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The other resolution

New Year’s Resolutions are hard enough to keep when you are by yourself and nobody is going to see if you cheat or not, but this one can be even more difficult when you are in the company of others. Others who have the same bad habit you are trying to conquer. I’m talking about smoking and the things we all go through trying to rationalize our bad habit while, at the same time, trying to escape it.
For years I tried to believe, as a person who smoked less than a pack a day (and some days, only five or six filtered cigarettes), I was in no danger from smoking. Smoking helped me relax, I insisted. It probably saved me from getting an ulcer or having a nervous breakdown, a lot more than it held the threat of getting lung cancer. Besides, living with a smoker made it nearly impossible for me to quit. My husband had no desire to quit and, if I was to live with the smells of tobacco and the smoky kisses, I didn’t dare quit. It was a matter of self-defense. Four times during our marriage I quit temporarily because of possible risks during pregnancy, but it was always temporary.
There are as many different methods to quit smoking as there are diets to lose weight. Most of them have a pretty low rate of success. Statistics seem to show any method has only about a 20 percent chance of success with any given person. And still you have to find the right plan for you. A lot depends on the reason you smoke and the reason you want to quit. Sometimes it has little to do with addiction or even long-standing habit. Sometimes it’s something as simple as the price of a pack of cigarettes. At one time, I realized how much I was spending on this habit and decided, if the price ever went over three dollars a pack, I would quit. The price rose beyond that and I did quit– for a while, but resumed after a few months.
Sometimes it’s a result of pressure in the workplace– when a business concern decides to coerce its employees into not smoking, they no longer provide a pleasant locale for employees to light up during coffee breaks and lunchtime. They may provide films, exercise programs, brochures, even counseling meant to help you stop smoking, but they do expect you to stop. Two friends, a man who worked for a utility company and a woman who worked in an office, were forbidden to smoke on the job. Both found they smoked just as much before and after work, and even more on weekends, as if trying to make up for lost opportunities.
One thing I discovered in my many and varied experiences related to giving up cigarettes is nobody notices when you DON’T smoke. They only notice when you DO. I quit for many months when my husband gave me an expensive gold lighter for Christmas.
Some people recommend you tell everybody who will listen you have quit smoking. This will help some of you by making you aware it isn’t just your business now and you don’t want to disappoint your friends. Other people will find ways to sneak cigarettes when no one is looking, flush the evidence down the toilet, and use lots of mouthwash and room freshener. Sneaking smokes becomes an end in itself and you end up smoking more than ever.
Some people quit because they are finally convinced inhaling all that gunk is harmful to their health and they have decided to behave like responsible adults and give up that suicidal habit. Whatever the reason, and whatever the method, it’s a good resolution. It’s hard to follow through on and you’ll probably suffer a few lapses before you actually give it up for good. One slip-up doesn’t mean you’ve failed, however, so don’t give up the struggle. If there’s anything I’ve learned from giving up tobacco, it’s once you manage to do it, you know it was worth the fight. I managed to quit permanently nearly 12 years ago when I was hospitalized for over a week after spinal surgery. I had a good start already after 12 days in the hospital. It was difficult for a few weeks but I survived by spending a lot of time in places where I had never smoked. Taking naps, soaking in the bathtub, volunteering at school, shopping, visiting non-smoking friends. I don’t exactly recommend major surgery as a method to quit smoking, but one thing is certain. If you don’t quit, you are very likely to have to have major surgery someday, anyway.
The best weapon in my arsenal turned out to be not pills, not patches, not regimens, not support from others, not guilt, and not a psychologist. My best weapon was the fact I’ve always been supremely stubborn and refused to give up until I did it.