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Just me, and my books ... and my sheep
August 2, 2009 12:49 AM   Subscribe

So you've tried to quit smoking, but after having a 30-a-day habit for more than 40 years, it's tough. Really tough. So what's a man to do? Well, one way is to keep cigarettes out of arm's reach. A long way out of arm's reach. Geoff Spice is marooning himself on Sgarabhaigh Island (pron: 'Scaravay') in the Outer Hebrides, an uninhabited islet where there are no people ... no buildings ... and no tobacco shops.

"... it does have the ruins of three small ‘Bothies’ which were rudimentary buildings used by shepherds at appropriate times of the year while they tended the flocks of sheep that have grazed the island." Boaters passing nearby during the time that Mr. Spice will be in residence are warned to "keep your distance, it can be a serious business giving up smoking!"

Sgarabhaigh, incidentally, is looking for Associate Owners - people who would like to purchase "a lifetime’s contractual interest with the Company that owns the freehold to the island and is mandated to conserve the island for the enjoyment of all Associate Owners." Only £125.00, and you get a passport too!
posted by woodblock100 (70 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
This seems... extreme. On the other hand, my dad is a lifelong smoker, although he has tried unsuccessfully to give up a few times. He said the toughest part was reflexively reaching for a cigarette when he sat down with a cup of tea, and then having that mental double-take - a bit like an amputee with a phantom limb. I always thought it was a bit rude for his friends to come over and light up in his presence though; surely they could've refrained for the duration of their visit?
posted by Ritchie at 1:15 AM on August 2, 2009


A mere three days in the intensive care unit after a heart attack at the age of 43 did it for me.
posted by longsleeves at 1:19 AM on August 2, 2009 [11 favorites]


I quit by substitution. That, and buying 1 cigarette for the cost of a pack (the remainder of which was torn up and flushed). Spice is being a bit theatric, but best of luck.
posted by unmake at 1:44 AM on August 2, 2009


This probably won't work.

Removing himself from the context of his addiction will make it easier for him to go without while on the island and get him past the physiological issues but the moment he returns to his ordinary life all the psychological cues and context will be there to trigger a relapse.

If you want to quit smoking in your everyday life you pretty much have to do the quiting there and not on some remote island.

Of course it will all be moot because he will be eaten alive by midges and ticks.
posted by srboisvert at 2:30 AM on August 2, 2009 [13 favorites]


I always thought it was a bit rude for his friends to come over and light up in his presence though; surely they could've refrained for the duration of their visit?

Urgh. Arseholes.

(I have an in-law that gets huffy about people who don't like him smoking in their houses, as though this is the height of rudeness, so I guess I know the mindset...)
posted by rodgerd at 2:35 AM on August 2, 2009


How apropos. I'm quitting smoking cigarettes right now. Down from ~20 cigarettes a day to... well, I had two yesterday, and I've had two today. I might have another later before bed, but probably not. I expect that I'll have quit by the time this pack runs out. Although, frankly, I like tobacco, so I may take up the pipe again after I've well and truly licked the cigarette habit.

I'm finding that the hardest part is the habitual side of things, not the addiction. Nicotine gum knocks the withdrawal effects right out the window. But getting in the car, I always want a cigarette. After a bowl, I want a fag.

And AAAURGH waiting sucks the most. Waiting for anything. Doctor. Friends. My PopTart. The game to load. I used to have a cigarette, and suddenly I was doing something with that time... something that I could drop at a moment's notice, but something inherently pleasurable. And now, no, nothing to do but wait.

Smoking made me patient, at least.

(I have an in-law that gets huffy about people who don't like him smoking in their houses, as though this is the height of rudeness, so I guess I know the mindset...)

Smoking in a house, even if it's yours, is just so gauche.

Demanding to smoke in somebody else's? Well, that's a punchin' offense where I come from.
posted by Netzapper at 3:04 AM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I should go here to quit my nicorette gum habit.
posted by sundri at 3:08 AM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I quit smoking 9 days ago and i haven't slept for the past 3. I'm not escaping to an island any time soon but i am leaving in a few days to walk about 22 miles a day for 5 weeks in spain. in august. soooo, yea that was pretty much the only scenario in the world that could get me to quit. and it still doesn't feel worth it.

but like srboisvert said, for some reason i don't see this island thing working in the long run.
posted by Parallax.Error at 3:14 AM on August 2, 2009


I should go here to quit my nicorette gum habit.

Other than expense, why would you do that?

The gum is awesome. I never would have smoked if I'd known about this gum.
posted by Netzapper at 3:54 AM on August 2, 2009


Ah, the geographic cure -- much beloved by old time drug addicts. Problem is, you inevitably relapse when you return to the site of your using.

Smoking in a house, even if it's yours, is just so gauche.

But telling other people what they should do in their own houses is just so damn American.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:57 AM on August 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


But telling other people what they should do in their own houses is just so damn American.

Please. I'm a libertarian. I'm not telling anybody what to do in their own house or establishment (so long's they aren't harming anybody without their consent). That's beyond rude into unthinkable. Which is why demanding to smoke in my house is a punchin' offense.

I'm just sayin', smoking in a house is gauche in the same way eating in the bathroom is.
posted by Netzapper at 4:13 AM on August 2, 2009


netzapper: I agree with the awesomeness but actually breaking the habit completely would be awesome.
posted by sundri at 4:16 AM on August 2, 2009


WARNING: MAY CAUSE SOLITUDE
posted by eriko at 5:11 AM on August 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sgarabhaigh, incidentally, is looking for Associate Owners - people who would like to purchase "a lifetime’s contractual interest with the Company that owns the freehold to the island and is mandated to conserve the island for the enjoyment of all Associate Owners." Only £125.00, and you get a passport too!

Which is curious story in itself. For a relatively small amount (£125) you can become part owner of the island. As near as I can tell, all this basically grants you is the right to visit the island, with a caveat that the "real" owners can throttle the numbers of visitors if need be.

My suspicions are raised by the framing of the package - more time is spent on the fake passport, the celtic design of the certificate, and the sealing wax than the actual island. On the other hand, £125 wouldn't buy you a lot in the way of plane tickets and accommodation for less interesting destinations. I just wish the website didn't have the whiff of "con job" about it. Maybe their anticipated audience will be impressed by the "special deed envelope", "oak presentation box" and glass phials containing sand and peat.
posted by outlier at 5:19 AM on August 2, 2009


So those poor sheep are going to have to deal with him when he gets all snippy and irritable?
posted by orme at 5:41 AM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


During a recent visit to my doctor, I sat in the waiting room for perhaps ten minutes and while there studied the posters all around me. One was put out by the Heart Foundation, urging people to quit smoking on the short-term financial basis alone. Not the cost of long-term care, mind -- just 'this is how much a pack costs, and if you smoke a pack a day, this is how much you spend per year'.

Fair enough. I read it three or four times to see if I had overlooked something, but it was very specific in stating that a pack was ten dollars, and ten times seven was:

$70 per week

All well and good; then $70 per week times 52 weeks is:

$3920 per year

(This last in huge bold letters.) I thought, "Surely ten dollars a day is $3650 per year? When this is the whole point of the poster, did no one check the math?"

After verifying that there were no further footnotes explaining the extra three hundred dollars (there was nothing but the financial argument and the name of the organization), I pointed it out in passing later to my physician; she shrugged and said, "Well -- they are cardiologists, not mathematicians. Still, it is a good idea to quit!"
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:32 AM on August 2, 2009 [12 favorites]


Geoff Spice is marooning himself on Sgarabhaigh Island (pron: 'Scaravay')

Well, at least he brought some pr0n with him. That ought to keep him occupied.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:11 AM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Anyone wishing to help Geoff stop his addiction can deliver any single malt whisky they wish to the following address - The Cove, Sgarabhaigh, The Sound of Harris, The Western Isles."

I'm trying to quit, and the hardest thing is having a drink, which leads to many cigarettes over a night. Being jobless makes it easy to not indulge (about the only upside).

That address sure is awesome though.
posted by shinyshiny at 7:17 AM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always thought it was a bit rude for his friends to come over and light up in his presence though; surely they could've refrained for the duration of their visit?

It's rude that people throw their cigarette butts and empty packs and cellophane wrappers into my front rose garden. It pisses me off no end to constantly have to be cleaning up after someone else's revolting habits.

Smoking around someone who especially needs to quit is something much more than rude. I have an aunt who has had three bouts with cancer — she has an artificial eye now thanks to one of those bouts. She has smoked all her adult life (she's in her seventies), and at one point a few years ago, during her third round of cancer, had quit smoking and was doing very well for some months. But then her idiot boyfriend, who smokes, kept smoking around her, and it got to her, so she started again.
posted by orange swan at 7:21 AM on August 2, 2009


Bravo Mr. Spice on working on letting go of his addiction to cigarettes. There's no one right way to achieve success in this. What is excellent about his self-imposed isolation is that it is also a chance to be alone with himself, feel his feelings, observe his mind, which will help him, I think, in becoming a non-smoker. Having booze dropped off on the island is not such a good idea. One step forward, two steps back.

I quit my addiction in increments. This was a decade after knowing my dad was dying of lung cancer and not being able to stop in spite of that. I promised first to stop for 10 minutes. Then 15 minutes. Building the strength of the promise, never breaking it, up to a week, a month, a year, two years. Usually at midnight, at the end of the promise time I smoked like a chimney, until I felt sick or ready to make another promise. It took me more than 6 years to quit my addiction.

Breaking the cigarette addiction is hard.

These days what I tell people trying to quit is to slowly mix their usual cigarettes with American Spirit or other organic tobacco cigarettes, which have fewer of the additives and the harmful chemicals that a regular cigarette has. The organic ones last longer and cause less compulsion.

Tobacco smoke lingers in the air in enclosed spaces. Approximately two weeks are required for nicotine to clear from a room where smoking has occurred.—James L. Repace, "Indoor Concentrations of Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Field Surveys." In O'Neil, et. al: Environmental Carcinogens: Methods of Analysis and Exposure Measurement: Passive Smoking (Lyon, France, IARC: 1987; 9: 141-162).

Bullets for my Beast: 28 flash cards called "Bullets for my Beast." They are cues for action, directing you to complete recovery, while online. If you have been drinking or using today, sign off and return here during a day when you have been abstinent. Make a safe plan for detox. You are responsible to protect yourself against acute withdrawal symptoms. If you are in doubt, consult with your physician.
posted by nickyskye at 7:34 AM on August 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


The Sound of Harris
posted by ob at 7:35 AM on August 2, 2009


If your doctor has 56-week years, you should read your bills carefully.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 7:37 AM on August 2, 2009


I always thought it was a bit rude for his friends to come over and light up in his presence though; surely they could've refrained for the duration of their visit?

I had a friend who smoked and came over to my apartment when I moved in, and got surly when I told him to smoke outside. "It's raining," he said. My porch doesn't have any cover at all.

Please note the past tense. I no longer deal with him.

That said, if it works for Mr. Spice, good for him. I hope he breaks it.
posted by mephron at 7:44 AM on August 2, 2009


I quit smoking successfully by falling pregnant and having one of the triggers for puking cigarette smoke. Even now the whiff of smoke triggers this memory and I can't imagine taking a drag now.

You don't need expensive islands or nicorette gums - you just need to stick your fingers down your throat every time you want a cigarette. Trust me it works1
posted by gomichild at 7:56 AM on August 2, 2009


I'm trying to quit, and the hardest thing is having a drink, which leads to many cigarettes over a night.

I ended my twenty year habit three years ago by taking a sip of beer every time I craved a cigarette. I was rocked out of my gourd for a while there, but when it was over, I could drink without smoking. I live in the 'burbs, so being too 'faced to drive also kept me from going to fetch smokes when I was out of my mind. If lived in the city, that might not have worked.
posted by popechunk at 8:24 AM on August 2, 2009


Breaking the cigarette addiction is hard.

I don't know if we do anybody any favors by whining about how hard it is to quit. I mean, it's hard compared to what? I quit a two-pack-a-day habit pretty easily. Yeah, it was annoying not to have a cigarette at all my accustomed times, and I had to re-learn the basics of my profession without a cigarette in my mouth. But every increment of discomfort was matched by a double increment of pleasure: enlarged self-esteem; anticipation of freedom from a bad habit; enhanced sensual pleasure in smelling, tasting, sex; desire for exercise and the joy of re-learning to use my body and lungs to the full capacity; new clarity of thought; extra spending money... As I say, quitting cigarettes was briefly annoying, but it wasn't hard. In fact, I've often thought about taking up smoking again just so I could have the pleasure of quitting again. (Instead, I went on a spree of successfully quitting other bad and not-so-bad habits.) Quitting smoking is an adventure, and you should relish the prospect of getting on with it.

If you want to talk hard... Hard is my father-in-law living with progressive emphysema (caused by smoking) gasping through each day, knowing fairly surely that, barring a fatal traffic accident, he will eventually die of suffocation. Hard is the funny, sexy, full-of-life friend who got a diagnosis of lung cancer -- to far advanced for a lung resection -- and is having her chemo-ravaged body burned by radiation. There is no adventure for these two, except the spiritual adventure of facing death. On the less serious side, quitting smoking is far, far less difficult than organic chemistry, calculus, saving money, learning a foreign language or musical instrument, or any of a trillion other disciplines that have only a distant payoff.

What is the value of people continually exaggerating the difficulty of quitting cigarettes? At worst, quitting is an annoyance. At best, the process of quitting is a soaring, life-enhancing experience. Altogether, quitting smoking is... not... that... hard.
posted by Faze at 8:24 AM on August 2, 2009 [14 favorites]


I've been clean for eight years now; congrats and much encouragement to those mefites who are in the midst of quitting now.

It's a long and frustrating process. What worked for me was slowly reducing my consumption over time, removing my triggers one-by-one. I moved in with someone who's allergic to cigarette smoke so that I couldn't smoke indoors anymore. I stopped using the office entrance where the smokers congregated.

Then I was laid up with pneumonia for a month. Being unable to breathe, when even THINKING about smoking a cigarette was enough to send me into shivers, was a good break from my previous habits.

Even after that, though, bars were my trigger. I would go out for a night with friends and smoke my way through half a pack in an evening. Finally, most blessedly, Boston banned indoor smoking in the middle of winter. Never have I been so grateful for an annoying piece of public policy. I smoked my last cigarette the spring after the ban and I haven't missed them since.
posted by xthlc at 8:35 AM on August 2, 2009


I quit a two-pack-a-day habit pretty easily.

I'm not sure that your experience is typical.

But every increment of discomfort was matched by a double increment of pleasure: enlarged self-esteem; anticipation of freedom from a bad habit;

But I think that your experience was similar to mine because you didn't want to smoke any more. All of the people I see fail still want to smoke. Once I no longer wanted to be a smoker, and was disgusted by it, it was much easier.
posted by popechunk at 8:50 AM on August 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Anyone trying to quit, I recommend Alan Carr's The Easy Way To Stop Smoking. I cannot recommend this book enough.

For years, I had a very persistent on-again-off-again habit, and was stuck in a cycle where I would quit for weeks or months at a time, only to pick it up again when times got stressful. Inevitably, I would build back up to a pack-a-day or more. Eventually, it got to the point where my "on again" months were far outnumbering my "off again" months by a significant margin, and I knew that it was time to quit. A few years back, some friends had recommended Carr's book, so I finally gave it a read. It was ENORMOUSLY helpful. I finished reading it last December, and haven't smoked since. More than that, I don't even want to smoke.

Carr makes a lot of good points in his book, and from conversations with other people, I gather that whichever point resonates with you the most depends on who you are and why you smoke. The argument that made the most sense to me is when he talks about how smoking is not really an enjoyable habit. You think of it as enjoyable because you associate it with relief. But really, what you're feeling is a return to "normal" from a state of nicotine withdrawal (since nicotine leaves the bloodstream within 10 minutes of finishing a cigarette). He likens it to wearing tight shoes so that you can occasionally take them off and feel better.

He also explains why "cutting down," quitting gradually, and nicotine replacements (like the gum) rarely work. By staying addicted but removing some of the cigarettes, you're really just thinking about your addiction even more, which actually makes quitting even more of a long and painful process. Actually, he has a pretty ingenious method for quitting. He tells you not to finish quitting until you're done reading his book. So you'll be reading his book, reading all about how horrible cigarettes are and how they're not enjoyable and how they fuck up your life, and meanwhile you'll still be going out for cigarettes. By the time you're done the book (for me it took a week or two) you'll be so disgusted with smoking that you'll be ready to give it up cold turkey.

I should mention that I'm not the only one to be helped by Carr. If you talk to anyone who has quit and was helped out by a book, 9/10 times it will be Carr's. He was a chain smoker for decades before he finally gave it up, so he speaks from experience.

As for the guy in the FPP, and whether or not his method will work -- I think it all depends on what goes on in his head during his time on the island. If he retrains his mind and removes the self-brainwashing that reinforced his smoking, then yes, this might work. But if he just spends the whole time thinking about how much he wants to smoke, then no, it ain't gonna work. One of the problems with smoking is that cigarettes are so damn accessible. Once he returns from the island, they'll be available at every corner store. So I can't really make any predictions, because I don't know this guy personally. I wish him the best, but really, trust me when I say that it doesn't take a desert island to quit smoking.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:11 AM on August 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Although, frankly, I like tobacco, so I may take up the pipe again after I've well and truly licked the cigarette habit.

Whaaa? Isn't that like saying "the only way to quit this cocaine habit is to take up crack"?
posted by yoink at 9:37 AM on August 2, 2009


I really wish they offered more aggressive quitting methods.

If nicotine is as addictive (or more) than heroin or opiate addiction, why not? There are in-patient treatments for opiate addiction. Heck, there are in-patient treatments for alcohol.

We have an uncompassionate view about addiction, like it's somehow someone's own fault that they became addicted to cigarettes and that of course they should suffer through the quitting. Making it easier to quit would just be a sinecure, right?

Fuck that Puritanical attitude. Quitting nicotine is a pain in the fucking ass. I'm so clinically addicted to nicotine I get physically ill when I try to quit. I'm on the floor sweating and shaking and getting chills and fevers. I can't even see straight, much less think straight.

If the insurance companies and anti-smoking organizations were really serious about helping people quit smoking they'd offer programs where you were strapped to a bed for a week or a month and knocked the fuck out. I would totally sign up for that, even if it meant being fed through a tube.

Addiction is a serious disease and a medical problem. Using serious medical solutions to the problem shouldn't be so readily dismissed, and trying to disregard how serious addiction is with platitudes about quitting like "oh, it's easy - you just have to really want it" just make me (and others, I'm sure) feel like a shitty failure.
posted by loquacious at 9:45 AM on August 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


'and they say that alcoholics are always alcoholics
even when they're dry as my lips for years
even when they're stranded on a small desert island
with no where in two thousand miles to buy beer.
so tell me is he different is he different has he changed
what he's about?
or is he just a liar with nothing to lie about?'
posted by kaibutsu at 9:48 AM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to smoke a sheep?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:53 AM on August 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


If the insurance companies and anti-smoking organizations were really serious about helping people quit smoking they'd offer programs where you were strapped to a bed for a week or a month and knocked the fuck out.

But honestly, do you really think that would help you?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:54 AM on August 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


yoink, I thought the same, although to be fair I can see why pipe smoking may be a less harmful habit than smoking cigarrettes. I once heard a rather convincing explanation of how tobacco addiction didn't become a mass health issue until the advent of the ready-made cigarrette. Smoking a pipe requires quite a conscious process of preparation. Furthermore, it is more difficult to combine it with a different activity. Cigars are marginally more convenient, but it's difficult to imagine anybody chain-smoking cigars either. Indeed, an often successful way of disgusting a curious teenager off tobacco for life is to offer him a cigar. Roll-your-own cigarrettes aren't all that convenient either, but ready-made cigarrettes can easily become an automatic, unconscious habit. Can you imagine anybody having an after-sex pipe?
posted by Skeptic at 10:04 AM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to smoke a sheep?

You'd think that wool would make a pretty fine filter.
posted by metagnathous at 10:10 AM on August 2, 2009


Afroblanco has it. My fiance was smoking nearly a pack a day, then bought Alan Carr's book out of curiosity; the day he finished it, he threw away his nearly-full pack of cigarettes and hasn't touched a cigarette since. No gum, no weaning off, nothing. He had a few irritable days while his system cleared out, and I'm sure it helped immensely that I do not smoke, but on the whole, it was a nearly seamless transition. I would recommend at least giving it a try.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 10:36 AM on August 2, 2009


Bet the first thing he'll say when he gets back to civilisation is "Fuck me that was tough - anyone got a ciggie?".

Seriously, as a shameless and brazen smoker I question the wisdom of this. Sure there wil be no temptation on the island, but that's a kind of false reality. When he gets back he will suddenly be faced with overwhelming temptation at every turn. He'll have to go through "quitting" twice in effect - once on the island and again back on the mainland - which is actually more than twice as tough come to think of it. Because he'll have to cope with realising that he's made a twat of himself and it hasn't worked as well as the fact that now he has to start all over again. Actually.....looking back through this thread I think one or two others have made a similar point, only more eruditely.

Skeptik - I disagree. I smoke roll-ups and have done for the last 10 years. One develops considerable dexterity in being able to skin-up at the drop of a hat. Not quite as quick on the draw (sic) as someone reaching for a ready-made, but not far off. The conscious/unconscious distinction is, I think, pretty much nonsense when you're dealing with hardened smokers - whatever their coffin-nail of choice.
posted by MajorDundee at 10:50 AM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


If nicotine is as addictive (or more) than heroin or opiate addiction...

This is NOT true. If it is true, then junkies are even bigger pussies than I thought. Because once you've prepared your mind to quit (this seems to be the message of the Alan Carr book), quitting cigarettes is just another, everyday challenge and not an apocalyptic battle with the forces of evil. (I loved my cigarettes and say to this day smoking-is-a-wonderful-habit-too-bad-it-kills-you.) Quitting is basically not difficult.
posted by Faze at 10:51 AM on August 2, 2009


I always thought it was a bit rude for his friends to come over and light up in his presence though; surely they could've refrained for the duration of their visit?

Hell, I once stopped smoking inside own apartment in the middle of a Minnesota winter because my roommate quit.

What is the value of people continually exaggerating the difficulty of quitting cigarettes?

Having observed a lot of people quitting and gone through it myself it is pretty obvious to me that how hard it is differs dramatically by person, so treating one's own habit as exemplary seems unjustified (though the plus sides of quitting you mention are real and I wish people would emphasize them more. I don't stay dedicated to being a non-smoker because I might get cancer in 20 years but because it's simply superior in every way). I do question these comparisons like "cigarettes are more addictive than heroin." They seem to be generally based on recidivism rates and it seems obvious to me that there are plenty of reasons beyond core addictiveness (whatever that really means) that would explain why people would be more likely to return to a cigarette habit than a heroin habit.

I have to agree with those who question how much the desert island treatment will help. To my experience quitting is mostly about making choices, and time spent in a context where no choice is possible has limited value.
posted by nanojath at 11:10 AM on August 2, 2009


So, what's he gonna do about his sheep-shagging habit when he gets home?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:57 PM on August 2, 2009


You can't get cancer from that!
posted by Sys Rq at 1:00 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Eweeeeeeee...
posted by stinkycheese at 2:05 PM on August 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


If the insurance companies and anti-smoking organizations were really serious about helping people quit smoking they'd offer programs where you were strapped to a bed for a week or a month and knocked the fuck out.

There's a Stephen King story along those lines...
posted by rodgerd at 2:33 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


But really, what you're feeling is a return to "normal" from a state of nicotine withdrawa

Hmm, but if this was true, why would one enjoy a cigarette after a long absence? I mean the addiction is out of your system relatively quickly (physically), but if I go weeks without a cigarette and then have one, I still really enjoy it.

I think it depends on what you like. I like the act of smoking (tobacco or otherwise), and I think that's part of what draws me back periodically even after I've clearly "beat" the physical addiction. It also does give a better stimulant rush than caffeine, at least to me.

Physical withdrawal has never been an issue for me, I don't even really get cranky. But smoking has immense psychological appeal to me, and I think about it the way I would taking a vacation or something.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:48 PM on August 2, 2009


Faze, Saying quitting cigarette smoking addiction is hard is not whining. It is a statement of fact. Sorry to hear you are empathy challenged. Saying quitting smoking was easy for you doesn't make that true for the billions of others who have struggled to stop their addiction. It does make you both less empathetic and less knowledgeable.

1.3 billion smokers in the world will, no doubt, struggle, possible for years trying to quit, especially when the effects start to become obvious -or deadly- in their lives.

Nicotine gives a person a dopamine rush and for some this is a major component to the addiction and why quitting may cause depression. For people who already have major depression, quitting is extra difficult.

Knowing something is bad and doing it anyway is one of the definitions of addiction.

The cigarette companies insidiously add all kinds of chemicals to cigarettes - especially sweetening it for kids- to make them even more addictive, a more destructive means of nicotine delivery.
posted by nickyskye at 3:52 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


All of the people I see fail still want to smoke. Once I no longer wanted to be a smoker, and was disgusted by it, it was much easier.

This. A thousand times this.

All of my friends--most of whom are smokers--know that I quit smoking, or at least have been trying to. Last weekend I was out at a friend's house and a little bit drunk and Jesus did I want a cigarette. I begged and pleaded but none of my friends would give me one. Assholes. The next morning I woke up (with a ridiculously bad hangover) and my first thought was, "Thank GOD my friends didn't let me smoke last night, because I would feel disgusting."

I haven't had a cigarette in nearly a month but that was the moment that I knew that I really wanted to quit, more than I wanted to keep smoking. It took a while to get to that point, even without actively smoking. I think Carr's book (which I also recommend) works because it makes smoking seem incredibly gross.

The long term health and financial benefits are great reasons to continue not to smoke, but I've never known anyone who quit for those reasons without being directly confronted by them (i.e. they or a loved one had cancer, or heart disease, or emphysema caused by smoking). I think you need to get to the point where not smoking in and of itself is more desirable than smoking, and that shift in mindset--from someone who finds smoking pleasurable to someone who finds it unpleasant (the shift from being a smoker to a non-smoker) is what's really hard about quitting smoking, not the actual physical addictive quality of nicotine itself.

I think Spice is setting himself up for failure, because I bet the only thing he's thinking about on his island is how much he wants a cigarette. Without any of them around he doesn't have any real temptation to overcome; he has no chance of seeing a cigarette and thinking "eww, gross, I'm glad I don't do that anymore." He might abstain from smoking, but he'll still be a smoker.
posted by cosmic osmo at 4:10 PM on August 2, 2009


Of course it will all be moot because he will be eaten alive by midges and ticks.

I saw a fetish site like that once.
posted by Evilspork at 4:28 PM on August 2, 2009


Oh, midges. Never mind.
posted by Evilspork at 4:28 PM on August 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Bravo cosmic osmo and others in this thread for working on getting through your addiction and achieving success, however you arrived at it, by book, by cold turkey, by disgust. I arrived at my success using a spiritual dependence, making a promise and keeping it, feeling obliged spiritually.

The man, Spice, who went out to the island, may have his own way. He seems to be a rich man, worked for a huge company and likely has access to all the help he might need. I suspect he may not succeed with this single effort, for all the reasons listed in this thread and just from my observing others, that quitting usually takes a bunch of attempts. But he might succeed, in part because so many eyes are on him. Maybe that was part of his attempt, to feel obliged? A pregnant woman may quit out of a sense of obligation to her unborn child.

I do think people might be better able to quit if there were clinics for quitting, with therapy, hypnosis, medications, support groups, isolation, exercise, yoga, visualization, science classes, reading, isolation...whatever, all available to the person. The expense to the person and to society of the damage done by smoking is vast and quitting centers might be a boon for any number of reasons.
posted by nickyskye at 4:49 PM on August 2, 2009


He'll be fine until he happens upon that thirty-year old carton of Dharma Initiative 100's.
posted by jeremy b at 5:06 PM on August 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hmm, but if this was true, why would one enjoy a cigarette after a long absence?

Well, you said it yourself : smoking has immense psychological appeal to me

I mean, it's sort of like how when I walk down St. Marks and see all the cute Japanese girls and people dressed in crazy punk rock regalia, I think of how I used to enjoy standing on the steps of Grand Szechuan on a hot summer night and smoking a cigarette and watching all the crazy people walk by.

But then I remember all the furtive attempts to smoke in the middle of a winter day outside some retarded office building with the wind whipping by me or the rain coming down thinking about how I just want to GET MY FIX (!) but it's oh so miserable out and oh god when I get back in I'm going to stink and I'll chew some gum but I totally know that it's a farce and it totally won't cover it up, and oh god I know I should quit but it's just so hard to do, maybe I'll do it tomorrow or next week or SOME OTHER TIME but right now goddamn it I just want to finish this cigarette (!) but it just went out again oh crap it's only December, it's gonna be like this another 4 months at least (!) okay the smoke is done now I get to go back in and go back to my mundane life.

And really, when you think about it, there are far more of the latter kind of cigarettes than the former. It's easy to romanticize the good times. But the fact is that lighting one cigarette, you may as well be lighting 10,000, because (for most smokers) the "occasional cigarette" is a myth. In fact, for me that was my downfall -- when I'd start again, it always started with just one. But ultimately I'd build back up to a regular habit, and it reinforced this self-defeating cycle where I felt like I'd never be able to truly quit. I dunno, maybe for people who've never been addicts, there really is such a thing as the "occasional cigarette." For me it means total disaster.

Also, you say :

I like the act of smoking (tobacco or otherwise), and I think that's part of what draws me back periodically even after I've clearly "beat" the physical addiction. It also does give a better stimulant rush than caffeine, at least to me.

But I really do think it's mostly psychological. How much of your enjoyment is the actual nicotine, and how much of it is just the pleasure of engaging in a familiar ritual? The nicotine buzz itself is actually quite short-lived, and the regular addict doesn't even feel it that much anymore; like any addict, they've built up a resistance, which is why smoking habits tend to accelerate over time. I actually didn't even enjoy the nicotine buzz that much -- it kind of gave me a headache.

Bottom line, I would agree wholeheartedly with what cosmic osmo said, and much of what Faze said. It's not that quitting is, by itself, easy. It's just that, if you step back and look at the whole picture, it really is an easy choice to make. My life improved astronomically when I quit smoking. No more irrational sense of urgency. No more embarrassment and trying to hide my habit. No more morning (and evening!) phlegm. No more headaches. And (for me), most significantly : no more defeatism. No more sense of "this is a horrible thing that I do, but I can't stop doing it because I'm too weak." I cannot tell you how powerful it feels to get over that.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:07 PM on August 2, 2009


I am 18 months smoke-free and I just really like to brag about it sometimes. I feel like an awesome superhero for quitting, I'll admit it.
posted by tristeza at 5:21 PM on August 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


If the insurance companies and anti-smoking organizations were really serious about helping people quit smoking they'd offer programs where you were strapped to a bed for a week or a month and knocked the fuck out.

- But honestly, do you really think that would help you?


It worked for my dad. He was a heavy, heavy smoker from his teens, with yellow fingers and a hacking cough and a close to four-pack-a-day habit. Went into hospital for some urinary issue, not life-threatening but he was hooked up to an irrigation device, and on some kind of drugs that zooed him out to an extent. He couldn't get out of bed and go outside for a smoke for a couple of weeks.

By the time he went home, he was detoxed from tobacco and never smoked again. And as far as I'm aware, his eventual death had nothing to do with his nearly lifelong smoking habit.
posted by zadcat at 6:34 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


It worked for my dad.

Huh. Interesting. I've heard of the "sleeping cure" before, particularly for heroin addicts, but I was under the impression that it didn't really work. But hey, if it works for somebody, more power to 'em. All that matters is that they quit.

I know that never would have worked for me, because I had periods where I did give it up for weeks, only to start again when times got tough.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:29 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had periods where I did give it up for weeks, only to start again when times got tough.

Yeah, but I think the fact you were able to make breaks in your addiction for periods of time was an important part of the process of breaking the addiction entirely. I don't think when people break free of an addiction that it is a one moment event. Addiction usually has a bunch of steps in the process over a period of time, sometime years, and those steps may include: breaking out of denial, seeking help or taking action, detoxing, handling the cues which trigger returning to the substance/behavior, maintenance of being a non-addict.
posted by nickyskye at 8:15 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


My then mother-in-law called at 10 in the morning, crying and saying she never wanted to see us smoke ever again - her husband had lung cancer. I knew I had to quit. We both quit a month later and that was almost twenty years ago.

Both my ex-MIL and ex-wife went back to the habit AFTER watching their husband/father DIE from lung cancer.

But for me, it stuck. I sincerely believe the key to quitting successfully is to keep trying. I think it took me seven or so serious attempts at quitting before I finally made it. It was two years before the cravings became seldom enough and shallow enough that I believed that I was cured.

I've saved somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 dollars by not smoking since 1990. That's just gravy.

If you are trying to quit, you have my sympathy. It IS hard, but it's doable. Keep trying, even if you fail once or thrice.
posted by OneOliveShort at 9:09 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


"bought Alan Carr's book out of curiosity; the day he finished it, he threw away his nearly-full pack of cigarettes and hasn't touched a cigarette since. No gum, no weaning off, nothing. He had a few irritable days while his system cleared out"

Yes. Word for word, that's what it was like for me. I was always and still am highly skeptical of all self-help books, but to see 7 people I worked with who all smoked more than I did quit reading Alan Carr's book, I knew I had to try it.

In short, it de-brainwashes you. And I second (or fifth or whatever) what was said about feeling so empowered and not even wanting a cigarette after finishing the book. I think I had more than half a pack left when I finished the book--and half a cigarette.

I extinguished that fucker maybe 3 pages and before I finished and never looked back. Cold turkey. And I SMOKED. I don't regularly promote, but Carr's simply titled book is a gem available to all.

I gave mine to my friend, but he has so far put off reading it. Like someone else said, you have to want to stop smoking--that's where the book comes in. If you like being a smoker, then don't bother reading it. Others: it's the best $16 I ever spent.

I bought a digital projector as a self-gift for quitting and figured it only cost what I smoked in several months, and I was only 30.

Now I'm 33 and smoking kind of disgusts me, but I don't say anything if a friend I haven't seen for awhile is with me and I'm driving and they light up. Nothing could make me a smoker again, for sure.

I've smoked cigars rarely, like at a wedding or vacation, but they don't stoke any latent addiction.

Carr's book works. I don't think I even want to read his drinking book though, because I don't want to quit that. But smoking cigarettes is really like cutting yourself--they're both pointless, self-destructive and leave a mark.

Later peoples!
posted by unwordy at 10:58 PM on August 2, 2009


Another vote here for Carr's book. And I didn't even buy it. Just read it one afternoon at Barnes&Noble, about 2 years ago, and haven't smoked since. And I'm not sure if it's really the book, or if the book is just like Dumbo's magic feather, tricking you into doing something you could have done all along.

I do know that the one thing that really did it for me was the idea that every cigarette reset the nicotine addiction. Doesn't matter if it's one a week, or one every hour. I just had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't quitting smoking, I was quitting nicotine. That was enough to get me through the really hard first few days. And maybe everyone's experience is different, but once the nicotine addiction was beat, most of the behavioral and environmental triggers stopped affecting me.

The hardest part when I smoked was that I couldn't even imagine myself not smoking. Like what would I do with myself every half hour or so? And now that I've quit it seems ridiculous that I even thought such a thing. One thing is for sure, the psychology of addiction is way more fascinating than we tend to give it credit for.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:38 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


On clearer days he'll be able to see the ferries to Lochmaddy and Tarbet sail past, in the knowledge that it has a well-stocked shop selling fags on board. That's gonna hurt...

However, I'm sure that if his resolve wavers he can ask some of the Wee Frees to come down from Harris and disapprove of him. They have a lot of practice in Disapproving of Fun,
posted by Coobeastie at 4:32 AM on August 3, 2009


I took the Carr class. I found some of the things said fascinating, some I disagree with. I still smoke. I have the book, but haven't bothered to read it yet.

I don't know about this isolated island cure. I could see it working a bit. I could also see getting back to civilization being like getting out of jail, and everything you did before just resumes. I quit for several months, some years ago, and I did so by changing my environment. My stumbling block is, I don't deal well with being alone and/or not busy, and not smoking at the same time. Being retired, the busy part is nearly impossible now. Work simply isn't much of an option, seeing as I don't even speak the local language good enough to get by. And working at home, alone, wouldn't fit the need. (And when I restarted smoking, partly it was because sneaking smokes behind my partner's back made them 20 times more good than before!)

And that thing about depression making quiting more difficult, mentioned above, is a very interesting bit. I've suspected I have some sort of chronic low-level depression for awhile (my life is essentially fabulous, so any depression is unrelated to my reality).
posted by Goofyy at 9:07 AM on August 3, 2009


...which have fewer of the additives and the harmful chemicals that a regular cigarette has. The organic ones last longer and cause less compulsion.

As far as I know, neither of these claims have been demonstrated. Do you have citations?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:06 AM on August 3, 2009


Afroblanco : I should mention that I'm not the only one to be helped by Carr. If you talk to anyone who has quit and was helped out by a book, 9/10 times it will be Carr's.

His book was all I needed as well.

Faze : What is the value of people continually exaggerating the difficulty of quitting cigarettes? At worst, quitting is an annoyance. At best, the process of quitting is a soaring, life-enhancing experience. Altogether, quitting smoking is... not... that... hard.

At the time it felt like three weeks of irritability hell, in retrospect it was trivial compared to the joy of not going through withdrawal every hour.

That was the thing that finally put it all in perspective for me, that my "nic fits" were just standard junkie withdrawal symptoms. Once I had that framework, the undoing of my addiction became much easier.

Because when you are going through the cravings, it's hard to understand that that feeling you get when you have just had a cigarette and not suffering from the pangs? That's how non-smokers feel pretty much all the time; there are no cravings, you don't have to appease the ashtray gods, you are just... you, with no hourly demands.

Carr did make one really good point that I would never have figured out on my own though; don't cut back. It just makes the fewer cigarettes that you are still smoking seem all that much more precious, and that completely undermines your efforts to not see them as necessary in your life. Gum, lozenges and patches similarly extend the addiction period.

Fuck, just thinking about it makes me glad I quit. I can smell food and run up stairs now. I feel like an idiot for wasting 18 years and many thousands of dollars on something so idiotic.
posted by quin at 10:32 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Netzapper: And AAAURGH waiting sucks the most. Waiting for anything. Doctor. Friends. My PopTart. The game to load. I used to have a cigarette, and suddenly I was doing something with that time... something that I could drop at a moment's notice, but something inherently pleasurable. And now, no, nothing to do but wait.

I recommend getting an iPhone for this part of the withdrawal.
posted by Kimberly at 2:18 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I quit on February 13th of this year. Chantix is a modern medical miracle. I now have a nasty gum habit, though. I'm a pack a day chewer. (It's actually become a hassle. I'm ordering gum by the case from Amazon. )

It was much, much easier than I thought it would be to quit. And totally worth it.
posted by threeturtles at 2:29 PM on August 3, 2009


Interesting info above about smoking and depression. Interestingly, I only started on antidepressants two months after quitting. Hmm.
posted by threeturtles at 2:42 PM on August 3, 2009


which have fewer of the additives and the harmful chemicals that a regular cigarette has. The organic ones last longer and cause less compulsion.

As far as I know, neither of these claims have been demonstrated. Do you have citations?


Tobacco additives.

What's in a cigarette?
The List of Additives A through C


Additive free tobacco.

April 14, 1972 R.J. Reynolds Confidential Research Planning Memorandum on the Nature of the Tobacco Business and the Crucial Role of Nicotine Therein

Less tampered with nicotine = less compulsion.
posted by nickyskye at 7:43 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know if anyone's going to actually see this, since the thread has long since rolled off the main page. I've been a loyal mefi lurker for 9.5 years now, but never bothered to sign up for an account. Until now.

I had to pony up the $5 just to say THANK YOU to (in chronological order) afroblanco, sarahsynonymous, faze, unwordy, billyfleetwood, and quin.

If you count the second-hand smoke from growing up with a smoker who smoked with the windows shut year-round, I've been a smoker all my life. If you only count the part where I personally bought and smoked the cigarettes, then I've been smoking for 20 years exactly.

I'd never heard of Alan Carr's book until I read your comments. I obtained a copy of the audiobook that night, and I've been listening to it every day since. I just finished the book, smoked my last cigarette, destroyed the remainder of the pack, and literally wept because I'M FREE.

Thank you. Thank you all so much. I literally cannot say it enough. Thank you.
posted by ErikaB at 10:23 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Less tampered with nicotine = less compulsion.

Nickyskye, I know that nicotine is the primary addictive substance in cigarettes, and I know that it isn't a carcinogen. I also know that substances like NNK and its metabolites, benzo(a)pyrene, benzene, etc. are the carcinogens that most likely cause lung and other cancers in smokers. What I was looking for is research supporting the assertion that these "natural" or"organic" tobacco products have any less risk than the mainstream products.

One thing I am sure of and would not likely change my mind about without hard evidence from human studies is that nicotine is extremely addictive whether surrounded by other additives or not and that unless it is removed, tobacco will be used compulsively by nicotine addicts. The additives just make it more likely to be addicted to the adder's product rather than someone else's. It is also very likely that unless the primary carcinogens, most of which are by-products of curing and burning tobacco and not the additives, are removed from cigarettes, they will continue to be just as deadly.

I think it is dangerous to assert without proof that if smokers switch to "natural" or "organic" brands they will be safer, although the makers of such products would like them to believe that nonsense.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:57 AM on August 13, 2009


ErikaB : I literally cannot say it enough. Thank you.

W00t! Mefi made someone's life better!

I love it when a plan comes together.
posted by quin at 12:38 PM on August 13, 2009


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