Tom Cordle posted a wrenching piece about cigarette smoking and his wife’s newly discovered Stage III lung cancer this morning, and I feel compelled to write about an excellent smoking cessation method even for those who may not think they’re ready to stop smoking or have failed other methods. (See Tom's post here: http://www.open.salon.com/blog/tom_cordle/2011/01/03/the_winter_of_our_discontent)
Let me start by saying that no one is completely ready to stop using an addictive substance. In recovery, counselors say one must “hit rock bottom” in order to be ready to stop. Addiction doesn’t work that way. “Rock bottom” can mean terminal illness as in Tom’s wife’s case. It can mean COPD, as in the case of my friend Georgia, who uses supplemental oxygen at night because rock bottom didn’t come any sooner. And still she smoked.
Procrastination will kill you, but if you’re like most people, you’ll keep putting of quitting smoking until the new year, or the first of the month, or until Monday, or after you find work. You may want to wait until your divorce is finished or your spouse is ready to stop. These are all rationalizations, and they keep you from doing what you must do. Call yourself on them. The time to stop is NOW.
Being a Registered Addiction Specialist means I know about how people rationalize and justify so they don’t have to do something which they find scary. I’ve been there. I am a former smoker and a former drinker. I don’t use the label “alcoholic” because I think labeling is relatively counterproductive, but I was physically addicted to alcohol several years ago. I’ve been addicted even to prescription tranquilizers a few times. I’m an excellent quitter. I know discomfort is part of the process, and I can just wait it out. Most people aren’t so “lucky,” and they agonize for a long, long time.
So here is the best secret I know: electronic cigarettes work. My spouse started smoking tobacco cigarettes again after five years of freedom from it. She was working in a new job, and things were not going well; we had moved her to Nicorette and Nicoderm, but she was still really having a hard time with it. One day while using the Laundromat next door, we saw a sign in a 7-11 store, “Electronic cigarettes now available here!” We went inside to learn more. We came back outside with a starter kit and a package of cartridge refills. She has not used real cigarettes (analogs, vapers call them) since that day, and it has been about six months.
We introduced electronic cigarettes to my friend Georgia, the one who has COPD, and she has been off tobacco cigarettes for about five months now. She had been a smoker for the vast majority of her life, and she had tried virtually everything available with minimal success. She had been about ready to cart around an oxygen tank wherever she goes, but her oxygen use has remained steady at nighttime only. Her doctors have begun the process of reducing her prednisone dosage as she doesn’t need it anymore. She has better color in her face, and she doesn’t get out of breath while talking. Although most of the damage appears to be irreversible, she will not get worse if she stays away from tobacco cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes are not the perfect solution, but they are as close as I’ve seen to one. Vapers (electronic cigarette users) still take in nicotine, so the cardiovascular stress of that drug will continue. Nicotine is hard on your heart and circulatory system, but on the whole, electronic cigarettes are far, far better for you than tobacco cigarettes, and they might just save your life.
How electronic cigarettes work
Where and what to buy
Harm reduction and electronic cigarettes