In the last eight years, I’ve smoked 9,425 cigarettes. This is not an estimate, it is an exact number. I started counting how much I smoked about 10 years ago when I felt I was smoking a bit too much. Quitting was in the future, but I wasn’t ready for that yet – I wanted to cut down. Counting cigarettes helped me pay attention to how much I was smoking, when I was smoking and perhaps even why I was smoking.
I know all the reasons to quit. That gets hammered into smokers way too often. I didn’t want to quit because someone was telling me I should. Advertising about how bad smoking is for me has the opposite impact; it always makes me want to light up. Watching Film Noir, especially a Humphrey Bogart movie, has the same effect. The morning cig, the one with coffee, the drive to work, lunch, dinner, after work, before bed, when stressed, when bored – lots of good reasons and times for a smoke!
I slowly picked away at those reasons and the times when I would have a cigarette. Not allowing myself to smoke in the car led to an interesting moment a few years back when a concerned motorist stopped to ask if I had car trouble. “No,” I replied, as I was leaning back against my car, “Just having a smoke.”
Some of the times and reasons were easier to break away from, some have been more difficult. I’ve been working on that first one in the morning – it hasn’t been easy. The one after work – not even attempting to give that one up yet. The stress and boredom cigs – the boredom ones actually seem to be harder to give up. Go figure!
Early on, buying packs instead of cartons helped. Not buying a new pack until the old pack is gone helps as well. Not bringing my cigarettes with me everywhere I go was a big step. Not bringing them to work was even bigger. This last November, I made it through two deer hunting weekends without a cigarette. There have been days in the last year that I have thought I could give this up entirely. Yet, at this point, it would be like giving up two friends – the first, my cigarettes; but second, my little counting game that I’ve been doing for years.
Some have suggested that it is a bit obsessive to know exactly how much I’ve smoked in the last eight years. But, I argue back, counting cigarettes is not all that difficult. The manufacturers make it easy. Twenty cigs in a pack, 200 in a carton. I simply note on the calendar at the beginning of the month how many cigs are left in the pack, keep track of how many packs I go through in the month (adding and subtracting, as needed, for bumming) – do a little math and come out with my total for the month. Add up the months and years….
Well, there are other methods. If you are a smoker, I’m not going to suggest you quit. You have enough people telling you to do that. But, if you’ve come to that decision yourself, there are a variety of methods to choose from. Empathia has a tobacco cessation program that has worked for many. One question it asks is how ready are you to quit smoking. I am contemplating it, but I am not quite there yet.
Smokers/non-smokers – share your thoughts below – I’d be interested in hearing your stories.
Reggie E, MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.