If you’ve struggled to kick the smoking habit, here’s something you probably didn’t know: nicotine may be more addictive than heroin. On top of that, research shows that cigarette companies have figured out how to deliver higher doses of nicotine to your body more efficiently than ever before. The amount of nicotine in the average cigarette increased 15 percent between 1999 and 2011.

Despite this bleak news, you can quit smoking. Here are the lessons I learned when I tried to quit, and how you can quit too.

My Story

I had my first cigarette when I was in second grade. That’s no typo. My buddy stole some smokes from his mom, and my two 8-year-old friends and I took a few puffs in a park near our house. I remember coughing a lot and feeling dizzy.

I started smoking regularly during high school. First it was just a smoke or two on the weekends; then it grew into a pack-a-day habit. I continued to smoke all through college. After I graduated I decided to quit.

I started by cutting back. I got down to 4–5 cigarettes a day, but weekends killed me. I’d go out drinking and end up smoking a pack in a night.

Then I decided I’d stop smoking during the week. This wasn’t that hard for me because I lived with my parents at the time, and I didn’t smoke at their house—mainly because I told them I quit and was embarrassed to admit I failed. But again, weekends were my downfall and I’d blow through several packs.

During my next attempt, I decided to go smokeless: I started chewing tobacco. This strategy worked for a while, and I was able to go a few weeks without smoking. But after a trip to the dentist revealed the damage dipping was doing to my gums, I stopped. Back to square one.

It was around this time I met the girl who I would eventually marry. I didn’t like smoking around her because I knew it bothered her.

By this time I had attempted to quit six times. I kept making the same mistakes. I told myself the seventh would be the last.

How I Finally Quit Smoking

For some people, the patch works. For others, a prescription pill like Chantix. For me, it was cold turkey. I picked a day about two weeks down the road and told myself, “This is the day I will quit smoking for good.”

And that’s what I did.

I quit smoking on a random day in May 2008. I haven’t had one since.

The first week was tortuous. I had withdrawal symptoms (sweats, trouble sleeping, weight gain, etc.). But I got through it. The second week was hard too, but a little easier than the first. And each successive week got easier and easier.

Top 3 Lessons Learned

1. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Through all this, I realized something: failure was an essential part of the quitting process for me. If you’ve tried to quit and failed, you’re ahead of most people. It took me seven attempts to quit smoking. It was hard as hell, both physically and mentally. Keep trying. If you’ve tried and failed, you’re on the right path.

2. Know your reason why.

During my previous six attempts, I was trying to quit smoking for myself. When my girlfriend/future wife entered the picture, I had another compelling reason to quit. I realized that it wasn’t all about me; others were depending on me. Think about your parents, your spouse, your kids—it’s not just about you.

3. Embrace other healthy habits.

While I was attempting to quit smoking, I started eating better and working out again. Healthy habits lead to other healthy habits, so if you’re looking to quit, get in the habit of exercising and eating healthy, and quitting smoking will be much easier. And, you’ll be better prepared to control the weight gain that comes with quitting smoking.

After I quit, I started my first online business, a health and wellness website called The Healthy Eating Guide. I’m about to launch another. Quitting smoking will lead to a chain reaction of healthier behaviors that lead to amazing changes in your life. Take it one day at a time, and experiment with different methods. Resilience always wins, and you’ll come out a much stronger person from having gone through the arduous journey of quitting smoking.

Featured photo credit: massimo ankor via flickr.com

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