“I’m going to stop!” is a familiar refrain from people who are still smoking cigarettes. In fact, the intent to stop often is used to justify uncontrolled smoking. Intent, however, can be a diversionary tactic, while flowing toxins continue unimpeded until the smoker actually tries to quit. And because smokers find fewer places to indulge their habit, many indulge wherever and whenever they can.
Whether you or someone you are close with identifies with this behavior, the will is often not the deed. The actual deed involves slow withdrawal through control. In this way, your body can avoid ravenous fixes.
In this strategy, you’re competing against yourself, or more aptly, you’re competing against nicotine. Either way, the program is flexible, and one that I have been able to constructively implement with a few smokers. Its appeal is that it doesn’t rely on invasive chemical fixes (e.g., nicotine patches).
STEP ONE: ESTIMATION
Estimate how much you smoke per day — you need to give yourself an exact number. It should err on a realistic figure, not an optimistic one. For example, let’s say you’re smoking more than a pack (20 cigarettes) per day, but not much more than that. Count it as 23 cigarettes per day.
Re-Estimation: After estimating, ask yourself if you can get by with 22 per day (even numbers are preferable). If so, use that number.
STEP TWO: NUMBERING
Basically, count the cigarettes and number them. With a magic marker, mark every pack you buy on its face. May has 31 days, so your first pack will be M-1. Multiply the 22 in our example by the number of days in the month; that totals a 682-cigarette allowance for May. The total of packs for the month will be 34 plus two additional cigarettes, which can be taken from a pack for surplus cigarettes only and labeled accordingly. Hopefully, being aware of the number of cigarettes being smoked will spur the desire to maintain control.
All cigarettes must be taken from labeled packs. If you have smoked up your allowance for the day, you can borrow from yourself forward and smoke into the next day’s allowance. But your goal is to catch up with yourself, so you don’t end up in arrears by the end of the month.
The goal is to maintain stability for the month before you re-estimate for the next month and make adjustments in your numbers. Hopefully, you might end up ahead of yourself for the month, in which case you may stockpile cigarettes for an “emergency.” Doing so is a strategy to back up difficult days. Put a few cigarettes from your daily allotment in a separate place.
STEP THREE: RECONCILIATION FOR THE NEW MONTH
On or before the last day of each month, you need to assess your success to determine whether you are in credit or debt mode. If in May you’ve borrowed five cigarettes from June (J1), you will need to reconcile to end May out of debt to yourself. Never increase your monthly allowances; you can only borrow ahead. If you have no stockpile, you need to ration yourself down.
Do not increase beyond your original numbers, even if it takes months to catch up with yourself. If you didn’t smoke up all of May, you are ready to reassess your monthly allotment for June. You can then do a cut for the oncoming month. You might decide to try keeping to one pack per day for the month.
When you go through the entire month within your parameters, it’s time to number for June — from J1 to J30. If you decide, for example, to cut down to 20, you would be down to 600 cigarettes, thereby having cut a full pack of toxins for the month. Keep in mind that every cigarette you cut per day will cut a full pack and a half for the month.
You can “bum” cigarettes as long as your smoker friends will tolerate it. However, in order to activate this wild card, you’re required to inform anyone giving you cigarettes about your program. Then they can choose to help, enable, or even try the program themselves.
PICK YOUR BEST TIMES TO SMOKE
When you’re smoking, it should be within “preferred” times as much as possible. Preferred times describe when the cigarette is most enjoyed and sought: after meals, during a coffee break, while working on a project, etc. Avoid mindless times, when you don’t really need to smoke but do so because you can.
You should especially avoid forbidden times: first thing in morning (before food), while eating and during meals, or in the car. Also restrain yourself from chain smoking.
Cigarette smoking is often an activity that is a reflex stress-reducer, like toxic worry beads. A significant factor for control is to be conscious of when you smoke. This strategy can be fun and compelling; I hope it helps to provide an alternative for anyone who’s been struggling to beat the beast.