Mark Matteson publishes his Sparking Success EZine Street newsletter on the first Wednesday of every month. The next newsletter will go out on August 7, 2013
(I Just Don't Want to Right Now.)
He was a mentor of mine when I was 17. Wardell Jeffries recruited me as a senior for his alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist University. He had been an All-American there and was the last guy the Seattle Supersonics cut in 1974 (they kept Slick Watts instead). Fast forward 20 years. My good friend had just agreed to a $50,000 training commitment for his company. He said to me, "Let's celebrate." He reached in his humidor and gently removed a handful of premium cigars. We went outside to smoke and reminisce. I have to admit, I didn't much care for the taste of that cigar; moreover, it gave me a bit of a headache. He gave me one for the road. THAT one got me hooked. The year was 1996.
If I was going to smoke cigars, I had better do some research. I read a couple of books and subscribed to Cigar Aficionado magazine. I purchased a humidor and was hooked, not only by the nicotine, but also by the romance, ritual, and fellowship of the cigar community. These were successful businessmen who knew how to live life to the fullest.
I know people who can have one cigar a week or on special occasions. I am not wired that way. It began with a cigar once a week, then three times a week, then every day, and then twice a day. Nicotine had me in its oily clutches and was squeezing me tighter each day. But hey, I could quit any time.
I speak for a living. My voice is important to my livelihood. I knew this habit wasn't a good thing for the long-term. A day of reckoning was imminent. It was a series of little things, like tiny weights on an apothecary scale, that finally tipped it in the end: a billboard in St. George, a tickle in my throat, my youngest son expressing his concern for me, the price of fine cigars, a burn hole in two of my favorite shirts, casual comments from friends about the smell of smoke, and their surprise that I smoked at all. It was time; my day of reckoning had arrived.
So, I made a decision. I wrote it down in my journal and committed to it. I listed the reasons why I wanted it. I asked my son to be my accountability partner in this decision. I counted the actual hard costs of twenty more years of this habit and the dollar figure blew me away. I tossed out all my paraphernalia.
Then the insanity began. Nicotine is a sneaky and addicting drug. Ray Charles said quitting smoking was more difficult than quitting heroin! That was the Bad News, but wait; there was more...BAD NEWS. In active tobacco users, a lack of nicotine produces a wide range of withdrawal symptoms:
- constipation or diarrhea
- falling heart rate and blood pressure
- fatigue, drowsiness, and insomnia
- difficulty concentrati
- increased hunger and caloric intake
- increased desire for the taste of sweets
In addition to an unexpected three-week grief period, my self-talk was fascinating: I will just buy one and not light it, or I just look at the cigars, but I won't buy any, or, my favorite, I can quit anytime; I just don't want to right now! They were Rational Lies all. I laughed out loud at the insanity. By the end of 72 hours, I wasn't sure if I was going to make it. Ninety-five percent of smokers who go "cold turkey" fail. My turkey was below zero.
THE GOOD NEWS
According to Dr. Brad Bowman, WebMD medical editor, and the Cleveland Clinic, the benefits of cessation from smoking begin immediately:
- After 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse decrease. The temperature of your hands and feet increases.
- After eight hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal. Oxygen levels in your blood increase.
- After 24 hours, your chance of heart attack decreases.
- After 48 hours, your ability to taste and smell starts to return.
- After 72 hours, your bronchial tubes (airways) relax.
- After two weeks to three months, your circulation improves.
- After one to nine months, cilia (tiny hairs) in the lungs re-grow, increasing the lung's capacity to handle mucus, clean itself, and reduce infection. Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath also decrease.
- After one to five years, your risk of dying from heart disease is cut to half that of a lifelong smoker's risk.
- After 10 years, your risk of dying from lung cancer drops to almost the same rate as that of a lifelong nonsmoker. Your risk for mouth, larynx, and other cancers decreases.
If you own a business, this New York Times article is worth reading: Click here.
I am on smoke-free day 35. I feel great. My waist grew a little bit, but as my youngest son reminded me, "You lost that weight once, Dad; you can do it again. I am proud of you."
If you are thinking about giving up smoking for good, here is the best advice I have experienced and researched. Know and apply any or all of these 12 ideas. I hope they help you.
- Know WHY you want to quit. List your reasons. You only need one good reason to start. I made a list of 25 reasons. At the top of the list? Future Grandchildren.
- Have a plan and understand it's a process. These 12 ideas are just that, a process.
- Quid pro quo is Latin for "this for that". Some people use nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, or prescription alternatives. I used a straw and carrots. Using substitutes can double your chances of succeeding.
- Find support and accountability. Ask a loved one or a good friend who doesn't smoke to be available to you. Call, text, or e-mail that person when you feel like slipping. He or she will talk you off the ledge.
- Manage stress: take up yoga, tai chi, walking on the beach or in the woods, listen to relaxing music or meditations. Good habits take 21 to 35 days to take hold.
- Be aware of triggers and avoid them. Reduce your alcohol or coffee intake. Switch to drinking tea or have a piece of gum after a meal.
- Clean house. Vacuum, scrub the walls, and eliminate the old smoke odors. Purge your paraphernalia. Toss your ashtrays, pipes, humidors, and cutters.
- Keep trying. The recidivism rate for smokers is very high. For some people, their Coke machine doesn't tip over with just one push; they have to rock it and back and forth a few times. Persist. The juice is worth the squeeze.
- Get moving. Take physical action: walk, run, bicycle, treadmill, or spin. Fill your lungs with air. Aerobics means with air.
- Eat more fruit and veggies. Let's face it; most of us don't eat the suggested 21-35 grams of fiber! Not only are they good for you, they will make smoking taste bad.
- Choose a reward. Celebrate your success. If you are saving $500 a month by not smoking, invest $100-$200 in something special just for you! Hey, why not join that nice health club you always wanted to?
- Do it for your grandchildren. Our children want us around for their children. Too many baby boomers have died before they had a chance to enjoy their grandkids. Don't let that be you.
I have more energy and I feel better. I am saving money every week. I need to call Wardell and see how he is, if for no other reason than to say hello and brag a little. Maybe I can finally beat him in one-on-one. Nah, I probably wouldn't.
|Book of the Month |
Kick Butts, Take Names: It's All about Freedom
Joanna Cummings smoked like a freight train for over twenty years, starting at age twelve. Her own process of butt kicking-kicking tobacco-was so challenging and painful, she became determined to find or develop a way for others to kick butts with less suffering, and greater success. (And it's effective: some people have spontaneously stopped smoking simply by reading it!)
You can read reviews here.