Sunday, May 1, 2011

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?


Working to Not Work said...

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 said...

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 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 said...

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 said...

@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 said...

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 said...

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 said...

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 said...

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.

Post a Comment