What do you think the number one most important attribute needed to be a successful quitter is? Willpower? Motivation? Fear? Determination? Stubbornness?
In my opinion, the number one most important attribute needed to be a successful quitter is patience. You need patience to wait for the inner junkie to give up; to lie down and go to sleep. Because the junkie will eventually give up if you keep saying, “No. Not right now.”
Don’t Try to Do Too Much at Once
You don’t have to know or predict what you’ll do tomorrow, or even later today; as long as right now, in this moment, the answer is always, “No. I’m not going to smoke right now,” you’ll be fine.
At first, you have to tell the inner junkie “No” a lot. But as time goes by, you’ll have to do it less and less. Eventually, you almost never have to do it at all. Because the junkie, like a willful child, will eventually get tired of whining and lie down and go to sleep.
Take It One Moment at a Time
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve quit and then gone back to smoking; heck, I can’t even count the number of times I quit and relapsed over my 30-plus years of being an on again/off again (mostly “on”) smoker. But I figured something out early in this quit: I realized that, every single time I relapsed, it was because I made the deliberate, conscious choice to take that first puff that led me back into slavery to my addiction. And I made a firm commitment that, this time, I wasn’t going to take that first puff.
How Did I Do It?
I didn’t do it by vowing never to smoke again, or even by promising that I wouldn’t smoke tomorrow. I did it by choosing not to smoke “right now”. What do I mean by choosing not to smoke “right now”? I mean that, in the moment I was having a crave, when my inner junkie was hammering at me to feed him, I would tell him, “No. Not right now.”
And that’s all I’ve ever had to do to stay free since November of 2001: simply say, “No. Not right now,” in response to my craves.
Don’t Overestimate the Challenge
The thing is, even at their most intense (in the first few days of a quit), the vast majority of craves last less than 5 minutes (if you’re still smoking, it’s easy to prove this to yourself: the next time you get a crave, set up a timer for 5 minutes, and choose not to smoke before the timer goes off. Chances are that, by the time the timer goes off, you won’t remember you were even having a crave 5 minutes earlier).
Based on this observation, I came up with my patented, never-been-known-to-fail,
- Make a commitment to yourself that you’ll always wait at least 5 minutes before caving in to a crave and lighting up a cigarette.
- If a crave lasts for more than 5 minutes, see step 1.
Consistency is the Key
It doesn’t get much simpler than that. It boils down to simply choosing not to smoke right now. And even though I’ve been choosing not to smoke “right now” for over 10 years at this point, I still make no claims about tomorrow (or even later today); all I can tell you for sure is that if I happen to have a crave (and I can’t even remember the last time I had anything that could remotely be described as a crave,) I’ll choose not to smoke right now when it happens.
That’s all I’ve ever needed to do.
It’s all you’ll ever need to do, too.