Quit Smoking in Colorado – Without Spending a Dime

I started smoking when I was 16. The standard reasons – my friends and boyfriend smoked, and while they never outright “pressured” me, the sensation was still there. That first drag of a cigarette, the sort of nicotine rush, and I wanted to feel that feeling again. And again.

Here I am, 11 years later, and finally I’ve started to quit smoking. I say started, even though I have as of today not smoked a single cigarette in 3 weeks, because I still have moments of total overwhelming desire for nothing more than a single drag. Just one. It’s not nice, but the point is that I’m getting there – and along the way have learned a few things.

First of all, if you live in Colorado, did you know that you can quit smoking for free? Seriously – at the tobacco company’s expense, you can get your smoking patches or gums and not have to pay for any of it, as long as you’re making a sincere effort to quit. From the Colorado Quitline to several serious helpful hints, here’s what you need to know to quit smoking.

Step One: Colorado Quitline

I find it sincerely amusing how ironic life can be. No sooner had I decided that I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, the nasty taste in my mouth, and that ever-lingering ghost of cigarette smoke clinging to my clothes and hair, than my grandmother arrived unannounced. She was very polite and very cautious, but once she discovered I actually wanted to quit smoking she presented me with a paper that was nothing short of a miracle.

The Colorado Quitline is a free telephone service that helps callers quit smoking and using tobacco. They offer free nicotine patches or gum to legal-age adults who enroll in their tobacco cessation program – one of the perks of which involves trained counselors who will guide you through the quitting process. The Quitline is available to Colorado residents in both English and Spanish, seven days a week at 800-639-7848 or, for the hearing-impaired, TTY 800-659-2656.

Since the Colorado Quitline was developed in 2000, more than 13,000 Colorado residents have enrolled and taken advantage of the quit smoking program. Their big bonus is the supply of the nicotine patch – one of the most effective ways of quitting smoking – at no cost, combined with their counseling. After all, it can be intimidating to think of quitting smoking without the help of a nicotine patch or gum – but just look at the prices (even on ebay, the prices average $50 a box) and it seems like a hopeless cause.

Callers to the Colorado Quitline receive at no cost.

  • Free support and advice by telephone from a trained specialist experienced in counseling tobacco users on quitting.

  • A personalized quit plan.

  • Self-help materials.

  • A four-week supply of nicotine patches or nicotine gum.

Callers must be able to prove they are at least 18 years old to recieve nicotine replacement therapy. You can receive an additional four-week supply of nicotine replacement patches or gum if you remain in the Quitline program.

So, your first step is to give the Quitline a call. They will ask you a few questions designed to help decide what form of nicotine replacement therapy would most benefit you, and will get your mailing address. This is where your patches or gum is mailed, and a huge, in-depth tobacco cessation guide that leads you through the whole process. Answer their questions honestly and fully – it’s all confidential – and they’re going to get you on the path to quitting for good.

Step Two: Prepare to Quit

Ultimately, you really and truly have to want to quit smoking or nothing – not even patches – will be successful in helping you do so. While you wait on your patches or gum to arrive from the Quitline (about a week), there’s a few things you can do to get yourself prepared mentally and emotionally for what’s to come.

First, create a list. I chose to use a small notebook which I can vent in every time I feel the need to just burst or collapse. The list should contain every single reason you can think of for quitting smoking – why you want to quit, yourself. Things like improving your health, not further contributing to your chances of developing cancer, the smell, the taste, the cost … anything you can think of, write it down. If you recieve nicotine replacement patches, the user’s manual will contain a small wallet-sized card with room for your top 10 reasons to quit smoking. I can’t stress how often you’ll look back on your list, reminding yourself why you’re putting yourself through the whole quitting process.

After you’ve created your reasons to quit list, create a second list. This one should contain things you can do instead of smoking. Personally, I get the urge to smoke the moment I first wake up – my fingers start searching for that elusive lighter and pack of smokes. So one of my “things to do” was to immediately on waking take a long shower. Another time that the urge hits me is after dinner. Big meals always seemed to “go down” better after a cigarette – so instead of smoking, I take my daughter for a walk to feed the ducks at our neighborhood park. The idea is that you’re going to have to replace the habit, and the urges, with something – so prepare for those urges beforehand and have a strong back-up plan in place.

Now, you’re ready to set a quit date. Before you do that, though, you might want to schedule a quick doctor’s appointment. If you’re on any kind of anti-depressants and some other prescription medications, your doctor may need to adjust the dosage of your prescriptions before you use the patch. When you’re given the go-ahead, pull out your calendar and in bright bold ink mark the date you’re going to quit smoking. The day before you’re going to quit, go through and clean out your home of everything smoking-related – get rid of the ashtrays, the lighters, and all your other paraphenalia.

Finally, as you wait for your package to arrive, you can start boosting your body’s defenses. Drink lots of liquids – water and natural fruit juice – to help flush your system. Nicotine and tobacco take a major drain on your body’s defense mechanisms, sap your hydration levels, and generally add toxins to your bloodstream. Flushing some of this out will help you deal with withdrawals better.

Step Three: Your Quit Date

The first day will be by far the hardest. Seriously, the mental barrage is even worse than the physical withdrawals. Because it’s going to be a difficult day, take some special time for yourself and gather support from family and friends. I highly recommend making your quit date a Saturday, for these very reasons.

When it becomes really difficult, here’s some things to do

  • Read your list of reasons for quitting. Read them out loud, and take deep breaths while you do. It’s like meditation, and the urge will pass shortly.

  • Use your nicotine replacement patches or gum. If at all possible, begin using them first thing in the morning of your quit date, as soon as you first wake up. This gets you in the right mind-set and helps minimize withdrawal symptoms.

  • Talk to family and friends – try to talk about anything but smoking. Taking your mind off of the immediate issue will also help the urge to smoke pass.

I keep mentioning withdrawal symptoms, and I’m certain you’ve heard about them from other people who have quit smoking. Like any addiction, tobacco use affects us mentally and physically, and when we decide to take control of ourselves and exert power over our own needs, our bodies rebel. Withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours of your last cigarette, and peak within the first few days or the last several weeks. So what should you expect? Everyone’s different, but here are some common symptoms and how to deal with them:

  • Irritability and Nervousness – Take deep breaths, and exercise. Give your body and mind something to do rather than focus on the fact that you’re not going to have a cigarette.

  • Feeling tired – Hey, let’s face it, your body is working overtime here. So take it easy and allow yourself to be tired – take a nap or go to bed early and give your system a chance to start healing itself.

  • Trouble sleeping – One or the other, huh? Trouble sleeping is just as common as feeling tired – and sometimes they go hand-in-hand. If you can’t sleep well, make sure you’re not indulging in caffeine after 3-4 pm, and try some relaxation techniques like meditation or breathing exercises.

  • Cough, Dry Throat – Your smoker’s cough will get much, much worse before it gets better. It’s your lungs’ way of trying to purge the effects of tar and tobacco – drink plenty of liquids, use cough drops, or chew gum.

  • Dizziness – This is extremely common, but there’s not a lot to do about it. Again, take things easy and use extra caution when you’re driving or operating machinery.

  • Constipation – Eat plenty of fresh fruit, whole grains, and remember those liquids I keep mentioning.

  • Wanting to put something in your mouth – It’s an oral fixation, psychologists say, and may be a contributing factor to why some people start smoking in the first place. Try cutting celery, carrots, or licorice into cigarette-length pieces for easy (and low-fat) access whenever the urge is too strong.

Step Four: Stay Strong!

The benefits of not smoking can keep you motivated – they become more apparent as time goes on, and you start noticing little things that you hadn’t realized you’d missed. The taste of foods, for example, become more rich. You have more energy.

But the cravings can continue, and will hit at the oddest of times. Remember that once you quit, don’t even take a single puff – giving excuses for why you need a cigarette is giving in to the addiction, letting it win.

As soon as you stop smoking, your body starts healing the damage your smoking habit caused. Think on these things when you think you’ll never get through the next craving:

At 20 minutes after quitting smoking – Your blood pressure decreases, your pulse rate drops, and the body temperature of your hands and feet increases. Your body is moving the blood through at a much better rate, and isn’t being stressed by the jolt of nicotine that tobacco delivers.

At 8 hours after quitting smoking – The carbon monoxide levels in your bloodstream drop to normal (no longer poisoning your system), and the oxygen level in your blood also increases to normal. You’ll start feeling a bit of an energy boost after this time point.

At 24 hours after quitting smoking – This one’s a biggie, and it’s amazing that it happens so quickly, but your chance of a heart attack decreases.

At 48 hours after quitting smoking – Your nerve endings start re-growing and your sense of smell and sense of taste improve. That perfume that your wife wears might suddenly smell so delicious that you can’t believe you’ve never noticed it before, or the enchiladas you had just a couple weeks ago are amazingly tasty.

At 2 weeks through 3 months after quitting smoking – Your circulation improves, walking becomes easier, and your lungs function better. You won’t get so winded while taking a hike, and can go up and down the stairs without feeling like you might cough yourself to bits. Somewhere during this time, your coughing, sinus congestion, tiredness, and shortness of breath will also decrease.

At 1 year after quitting smoking
– Your chance of developing coronary heart disease is decreased to half that of a smoker.

At 5 years after quitting smoking – From 5 to 15 years after quitting smoking, your risk of having a stroke is reduced to the same amount as a person who has never smoked a day in their life.

At 10 years – Your risk of developing cancer drops to half of the risk that people who continue to smoke have. You also are pretty safe from developing ulcers.

At 15 years – Your risk of developing coronary heart disease is just about on-par with people who have never smoked, and your risk of premature death returns to nearly the level of people who have never smoked.

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