I Suck at Quitting Smoking

Any personal finance blog will tell you to separate needs from wants if you want to improve your finances. Too often, we spend a ton of money on junk we could live without, then complain that we’re broke. (Obviously not everyone does this, but we all know that many Americans are obsessed with stuff.) When I decided I was over my debt, I identified several areas where I was spending on wants instead of needs - restaurants, entertainment, and smoking.

I’ve cut down my restaurant expenses from $400 a month to $136 this past month. I saved $80 on my cable and phone bills by downgrading or removing features I didn’t need. That’s over $300 a month going toward savings and debt instead of worthless crap. Hooray! Celebration! Watch out for the confetti falling from the sky!

But guess how much I’ve reduced my $100 a month smoking habit. Zero. In fact, I actually overspent in April because I smoked more than usual. Yep, time to sweep up all that confetti.

If you’ve never smoked, you have no idea how hard it is to stop. It’s like trying to stop breathing. You can do it for a little while, but pretty soon you’re freaking out and can’t think about anything else and before you know it you’re doing it again to keep from having a nervous breakdown. People say that a cigarette craving will go away if you can just wait 5-10 minutes, but that’s a total lie. I’ve made it 4 hours before (not by choice) and the cravings just intensify until I’m shaking like a crack fiend.

Over the years, I’ve tried several methods to quit smoking. I tried cold turkey, which lasted less than a day. I tried gradually cutting down, and that worked for a couple weeks until I had a stressful day at work. I tried Chantix, which is a super expensive prescription drug that is supposed to make you sick if you smoke. It didn’t make me sick; it just made the cigarettes taste bad. But I smoked them anyway.

Smoking is so ingrained into my daily routine I truly don’t know how to live without it. Every morning, I sit outside and smoke at least 2 cigarettes (don’t smoke in the house) before I get in the shower. I actually get up 10 minutes early so I have plenty of time for those crucial first 2 of the day. Then I smoke 3 on the hour-long commute to work. I smoke about every hour and a half during the workday. I smoke immediately after every meal. 3 more cigarettes for the drive home. Several more before I go to bed. Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night with a craving. I realize how ridiculous this sounds.

The fact is, I need to quit. Both of my grandmothers died of lung cancer. My son lectures me constantly. My clothes smell disgusting at the end of the day. I’m spending $100 a month (or more) that could be used toward debt.

But I don’t want to quit. And that’s where my needs vs. wants are all screwed up. Just like when I was furiously spending, I know I need to stop this but I’m making the choice to keep going. I ask myself all the time, What will it take for me to get over smoking? Do I wait until I start having health problems? Will the ever-increasing prices convince me to quit? (Probably not, since they were $1.25 a pack when I started and now the “cheap” ones I smoke are $4.) I really don’t know what it will take.

I know anyone reading has had some kind of habit, whether smoking or something else, that you’ve managed to break. How did you do it? I’m not asking specifically how you stopped, but how did you get to the point where you WANTED to?

If you read these posts too, I'll remember you in my will:

  1. Review: Cigotine Electronic Cigarette
  2. Spending Roundup for April
  3. Spending Roundup for March
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  • Working to Not Work

    My husband chews tabacco and 'wants' to quit but hasnt. When he learns the special trick to quit Ill pass it along to ya! haha But I just say, do it for you son if anything. He cares so much about you and how do you think he'd feel if you died from a disease from smoking that was totally and completely preventable by you? Just a thought? Maybe that'll help. If anything, do it for him.

  • TeacHer

    I really wish I could answer this question. Granted, I didn't smoke as much as you do (usually I smoked about half a pack a day) but I was definitely addicted. I tried to quit a couple of times unsuccessfully, then one day I woke up and I was just like: I'm done with this. I have absolutely no idea how I got over that psychological hurdle, I just…did. I've had the same random epiphanies about other stuff in life, too….where I all of a sudden have a moment of clarity and just DO IT (whatever IT is).

    All of this is totally unhelpful chatter, I know…I just think that it's pointless to try to quit if you don't really want it, deep down. You have to wait until you get to that place in your mind where you really WANT to quit to make it happen….in terms of how you get there….I'm just not sure. But I totally feel for you - I know how hard this is and I think it's very commendable that your'e being so honest about this struggle.

    Keep at it!

  • Out My window

    I am so sorry you have this affliction. I can't help you but I can sympathize. You are addicted to nicotine. Addictions are hard to conquer. Talk to your doctor. See if there is a alternative drug you can try. I wish you the best. Just keep trying. You are not a failure you just have a problem.

  • Andrea

    @TeacHer - I guess we come from the same school of motivation. Everything I've done in my life has been kind of out of the blue. Just like my decision to get out of debt. I'm really hopeful that the day will come when I'm just over it and decide to throw these things away for good.

  • Insomniac Lab Rat

    My "physical" addiction is caffeine- I get terrible headaches if I don't have it. I cut back a bit when it was inconvenient to consume as much as I had been, while staying with my in-laws, who don't really consume caffeine. But I don't have any desire to give it up totally.

    When I was suffering from an eating disorder (which isn't quite the same as an addiction, but somewhat similar), I didn't WANT help until I started having health problems…

    I'm not sure you'll be able to quit until you really want to, but I think it would be worth it to keep trying to find reasons to want to quit. Whether it's for your son, your health, the cost, the smell…maybe if you just keep thinking about these things, eventually one of them will "click". Addictions and bad habits are hard to kick!

    good luck!

  • Anonymous

    You may want to talk to your doctor a prescription for Chantix. It supposedly helps reduce your desire to quit. My husband smoked from age 13-41 and has quit twice now. He tried Chantix(it wasn't for him), but the only thing that worked for him was nicotine patches. I am happy to say he has not smoked in 1 1/2 years…not to say he still doesn't want to…because he wants to. That's the thing about smoking cigarettes is that people that smoke enjoy it and that makes it even harder to quit.

  • Andrea

    I tried Chantix a few years ago - it didn't help enough to justify the $125 a month. But I've never tried the nicotine patches, so that's a thought. One of my friends suggested those electronic cigarettes, so I'm pondering that as well. Mostly I wish I could find a way to want to quit because I think that's what it will take for me to stop for good.

  • Margie

    I feel for you! I had a smoking addiction (about half a pack a day) for serveral years. I got started because my ex was a smoker. It took me a few tries to quit but what made me do it was a combination of the negative social stigma (hanging out with people who DIDN'T smoke and would give my positive feedback on my journey towards quitting) and strong desire to be healthy. I set a goal to run a 5K - and that eventually led to a 10K and then a half marathon.

    I don't think the urge to smoke every truly goes away which makes quitting even harder. My tips for you would be to not hang out with friends who smoke, and to start gradually cutting down (for instance, one in the morning for a few weeks. . . then half a cig . . . when driving, allow yourself two on the drive, then set a goal of making it half way through the commute before you light up and make that your only one . . .) And then, most importantly, reward your positive behavior! :) Good luck, I know it's a difficult journey.

  • Red

    My brother tried Chantix. It actually made him vomit every time he took it, and there are some scary side effects listed besides that.

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this kind of addiction. :-/ I was once addicted to caffeine, specifically sodas. I would drink at least 8 cans of Diet Dr. Pepper a day. I would order Pizza Hut delivery once a week (all the money I wasted!) and would get a 2 liter of Mountain Dew that I would drink half of in one night.

    How did I get to the place mentally that I wanted to quit? Actually, it happened right around the time that I learned all of the potential side effects of aspartame, which is in diet soda. But the time I chose to quit was purely based on convenience. We went on our honeymoon to a cabin in the mountains. My husband doesn’t drink soda, so we stocked the fridge with water bottles instead. We went out to eat so much that it seemed silly to buy anything for the cabin. (At restaurants, I exclusively drink sweet tea or, now that I’m calorie counting, unsweet tea with zero calorie sweetener.) By the end of the week, I realized, “Hey, I haven’t had a soda in a week! Might as well stop now!”

    The cravings are still there, 15 months later. There are certain foods I eat or ate that just tasted *better* with a can of Diet Dr. Pepper (and don’t taste nearly as good with sweet tea). But I focus on 1) the long list of side effects I no longer have to worry about and 2) the much more infrequent migraines I’ve experienced since giving up soda. I still get them around that time (if you know what I mean), but not even once a month now. Whereas when I was drinking soda, I would have them multiple times a month, and they would knock me on my ass with their intensity. Plus, water is just plain better for you.

  • Mymultiplestreams.com

    Well not as bad as smoking but mine was eating. I used to eat junk food, soda, coffee, red bull ( my fav) till my anxiety attacks became so over whelming and the stomach issues I had. Went to the doctors andnmy cholestorl was through the roof so she put me on all sort of meds. Finally decided I didn’t want to live this way so I gave it all up and went whole foods only. No more caffeine or sodas (water only) no more meats but chicken onc in awhile and no more sugars. I’m off all meds but one now (anxiety) and have more energy and drive now.

    Gotta look at it as you want to enjoy life now and be around for yr son as he grows up and for your future grand kids. Do everything you can to get get healthy and stay that way. You’re a beautiful young woman and don’t want to loose you prematurely due to cigarettes