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Changing a habit does not take place overnight. It is a battle that can last months or even a year. A workable plan and strategy implementation are required for change. This study examines my step-by-step strategy for reducing my smoking habit, with the ultimate goal of quitting totally. However, the research only examines the approach I used to reduce my smoking habit from 12 to three cigarettes per day.
The smoking habit was the behavior I intended to change. Since complete quit was impossible in one or two weeks, I intended to reduce the number of cigarettes I smoked in a day. I first started with a tally sheet to know the number of cigarettes I smoked in a day. The number varied between 10 and 12 cigarettes per day. My specific plan was to reduce these cigarettes to four or fewer cigarettes in a day. The results are summarized in Tally sheet one below. The following week I decided to pursue various strategies for change. Due to my ambitions, I deiced that every day was meant for a change and hence I engaged in multiple strategies which were getting advice intervention, personal behavioral counseling, telephone counseling, group therapy, and self-help through reading materials.
There many benefits of not smoking. Among them, there is improved health and improved diet, and younger facial looks among other health benefits. Economic benefits include saving finances, decrease hospital bills, cease hurting fellow workers, etc. The last one was more of social interests, which is that non-smokers can interact and be with anyone including kids and have no smoke smells.
After implementing the strategies, I then decided that I will track my cigarettes with my tally sheet to see whether I had changed. I followed both the cigarettes and the triggers that pushed me to smoke. See Tally sheet 2 for the results.
Tally Sheet 1. Smoking Assessment Before Change
7: 00 am
7: 40 am
6: 20 am
8: 40 Am
8: 10 Am
7: 20 am
8: 30 am
8: 25 am
10: 05 am
9: 10 am
9: 50 am
9: 50 am
9: 40 am
1: 00 pm
11: 00 am
11: 30 am
11: 33 am
2: 00 pm
12: 50 pm
12: 04 pm
12: 57 pm
3: 30 pm
2: 33 pm
1: 30 pm
2: 30 pm
4: 26 pm
3: 50 pm
3: 00 pm
3: 38 pm
5: 00 pm
5: 32 pm
5: 06 pm
5: 15 pm
5: 55 pm
6: 30 pm
6: 20 pm
4: 42 pm
6: 55 pm
6: 30 pm
8: 00 pm
6: 30 pm
8: 07 pm
7: 40 pm
9: 50 pm
8: 00 pm
10: 14 pm
10: 55 pm
11: 20 pm
Tally sheet 2. Smoking Assessment after change
7: 00 am
9: 50 am
8: 25 am
1: 00 pm
2: 00 pm
3: 50 pm
3: 38 pm
5: 00 pm
6: 30 pm
9: 50 pm
8: 00 pm
8: 07 pm
7: 40 pm
I had higher goals that were health related. Some of these were the fear of cancer, the fear of dental problems, the need to improve my diet, e.t.c. All these were psychological motivators since they were health related. According to (Behjati), risk factors that involve smoking, unhealthy, overweight, diet, stress, physical inactivity, etc. occupies the level one of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Despite my goals to change, I still met some counter-motives that could have hindered me from reducing my smokes. For one, I felt that there is no difference between smoking few cigarettes and smoking the twelve. Another counter-motive was the thought of seeing a total quit an impossible thing. I believed that I was already an addict and I had read articles that quitting takes even more than six months. To me, this was a very long period of struggling with an urge.
Even though I had all these counter-motives, the fact that the drive to change was intrinsic gave me only one choice which was to reduce. Twelve cigarettes per day was a lot of consumption. Besides, even though I was a smoker, I hated the smell that the cigarette left in my clothes, beddings, and my house.
Strategies and Their Application
There are various strategies for behavioral change. Due to my high drive to change, I decided to try a combination of the following.
The advice intervention falls in the line of the 5As approach. The study of (Olaiya, Oluwatosin, et al.) states the method had favorable outcomes in the campaigns for tobacco cessation among pregnant smokers. I follow the usual implementation procedure which is first meeting a professional assistant. The advisor assessed my willingness and advised me on the benefits of my reduction plan as well as the complete quit. I followed all the steps to the last one which was meeting my appointments with the advisor.
Besides seeking advice, I engaged a professional counselor to be giving me a face-to-face guidance. The study of (Davis, Rachel, et al.) found that individual counseling worked in helping people quit in face to face advice. My face to face counseling involved scheduling one on one meetings with experts in smoking cessation counseling. Besides, the incorporation of motivational interviews by the counselor had a significant impact. The study of (Lai, Douglas TC, et al.) found that several and more extended periods are better than few, short sessions. Therefore, I organized multiple, extended meetings with my counselor.
Group Behavior Therapy (GBT)
Unlike my former smokers’ group, this one was a group for a change. The study of (Hiscock, Rosemary, et al.) found that 80% of smokers who participated in GBT were successful in quitting their smoking habit. My counselor suggested one group of smokers who were willing to stop or reduce their smoking. The group was undergoing their therapeutic strategy, and so I decided to join. The team was very useful in offering peer support.
I also organized some phone calls with quitlines. Telephone counseling did not only help me with a reducing strategy, but the support advised me to push my ambitions to quit, an idea that I welcomed warmly. The quitlines organized frequent calls that were helpful as they came either at the time the urge to take a cigarette was too high, or they called some time before the urge. Following the study of (Skov-Ettrup, Lise S., et al.) explanation that telephone counseling provides higher chances of abstinence after quitting, I decided to have this strategy as in my front.
The study of (Black, James H.) found that self-help through reading written materials, leaflets, audio recordings, videos/DVDs, and Web/Internet-based materials enables someone to quit or reduce smoking. Therefore, I bought much of these to back up other strategies. Every time I felt the urge to smoke, I read or watched DVDs that had to scare images of the effect of smoking. The scaring pictures would make the call go away.
Emotional Barriers and Social Support
While trying to quit, I had a mix of emotions. The following were the emotions that I encountered.
Grieving the Loss
I felt a sudden emptiness, loneliness when I miss a cigarette. However, I understood that I was smoking when in bad or good times. The benefits were more than the losses.
Anger and Mood Swings
Mood swing happens even into current times. There are times I am active, and everything is going well, but things change abruptly to a depressed mood. Nevertheless, I always divert my brains to other things when a thought of smoking closes my mind.
Depression was common. Even before it started to occur, my counselor had told me that it would come due to lowering of nicotine level. I also knew that it was not going to last, and I suppressed with regular exercises.
Perception of Smoke as a Stress Management Strategy
I always believed that cigarette helps me deal with stress. Since I sometimes experienced stress either caused by my family members, friends or natural frustrations, I still felt the need to reach for a cigarette. I understood that this was normal, even the study of (Bryant, Jamie, et al.) found that the perception of smoking as a stress management mechanism was either the reason someone started smoking or prevents someone from quitting.
Enjoyment of smoking
The fact that smoking was fun made it difficult for me to quit. I always believed that smoke motivated me to work, enhanced my concentration and gave me a pleasurable moment. For instance, I usually smoked after achieving something or after work as a method of relaxation. In my struggle to quit, this perception was hard to deal with. The study of (Johnston, Vanessa, and David P. Thomas) analyzed this opinion and found that it provides a robust barrier for many smokers.
Addiction and Habit
Smoking being a habit made me feel as if there was something I am missing especially when I went for some hours without a puff. The perception that I was hooked up to smoking and believe that I was already an addict made me think that it was hard to quit, as the study of (Johnston, Vanessa, and David P. Thomas) reported, such a perception is one barrier that can hinder someone from stopping.
Social Acceptability and Pro-Smoking Environments
It was tough for me to quit when everyone around me is smoking. The difficulties arose especially when I met with my friends who were all smokers as they also made fun of my goals. The study of (Lewis, Sue, and Andrew Russell) also categorizes smoking environment as the primary barrier to quitting.
Social supports that Helped me in my Goals
The most significant elements of support that helped me were group support and family. As like I mentioned above, the group therapy offered an environment for peer support. We were all members who had a goal to decrease or eliminate the level of smoking. From the family, I received two kinds of support. The first one was complaints of smoking, the family members would politely complain about my smoking which was persuasive enough to motivate me. Another family support was an appreciation for every hour that lapsed without lighting a cigarette. It became a stimulating factor that after every hour with no smoke, I would hope to receive a gift or something from a family member in the next hour.
Quitting and reducing the number of cigarettes smoked per day is hard. When I accomplished my goal to minimize the cigarettes from twelve to four per day, this seemed harsh for me and a massive battle. I am even more motivated to quit smoking. In my plans to stop entirely, I am planning to include other strategies for quitting smoking like the use of new technology, and chemotherapy. The main reason I think I would need chemo is to deal with withdrawal syndrome. What I have learned is that quitting needs a plan, and it requires a disciplined person. Quitting is a process that someone should monitor closely and see your trend. Below is my reduced smoking summarized in a graph. There are so many temptations to drag someone back to the smoke including the body itself.
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