Ultimately, I was able to quit, in July of 1995. But quitting smoking was, truly, the most difficult thing I've ever done...and I still consider it one of my greatest accomplishments.
Throughout all those years of smoking, I didn't realize that smoking can actually trigger or worsen thyroid problems. Just a short time after I quit, I was diagnosed as hypothyroid.
I didn't realize that years of smoking can trigger -- and then mask -- a thyroid disorder. [An important note to those looking for an excuse to start again: the thyroid problem or resulting symptoms do not go away if you start smoking again.]
I had tried quitting with hypnosis, acupuncture, nicotine gum, support groups, expensive stop smoking programs, and ultimately, nothing had worked for me. But after starting to have symptoms similar to asthma, and after getting married, I knew I HAD to quit for good.
I worked with a therapist whose focus was on various brain wave patterns of addiction, and she hooked me up to a brain wave monitor to find out the effect of various activities on my brain's alpha (relaxing) waves. The therapist's idea was that people who are addicted to smoking may be trying to change their brain chemistry by "self-medicating." She theorized that when you stop smoking, the brain shifts into a "theta" pattern -- making you feel agitated, irritated, and looking for a cigarette to return to alpha relaxation. She wanted to help determine other things that I could do to help get that alpha brain state going.
For some people, the relaxation is achieved by exercise, but that has never had that effect on me. I needed another approach. The therapist and I tested a variety of approaches -- relaxation tapes, Mozart's music, CDs of whale sounds, biofeedback, etc. -- and none of them appeared to have an effect on my brain wave patterns. Finally, we discovered one thing that did have an immediate and noticeable effect on for me -- needlework. Yes, crocheting and sewing, of all things, quickly shifted my brain waves into an alpha pattern.
So I embarked on a program of crocheting. Meanwhile, my physician prescribed a mild tranquilizer, Klonopin, and said to take one when things got especially difficult. During the first month after I quit, it turned out that I only needed a handful of Klonopin pills.
and I crocheted. . . and crocheted. . . and crocheted. Over the course of four months, I crocheted 6 queen size granny square afghans. I put down my crochet hooks that summer of 1996, and in the years since, there are only a few times that I've picked up the crochet hook. In the years since, I also haven't smoked even a puff of a cigarette either.
My recommendation: find support, find that thing that helps you make that shift into relaxing alpha state (and don't assume it's exercise as everyone often hears, because that is not the case for everyone), and then stick with it!
If you think needlework might be a way for you to also quit smoking, check out one of our terrific About sites:
And if you need help, check out About.com's great Smoking Cessation site.