First Person: Behavioral Modification Aids in Quitting Smoking

Yahoo Contributor Network

Nov. 15 marks this year's Great American Smokeout, when organizations across the country encourage smokers to quit the habit. Yahoo asked former smokers to offer to advice to those trying to stop smoking.

FIRST PERSON | My decision in 1986 to stop smoking may have been the best decision that I ever made. Like many other things which are good for you, making the choice is often the easiest part.

Nicotine, which is one of the many chemicals I ingested when smoking, is highly addictive and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 85 percent of people who attempt to quit, fail and are back smoking within a week. However, I along with millions others, are proof that you can stop smoking.

I started smoking when I was 17 and, by 25, was smoking at least 20 or 30 cigarettes a day. When I quit, at 35, I was smoking more than two packs each day. If I were smoking that much today, I would be spending more on tobacco than on food!

Quitting wasn't easy. I adored the taste of the cigarette with my morning coffee, or smoking while I drank my scotch and water in the evening. Having a cigarette just before bed was a ritual and lighting up was often the first thing I did each morning. It was out of control, and I am grateful that I found a method that would help me quit.

I signed up at a local hospital that was sponsoring Smokenders, program that used behavioral modification to help me break the link between craving nicotine and feeding my addiction. For the first two weeks, I was allowed to smoke but every few days they would change my brand of cigarette and also limit the number that I was allowed to smoke. Gradually they were helping me reduce the amount of nicotine that my body was considering normal. Also, I had to not smoke for 10 minutes before going to bed, drinking anything other than water or meals, and gradually expand that to an hour. That helped break the association between having a cigarette and those activities.

I drank plenty of water during the program and took notes of when and where I smoked, and also made notations on how I felt after each cigarette. As the habit waned, I realized that the cigarette itself was less appealing.

In the 25 years that have passed since I quit smoking, I have been tempted to go back. You never really lose the urge, but I also think about how good I am feeling now and all the money I am saving by not smoking.

It really was the best decision that I ever made.

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