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Kicking the bad habit of smoking

POSTED: December 1, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Human beings are creatures of habit, and most for me are unhealthy.

McDonald’s breakfast is a regular staple of mine. Plus, I would much rather take a nap than exercise. And, like any good Georgian, my beverage of choice is Coca-Cola. Out of all these vices, one has proven more troublesome than the rest: cigarettes.

I started smoking when I was 15 years old while I was away at boarding school in Chattanooga. Despite several attempts at quitting, I have remained a daily smoker throughout most of my adult life.

A few months ago I decided to quit for good, and a little over a week ago, I followed through with that decision. And upon a suggestion from my editors, I am going to share my attempt to kick my bad habit with you in a column in The Times.

I have always loved smoking and almost everything about it. Like most smokers, I can look past the long-term consequences and see the happy moments of solitude spent enjoying a cigarette on my front porch. What are silly diseases such as lung cancer and emphysema compared to a lifetime of nicotine indulgence anyway?

Clearly, my delusional approach to cigarettes was my first major hurdle.

To overcome it, I had to look past the short-term pleasures and focus on the immediate perks — which mean little in the throes of a tobacco craving — and long-term benefits of kicking the habit.

At the top of the list was added time and productivity. According to my calculations, I spent just over one hour smoking everyday. Most people wish they had more time to do all the things they love and I am no different. Books, television and time spent with my two daughters are all the activities more worthy of my time.

Next is my general health. Smoking simply makes every endeavor tiresome. Within a few days after quitting, I felt more rested and was able to do more with my day.

Lastly, the financial cost of smoking. I spent about $1,800 on cigarettes last year, and around $12,000 since I started smoking. Higher health insurance costs and frequent sickness due to smoking likely add another grand per year. That money could buy a decent vacation or pay for most of my children’s pre-kindergarten program.

Armed with my list and determination, I created my battle plan about a month and a half before my quit date of Nov. 21. This long period allowed me to properly prepare for the end. Every trace of my old friend tobacco had to go. I cleaned my car, my porch, washed all of my clothes and threw away my ashtray.

In preparation, I began to improve other aspects of my health. Eating healthier, getting more sleep and attempting to exercise made quitting cigarettes just another healthy choice instead of an insurmountable obstacle.

I informed all of my friends, family and co-workers I was planning to quit and I would be short-tempered for the first few days. Fortunately, they weathered it well.

Having failed to quit on numerous occasions in the past, I decided to use nicotine gum for help. According to the health website www.WebMD.com, nicotine replacement therapy can improve your chances of quitting and, most important, the gum or patches do not lead to cancer or emphysema. I recommend buying it online as the price is about half of what local stores sell it for.

Also, I have learned from past experience most cravings appear during idle periods. I chose to quit on Thursday because the end of the week is when I am the busiest. There is little time to think about smoking when I am rushing to complete work assignments.

Overall, the first five days were trying. Nicotine gum does not completely negate withdrawal symptoms and it can feel very unnatural to go without a cigarette.

However, my eldest daughter is 4 years old, and I do not want to her to grow up with a smoker for a dad. I want to be there to watch her grow and live her own life. The least I can do is try to be a good role model.

Today is my 10th day without a cigarette, and it feels great. The cravings still come frequently but when they do, I recite my list to myself, think about my future well-being and get back to work.

Andrew Akers is a University of North Georgia student and lives in Clarkesville. Contact him at aakers@gainesvilletimes.com or 770-718-3413.


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