Don't give up already.
Now you know something else that doesn't work. Okay, write that off.
I can tell you what I did. It might work for you.
A little history first.
I remember my first one, shared with a neighbor kid one summer afternoon. It was a scavenged Camel, probably half smoked by his father. Well, why not start off with a bang? Cough-cough-cough. But, hey, it was a cig, a tempting no-no, and empowering for a 12? year old, when TV was new and so was the macho Marlboro Man.
The habit built slowly, until the purveyors were handing out those mini four-packs ([Edited - Ron]) in the hallways and cafeterias of colleges and universities. They knew the hook and line and they sank it in, deeply. And then there was the freshman roommate, guitar plucking, world traveling, son of a Chicago neurosurgeon who kept that cramped dorm room in a blue haze funk, Chilean smokes and all (they were awful by the way).
As I recall, there was nothing evil or nasty about it then, or we didn't know it, although stairwells and other such places smelled pretty bad at the time.
And when they weren't free, being handed out, they were cheap.
Those were also the days when anything that burned got smoked - tobacco, that is. You name it, I probably tried it, including what cigars we could get, or afford, and pipes were great fun even if you weren't very good at it.
Then there followed the Ft. Campbell PX - cheap cheap cheap and everybody did it. And who cared then? You were going to get sent over there and die anyway - light 'em up, boys.
It was in grad school a few years later when it started to get to me. The health message had been around awhile, there was the guilt of stinking up the lab for folks who didn't smoke, and the cost of a pack from a vending machine had gone up to 40 cents. 40 cents? Yup, just a bit less than a gallon of gas. The only income I had was the GI bill and an assistant-ship. I had cheap housing in my grandfather's old place, but that meant a commute and I needed gas and parking money.
What to do?
Well, ya, but how the h***?
Outright quiting, RIGHT NOW, wasn't going to work - and probably works for few, if any.
The nicotine supplements dealt only with the nicotine and not the habit (key point here - the habit, not the nicotine). There were only pills then, and they didn't really work, maybe today's patches would have.
Okay, try the worst smelling, worst tasting junk you can get your hands on and make yourself sick of it all. Nope. That didn't work either. I just tasted bad and smelled worse.
Don't inhale? Hahaha!
I was starting to wake up in the wee hours, coughing up brown phlegm. Still, there was that necessary morning cigarette . . .
You might think it impossible to do, being a full time commuting grad student with a teaching assistant-ship. No pressure. Got to have that crutch (another clue).
The profs and the fellow students - everybody is doing it - well most everybody (clue).
And the commute? Oh, ya, the dropped lit cig or the smoke in the eyes in traffic. Never had a wreck, but you get the picture (another clue).
Girlfriend who doesn't smoke - another problem.
Okay, enough history, your history is different, but now you can identify.
Remember, this is well after the fact, some 35 years, and seems more like a plan now then it did at the time. It was more like what I would now call adaptive management - study the process, dump what doesn't work and try to follow and build on little things that do work, adapting as you go.
Now we'll get to it.
1. It is your habit - nobody else's - this is important - get to know it. When do you do it, why do you do it, where do you do it? Get to know it, piece by piece, cig by cig. Watch it coming. This is key. Think you have already done this part? I saw things I hadn't really noticed before.
2. Don't ask anyone to help, it's your habit, remember. Even better if you can start doing this without anyone else in on the secret. This gives you the freedom and confidence to pace yourself. That way no one is expecting anything - who needs that? - you are not doing this for anyone else, just yourself. You want someone watching your every move? I didn't.
3. Do not think of it as forever, 'cause it isn't, but you can still quit. (Just a little riddle, this.) Forever is way too steep a climb when you are looking up at it and you honestly believe that you like smoking. (I did.)
4. Have you studied it yet? Your own habit? Okay. Now study a couple of other smokers you know. Piece by piece. What are they doing? Why? When? Certain places? Certain times? Before something? After something? Instead of something? I watched others follow patterns that were soon entirely predictable and to a good degree calculated (semi-consciously, perhaps). You'll see a bunch of parallels, and they might look a little silly on someone else.
Clue - think of yourself as editor of their poem, or your own poem? (New idea I just thought of and probably works better for a word minimalist like me than a rambler like you.)
5. Okay, here it comes.
You are going to edit yourself. Pick one piece of your habit. Choose one that looks easy to do. A little one. One that will hardly be noticed, by you or anyone else. When it goes missing, eh, so what? For me, I think the first pick was the morning commute to my lab/classroom. I had already had a couple by then, probably, and planned to have one when I got my car parked. So, no quiting. Just a time out. Only 20 minutes. This one was easy to rationalize because it was also dangerous (at least as bad as a cell phone is today, 'cept the cell phone is likely to burn only your ear). And, no one but me knew if I was doing it or not (an important part for me). This did not affect my addiction to nic., only my habit, and only just a little bit. Not very difficult. Okay, you don't drive, so pick something else out of your routine.
This went on for some time before I picked off another piece, maybe it was in the lab, don't remember the sequence, but I did it, and I still kept on smoking at other times, in other places, with abandon.
What this did, obviously, was to trick myself into being satisfied at not having one until later while being assured that I could and would. They weren't gone forever, just a little while. No panic. No quiting forever (you've got to get over that notion in order to get a head start).
Just pick one place, time, event where you can delay the next light-up, but then go ahead and have it when it's over - have two, I probably did.
If you can manage that small challenge, you can pick a second time, place, or event, and do the same thing with it, and then you are headed down a new road. Take your time.
Still, don't tell anyone, at least I didn't. You may be teasing yourself with the failure option that way, but it worked for me. And, I was gaining on everybody else and they didn't know it. They didn't see me coming!
6. To make a long story short . . .
After some few months of these mini no smoking sessions, I was working on my thesis one weekend - the field work was all done, data was in, references compiled, just had to write the blasted thing. Back then you had to type it out (white-out not allowed) on premium paper. Long frustrating hours.
It was late Friday night - I was down to butts - I could have walked down to the village bar to get a pack. I didn't. Decided to wait until morning - what's one more delay? I can smoke a pack or two tomorrow.
No panic. I had done this delay thing many times before.
In the morning I decided to take a break from the thesis and work out in my veggie garden, my alternate high intensity activity - it was huge.
After lunch I decided to wait until I needed to get groceries. Went back to the thesis.
Saturday night I figured I really didn't need groceries just yet.
I found myself on the way to my lab Monday morning and still hadn't bought a pack. How did I manage that? WOW! Surprise, surprise!
After Monday it was just one day at a time. There was always tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow. (Now lookie there, procrastination is good for something!) Every day got a little easier.
From that week on, I never looked back. I didn't tell anyone what I had done until someone asked and by that time I was proud of it and I couldn't go back.
Two packs to zero.
Okay, there was that big cigar at the graduation picnic I threw for myself . . . cough, cough.
[This message has been edited by Ron (05-07-2009 11:56 AM).]