This is the successful experiment that lasted for 2 months, where I was trying to: A) leverage my smoking addiction, and B) eventually quit smoking. Both goals were achieved surprisingly easy. And this is how I did it!
Before we start, there are few things you need to know about my love for smokes:
- I’ve been a passionate consumer of a wide variety of tobacco products for over 26 years.
- My average was 2 packs a day.
- But there were times when I averaged on over 3 packs due to the nature of my professional occupation and dynamical social life.
Honestly, what started as that famous juvenile rebellion and a lame attempt to appear as some macho hotshot in front of other boys — and girls in particular — quickly transformed into a passion. I had a habit of getting up at 3 AM just to smoke one. That’s how far it went.
But then, after years of dedicated smoking, my addiction started bothering me.
And I’m not talking about potential health implications because A) I find it irrelevant, and B) I spent years surrounded by the corpses of men, women, and children who suddenly and unexpectedly lost their lives.
Each of those deaths was the result of the tragic chains of events that had nothing to do with smoking and every victim had around 3 seconds of life after realizing that the brutal end is simply inevitable. I don’t imagine they were thinking about quitting smoking during those short couple of seconds. Do you?
What was pissing me off, and I mean really pissing me off, was the realization of myself being a slave to a habit.
A particular routine’s bitch. Because, personally, I think that having routine sucks! Big time!
For example, now when I’m working from the home “office,” I never work from the same place for more than a day. Even during the day, I frequently change the station. From the desk to the sofa. From the balcony to my property in the countryside. From city library to park.
However, no matter how frequently I was changing the dynamics, one thing was always following me. Cigarettes. And I started resenting that fact.
Have I tried to quit smoking in the past?
On 2-3 occasions, sure, just like every other smoking addict, but that never lasted for more than 2 months, and it was never entirely free of the unavoidable cheats during the period.
It’s the goddamn Nesbitt’s Paradox (lately disputed as the ‘paradox’ but with confirmed original conclusions nevertheless) that makes people fall in love with nicotine. Shit creates the weakness nobody really needs.
That same ‘paradox’ is also what makes quitting so difficult.
Nicotine is the only substance that can produce two different effects (profiles) – both under the smoker’s direct control:
- SEDATIVE profile (effect), achieved by long, deep puffs that trigger primarily endorphins and serotonin.
- STIMULANT profile (effect), achieved by short, quick puffs that trigger dopamine.
However, Nesbitt’s Paradox is not the reason why smokers can’t quit their addiction. It makes things hard, yes, but it’s essentially just an excuse to continue with your weakness.
What made impossible for me to quit smoking entirely in any of those earlier attempts?
The very same thing that prevents every addict to stop his addiction. It’s the “HOW.” Which is the very wrong approach to the entire deal.
How to stop smoking?
Easy. Just don’t smoke. You are doing it every night and between two cigarettes. So, it’s easy.
But WHY should I stop smoking after all these years?
Because I freakin’ hate it now. And I hate it because it influences my behavior in an unwanted way. Shit controls my life. It’s annoying, to say the least. Thus, I resent it. Consequently, I wanna cut it off. Like a tumor. With the knife.
Does the realization of WHY make the process easier?
When you started your professional career, how did you feel about your new duties?
Insecure is the word you are searching for.
What marked the moment of the increased level of self-confidence and decreased stress?
Finding out WHY you do what you do, or what is the fundamental purpose of your duties (actions).
Once you learned WHY; you quickly mastered the HOW.
If you don’t know WHY; then you are operating under the influence of your defense system because the fear of the unknown is the primordial fear shared by every living person.
Once they explained why you have to make that thing with such precision, professional life suddenly became easier.
After you figure out WHY to stop smoking, every other possible WHY becomes much clearer.
It’s simply unbelievable how life turns into this fun and exciting experience, crisscrossed with different opportunities you simply failed to notice before because you were enjoying the moment with your cigarette.
While you were doing that, life was passing by. Now, without a cigarette that could distract you or burn some of your time, setting and accomplishing goals has never been easier. I call that a true advantage.
Only, you have to try it, as the only way to see it.
And after you find your purpose, you are becoming extremely self-confident and fully immune to a negative influence or the opinion.
To find a purpose in a later stage of life, one needs to strengthen his power of will because the majority of those paths go against the grain and inevitably meet mocking and condemnation.
But when people who surround you know that you successfully stopped smoking without too much drama, they start respecting your every idea and every choice. And it all started the moment you found out WHY you should quit smoking!
From a weak person who can’t even say ‘No’ to a simple thing such as the cigarette, to someone who has no problem cutting even the strongest bonds. That’s what quitting smoking is transforming you into. And others are very well aware of that.
But that’s just one of the advantages of the decision to gradually stop smoking.
When you know WHY you are living, your productivity simply peaks.
Same is with quitting some addiction or changing a habit or two. You only need to find out WHY you wanna do it.
Maybe you wanna exploit your addiction in an unlikely way, just like I was doing at first?
Using smoking addiction to peak your productivity.
Why we smoke? Because of the infamous loop of habit. A SIGN triggers your ROUTINE ACTION in anticipation of the REWARD.
That reward is the key.
After each drag, your brain starts releasing all those wonderful chemicals that make you feel great. That’s your reward.
So I figured, why not exploiting that reward? Why not take the most out of, otherwise, a dreadful process of quitting smoking.
Being a top-level addict with the average of 40 cigarettes a day, made it easier to convert that addiction into something far more useful. You just start limiting yourself in the following sequence:
WEEKS I-III: 6-10 cigarettes
WEEK IV: 5 smokes
WEEKS V-VI: 3 smokes
WEEK VII: 1 single cigarette
WEEK VIII: smoking becomes a habit you used to have.
But the point is in WHY you are doing it.
When you smoke, it’s an automated reaction to a certain unconscious stimulus. You feel the reward but you don’t really feel it. It’s just a habit.
Once you start perceiving each cigarette as the true REWARD — intentionally rather than automatically — for some meaningful accomplishment, things change. Just like a kid and the dentist. If the kid doesn’t cry, the good doctor rewards the child with the lollipop.
You do the same. Do something meaningful for a set number of hours and then simply REWARD yourself for the effort.
The hard part is sticking to your decision to smoke no more than, say, 6 cigarettes each day.
How do you maintain the level of determination?
I can tell you what helped me. Whenever that unbearable desire to light one would overwhelm my body, I would focus on pinpointing the exact TRIGGER! In other words, I was identifying and writing down every single SIGN that TRIGGERED the desire.
That would occupy my mind long enough for the sensation to pass. And in the end, the list of signs contained over 600 different triggers. Some were logical but there were those that simply didn’t make any sense. Like looking at the piece of furniture that couldn’t be connected with smoking action in any way. Or listening to a bird.
Anyway, staying persistent in my obsession to identify every possible trigger the moment I feel the need to smoke one, really helped me to stick to the schedule. It was just another set of WHY’s, that’s all.
As weeks go by and the number of cigarettes you smoke each day decreases, you’ll see something truly unexpected. Your production will peak beyond your wildest dreams.
Instead of taking a quick break every hour or less, you’ll work on your mission/goal/task/ for hours without taking a single pause.
It’s simply remarkable how much time smoking consumes, rendering the user far less productive.
I know that you don’t think how that’s really the case, but believe me when I say that a single person, who decided to quit a two-decade-long habit in this gradual manner, without trying to compensate with food, can pull the workload of a couple of people singlehandedly.
Which emphasizes the entire self-confidence issue and its underlying importance.
We all know (even the non-smokers, who never had a drag of that wonderful experience) that quitting smoking is arguably the hardest thing to do. Unlike alcohol and drugs, smoking isn’t really perceived as something that dangerous, which makes the entire quitting process more difficult.
How do you feel about a person who, for some reason, informs you how he or she stopped smoking?
The positive first impression you had on that person grows exponentially after you find out that just a year ago, your interlocutor was a notorious tobacco addict, who was burning 2-3 packs a day.
It clearly demonstrates the might of the character and the unlikely determination to succeed.
But from the perspective of that person, things are even more exciting and self-satisfying.
Whenever you shake someone’s hand, you instinctively feel superior because you know what you are capable of. And when you see that look, after mentioning how you quit smoking, you also get the social approval of that feeling. People, both smokers and non-smokers, instinctively admire you for your, almost, surreal strength.
If you can quit smoking, there are no limits to what you can accomplish. Because everything else is easier.
Social perception of your potentials and character is also extremely important!
Because we live in a constant duality between how we see ourselves and how others are seeing us. That’s why we are always seeking for the confirmation of our expressions.
When those expressions get rejected, we fall in a state of depression. When they are accepted and validated, we feel joy and excitement.
The public perception of a person who managed to quit some addiction, even the least hazardous such as smoking, is overwhelmingly positive. I, for instance, managed to land a couple of great business deals just because I slipped in how I quit.
You see, everyone knew my policy towards smoking. I loved it. People thought that I sleep with a burning cigarette in my mouth. But after they’d realize that I quit smoking, they would change their attitude towards me.
So now I’m thinking about starting a workshop to help tobacco addicts quit
As yet another way to use my long-term addiction to the advantage. Unlike copy/paste theorists and psychiatrists who smoke between sessions, I know how the process goes and how it feels. And I know WHY. Which makes me eligible to run such a workshop.
Why would I want to spend my time in such way?
If you can help someone, why wouldn’t you?
After all, we are here now only because our ancient ancestors were helping one another. It’s an extremely important skill we simply must cherish and continue to practice as the only way to keep pushing our species up on the ladder of evolution.
Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new purpose in helping others to repeat your success in quitting the addiction. It’s definitely something worth exploring because you never know where that road will take you.
But what’s more important, even if you fail in your attempt to quit smoking, you will transform a nasty habit into something more useful by using it as a special reward for each individual accomplishment no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. In other words, you’ll give your smoking addiction the more meaningful purpose.