How the Editor of menPsyche (Finally) Quit Smoking

by Harsh Kushwah

Editor of menPsyche Quit Smoking

If you are reading this article I’m going to presume you are trying to quit smoking or help someone to quit.

I hope this article will help you. I know the struggle. Nicotine is one of the hardest addictive substances to kick.

We think it’s our ‘friend’ – always there when we ‘need’ it.

But it seems to increase anxiety rather than tame it, as we often try to tell ourselves with each drag.

So, this is how I finally, step by step, managed to quit smoking.

A Brief History of Cigarettes and Me

I started smoking at University, as a sort of coping mechanism for the pressure.

It seemed like one of the lesser evils at the time.

What followed was over a decade of a ‘smoker’s life’ – contemplating concepts on my frequent five-minute breaks; trying to find an isolated location so as not to impact others with passive smoking; bumming a ciggie from random strangers; using mints and deodorants to hide the smell etc. (Although, I admit to using the smoke to keep ‘undesirables’ away on the odd occasion!)

And then the health impacts eventually began to appear.

Persistent cough, loss of lung capacity and stamina, skin issues, dry mouth etc.

I had enough reasons to quit along the journey. But I told myself stories to keep up the reason to continue –  the smokes are my ‘friend;’ smoking doesn’t affect others as much as other vices like excessive drinking; I can stop whenever I want etc.

My mind and rationales were helping the addictive substances do their job!

Quitting is Not The Hard Part

Stopping smoking is easy, I have quit hundreds of times.
– Mark Twain

This sums me up perfectly. I have tried numerous times. Stopping was never my problem.

The hardest part was maintaining that state. 

Reaching the decision to quit cigarettes is relatively easy. Something or the other gets you so annoyed – the price, the smell, the cough, the sheer addictive nature – then you make a declaration “That’s it! I’m quitting tomorrow!” 

You can remain without cigarettes for some time if you try. 

But staying away from those tantalising little ’sticks’  for long enough to get the nicotine out of your system is what will test your will, ego, and reasoning – and challenge your psyche.

Things I have tried to quit smoking in the past:

  • Hypnotherapy
  • E-Cigs
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy using Chewing Gum and Patches
  • Peppermints and  Lozenges 
  • Medications
  • Mobile Apps

They all worked to varying degrees just not long enough in my case to see me past the crucial period to make a habit stop.

An Important Life Decision

quit smoking

Finally, on 24th Oct 2020, at 5:30 a.m., sitting alone on the balcony of my house, I decided, that I couldn’t continue with this behaviour. So, I got up and ripped up 15 cigarettes. And declared, “I have given you up, friend!”

Now time for the truth – the next few weeks were hell. 

I mean massive nicotine withdrawal. Even with the support of chewing gum and patches, it was hard to handle my energy and emotions. 

It was difficult to focus on work. Or on entertainment. 

My hands were uneasy. My heart was pounding. I tried tea and coffee (caffeine is another addictive crutch of mine). 

And interestingly, I noticed psychologically, it was not so much the cigarettes I missed, but the five minutes of solitude they afforded me throughout the day. I didn’t know what to do instead.

And yes, I nearly cracked. I almost bought a pack – multiple times. 

When things felt like they were spiralling out of control (or even when a small annoyance arose) I felt like reaching for a cigarette to ‘fix’ everything.

But I had to beat myself. My “rationale” for smoking had to be defeated by my mind.

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My Step-by-Step Quitting Plan

Step 1 – Don’t Think. Just Do it.

Ok, this sounds a little ‘Nike,’ but it worked for me. I turned my brain off and stopped thinking.

Don’t think: 

  • ‘I will stop after this pack’
  • ‘I will stop after this cigarette’
  • ‘I will stop after this puff’

These “logics” are the reason I struggled to quit. Or couldn’t maintain a smoke-free lifestyle.

The moment you decide, take it on your ego. 

And Stop.

Step 2 – Mark the Time and Location (Time: Date: Location)

For me, the victory time, date and place were important as a way to acknowledge and mark the crucial life decision and to stamp a sort of accountability to the process.

I could mark everything post these details of time, location and date as a victory.

Step 3 – Respect your Decision to Quit Smoking (Important)

At one time on your days of smoke-free living, you will have the immense urge to smoke. 

All the rationale and the reasons that you have made, and thought, will go out of the window. 

And you will look for something more than logic, to defeat that urge.

That’s where you tap into your Friend and Enemy  – The Ego.

Take it on your Ego, that You will defeat this Habit and Respect the decision you have taken.

ego and smoking

It is a great hack, to somehow use your primal instinct, the Ego of the Human Being, to remain smoke-free.

It helps you in tapping the power ” of notions like Self-Respect, and the Self, to defeat the Logic that keeps you addicted.

It’s not about willpower.

Your mind might try and trick you at this point  and use logic like:

  • Why am I living if I can’t do what I want?
  • So many people lived to 90 while smoking? (My grandma smoked over 90 years of age)
  • It’s not as bad as drinking, drugs etc

I remember a dialogue from one of my favourite motivational movies

“If you can’t respect your own decision, how will you respect me?”

  • Lakshya, 2004

Have this conversation with yourself

This will help you develop an awareness. The awareness of the mind searching for arguments to smoke. 

Once you are aware of these insidious ‘lies’, you can counter them.

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Step 4 – Track your Progress

I kept an Excel file to monitor my progress.  I call it my “ImproveX” file. 

The file keeps track of the progress I have made in recent years across several categories. Every year, I make an entry about the improvement I have made in a particular field. 

I did the same for ‘Quitting Smoking’. I kept reminding myself, how many days without smoking. I think I was inspired by 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous

Step 5 – Celebrate the Victories

I still celebrate my victory with my friends and family. I still message my college roommate, to tell him that his friend is still without cigarettes. His encouragement helps me to continue for the next year.

More than getting rid of the addiction, finding my will to do it and a process with long-term success, is something I celebrate more. 

Smokes are not your friends – they are mini wolves in sheep’s clothing. They appear ‘helpful’ but it’s a guise. I know you probably figured this out years ago.

If you can quit tobacco, you can quit (almost) anything.


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