It seems I might have suggested giving up smoking was easy if you had the knack, for one of our gentle readers has demanded to know the secret of my success. (I did confess to many, many failed attempts - but I have been forgiven for those. Just spill the beans on how to win, is the challenge).
There are many elements in getting back to having clean lungs: probably the more important being know the enemy, know thyself, and then know how to stack the deck to give yourself the best chance possible of success.
A smoker's single biggest enemy in a cigarette is nicotine: a highly poisonous toxin that just happens to mimic acetylcholine. Which means the body not only readily accepts it, the subconscious part of the brain uses it to produce, among other things, dopamine. Your brain loves dopamine - it gives the "aah" to all the truly wonderful moments in your life. Your brain will do anything, virtually anything, to get some dopamine. And that is the heart of the addiction.
So using ever smaller amounts of nicotine to break the habit works only for a small number, and, as far as we can tell, more as a placebo than a cure. But should it work for you - don't knock it. And if it doesn't, that is not an excuse to stop trying - just notice that more traditional methods are needed.
Back to the more traditional route. Your mind craves the dopamine that nicotine produces. Is that knowledge sufficient in itself for you to overcome its effects? Alas not. Your conscious mind may buy into what is going on, but - particularly in matters of addiction - your sub-conscious mind can work independently of your conscious mind. There are many reported instances of people looking on at themselves like zombies when they purchased cigarettes "against their will." For a few moments, sub conscious took control and got the fix it craved.
Furthermore, the insidious nature of nicotine appears to be a trait of that one drug. The urge keeps returning over time, with less strength and for shorter periods - but it does keep coming back. And each time it does give the sub-conscious another chance to grab the reins and hijack all your efforts to date.
Those who stop smoking all agree that the first couple of days has the strongest, longest and most frequent periods of crave - but this is the time the will is strongest. A period of peace follows - and then comes the seven day onset. More peace, and then varied periods of crave. The one that comes at about the 15 month stage is very mean - you know you can kick the habit - you have all these months of being clean - so it is a certainty that one cigarette will not break you. Take one, and then a week later you will be back up to your previous rate of consumption. (I told you this one was particularly mean to the unsuspecting ex-addict.)
But you can actually learn some strategies when the crave hits. If you can last out two or three minutes, it will go away. And it will stay away for ever longer periods. You need to be able to survive each short period just until it passes.
So - how to survive despite your subconscious' ability to hijack your body and make you start smoking again against all your best intentions? In a word - motivation.
The most powerful motivation is to give up simultaneously with someone you really like, or really hate. The unspoken agreement is that each will stay off until the other gives in. And the motivation now is a very powerful "I cannot give in first - I shall wait". If that ability to wait, each time the crave returns, lasts only for just two or three minutes, you are safe. You will never be the first to fail. And neither will your partner. Each of you will drag the other up the hill and into the land of sounder health. (And from personal experience, I can vouch that this is the most powerful motivator in my personal armory).
If you are the lone smoker in your circle of family and friends, this strategy is not available to you.
Perhaps you can use he carrot and stick approach - this reports a high success rate. This is how it works: set yourself some achievement points: say one month, six months and one year. Work out how much you would spend on tobacco in each of those periods. Those are the prize monies for each period.
Each day you are successful, put one day's tobacco money into the pot. When you hit each goal, spend the prize money on one of your heart's desires. Post some pictures of these prizes around your living and office space. That is the carrot.
The stick needs you to probably commit control of it to some trusted partner. For, if you fail, the prize pot then goes to charity. Here's the kicker. It is a charity whose aims you abhor and who you would dearly love for it close shop and disappear from the face of your earth. May be a political party opposed to yours - may be a lobby group working against your own aims for society. It matters not - only that you hate them - for your next use of tobacco is going to give them some of your hard earned cash. (And since you hate them so much, giving the purse strings to someone else may be necessary).
So - knowing that if you smoke, not only do you lose those tickets you that really want to have, but your cash is going to them - it is more than possible that your sub conscious stops being a force working against you, and starts to be one working for you. Your sub conscious hates that organization as much as you do - it will hate to see them get your prize money. Hence the trusted partner - sub conscious has to be convinced the cash is really going to go, and a last minute renege on the deal cannot possibly take place.
The trail is long - which is why you need at least the one year goal - and hard - which is why you want all the help you can get. But the view at the end of it is truly one worth seeing.
Convince sub-conscious to be your ally, and you have a formidable team on your side.
And if even that seems too much of a stretch: fall back on the oldest one-step-at-a-time approach. It has worked more times than it has failed. Each morning make the commitment "no nicotine today". Each day, just for that day. A one day commitment is far easier to achieve than a life time one. But all those days get added together and it turns into a life time one.
What matters is that you complete the journey and join the ever increasing army of non-smokers, not the route you took to get there.