The night before I quit for the last time, I went outside at a few minutes before midnight and lit my last cigarette. As I smoked it, every time I took a puff, I repeated out loud, “This is the last cigarette I will ever smoke.” In between drags, I reminded myself that smoking was something I would not miss.

Oddly enough, I was so ready to quit that I only finished half of that cigarette. I guess I just wanted to be done. (And — for some reason I can’t remember now — I made sure I took at least 10 puffs off of that cigarette so I could repeat the phrase, “This is the last cigarette I will ever smoke.” 10 times).

Taking Out the Trash

My next ritual was throwing away the rest of my cigarettes (18 full packs and part of another: I had just gotten two cartons in the mail a week or so before I quit, and by the night before I quit, I was only smoking 3 or 4 cigarettes a day). I threw away my lighters, ashtrays, matches, too, and rolled the garbage can up to the top of the driveway (the next morning was garbage pickup).

Positive Self-Talk

The morning of day one, I got up, stood in front of the mirror on my dresser, looked myself in the eye and said, “I am a nicotine addict. I can’t afford to feed that addiction even one time. So, just for today, I choose not to smoke.” (I repeated this ritual every morning, as soon as I woke up, for about the first 500-600 days of my quit.)

Keeping a Journal

Then I went to the kitchen and started my morning coffee, and while I was waiting for it to finish, I sat down at my desk, opened a new quit journal, and wrote the following (which I’ve since posted online in several places):

Yesterday, I chose to be a slave to a disgusting, filthy, self-destructive addiction.
Today, I choose freedom!
Yesterday, I chose to be controlled by that addiction.
Today, I choose self-control!
Yesterday, I chose disease and sickness, because it was easier to remain a slave to my addiction than it was to break free.
Today, I choose health!
Yesterday, I chose weakness, because if I was too weak to break the chains of my addiction, no one could blame me for remaining bound.
Today, I choose strength!
Yesterday, I chose to suck multiple poisonous substances into my already severely damaged lungs because I “needed” one of those poisons to feed my addiction.
Today, i choose not to smoke!
Yesterday, I chose death.
Today, I choose life!

Choosing Not to Smoke

A little later, I went to work and I chose not to smoke. A lot. (A friend who I worked with at the time reminded me — when we were out together a couple of years later — that I spent most of that day apparently trying to crush the edge of my desk with my bare hands. What she didn’t know was that I was really just holding on to the edge of my desk, riding out the craves…)

Every time I had a crave that day (and I had a lot of them), I would recite my mantra: “I am a nicotine addict. I can’t afford to feed that addiction even one time. So, just for today, I choose not to smoke.”

Knowing Why You’re Doing This

I also kept a list of reasons why I was putting myself through this with me at all times, and I added more reasons to it as they occurred to me. Every time I had a crave, I acknowledged it, made the deliberate conscious choice not to feed it, recited my mantra, and re-read my list of reasons. I reminded myself that I was choosing to put up with a little momentary discomfort now to gain that whole list of long-term benefits.

Getting, and Giving, Support

But probably the one ritual that did the most to keep me quit for that first year was spending a lot of time reading and posting at a number of quit smoking support sites that I belonged to. When the craves were really bad, reaching out to offer support to other people in the same boat as I was turned out to be the best thing I could do to help myself.

I highly recommend it.

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