A False Friend
You have a “friend” you met in your youth. He made you feel more mature and seemed to help you fit in with your peers. When you were stressed, you could always turn to him for some “relief.” Indeed, you have come to depend on him in many situations.
But in time, you discovered his dark side. He demands to be with you all the time, even if this makes you unwelcome in some places. And while he may have made you feel more mature, he did so at the cost of your health. To top it off, he has stolen a part of your wages.
In recent times, you have tried to break off the relationship, but he has not let you. In a way, he has become your master. You regret ever having met him.
SUCH is the relationship that many smokers have with the cigarette. After 50 years of smoking, a woman named Earline recalls: “The cigarette could help me more than having another person around. It was more than just an old friend—sometimes it was my only friend.” As Earline came to realize, though, the cigarette is, in fact, both a false friend and a vicious one. Indeed, the opening words above could have been written about her—with one exception. When she learned that smoking is bad in God’s eyes because it pollutes our God-given bodies, she quit her habit.—2 Corinthians 7:1.
A man named Frank also decided to quit in order to please God. But a day or so after he had his last cigarette, he found himself crawling under his house looking for old cigarette butts that had fallen between the floorboards. “That clinched it,” said Frank. “Finding myself on my hands and knees scratching through dirt for old butts disgusted me. I never had another smoke.”
Why does tobacco have such a grip? Researchers have discovered a number of reasons: (1) Tobacco products can be as addictive as illicit drugs. (2) Inhaled nicotine may reach the brain in just seven seconds. (3) Smoking is often woven into a person’s life by its regular association with eating, drinking, conversing, the relief of stress, and so on.
Yet, as Earline and Frank have shown, it is possible to quit this harmful addiction. If you smoke but want to stop, reading the following articles may well be the start of a new way of life for you.
Strengthen Your Motivation
“A deep commitment to the process of quitting is the single most important characteristic of smokers who successfully quit.”—“Stop Smoking Now!”
SIMPLY put, if you want to stop smoking, you should, at the very least, have a strong motivation to do so. How can you strengthen your motivation? For one thing, consider how much better off you will be if you quit smoking.
You will save money. A pack-a-day habit can cost thousands of dollars a year. “I never realized how much money I wasted on tobacco.”—Gyanu, Nepal.
You should get more joy out of life. “My life started when I gave up smoking, and it just gets better and better.” (Regina, South Africa) When people stop smoking, their senses of taste and smell improve markedly, and they usually have more energy and an improved physical appearance.
Your health may improve. “Quitting smoking has major and immediate health benefits for men and women of all ages.”—The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
You will boost your self-confidence. “I quit smoking because I did not want tobacco to be my master. I wanted to be master of my own body.”—Henning, Denmark.
Your family and friends will benefit. “Smoking . . . hurts the health of those around you. . . . Studies have shown that secondhand smoke causes thousands of deaths each year from lung cancer and heart disease.”—American Cancer Society.
“Once I understood that God disapproves of things that defile the body, I decided to quit smoking.”—Sylvia, Spain.
Often, though, motivation alone is not enough. We may also need the help of others, including family and friends. What can they do?
Seek Out Help
“If somebody could overpower one alone, two together could make a stand against him.”—Ecclesiastes 4:12.
WHEN we have the support of others, we have a greater chance of success against a foe—whoever or whatever that foe may be. So if you want to conquer the smoking habit, you may be wise to look to your family and friends for help—or to anyone who will be genuinely supportive and patient.
Consider seeking out those who have quit the habit themselves, since they may be not only empathetic but also helpful. “The support of others was invaluable to me,” says Torben, a Christian in Denmark. Abraham, who lives in India, writes: “The genuine love shown by my family and fellow Christians helped me to quit.” But sometimes even the support of family and friends is not enough.
“I smoked for 27 years,” says a man named Bhagwandas, “but because of learning what the Bible says about unclean habits, I decided to quit. I tried cutting back. I changed my associates. And I went for counseling. Nothing worked. Finally, one night I opened my heart to Jehovah God in prayer and begged him to help me quit. Then, at last, I succeeded!”
Another important thing to do is prepare for the hurdles you will likely face. What are these? The next article explains.
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SHOULD YOU USE MEDICATION?
Medications to help smokers quit, such as the nicotine patch, have become a multibillion-dollar industry. Before going down that road, consider the following questions:
What are the benefits? Many therapies are said to increase your chances of quitting by reducing withdrawal symptoms. There is some debate, though, about their long-term effectiveness.
What are the risks? Some medications have potential side effects, such as nausea, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Keep in mind too that nicotine-replacement therapies simply provide another form of the drug, along with its health risks. In reality, therefore, the person using them is still in a state of addiction.
What alternatives exist? In one survey 88 percent of successful quitters said that they went cold turkey by abruptly ceasing tobacco use without the aid of drugs.
Prepare for the Hurdles
“I decided to quit for the sake of our newborn baby’s health. So I posted a ‘No Smoking’ sign in our house. Just one hour later, the craving for nicotine came over me like a tsunami, and I lit up a cigarette.”—Yoshimitsu, Japan.
AS Yoshimitsu’s experience indicates, the process of quitting has its hurdles. Moreover, studies show that nearly 90 percent of those who stumble stay down by resuming their habit. Hence, if you are trying to quit, you are more likely to succeed if you are prepared for the hurdles. What are the more common ones?
The craving for nicotine: This usually peaks within three days after your last cigarette and subsides after about two weeks. During that time “the desire comes in waves; it is not constant,” says one ex-smoker. Even years later, however, you may have a sudden urge to smoke. If so, don’t do anything rash. Wait for five minutes or so, and the desire should pass.
Other withdrawal symptoms: Initially, people find it harder to stay awake or concentrate and may tend to gain weight more easily. They may also experience aching, itching, sweating, and coughing, as well as mood changes demonstrated by impatience, a proneness to anger, or even depression. Most symptoms, though, abate within four to six weeks.
During this critical time, there are some practical things you can do that will help. For example:
● Allow more time for sleep.
● Drink plenty of water or juice. Eat wholesome food.
● Engage in moderate exercise.
● Breathe deeply, and picture clean air filling your lungs.
Triggers: These are activities or feelings that can trigger the urge to smoke. For instance, perhaps you normally had a cigarette when drinking a beverage. If so, when quitting smoking, don’t linger over your beverage. In time, of course, you will be able to enjoy your beverage at a more leisurely pace.
That said, psychological links can remain long after your body is free of nicotine. “Nineteen years after quitting,” admits Torben, quoted earlier, “I am still tempted to smoke during coffee breaks.” As a general rule, however, the association of smoking with specific activities will weaken in time and lose its force.
With alcohol, the situation is different. Indeed, while you are trying to quit smoking, you may need to abstain from alcohol and avoid places where it is served, for a high percentage of relapses occur while people are drinking. Why is that?
● Even small amounts of alcohol increase the pleasure derived from nicotine.
● Social drinking is often intimately linked with smoking.
● Alcohol impairs judgment and lowers inhibitions. The Bible rightly says: ‘Wine takes away good motive.’—Hosea 4:11.
Associates: Be selective. For instance, avoid needless association with people who smoke or who may invite you to do so. Also stay away from individuals who try to undermine your efforts to quit, perhaps by teasing you about it.
Emotions: In one study almost two thirds of those who relapsed felt stressed or angry just prior to their relapse. If a certain feeling triggers the urge to smoke, distract yourself—perhaps by drinking water, chewing gum, or going for a walk. Try to fill your mind with positive thoughts, perhaps by going to God in prayer or reading a few pages of the Bible.—Psalm 19:14.
Rationalizations to Avoid
● I’ll only take one puff.
Reality: Just one puff can satisfy up to 50 percent of certain nicotine receptors in your brain for three hours. The result is often a full relapse.
● Smoking helps me deal with stress.
Reality: Studies show that nicotine actually increases levels of stress hormones. Any perceived relief from stress may be largely a result of the temporary fading of withdrawal symptoms.
● I’m too far gone to quit.
Reality: Pessimism saps the will. The Bible says: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” (Proverbs 24:10) So avoid defeatist thinking. Anyone who really wants to quit and who applies practical principles, such as those mentioned in this magazine, can succeed.
● The withdrawal symptoms are too much for me.
Reality: Granted, withdrawal symptoms are powerful, but they will subside within just a few weeks. So stay focused! If a desire to smoke resurfaces months or years later, it too will pass, likely in just a few minutes—if you do not light up a cigarette.
● I have a mental illness.
Reality: If you are being treated for a mental condition, such as depression or schizophrenia, ask your doctor to help you quit smoking. He or she might be more than willing to rally to your side, perhaps by altering your treatment to compensate for the effect that your decision may have on your illness or on medicines you may be taking.
● If I have a relapse, I’ll feel that I’m a failure.
Reality: If you trip over a hurdle and have a smoke—as many do while trying to give up smoking—your situation is not hopeless. Simply get up and press on. Falling down does not spell failure. Staying down is failure. So keep trying. Eventually you will succeed!
Consider the experience of Romualdo, who smoked for 26 years and quit over 30 years ago. “I lost count of my relapses,” he writes. “Each time, I felt terrible, as if I were a lost cause. However, once I made a firm determination to have a good relationship with Jehovah God and repeatedly asked for his help in prayer, I was finally able to quit for good.”
In the last article of this series, we will consider just a few more practical suggestions that may help you to become a happy ex-smoker.
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LETHAL IN ALL ITS FORMS
Tobacco is used in many ways. Some tobacco products are even sold in health-food and herbal-medicine stores. Nevertheless, “all forms of tobacco are lethal,” says the World Health Organization. Death may result from any number of tobacco-related diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Smoking mothers may also harm their unborn babies. In what forms are tobacco products usually used?
Bidis: These small, hand-rolled cigarettes are commonly used in Asian lands. Bidis deliver several times more tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide than do regular cigarettes.
Cigars: These are made of filler tobacco tightly wrapped in tobacco leaf or in paper made from tobacco. The slightly alkaline tobacco of cigars, as compared with the acidic tobacco of cigarettes, allows nicotine to be absorbed through the mouth even if the cigar is unlit.
Kreteks, or clove cigarettes: These usually contain about 60 percent tobacco and 40 percent cloves. They deliver more tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide than do regular cigarettes.
Pipes: Smoking a pipe is not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes, for both habits can cause many of the same cancers and other diseases.
Smokeless tobacco: This includes chewing tobacco, snuff, and flavored gutkha used in Southeast Asia. Nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream through the mouth. Smokeless tobacco use is every bit as dangerous as other tobacco use.
Water pipes (bongs, hookahs, narghiles, shishas): With these devices, tobacco smoke passes through water before being inhaled. Nevertheless, the process may not reduce the amount of toxins, including cancer-causing agents, that get into the lungs.
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HELPING SOMEONE ELSE TO QUIT
● Be positive. Praise and rewards work better than nagging and lecturing. “I think you can do it if you try again” has more power than “You failed again!”
● Be forgiving. Do your best to overlook anger or frustration directed at you by someone trying to quit. Use kind expressions such as, “I know this is hard, but I’m so proud of you for doing it.” Never say, “I liked you better when you were smoking!”
● Be a true friend. The Bible states: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” (Proverbs 17:17) Yes, try to be patient and loving “all the time” toward someone trying to quit—whatever the hour of the day or the mood of the person.
You Can Win!
THE time has come for you to “be courageous and act.” (1 Chronicles 28:10) What final steps can you take to increase your chances of success?
Set a date. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that once you have decided to quit, the first day of your life free from cigarettes should be within two weeks. That way your motivation will stay high. Mark the day on your calendar, tell your friends, and stick to the date even if your circumstances change.
Make a “quit card.” It might contain the following information, plus anything else that may strengthen your motivation:
● Your reasons for quitting
● Phone numbers of people to call when you feel you may cave in
● Thoughts—perhaps including Bible texts such as Galatians 5:22, 23—that will help you toward your goal
Take your quit card with you at all times, and read it several times a day. Even after you quit, continue to review the card whenever you feel an urge to smoke.
Weaken the links proactively. Prior to your quit date, begin disrupting any habits linked to your smoking. For example, if you smoke as soon as you get up each morning, put off smoking for an hour or so. If you smoke during a meal or immediately afterward, break that routine. Avoid places where others smoke. And privately practice saying aloud: “No thanks. I’ve quit smoking.” Such steps will do more than prepare you for the day you quit. They will also remind you that soon you will be an ex-smoker.
Get set. As your quit date nears, stock up on oral substitutes: carrot sticks, gum, nuts, and so on. Remind your friends and family of your quit date and how they can support you. Just before that day, dispose of ashtrays, lighters, and any booby traps—such as cigarettes lying around your home, in your car or pockets, or at your place of work. To be sure, it is harder to ask a friend for a cigarette or to buy a pack than to reach into a drawer for one! Also, keep praying for God’s support, doing so all the more earnestly after your final smoke.—Luke 11:13.
A countless number of people have “broken up” with their onetime false, vicious friend, the cigarette. You can do it too. Better health and a great feeling of freedom await you.
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Take your quit card with you at all times, and read it frequently during the day