news can be motivating indeed. My message is that if you know you are going to quit sooner or later, why wait?!
Now that you’ve decided to quit, we need to think about the four reasons why you smoke. In no particular order, they include nicotine addiction, habit, stress and socially. Working on each reason is the key to success.
With respect to the addiction, medications are often very helpful. For the rest, remember it will be like you’re giving up your best (thought evil) friend.
First things first. When to start? Two months away is too far. It is too easy to talk yourself out of it or to keep pushing it off. Tomorrow is too soon. You need to prepare. No time is perfect. Our lives are too busy to wait until it is just right.
When you are ready, write down your commitment. Put it on your refrigerator. Share it with all your friends. Ask those who can support you to help and equally importantly, ask your smoking friends to refrain from tempting you to have just one.
Finally, in those last few days as a smoker, stop emptying the ashtrays and throwing out the cigarette butts just to remind yourself what you are putting in your body. The last day or two, change brands. It will help avoid the great smoke out (just had to finish the last pack). If you smoke lights, switch to a stronger brand. If regular smokes are your thing change to menthol. Those last cigarettes won’t taste as good and the memories of the last few won’t be so strong.
Next, change your routine. When do you smoke? Look at your habits and change them. The key is not just giving up the cigarettes, but making other life changes too. It involves a paradigm shift. Start living as a non-smoker rather than as a smoker.
Last week I shared more information on the benefits of quitting and various medications that help. If you’d like, you can find it at http://www.vaildaily.com. Just search under smoking.
I want to close with the warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas or Blessed Holiday however you celebrate! A new year is on its way and it will be a great one. All we need to do is help make it so.
Remember your health is your responsibility. Health is our greatest asset and it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered don’t wait, call your doctor.
Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.