If there is one thing I have learned over the past month, it is that quitting smoking is hard. In fact it is one of the most difficult things I have ever done.
It has been just over five weeks since I first quit, and while things seem easier now, there are still challenges.
The all-consuming cravings are mostly gone, and I am less short-tempered than before, much to the relief of my family and coworkers. Despite this, it is more tempting to pick up a cigarette now than it was before.
It seems more innocent now that I am not sweating bullets because all I want to do is smoke. I could just smoke one right now and leave it at that. After all, I quit once so I could do it again.
Of course that is a trap, and if I did smoke another cigarette, it would most likely be years before I try to quit again.
Cravings may not be as common, but they are stronger and come at more difficult times. My most susceptible time is on the ride home from work. Every weekday I spend an hour and a half in the car alone, with no accountability. I pass dozens of gas stations and cigarette ads, and smoking seems so inviting.
Fortunately I haven’t succumbed to tobacco, but it has required work.
My tactic for these situations is simple: If I am not moving forward then I am moving backward. Quitting smoking is not about stopping one bad habit. It’s about living healthier and more responsibly, and that mentality has to carry over to the other parts of my life as well.
In my car, I keep a list of benefits that come with quitting smoking, which include things like money saved, being a good role model for my daughters, taking care of my body and, of course, not getting cancer or emphysema.
This list worked wonders in the first three or four weeks of quitting, but after a while, they weren’t enough. I needed something more specific. Something I could actively work toward.
After that realization, I expanded that list into these long-term goals: to save enough money to cover six month’s expenses, spend more time out and about with my kids, learn something new every day, start exercising regularly and to eat healthier.
When smoking seems enticing, I focus on these goals. I’ve already started eating healthier, though I do occasionally give in to fast food; saving money, but not quite as much as I would like; and taking the children out to the park or a community event on the weekends.
I haven’t gotten as far as I would like to have, but it is progress and my determination to succeed is stronger than my desire to give up.
During my lonely car rides, I make plans for my day. Though I am usually busy with work and school, I always manage to fit my personal goals into my hectic schedule. Sometimes this is as simple as reading during my lunch break; other times it’s cooking a healthy meal when all I want to do is eat McDonald’s.
Quitting smoking is one of the more difficult, and scary, things I have done, but the benefits far outweigh the difficulties. To succeed, you need a plan. Whether it is after you eat a meal, before you go to sleep or after you get off work, smoking infiltrates nearly every aspect of your life. To combat that, you need to begin changing everything.
Andrew Akers is a University of North Georgia student, a member of the Times staff and lives in Clarkesville. Contact him at email@example.com or 770-718-3413.