Okay, Don't Quit

How To Stop Smoking
Without Quitting Cold Turkey

The Preface

I knew quitting smoking was the right thing to do — it was affecting my health and limiting my activities. I couldn't go on a serious hike, my handball game was on the skids, and my morning cough was scary. The smart part of me wanted to stop smoking, yet another part wanted to continue.

I'd quit for two weeks and start up again. Or it would be two months, or four months, or a weekend, but inevitably I'd start up again. If it was any consolation, I had plenty of company — all my friends and co-workers seemed to be going through the same quit and start-up cycles.

I came to hate the hold smoking had over me. I felt like a drug addict, but it wasn't as if my friends and I were living in the street and stealing for our next fix — we were solid, hard working people. It didn't make sense that a drug such as nicotine could have such control over our lives.

Somehow, it was more than the nicotine. There was a comfortable and secure feeling about having a cigarette. Having a smoke was a way of relaxing, thinking, and even looking cool; taking a nicotine pill just didn't have the same feeling as smoking.

Finally, I did stop smoking for good, but my bewilderment over the habit's power lingered.

Years later, while designing a project for a drug treatment program, the multiple layering concept of habit construction surfaced. Put simply, it states that habits get their strength from the many little acts in repetitive routines. Repetition creates a familiarity that transforms simple acts into soothing, calming rituals.

In addition to their calming ability, habits make life easier by removing the need to pay attention to mundane tasks. Habitual tasks can be done without thinking. The act of getting dressed could take hours if each zipper and buttonhole had to be thought out. Instead, dressing becomes a habit, and gets done without a thought — not that different from the smoking habit.

Therein lies the secret: habits contain complex networks of actions tied together to make life easier and less stressful. Little movements become single automatic, comforting actions. Thereby the strength of smoking does not lie in the drug nicotine, but in its web of connections tied to the actions involved with smoking.

Focusing on the nicotine alone is the main problem with quitting cold turkey. It treats smoking as simply a nicotine addiction and ignores other connections to your life.

With that insight, the solution became clear. Break the little bonds to your daily routines, and the smoking habit loses its power. With these connections eliminated and the addiction reduced, smoking becomes just another activity that you either do or don't do. No quitting needed. You just don't bother to smoke.

This book combines these insights into a step-by-step program for stopping smoking. Originally designed as a series of smoking cessation workshops, the training has been modified to function as a complete individual program.

The following sections are from the book, OKAY DON'T QUIT — How to Stop Smoking without Quitting Cold Turkey, by James A. Davis. Permission is granted to copy and distribute portions of this text as long as the source and the author are cited.

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