Eric Owen hopes this will be third time lucky. In his third attempt to quit smoking, he has not picked up a cigarette for 8 months, a personal record, considering that he was on more than a pack a day. His previous record was his second attempt –six and a half months, or 198 days to be exact. His first attempt was a total disaster.
“I tend to smoke whenever I have alcohol. I was at this party where they served alcohol, and I couldn’t resist the temptation when someone offered me a cigarette. That is the reason I picked up smoking again after having quit for more than 6 months, ” said the 36-year-old banker ruefully.
This is a classic case. If there is a single most important tip to help quit smoking, it is the word avoidance. Now Eric is much more careful about mixing his vices. He is aware of how vulnerable he is when confronted with both alcohol and cigarette at the same time. He has smoked for more than half his life, at the ripe young age of 16, when he was hanging out with older kids around the block that offer him the occasional cigarette or two.
“I started smoking seriously when I was in college. I had a part-job then and could afford to buy my own, ” he said. For almost 20 years, he smoked at least a pack a day. “I tried to quit smoking twice. I used nicotine patches, gums, basically any kind of medicine to help stop smoking. I managed to go smoke-free for quite a while, until that unfortunate night at the party, ” he said. His final reality check was last year, when he had lung infection and was too sick to work. He ended up spending more than 3 weeks at home alone – his wife had to work during the day.
“It was a really unbearable 3-week. I was too weak to even get out of bed!” Encouraged by his wife, he decided to quit – once and for all. It also helps that he has an understanding employer. When he returned to work, “The company organized a talk about the perils of smoking and encouraged us to sign up, which I did. So this is how I quit smoking, by taking that first step. ” he said.
“I am happy to say I haven’t picked up a cigarette for 8 months, ” he said firmly.
More and more companies have banned smoking in the workplace, and many have even dismantled the smoking rooms. All these measures help, but Eric knows he has to do more. A consequence of which is that he stopped seeing friends who are smokers, or going to parties where alcohol is served. It has not been easy. He also looked for a distraction, and found it in exercising. “I started exercising the moment I was well. I hit the gym 3 to 4 times a week, and work out for about an hour and a half each time, ” he said.
Aside from a sense of personal satisfaction, he has seen his decision pay off in other ways. His blood pressure is no longer dangerously high, because of the exercise and the absence of the harmful chemicals. And he no longer gets breathless each time he climbs up the 3 flight of stairs to his office.
“It is back to normal and I am off medication, ” he said, smiling.
His advice to smokers who want to quit: “Stop associating with activities that will generally make you smoke. Avoidance is really one of the best ways to quit smoking. Let your smoker friends know that you are trying to quit smoking. Seek their understanding and tell them you can only meet them if they don’t smoke in your presence. Indirectly, your actions may also be able help someone stop smoking!”
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