Common advice given to smokers trying to quit is that they should “Do whatever it takes to quit smoking.” This short video discusses the potential problems with giving or taking this particular advice.
I originally had a variation of this post in the The Teaching of Conventional Wisdom at Freedom (see below) thread at Freedom. It was prompted when a member on the board wrote to another member that he or she should do what ever it takes to quit smoking. The example specifically given was drink water or eat ice cream. I have to say, if someone plans on going the ice cream route they had better be ready to go buy a whole slew of complete wardrobes, of ever increasing sizes. If your crutch for smoking thoughts are going to be any high caloric food weight gain of massive amounts should be expected.
As far as using “whatever it takes,” I guess that can be translated to taking any food, any drug, legal or illegal, or participate in any activity, no matter how ludicrous or dangerous that activity might be. Does the comment smoke crack cocaine, or shoot up heroin, or drink as much alcohol as it takes, or administer lethal dosages of arsenic or cyanide make any sense to anyone as practical advice to quit smoking? If not, the comment of do whatever it takes loses any real concept of credibility.
As far as quitting smoking goes, the advice should not be “do whatever it takes to quit smoking,” but rather, “do what it takes to quit smoking.” What it takes to quit smoking is simply sticking to your commitment to never take another puff!
“Boy did I ever drink my brains out, today,” a clinic participant enthusiastically proclaimed, “But I did not smoke!” She was so proud of her accomplishment. Two whole days without smoking a single cigarette. To her, being bombed out of her mind was a safe alternative to the deadly effects of cigarettes.
Just 24 hours earlier I had made a special point of mentioning the dangers of replacing one addiction with another. In quitting smoking one should not start using any other crutches which might be dangerous or addictive. But this was not of concern to her. She said, “I already have a drinking problem, so what more could go wrong with getting drunk to quit smoking.” Twenty minutes into the program, she stood up, passed out and had to be carried out.
Quitting by crutch replacement carries varying degrees of risks. Turning to any other addictive substance, even legal or prescribed drugs, carries the risk of a new addiction. In many of these cases the end result will be a more significant problem than just the original smoking. The new addiction can cause the person’s life to end in shambles, and when it comes time to deal with the new dependence he or she will often relapse to cigarettes.
Turning to food, especially high calorie sweet foods, will usually result in a psychological need with a subsequent weight gain. The risk of weight gain is insignificant in comparison to the dangers associated with cigarettes. The ex-smoker would have to gain over 75 pounds to create the equivalent health hazard of cigarette smoking. But weight gain often results in a state of panic and frustration which can lead the ex-smoker to conclude that he or she would rather be a skinny smoker than an obese ex-smoker. The fallacy which causes the ex-smoker to reach this conclusion is that only two options exist for him or her – smoke or eat more. In fact, other choices exist. One is not smoking and eating in a manner similar to when he or she was a smoker. Another is increasing activity levels to compensate for the added caloric intake when eating extra amounts.
Some people turn to a healthy alternative as a crutch, like jogging or swimming. These activities carry low risk and, in fact, often result in physical benefits. But if they are being done as a direct crutch in maintaining abstinence, they pose one major threat. As with drugs, alcohol, or food, when the day comes that one must stop the activity, the seemingly successful ex-smoker will often relapse. Sometimes a minor ankle sprain will temporarily end a jogger’s running, or an ear infection will interfere with swimming. What should be a temporary minor inconvenience ends in a tragic result – relapse to cigarettes.
Again, the ex-smoker believes that only one of two states exist for him or her – either smoking or mandatory exercise. But, in actuality, a third choice exists, not smoking and doing nothing. This is not to say an ex-smoker should not take up physical activities after quitting. But exercise should be done for the enjoyment and for the true benefits derived from it. The ex-smoker should do it because he or she wants to, not because he or she has to.
If you are going to develop a crutch, make sure it is one which you can maintain for the rest of your life without any interruption. One that carries no risks and can be done anywhere, anytime. About the only crutch which comes close to meeting these criteria is breathing. The day you have to stop breathing, smoking will be of little concern. But until that day, to stay free from cigarettes all you need to do is – NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!
© Joel Spitzer 1987
Conventional Wisdom and Quitting Smoking
We always want to be careful about giving advice that is considered conventional wisdom, sounds great on paper, and is basically wrong for most people trying to quit smoking.
Things like the idea of feeling you have to wait till a certain day of the week, or prepare for a certain time period gives many people the excuse to put off a quit that they may be ready to do at the point in time that they show up. Putting off a quit to the “right time” has caused many a smoker to put it off till death.
Some people advise people to sleep through the quitting process. Sleeping as much as you can teaches a smoker in the midst of a quit how to be a prisoner in bed as opposed to how to start to live life as soon as he or she can. Some people, if totally exhausted or sleepy from the withdrawals may need the sleep, but they are not the majority. If a person is tired and needs sleep, staying in bed is fine–but if they are doing it as an escape, they are slowing up their psychological adjustments more than helping them. There are plenty of other such tidbits of wisdom out there, such as carry cigarettes to show how strong you are or give up coffee or change all of your daily routines that have many advocates but is still not necessarily right for the majority of people.
We have a How to quit smoking tip sheet that gives a few tried and true techniques, not all inclusive by any means, but a starting point. Keep in mind, this list in controversial in most places, especially when considering the first line reads “Quit cold turkey. In the long run it’s the easiest and most effective technique of smoking cessation.” Controversial elsewhere or not, it is key to note that this concept and a few others are the reasons that our members joined up at Freedom and have stayed here.
Most people are here because they like the focus we put on our simplicity to quitting. I think many if not most have been to other sites and realized that idea of anything that works for you is fine just didn’t seem to work for them. If you think other sites have an edge, go and read at them for a few days. Read carefully what is often going on. You will often see numerous relapses that are down played as not being big mistakes, and you will also likely see people who are complaining a lot more of physical and emotional problems much longer than the average participant here at Freedom. We are trying to help people get adjusted both mentally and physically the fastest they can to life as an ex-smoker.
We want to caution our newest members to read here and learn as much as you can and not to be so quick to throw in quitting advice that you have picked up elsewhere–either at other sites or in your real world encounters. We want people to come to Freedom to first learn how to quit before they shift their attentions on how to teach people to quit. Although in truth, the real reason people should be here should always be to enforce his or her own personal quit even more than influencing others–each and every members quit and life depends on this goal. Any advice that is telling people that they must somehow shift their way of life in order to start or sustain a quit may not be accurate for most people.
The bottom line of quitting is, the sooner people realize that everything they could do as a smoker they can now do as an ex-smoker–the sooner they realize that there is life without smoking. They will also find out there may be many things that they can now do better without smoking and that life is basically better on many fronts from them having quit smoking. The faster people get back to their life–the sooner they will break triggers and habits and the sooner they will realize that they can do anything as an ex-smoker as long as they always remember to never take another puff!