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Out to Quit: Getting through 'THE PROGRAM' - Week 4
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Out to Quit: Getting through 'THE PROGRAM' - Week 4

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

It is absolutely inconceivable to me how I would cope with stress without cigarettes. Whenever I am given bad news, whenever I feel as if I've failed, whenever I need to re-think a plan, lighting a cigarette is as natural to me as keeping the sun on my face and the wind at my back. But somehow, I'm going to have to learn and I'm going to have to draw the willpower from within myself to resist smoking.

This week's meeting opened up with each member of the group talking about how they had fought cravings and resisted certain cigarettes during the week. For most of the group, breaking up their routines was one of the most effective means of cutting down.

One member essentially "combined" his cigarettes - i.e., instead of smoking a cigarette on the way to work and when he got to work, he made a conscious effort to cut out the first and simply wait until he got to work to smoke. Doing this throughout the day, he was able to cut his daily cigarette intake in half.

It seems to me that this is easy, or at least easier than quitting altogether. I'm tapering, too - most members of the group are. I've tapered many times, usually without the intention of quitting. Typically, I've cut down my intake, but eventually I'll just say "fuck it" and stop counting my cigarettes.

The group began talking about various strategies and tactics we could use to fight cravings. After a whiteboard was completely filled with ideas, Lark popped the question:

"Are we ready to select our quit date?"

Lark pitched February 10 and presented us with a tapering-down key. After a bit of intense discussion, he asked the group formally if February 10 was acceptable. I was the first to raise my hand in agreement and when the other hands joined mine, February 10 it was.

I've given a lot of thought to why I referred to Gay City's Out to Quit as "The Program" in my initial column. It's because I knew it would be hard - and it is - but "The Program" carries with it a negative connotation. No one forced me into"The Program;" I chose to undertake it. The staff of Gay City are not administrators of a program that is to be feared - or maybe they are, because facing quitting head-on is very scary.

It is equivalent to making any huge life change, like ending a relationship or taking a new job far away from home - both of which I have done, and both of which have left me changed forever.

We've created individualized strategies and tactics to help us fight urges based on our smoking habits and our triggers.

I've come up with four primary strategies. Here they are:

First, I've designated the porch in my apartment as a no-smoking area. It's easy for me to simply open a door to light up; however when I have to put my clothes on and head to the roof, I give smoking a second thought.

Second, I've decided not to bring my cigarettes out of my house, period. I've decide that if I really want a cigarette while I'm at work, out with friends or elsewhere, I'll have to buy a single cigarette. This is a strategy I've used to taper down many times.

Third, I've decided to always wait at least 10 minutes whenever I get a craving in the hopes that it will pass.

Fourth, I've asked my girlfriend Katie, whom I live with, not to do any housework, dishes, laundry, nothing. Needless to say, she's pleased. Cleaning can be very therapeutic for me. It's simple and keeps me distracted. The more work I have to do, the more I have to distract me from smoking.

I've come up with various tactics I can use as well, like cutting down on caffeine and running to the gym for a quick workout when I get cravings.

These strategies and tactics leave every cigarette but one covered: the morning cigarette. I can think of nothing to distract me, nothing I can use to resist this cigarette. The only way I can see to cut it is to make it the last one I cut out in my tapering process, which began yesterday, on January 27, and goes through February 10, the day of my last cigarette.

Day one was a success. I'll be tapering down from six to zero, with February 11 being my first day without a cigarette. Here's how many cigarettes I'll be smoking daily using my plan: 6, 6, 5, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 1, 1, 1, 1, 0. The idea of skipping two is my own. My hope is that if I can make a leap right before I quit, it will give me the audacity to go from one to zero.

Gay City has set me up for success. Up until now, we've only discussed quitting; now the process has begun.

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