On Saturday, January the eighth, 2005, I stubbed out a little cigar in a friend's backyard, picked up the offending corpse of a cancer stick, threw it into a trashcan, and quit smoking. That was three years ago today, and looking back at that day, it seems to have happened in another lifetime.
My original goal was to quit for forty-two days, and if you don't know why I picked forty-two days you aren't likely to thank me for all the fish either. But I quickly realized that counting the days made it seem like time was passing by as slowly as High School algebra on a hot May afternoon so I began to count the hours. Forty-two days happens to be one thousand and eight hours.
Because I worked around a smoker, I had to stay away from this person as much as possible. I also started working out more, and sat in the hot tub for hours on end. I chewed my fingernails and a lot of gum. The first Monday was the worst day, because I was so accustomed to stopping at the store and getting my fix: a large Pepsi and a little cigar. There was something almost spiritual about smoking a little cigar on the way to the project and the synergy between caffeine and nicotine is a wonderful thing. The first day that I drove by the store on the way to the project was like driving by a puppy in the road.
The first three days of withdrawal are by far the most hellish. That first seventy-two hours with no smoking drug by like a dry June wedding. I was counting the hours, by the way, and the only progress I could really see was at night. Each morning I woke up eight hours further along than I had been when I went to bed. At seventy-two hours, I could see making it to one hundred even. At one hundred, I could see making to the end of the workweek. At the end of the workweek, I could see making it to my first full week and that meant I was really close to making it to two hundred hours.
That's how I did it. I set tiny, close, and short goals that always extended my time of not smoking just a little while longer. Each day was a quarter of a hundred hours closer, each workday was another ten, and I set up a bonus system for working out at the gym. I rewarded myself at regular intervals with treats like sushi and steaks. I avoided drinking alcohol because the synergy between alcohol and nicotine is a most wonderful thing. I started hanging out in places where smoking was not allowed and I didn't get close to those places that did allow smoking.
At forty-two days, I almost smoked a cigar just to see what sort of buzz I would get. But I had already broken 1008 hours, broken the physical addiction, and I had broken to a very large degree the emotional dependency of smoking. Besides, forty-two was so close to fifty, and fifty was so close to two months. Little goals, small steps, and forward progress at all times ruled my addiction, and defeated it.
Three years is 1094 days. That's more days than hours of my original goal. It's 26,280 hours. But most importantly, it's the end of me and cigarettes. Well, other than those weird dreams I have where I'm smoking, that is.