By Landstuhl Regional Medical CenterNovember 21, 2008
What's the most important reason you should stop using tobacco products today, or within the next few weeks'
I can't tell you.
It's not because I don't like you. It's because you have to decide what your #1 reason to quit is. I could take a guess, but I might be wrong, and that wouldn't work. And even if I was right - that it'll add years to your life - you might not believe me.
You're more likely to quit and be successful at it if you come up with the most important reasons for yourself. We all know nagging doesn't work. Just ask any parent or spouse. So you have to decide for yourself.
If you smoke or dip, then you've probably tried to quit several times. No matter what got you started, your first attempt at stopping was probably related to something important. You made a decision that tipped the scale in the direction of a healthier you. If you went back to using, or relapsed as we call it, then there were probably more reasons to use than to quit. This is the typical picture of the back-and-forth, see-saw effect many people go through. It's the same phenomenon that goes on with many healthy behaviors such as eating right (low fat), exercising (five times a week), and getting enough sleep (eight hours for most).
So, if you've read this far, perhaps you'd be willing to go through an exercise that might help explain why you haven't been successful at quitting.
First, find a blank piece of paper and create four panes - like in a window - by drawing a line down the center and another across the middle.
In the upper-left pane, answer the question: How will I benefit by quitting tobacco' Write down whatever you come up with, whether it's to save money, avoid a heart attack or cancer, or be a better role model to your kids or co-workers. Come up with as many as possible. Be creative. Perhaps even brainstorm with others.
Now, in the upper-right pane, answer the question: How do I benefit by continuing to smoke or dip' Again, be honest. Nobody's looking. Is tobacco making you faster' Stronger' Do you think it makes you look cool' Do others enjoy your second-hand smoke'
In the lower-right pane, answer the question: What would I lose by quitting' Would you lose money' Friends' Status' Or just that rebellious attitude you love about yourself' Keep going until you've exhausted all the ways you think quitting tobacco will hurt you.
Finally, in the lower left-hand pane, answer, What are the costs of not quitting' Are your kids likely to pick up the habit' Is your health likely to deteriorate' Imagine your medical provider telling you that you have lung cancer.
Now, stand back and take a look at the left side of the page as compared to the right. Chances are that if you use tobacco, you have more items on the right side than the left. Thus, your decision scale is tipped towards continuing to use.
What can you do about that' You can start to come up with other ways of dealing with the items on the right in an attempt to draw them over to the left side, giving weight to that side of the scale which might result in a decision to quit and the motivation to remain quit.
For example, imagine someone responded that the costs of quitting include: increased stress due to not taking smoke breaks, weight gain, getting mocked by friends who do smoke, and increased social awkwardness because now they don't know how to meet others.
Perhaps we could address increased stress by asking them to continue taking breaks from work (everyone should), to continue to take deep breaths (like when they take a drag), and to talk with others (like when on a smoke break) when stressed. You can do all those things without taking in tobacco.
WEIGHT GAIN, FRIENDS
As for weight gain, what about increasing the intensity, frequency or duration of one's exercise. Or just becoming more active. Perhaps they could consume fewer calories to compensate for the slightly slowed metabolism that results from quitting tobacco, which itself is due to the body not having to digest the toxin that is nicotine.
If you've tried quitting smoking or dipping, but maintained your old social contacts, you've probably experienced their teasing and ridicule. What they are really saying when they do this is, 'I wish I wasn't afraid to quit. Please come back to using so I can feel better about myself.'
I'd also ask you to consider whether a friend who mocks you as you try and improve yourself is really a friend at all.
And finally, as for what to do with your hands or how to deal with social awkwardness, just keep asking others about themselves; it's likely to be their favorite subject.
In short, I look at tobacco use as a tool we use to cope with the good times, the bad times and the boring times. But as everyone who doesn't use tobacco knows, there are other healthier, more effective tools to use in each of those situations.
Learn more about quitting tobacco by contacting your medical provider or your local Health and Wellness Center. Online resources include the American Lung Association's 'Freedom From Smoking' at http://www.ffsonline.org/. Once you register for free you will have access to seven modules leading to breaking the grip of tobacco.