Making Your Last Smoke Count

“On Monday, I’m going to quit smoking!” If your family and friends roll their eyes when you say this, it’s probably a sign that your mental fortitude is just slightly weaker than the ungodly pull of modern man’s Achilles heel: nicotine.

Quitting smoking is a popular New Year’s resolution, a promise made by newlyweds, and the subject of much marital nagging. With recent research showing that nicotine addiction rivals addiction to heroin and other illicit substances, it may take more than mental will to quit. Not only do you have to deal with well-wishing non-smokers (the syrupy, condescending “good for you”), disbelieving friends (“Oh, so this time is it? Whatever.”), and perpetual nags (“As soon as you stop smoking, you start getting healthier!”), you actually have to get through those first hours, days, and weeks.

If your last smoke is already planned, make it count. Despite all the drawbacks of smoking – including cancer – it’s popular for a reason. You’re sick, tired, and stressed out. You need something to give you that little edge that even coffee can’t provide. When you give up smoking, you deserve to celebrate a little bit.

1. Make it an event to remember. Making a production of your last smoke might actually help you stay away from cigarettes. Setting a date in advance and planning a party will help you make the mental shift from smoker to non-smoker. Marking your big day also gives you the chance to let friends and family know you’re kicking your addiction. Include as many people as you can, regardless of their smoking habits. That way, you’ll receive the encouragement you need from non-smokers and smokers who aren’t ready to quit won’t feel alienated.

During your event, whether it’s a special dinner, pool party, or night on the town, vocalize your plans to quit. Encourage friends and family to help you brainstorm reasons to stop smoking and all the advantages of being smoke-free.

2. Plan ahead. Quitting is going to be hard, so don’t blow off preparations. Make a list of things to do in place of smoking, such as chewing gum or sucking on hard candies. Keep a log of indulgences you’ll allow yourself, like a greasy burger or fresh sushi, when you make it through a tough day. You won’t quit for the incentives alone, but they’ll help reinforce that quitting as a positive step.

3. Get by with a little help from your friends. Having friends around to hear you out when you’re anxious, cranky, and just generally jonesing to light up can make the difference between caving to cravings and staying strong. Keeping your non-smoking friends closer while you’re quitting will make it easier to stay smoke-free. Ask them to keep an eye on you and to let you know if they notice you slipping back into old habits that could lead to relapse.

4. Savor your last smoke. For some people, allowing for a grieving process helps let go of the habit. Smoking is like a companion, and it’s probably been there for you for celebrations and disappointments alike. Allow yourself to say goodbye by really enjoying your last cigarette. When you’re facing cravings later, dial up a friend before you run out to buy a pack, whip out your “reasons to quit” list, and remember that you’ve already let it go; you don’t need to smoke anymore.

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