Hi Workhard, I was a regular smoker during my 20's, although I never got to the packet-a-day level. But still it nagged me. Particularly after big parties where I would smoke double the normal amount and feel like shit the next day. Also I'm prone to bronchial infections, and my father died of emphysema. So enough reasons not to smoke!
Eventually I started attempting to quit, not really following any method, just not smoking. Through three or four attempts I noticed the following pattern:
1) During the first week I felt ok. I was conscious of what I was doing and felt good.
2) The difficulty during the first couple of weeks was the physical dependency. My body kept begging for a cigarette. It felt just like a hunger or a thirst. Totally physical. Someone explained to me that somewhere in our chest we store the nicotine, and the physical dependency is basically this nicotine storage running low. In theory, if you can let it run to empty and leave it empty for a while, you're over the hill. In theory - and I have no scientific evidence for this theory!
3) By the third or fourth week I noticed the physical desire for smoking dwindled and then stopped. The nicotine storage theory seemed to be working...
4) Then the other dependency kicked in - I guess the psychological one. Could have been some stressful event, or boredom, or loneliness, or grief. And suddenly it was much like a hollywood thriller - the monster you thought you had killed suddenly appeared out of nowhere wielding a bloody knife. This is where I failed most times.
Eventually I conquered the monster. I managed to stay tobacco-free for 3 years. Then one day at a party I was chatting with someone who was smoking and I suddenly felt like having one. But even before I asked, I knew I only wanted to try it to remember it, I just wanted ONE. And one it was. And I was ok. Next day, as if nothing, and I stayed non-smoking for another lengthy period of time. Then again, similar situation.
5) Maybe months into not having smoked a cigarette, you'll find the smell of cigarette smoke bothers you. You will become acutely aware of people who come back indoors having had a smoke outside and how they stink rotten. You will be in a smoky party and get home and next morning you will find your clothes reek. Walking along the sidewalk behind someone who is smoking will make you wince. You'll go through an intolerance phase. This too will pass. Avoid the temptation to become sanctimonious - your smoking pals won't appreciate it.
- Try giving up in a relatively stress-free period of your life, and avoid loneliness or boredom initially at least. Tricky if you are going to hang out with smokers to avoid that.
- Be conscious that the insurmountable physical desire to smoke will go away. It definitely will. But you need to wait.
- When the psychological desire kicks in...well...you'll be tested. Call a friend. Ask the audience. 50/50...
Other side effects of quitting you'll observe:
- After the second or third week your respiratory system will begin to purge. This comes in the form of a persistent, annoying cough, quite a bit of phlegm and spluttering. You'll think "I'm worse than when I was smoking!" You aren't. Your body is cleaning up, and part of this is through irritation and production of mucus. It will pass. Carry a handkerchief with you. When you are over this bit, you'll feel like you got a new set of pipes.
- You'll probably gain weight. Not obscenely but you will. Tobacco reduces appetite and apparently accelerates metabolism. I wouldn't stress too much about this, and if you are a regular gymgoer you'll be ok.
My epilogue to quitting:
Nowadays I have compromised to become what they call a social smoker. In other words, I never smoke at home or at work, but only on social occasions particularly where there is plenty of drink involved. I may smoke 2 or 3 on a given evening and that's enough. Then nothing for weeks or months sometimes. And the thing is, I don't miss it when I stop. It is not troubling at all. Maybe because I know that somewhere down the line I'll get another chance to have one. The downside of this type of smoking is you are bumming cigarrettes off others. You just have to build a thick skin and a winning smile :-) Although I do sometimes buy a 10 packet if I'm going to a big party, smoke what I want, and leave the leftovers untouched until the next party.
Hope this helps