Yesterday, I put in place a new regimen, first to lessen my tobacco consumption, and second to build a little self-discipline. I convinced my wife to join me in the effort, so here is what we are doing:
The only time we can smoke is from the hour, to ten minutes after the hour. For instance, we can’t light up until 9:00, and at 9:10, we must extinguish our cigarette. If we are busy, and miss the opportunity, suddenly noticing that it’s 9:15, no problem… in only 45 minutes, we get another chance! If we are waiting for the clock to hit 10:00, that means 10:00, not 9:59! If we tell ourselves, ‘it’s only one minute early’, then pretty soon, we’ll be cheating by five minutes, then fifteen, until we drop the program altogether. The plan is to follow this schedule for one or two days, and then to lengthen it to every hour and a half, and after another day or two, to every two hours. I suspect that at that point, we’ll be ready to drop it to one at 8:00, 12:00, 4:00 and 8:00.
By that point, I think we’ll have the willpower and desire to stop altogether.
I really believe that nicotine addiction is given a lot more importance than is justified. Certainly, there is a physical addiction, but I believe it is considerably less powerful that we have been given to believe. I think the major problem is the psychological addiction!
When I went through the stop-smoking program, back in the mid-70s, there were a few things that the folks at the clinic shared with us, that made good sense, and seemed to be valid. I’ll share them with you here.
- Someone that smokes two packs of cigarettes a day, has a build-up of nicotine in their system, that can be reduced by around 75%, within 24 hours after they stop smoking. Another 24 hours results in a total reduction of 98% of that accumulation. By the third day, the accumulated nicotine is essentially cleaned out of their system.
- However, while you would expect that at that point, the urge for a cigarette would be 100% psychologically driven, that’s not entirely true. There is still a conditioned response that is physiologically driven… an urge for additional oxygen intake.
You have probably noticed that when you undertake strenuous activity, you begin to breathe more rapidly and deeply, as a result of your body demanding more oxygen. Conversely, when you stop that activity and sit down to rest, your breathing will gradually slow to a more “normal” rate. When lying down, totally at rest, your rate of respiration is about as slow as it’s going to get, without being asleep.
However, as perfect a design as our body seems to be, it cannot possibly perfectly regulate our oxygen needs from one moment to the next. So every few moments (which will vary from one person to another), it will fall just a little bit shy of its required intake. But rather than accelerate our breathing rate, it will just send a signal to take one slightly deeper breath, to compensate. At total rest, this may happen once every 20-50 breaths… more often with mild activity. We recognize these scattered, deep breaths as sighs. This phenomenon is involuntary, taking place whenever necessary.
A smoker is constantly taking deeper breaths than normal, filling his lungs with all the wonderful by-products of combustion. As a result, his system “forgets” how to automatically enact a sigh when it wants a little more oxygen. It still knows when it wants it, though. And as a result, we will reach for a cigarette. Because we have trained our system to recognize that it will receive more oxygen when we are smoking.
So, many times, when we’re sitting at our desk or watching the big game on TV, and we find ourselves reaching for a cigarette to light up, it’s not because our body is demanding nicotine. It’s asking for more oxygen!
So, every time you feel the urge to reach for that pack of cigarettes, take a deep breath, instead. Hold it in for 10 seconds, then take another and let it out very slowly. Why hold it in? Partly to allow your lungs to absorb more oxygen, partly to distract you (while you’re counting the seconds, your system is getting the oxygen it wanted, and you’re forgetting you “needed” a cigarette!)
Need more evidence? Try to recall the last time you were involved in strenuous activity, with accelerated breathing, and found yourself craving a smoke! If you’re still a heavy smoker, it may occur, but MUCH less often than when you’re at rest. And when it does happen, it’s a legitimate desire for nicotine, not oxygen.
Within a few days, you’ll have re-trained your system to automatically take a deep breath, to replenish depleted oxygen, rather than asking you to do it manually. That will reduce your periodic cravings for a cigarette dramatically. By this point, you have removed ALL physiological need for cigarettes. Any craving for a cigarette is purely psychological, from here on out.
Another thing they had us do, was to drink a lot of water. If I recall correctly, it was something like 8 or 10 twelve ounces glasses per day, minimum. That was partly to help purge the system. I suspect the other part may have been to keep us occupied in the bathroom, so we wouldn’t be thinking about a cigarette. One of my companions came up with that theory, after complaining that every time he wanted a smoke, he wet his pants.
Yesterday, I smoked a total of 12 cigarettes, compared to my usual 40-60 per day. And surprisingly, it wasn’t really difficult. Having chosen a gradual path, rather than cold turkey, I’ve still got a lot of nicotine in my body, but I haven’t been at all nervous or irritable.
I’m a lot more conscious of the time, I must admit! Stay tuned for more of our progress.