Bieberfever asks: I’m 13 years old and I smoke. How do I quit when I’m addicted to it?
Hi Bieberfever –
I’m so glad you asked this. It’s such a huge topic.
There’s good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad.
To begin with, let’s talk about Addiction in general. We all have things we like, and we want more of them. I love pizza, for example, and will eat it whenever I get the chance. But that doesn’t make me a Pizza Addict. Addiction is an actual physical thing, where the brain creates new neuron pathways, such that the person actually feels bad if they’re not getting the substance they’re addicted to. It can be mild (like when we hear some grownups say, “I’m no good in the morning till I’ve had my first cup of coffee”) or severe (like alcoholics who ruin their lives by their need for self-destructive drinking), or even deadly.
At it’s core, Addiction is simply Stupid! Think about it – if there’s something that you have to do even if you don’t want to, and it doesn’t serve you in any way, and you do it… that’s the definition of Stupidity, isn’t it?
But I’m not putting you, or any other addict, down. We all have brains that are capable of addiction. Yes, even us dogs (Even mice and rats can become addicts, which is one reason scientists use them for experiments on addictive substances a lot). There’s nothing to be ashamed of about becoming addicted to something. The trick to beating the stupidity – the sometimes very hard trick – is stopping the habitual taking of what you’re addicted to.
Now if you’ve been following me, you’ll realize that stopping taking that substance doesn’t mean you’re no longer an addict! Millions of people have stopped drinking alcohol but still will tell you “I am an alcoholic.” And they’re right: their brains still have that pathway in them. So again, the job they have to do is to keep themselves from indulging their addiction… every day of their lives.
Okay, that’s half the bad news. The other is about cigarettes specifically. While a dog will do lots of self-destructive things, one thing we never do is smoke. Why? Because our lips don’t work that way! So I’ve never had a cigarette, though I’ve certainly smelled them. Sometimes they smell kind of nice; but most of the time they kind of burn my eyes and nose so I’m not really into them anyway.
But what’s worse is when you learn what they do to you. If people only smoked natural tobacco, the stuff we see cowboys smoking in those old westerns, they’d be hurting themselves, but nowhere nearly as badly as our modern cigarettes do. In particular, when you start smoking anything, you destroy some very fine fibers in your lungs called Cilia, which help clean out the lungs when you have a cold or flu. In other words, those first few packs of cigarettes mean that every respiratory illness for the rest of your life will last longer and be worse!
But today’s cigarettes have so many more toxic chemicals in them than even the natural tobacco does. You’re literally inhaling poisons into your body, along with extra nicotine that the manufacturers add in to make it more addictive! Truly, there aren’t a lot of legal substances out there that are nearly as bad for you! Plus, they make you stink!
Okay, so enough with the bad news. Here’s the good news. Quitting smoking when you’re young has been shown to drastically reduce the long-term consequences (those really scary ones like emphysema and cancer). If you quit now, at 13, you have all those best years ahead of you, where you can look better (cigarettes tend to give teens lots of zits), feel better, and be able to look at the other kids smoking and feel superior to them!
There are TONS of methods out there to help you quit. Nicotine gum, the nicotine patch, mouthwashes that make your mouth taste bad if you smoke, and many many more. But the truth is, none of them will work unless you truly want to quit.
And if you truly want to quit, nothing can stop you.
My suggestion would be to start by doing three things. Do these for one week.
First, every time you really want a cigarette, and would have had one before, let yourself have one, but only smoke one third of it. That way you’ll satisfy your craving, but start reducing the amount of nicotine your body’s receiving. (Note: but don’t then start smoking more cigarettes than you used to, to make up for it!! Keep the number of cigarettes down to equal or less than your current habit.)
Second, about every half hour, drink a glass of water. And if you can drink more, do so. Cigarettes dehydrate you, and if your body starts getting all the water it needs, it’ll like the idea, and crave cigarettes less.
And third, do some exercise every day that makes you breathe. Run, walk, or (best) swim. Your body will be gasping for oxygen, and, just as with the water, that will make it start craving the cigarettes less.
Okay, great. If that worked, then, after that first week, keep doing all the same stuff, but make yourself hold off on smoking till the sun has gone down. And then don’t allow yourself more than one (1/3) cigarette every two hours.
And then, third week? Quit. Stop. Cold Turkey! Your body will complain, you’ll crave all sort of other things. Fine, do them! Eat a chocolate cake, drink two liters of Pepsi, eat a bag of chips, who cares! You might get headaches. Okay, pop an Aspirin or something. Big deal. All that matters is that you’re freeing your body from its worst enemy.
And if you can make it through that week, Bieberfever, I can almost guarantee you that you will start to feel better.
Did I say “better?” How about… way better! You’ll like the way you feel when you wake up, you’ll smell better, you’ll have more energy, you’ll look lots better, you’ll have a better attitude, you’ll start to enjoy your life more, like other people more, have an easier time with your schoolwork…
And yes, you might feel so good that you start to tell yourself that what would feel especially great would be to have just one more cigarette, that it’ll be fine, because you’re over your addiction… right?
Wrong!! Don’t do it! Your addiction will just kick right back in, and you’ll get right back into your old habits, and have to go through all this again!
You see, my friend, this may be one time when you want to go against the advice of that idol of yours. He said to never say never? I think saying “Never smoke again” would be a great exception to his rule!!!
Good Luck, and please tell me how it goes!