Quit Smoking
Jenna Brown

Jenna Brown

How I quit smoking

It’s been four years since I quit the lung darts.

I picked up the horrible habit around 13 years old and smoked for 18 years. It seemed cool when I was younger because all of the adults around me were doing it, but by the time I realised how gross of a habit it was, it was too late; I was addicted.

I quit smoking in 2007-8 while pregnant but sadly took it up again not long after my daughter was born. Most of my family smoked. My partner at the time smoked, and most of my friends did, too, so it was easy to slip back into it the habit during times of stress and trying to deal with postnatal depression.

Quitting smoking was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done

I’d somehow set a circuit in my brain that associated smoking with emotions. Celebration? Smoke, sad? Smoke, happy? Smoke, anger? Smoke … and so on. Cigarettes were my coping tool through my teenage years, a tumultuous relationship through my early 20’s, and then it became an ingrained part of life.

I always felt guilty smoking once my daughter was born because I hated having her see me smoke. I was kind of sneaky about it. I would pop outside and smoke away from her view. I was not hiding it as such but making an effort not to be seen.

I would do the same thing in my work, I worked a pretty high flying corporate job, and while I was office-bound, I would pop out and smoke on breaks, but once I was in full sales mode and out seeing customers, I decided it was more important to not smell like cigarettes, so I stopped smoking during workdays and just saved it for evenings and weekends.

This kicked off another bad habit. I then started pairing my cigarettes with alcohol, so the evening ritual became; arrive home, pour wine and have a cigarette. This was my cue that the day was over, and now I could relax. Little did I know I was setting a pathway in my brain to one of the most challenging bad habits I ever had to unravel.

Who doesn’t love being signalled that this is now your time to relax?

Has to be everyone, right? For years I set this routine of relaxing time = wine and cigarettes. The dopamine hit these ritual habits set off in your brain is next level.

Chris was also a smoker when I met him five years ago, and we started off our relationship by smoking and drinking wine together in the first year. We decided we had enough of smoking cigarettes the second year and set about quitting. We had both tried quitting on and off in the past, but it never stuck.

But we did it, and it’s been over four years since we did.

Hear from Chris about his experience quitting smoking

Hey, Chris here.

For the first 80% of my cigarette life, I didn’t consider myself “a smoker”. I only smoked one cigarette in the morning on my way to work, when I was “socialising” (as a student, this was nearly every day), and during times of stress. Sure it started with smoking once or twice a week but steadily grew into a pack a week and then a pack every other day.

I was a “smoker” for about 12 years. I never tried to give up, and I enjoyed it. It wasn’t until a few years ago that the price, and the complimentary hangover that would make my job more complicated than it already was, I made an effort to stop.

Easier said than done, of course, but using an app that kept track of days since my last smoke and the money I had potentially saved was a good starting point. That change in mindset and downloading the app probably reduced my consumption by at least 50%. I bought a cheap vape with the highest nicotine concentration I could get my hands on, and that was brilliant. It’s hard to remember the timing, but I would say that I vaped and occasionally smoked (almost always when there was alcohol involved) concurrently for a couple of months, give or take.

It wasn’t until I was 90% done with smoking that I started to notice the taste of food becoming richer, and the smell of someone smoking would make me cringe. I began to work on my cardio fitness around that time as well. I had never been a runner my whole life, but suddenly, I was enjoying making some significant running gains and the days on the treadmill after smoking the day before was horrible.

I would still crave every so often, like on a Friday/Saturday evening or if I was at a party etc., but for the most part, I was no longer buying cigarettes. On the one hand, I can count the number of smokes I’ve had in the last four years, for which I am immensely grateful. 

It’s me Jenna, back again – here’s how I quit smoking

I remember loathing cigarettes more often than not, the smell, the taste, the cost and the way it made me feel both while smoking and after smoking (gross). I also really didn’t like having a habit that had this amount of control over my decision making.

I read a book by Annie Grace called This Naked Mind. It is primarily a book about quitting alcohol, but it actually helped me quit smoking. I learned about addiction, triggers, replacing habits with healthier ones and learning that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

That was it; after reading that book, I decided I was not smoking anymore, and I have had less than five cigarettes in the four years since then. Chris and I decided to use a vape to quit, and we both did that for a while. I was a menthol smoker, Holiday Menthol Tailor Made’s. Fun fact, the first back of 20 Holiday cigarettes I ever bought was $6.25 for a pack of 20. I hear they are now over $40 for a pack of 20! Who can afford that!?

Anyway, vape in hand and determination in my mind, I took it a step further, and I enrolled in a quit smoking course with a local Maori health provider Tui Ora; I visited a counsellor there once a week (from memory), and we talked about how my quitting was going, what things were making me feel like a cigarette etc… and she was even available to text or email if I had cravings and felt like smoking. What fantastic support, right?!

The app Chris mentioned was also beneficial; it was nice to see the progress of “days smokefree” and the cost savings. This was a real driver to keep on track and look at when I felt cravings.

Tools to quit smoking

Patches, gum and Lozengers I had tried all 3 of these a few times in the past, and so had other people I knew, but they didn’t work for me, nor can I remember anyone I knew quitting using these methods. I am sure they work for some, or they wouldn’t exist, but I didn’t find any of them effective because it was the physical act of smoking which my brain was getting the rewards from. This is where vape came in.

I found that when I was trying to quit via the above methods, I would still want to put something in my mouth, and if it wasn’t cigarettes, it was usually food. When you are quitting a bad habit, the last thing you want to do is pick up a new one, snack on unhealthy food, and then gain unnecessary weight. This happened to me a few times, and it was disheartening; I tried having carrot sticks and healthy snack options available, but it just did not cut the mustard.

Vaping to quit smoking was very beneficial. It was a much cheaper alternative, I think the vape cost about $50 and the vape juice might have been $30 + a $10 filter, and the juice bottle lasted weeks.

I am unsure of the negative health consequences of vaping, and I certainly don’t suggest taking it up for any reason other than quitting cigarettes. I have no idea what vape juice is, but I am sure it’s not a health product.

I am no doctor, but logic tells me that anything going into your lungs, including vapour, shouldn’t be there, so it makes sense that it is a short term solution to break a habit, and this is how I used it.

I used my vape for three months, or so at the same frequency I would smoke (in the evenings), and then I slowly weaned it down to weekends, and then parties and then I threw it out. It would have been at around a year quitting smoking that I didn’t use the vape anymore either.

Living smoke-free

Four years on, I could not be happier with my decision to quit. I don’t get constant sore throats anymore; I’m not consistently dehydrated with smelly clothes, hair and pillows. I don’t have to go outside in the rain or hot sun to smoke, have butts to get rid of or, more obviously, have hugely increased risks of cancer and other smoking-related diseases.

I feel like I am setting a much better example for my teenage daughter; I love that I am not wasting all that money, and even though, years ago, I would have told you that I smoke because I wanted to. I liked it; the truth is that I just used it as an emotional crutch and a way to escape.

Food definitely started tasting better, my sense of smell returned, and I honestly don’t even think about it anymore. I see other people smoking, and it doesn’t make me want one. Life is better smoke-free, and anyone can quit. If you want to quit and are having a little trouble, another great book to read is The Easy Way To Quit Smoking by Allen Carr; check it out.

I would love to hear about your quit stories in the comments below, or let me know if you are trying to quit and have any questions; happy to help.

J

Disclaimer: The J Word NZ and its media content are created based on my own experiences and opinions, as well as those individuals who share their stories with me. I do not have any formal medical or mental health qualifications. If you are experiencing any issues with mental health, please consult your doctor or a medical health professional for advice.

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