QUITTING THOSE CIGARETTES FOR A HEALTHY HEART: WHEN THE SMOKE CLEARS

You and I and everyone else who calls himself an ex-smoker is really nothing more than a smoker under control. We’re just like the alcoholics who are “recovering” rather than “recovered”. Once a smoker, always a smoker. The worst thing you can do is falsely believe that you’ve “beaten” the cigarettes and that you can have one once in a while.
Recognise the mind’s ability to rationalise a return to old habits. Having one cigarette can lead to another, and another and another until you’re hooked again. Don’t allow yourself to light that first cigarette, regardless of the situation, either good or bad.
A good friend of mine had been off cigarettes for a full six years. Then one day he was on a long-distance trip through the desert and his car’s engine broke down in the middle of nowhere. Angry and frustrated when he finally got to a service station, he bought a pack of cigarettes which led to another three years of smoking.
Then there was the actor who landed a role that required him to smoke a cigarette. Of course that scene had to be reshot several times. After ten smoke-free years, he was hooked all over again.
When tempted to smoke, try to remember just how hard it was to quit in the first place. You don’t want to have to go through all that again.
Concentrate, too, on all the reasons you wanted to quit. Focus on how much better you feel now. Recall the frustrations of wanting to quit but being unable to do so.
In my own case, I remember how I used to smoke during meetings. There was nothing else to do with my hands, and I’d light one after another. Now when I attend such meetings I call to mind how my lungs used to feel and how powerless I felt to keep from lighting the next one.
Every former smoker has a recurring dream with just a variation or two. You dream that you reach for your pocket and discover a pack of cigarettes there, realising that you’ve started in again. There’s a sense of panic. When did I start? How did this happen? How am I going to quit again? You wake up in a sweat, eminently thankful that it was just a dream. Talk with some former smokers and you’ll find that almost everyone has had that dream. 1 think it expresses the strong psychological hold cigarettes can exert over us.
During the first days and weeks, the desire to have a smoke seems to strike every few minutes. As time goes on, those cravings will be spaced further and further apart. Moreover, the intensity of the craving will lessen.
But don’t be surprised when, months later, you find that you’d really like a cigarette. Beat in mind that it’s been quite a while since such a craving struck, and realise that the desire will pass quickly. Speed it along by doing a few deep breaths.
Sometimes those cravings will strike, it seems, out of the blue. Often that’s because you find yourself in a situation in which you used to smoke but which you haven’t learned to deal with as a non-smoker. My wife Dawn had that happen to her just recently.
When we first met, Dawn and I were heavy smokers. At the time, I had an apartment in Chicago with a commanding view of the city. We loved to have dinner together, the electric canyon of lights spread out for miles below us, and to finish off the meal with a cigarette.
Fast forward many years. We’d moved to California, both of us had quit smoking for years, and we lived far from the high-rise lifestyle we’d enjoyed before having our children. Then one day we had dinner in one of LA’s few hotel-top restaurants. Dawn fidgeted in her chair, nervously toying with her glass of wine. She said, “Bob, I can’t believe it. I want a cigarette so badly I can hardly stand it!” I explained to her that this was a kind of “flashback” to out high-rise dinners during our smoking days. Understanding this made it easier, the craving passed, and neither of us is tempted to smoke in that situation any more.
Even if you started smoking at a very young age, you spent many years without cigarettes. You lived without them quite well. Then you spent years learning how to live with cigarettes, one situation, one setting, one cue at a time. It will take some time, but you’ll learn how to not smoke in those same situations and settings.
No one will tell you that quitting is easy. It can be one of the most challenging things you can do. But it’s worth the effort. Millions of people have quit. Welcome to the “in” crowd of the Smoke-free Society! And congratulations!
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Cardio & Blood/ Cholesterol

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