Just over a year ago, I left for Railsconf and made one of the best decisions of my life: I was going to use the week in Austin to force myself to quit smoking.
At the time, I had been smoking cigarettes for about 9 years. I had never actually tried to quit smoking, although, I always told myself I would eventually. I thought that being in a non-smoking environment for a week would be the perfect time to try.
I knew going in that it would be a challenge, and that I would need some help. I immediately ruled out Chantix – I had some friends try it who turned into crazy assholes on it. I briefly considered using an electronic cigarette, like Bluecig, but decided against it. I didn’t want to replace one form of smoking with another. I ended up choosing the nicotine patch for the entire 10 weeks they recommend.
The patch was an interesting experience. In the beginning, I felt like I needed to apply a fresh patch each morning. For the first few days, applying the new patch definitely had a sensation like smoking a cigarette did. I came to enjoy the tingly sensation it gave my arm after I applied it. Every few weeks you switch to a smaller patch, so by the end of the 10 weeks, I barely noticed it’s effects.
Most people say that the first week without smoking is the hardest. For me, my first week was easy because I was constantly in a non-smoking environment at Railsconf. My second week without smoking, my first week back to work after Railsconf, was definitely the most difficult for me. The moment I got back from Austin, I wanted to drive straight to the store to buy a pack. I managed to avoid doing that when I realized what an accomplishment it was to have gone 7 full days without smoking – something I hadn’t done in years.
That second week was really, really hard. I found myself being easily frustrated by problems with code I was working on. I almost convinced myself that my performance was slipping to the point where I needed to start smoking again. Thankfully, that wasn’t really the case, and I talked myself out of it. I also found myself getting a little impatient with people, but I was able to acknowledge and control this. I never allowed myself to pissed off at anyone and use the excuse of “well I’m trying to quit smoking!”
During these first few weeks, anything and everything reminded me of the “joy” of smoking. TV shows with characters that smoked seemed to cause particularly strong cravings, surprisingly, stronger than those caused by being in the company of other smokers lighting up. I had unknowingly trained myself to expect a cigarette after meals, after completing tasks, to help with frustration, during a ride in the car, right when I woke up. At first it was difficult to relearn how to do these things without a cigarette, but as each week passed, it became easier.
About 5 weeks in, I started to notice a change: I was going hours at a time without even thinking about cigarettes. I still had cravings, but they happening less frequently. I finally got those improved senses of taste and smell everyone always mentions when they quit smoking. Saving $10.25 per pack, per day, my wallet definitely noticed a change, too!
When the 10th week approached, the last week I was to use the patch, I remember wondering how I could ever survive without them. At first, I felt I really need the patch again, but that went away after about a week.
After this milestone, it was more or less smooth sailing. I still get cravings here and there, but they are easy to say “no” to and go away very fast. I’ve had a few dreams where I buy a pack and smoke again, and I end up feeling guilty in the dream and wake myself up.
After a few more months, winter hit, and I laughed as I saw people freezing outside in the snow to smoke. When spring hit, I laughed again as I saw people freezing outside in the rain to smoke. I don’t miss that at all!
Each month became another milestone, until almost a year had passed. At that point, I knew I was done for good. Today, I’m happy to say, marks one year since my last cigarette!