Megan M. was about 18 when she started smoking in high school in Pennsylvania. She first started trying to quit at 22. Today, at 24, she's a marketing professional in San Francisco and credits identifying smoking triggers as a key part of her success. Here's how she identified her smoking triggers, and how you can, too.
I started smoking as a social thing. I'd have a cigarette while I was out with friends. But when I went to college, I was in a long-distance relationship and it was stressful, so smoking became my outlet. … I stopped working out. I was smoking and felt awful about myself. I decided that I had to get my life back on track, and smoking was the first thing to go.
I started smoking when I was a bored and lonely 17-year-old irrigating alfalfa fields in Utah for money and reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for enlightenment. I smoked watching magpies splash in the ditch, and for 20 years I kept sucking those nasty things for reasons of self-loathing and distraction, and mainly because I couldn’t stop. In 1996, just before my son was born, I put a lid on it. I wasn’t going to contaminate my babies with second-hand smoke. And it wasn't hard to figure...
I did it on my own. … And one of the most successful things I did was identifying my smoking triggers, the typical times when I automatically lit a cigarette. The biggest smoking trigger was in the car. I'd get out of work or class and get into the car to drive home, and I'd have a cigarette to make the time pass. Another time would be after a meal. When I was really full, I'd smoke to take the edge off the fullness feeling. When I was out with friends and having drinks, I'd always smoke. And I'd smoke when I was stressed.
So when I'd get in the car, I'd say to myself, "I'm not going to have a cigarette now." I'd be very conscious of it. And I'd wait 10 minutes and focus my mind on something else, and usually the craving would pass. When I was stressed, I started replacing cigarettes with doing crunches, because I felt the need to move to alleviate tension. Or I'd chug a whole glass of water.
The toughest trigger to get over was the social smoking. Those are the only times I've fallen back and had a cigarette. Fortunately, I now live in California where it's almost taboo to go out of the bar to smoke, so that's helped me.