IÕm not a smoker, but I have some thoughts that you might find helpful. Think about the parallels between smoking and alcohol abuse.
Most people quit smoking on their own, without the aid of any program. Just as with drinking. But there are tools and drugs and products out there; some people find them helpful, others donÕt, People have many different motives for quitting. Many people lapse once or twice after they decide to quit. But not all do. All just as with drinking.
People who do quit often find it useful to make a declaration to someone that they are doing so. It seems to reinforce their motivation (pride can be an effective motivator).
Finding the motivation can be a challenge. The biggest problem is that the urge is so immediate and intense, and so easy to satisfy, and the long term consequences are so theoretical and distant. Indeed, we all know people who smoked their whole lives and didnÕt get one of the Big Three (emphysema, heart disease, or cancer).
Somehow this persuades us that the risk is only hypothetical. And that cigarette would sure be good RIGHT NOW! What we are telling ourselves is that the immediate gratification—calming the intense desire, sparking the mind with nicotine—is worth voiding and abandoning our goal which is based on our long term interests. So what we need to do is learn impulse control. That can be from a combination of rational persuasion (long term reinforcement) and avoidance (short term tricks).
There are two ways to sustain motivation. One is ŅpushÓ motivation: look at the consequences of your habit, and remind yourself of it frequently. Find motivation in the negative aspects of your behavior. In cognitive approaches we do a cost-benefit analysis, and it isnÕt too hard to make a list of the costs of smoking. Need a few? HereÕs some reading material that should keep you occupied!
The other part of the CBA is to write down the ŌbenefitsÕ of smoking. There must be some, or you wouldnÕt have started, right? IÕm not being facetious. I donÕt know what they are, because I donÕt smoke. But presumably you like the stimulant effect of the nicotine. Describe what you like about it carefully, because that is what prompts your urges. So dealing with that is going to be an important part of quitting.
The other way to sustain motivation is ŅpullÓ motivation: look at the possible future benefits, short and long term, of quitting. Make a list. This could include more effective exercise, more dating options, less public shame and ridicule, more money in your pocket to spend on yourself, and so on. So writing a list of the benefits of quitting is an important step. Carry that list with you.
Then, based on these specific motivators you plan for the urges. Look, cigarette companies pay billions of dollars every year to try to persuade you to smoke, to choose their brand, and to feel and think certain things about cigarettes in spite of overwhelming evidence that smoking is terrible for you. Do you think theyÕd spend all that money on advertising if it didnÕt work? So you make your own advertising by developing some arguments that you can state to yourself when you find yourself wanting a cigarette.
First and most important, no matter how excruciating the urge is you CAN stand it, and it WILL pass. People quit smoking all the time for good, and you can too. Nobody ever died of NOT smoking. It is uncomfortable, but not TOO uncomfortable. You CAN tolerate it. If you get up and DO something, the urge may pass as you find yourself preoccupied with something else. Keep your hands busy and occupy your mind elsewhere. When you think of cigarettes, consciously think instead of some other thing or place, something pleasurable or beautiful, or calming.
One suggestion is to incorporate all of these different strategies. Make a 3 x 5 card with the benefits of quitting written on it. Put a rubber band on your wrist. Put money in your pocket for every pack of cigarettes you donÕt smoke. Then, when you get an urge, snap the rubber band very hard! Get out the 3 x 5 card and read it. Add to it. Say something out loud that reaffirms your stated intention of abstinence. And each day, buy something simple yet pleasurable with the extra money in your pocket.
Still smoking, in spite of your plan to quit? Just because you didnÕt quit today, or didnÕt succeed today, doesnÕt mean you canÕt try again right now. You arenÕt a failure, you arenÕt a slave to cigarettes, and it isnÕt an uncontrollable habit. You just didnÕt learn and practice the tools for short and long term change.