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5 ways I tried (and failed) to kick the cancer stick
January 31st, 2012
01:53 PM ET

5 ways I tried (and failed) to kick the cancer stick

Editor's Note: Rick Morris is one of 7 CNN viewers selected to be part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Each participant receives all of the gear and training necessary to compete in a triathlon, and will finish his or her journey at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon in September.  Rick's biggest challenge, he says, is kicking "the cancer stick."

Two o'clock in the morning.  A couple bottles of my strong pale ale Belgium style home brew.  Got the '80s rocking on Sirius Radio.  What better time to write about my smoking cessation progress?

Perhaps it's a corny way to start a blog, but I don't care.  I'm in the mood for reflecting on the “good ol' days” when I was a non-smoker.   You know, the younger years... the energetic era.  Those were the days when responsibilities were minimal and my poison was nothing more than sweets.

Sure, I had to do my homework, mow the grass and clean my room.  But, generally speaking, I didn't have the slightest concern for personal health.  I was cut like a knife – all 126 pounds, a member of the great Pisgah High School wrestling team, and didn't think twice about running 2 miles to the store for a pack of gob-stoppers and various “junk food."

I could bench press twice my body weight, run full-court b-ball at the Canton, North Carolina, YMCA all day long, and still have enough energy left to make some football card money by hunting nightcrawlers (worms) until the wee hours in the morning. If you ever wondered where your fishing bait comes from, it arrives via “head-lamp-wearing” teenage fools like me.

But for some reason, I ruined my pristine health when I was 29 years old by choosing to “be cool” with my motorcycle friends and lighting up.  I mean, what's one lousy cigarette going to do?  I'm still young.  I have self-control.  I can smoke only when I'm around the biker boys.  Right!  It was only a matter of days before I rationalized buying a pack so I wouldn't have to bum off my friends.  Pretty soon, I was smoking a pack a day.

Since 1998, the cigarette has had an iron-clad grip on my soul.  I couldn't eat a meal without “rewarding” myself with a nice after-dinner toke.  I couldn't hang out with the guys, enjoy a football game, or even drive without a smoke.

I started thinking about quitting perhaps five years into the habit.  It seemed everywhere I turned, people were telling me how unhealthy smoking had become – as if it wasn't unhealthy in the past and only recently became dangerous!

I noticed the social changes, too.  Airlines quit asking if I wanted smoking or non-smoking.  Restaurants, where there were smoking and non-smoking sections, soon became entirely smoke-free.  Prices went from $1 a pack to $5 a pack within a few years.  Even tobacco companies were publishing campaigns on smoking cessation.

So, I thought, I'll give it a whirl... I'll stop smoking.  How hard can it be?

I started with the patch.  You know, a trans-dermal method for injecting just the nicotine and “not all the other harmful chemicals found in cigarettes."  I dealt with the vivid dreams and headaches and was able to stay smoke-free for a couple months.

But at the first sign of stress I was back at it.  The trigger?  Nothing more than a friend who lit up in front of me.  “Hey, can I get one of those?” I asked.  That one cigarette was all it took.  Within a week I was back up to a pack a day.

Next, I thought I'd try it “cold turkey."  That was a complete waste of time.  I think I made it through 2 days before I wanted to squeeze someone's neck.  It didn't matter to me... wife, son, daughter, friend, pet... any neck would do!

How about some tasty nicotine gum?  Sure, if you like freshly-cut rubber from a gum tree with a delightful feet-juice additive, then this is probably the best route a smoker can take towards their smoke-free life.  That idea lasted about two pieces of gum.

After another year of feeling like I was breathing through a box of grits, my new quitting scheme became a calculated science.  I opened up Microsoft Word and looked at the calendar for a stop date.  1 month from today.  If I smoke 16 today, and hold myself accountable for those 16 cigarettes, I can smoke 15 tomorrow.  My plan had me outlining what I call the “draw-down."

I mean, hey, if I built up my physical dependence on this crap, then I can forgo all the gimmicks of gum and patches and cleanse my body the natural way.

This, I rationalized, would reduce my daily dependence and I would be able to call it quits at the end of the month.  So, I created a chart.  Day 1: 16 smokes.  Day 2: 15 smokes.  Day 3: 14 smokes.

I calculated the exact time  I would smoke based on the day's allowance, divided by the number of “awake” hours I had in my typical day (for some reason, I had no trouble being smoke-free while I was asleep!).  This actually worked for me.  I would place my initials on one of the allowable spaces each time I had a smoke.  I finally had commitment.  I had viewable control.  I drew down and kicked the habit.  For 4 months.  Then, I relapsed.  I don't recall why, but I did.

So, I continued moving right along with my happy self.  Life was good.  I had my tobacco security blanket.  It solved any problems I encountered.

But as I neared my 40s, I started noticing subtle changes in my health.  It took longer to fall asleep.  Coughing became a constant nuisance.  My $50 cologne was overshadowed by “Eau De La Forest Fire."  There was never enough flavor in my food.  The term “renewable energy” made me laugh.  And, I found myself becoming lazy.

Ten years into my habit, I saw the next big “quit-smoking” tool on late night television.  It was amazing!  An electronic cigarette!

This thing gave you the nicotine, produced the “smoke," and even lit up with a glow when you puffed.  I could smoke it anywhere – the restaurant, on an airplane – without repercussion.

What a complete waste of money.  While the e-cig addressed my habit of toking, I really didn't find it useful in actually quitting.  Probably the best thing that happened with this approach is my wife accidentally washed it, and I had an excuse to buy a pack of real smokes.

So there you have it - five ways I tried, and failed, to kick the cancer stick. But since being chosen as one of the Lucky 7 in the CNN 2012 Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge, I've been shown a completely new approach in becoming smoke-free: I've finally admitted that I'm unable to go it alone.

My personal trainer, Bill Wilkins, enrolled me in a Freedom from Smoking class at the MedWest Fitness Center in Waynesville, North Carolina.  Today was my second weekly class.

Our “teach” and Dr. Sanjay Gupta fan, Kathy, has a sincere approach in seeing us succeed, and has already enlightened me concerning some very interesting smoking facts and alternative methods for cessation.  In two weeks, we are scheduled for our quit day.  For some reason, I'm buying into what Kathy is teaching us and truly expect to succeed this time around.

I feel somewhat embarrassed that for the first time in my life I require outside assistance in accomplishing something important. However, I have a confident outlook on this humbling endeavor in becoming smoke-free forever.

Unlike my younger years, today I have far greater responsibilities.  People rely on me.  Plus, I'm still young, and I'm not going to allow tobacco to rob me of my prime any longer.

Who's with me?


soundoff (435 Responses)
  1. Frances

    HELP!! I have tried everything too, and it seems the habit owns me. Please share the secrets you are learning!

    February 5, 2012 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick Morris

      Frances, I believe the only true answer is to just do it. Get through three days, and you'll likely be successful. Get as many people as you can involved in keeping you accountable. I was in a fortunate position this weekend to commit on National TV in an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta (probably the most brilliant, sincere person I've ever met), so I'm accountable to not only myself, but to millions. Check it out herein these pages regarding the CNN 2012 Fitnation Triathlon. Best...

      February 5, 2012 at 23:37 | Report abuse |
    • Jose

      Frances. Smoking is not a habit. You must remove that Brainwashing from your mind. Smoking is an addiction. A physical and mental addiction. I would recommend that you read Allen Carr's book, "the easy way to stop smoking". I tried many ways and this has been the only way to be smoke free and actually enjoy life without that filthy, disgusting cigarette. Trust me, you will not be dissapointed. Good luck.

      February 7, 2012 at 16:12 | Report abuse |
    • Quitter

      There is a wonderful book called "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking" by Allen Carr. His approach is very optimistic...instead of beating images of cancer-stricken lungs into your brain, he makes you EXCITED about quitting by pointing out how great life is once you are smoke-free. I am not the type to give in to self-help gimmicks, but this book really helped me!

      Good luck!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:39 | Report abuse |
    • Sultan

      I had this addiction for11 years from age 22. I tried telling myself that I will quit and I quit it 5 es before I got back into it in my 11 years.

      Finally I am free of it for 9 years.The way I quit was by telling myself it was disgusting and started to hate it with all my might. I had to believe it to keep saying it to myself. Had to replce the good feeling of smoking with disgusting bad feeling.

      The very good thing about quitting is that, once you quit , you do not think about it anymore🙂. In case the idea pops up, I just tell myself that i hate it and I will not even get one puff out of it.

      March 9, 2012 at 09:42 | Report abuse |
    • John

      Frances So, I’ve been vaping for a little over a year and the one brand that I fell in love with is http://www.Redbox-Ecigs.com.
      I tried a couple different 808 carts and the tobacco flavors, that Redbox Electronic Cigarette cartomizers has, are amazing! I think, It’s the best tobacco flavor, that last a long time and when they are empty, the cart shuts off,
      instead of getting that awful burnt taste in your mouth like the other brands have.
      Has anybody else tried this product???
      I also found a secret coupon code for Redbox-Ecigs that works for 20% off!
      It’s ‘ blog20 ‘, really, and it works!!

      April 17, 2012 at 15:13 | Report abuse |
  2. Pattymouth

    Good luck. It's a bad, bad way to go. I watched my mom slowly suffocate with wide, terrified eyes like a fish out of water after years of denial. She finally quit smoking 2 months before her death and confessed that she wished she would have listened to the warnings before. I truly, truly hope you can save yourself & your loved ones from a sad ending.

    February 5, 2012 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. dondadav

    I used the bood "The EASYWAY to Quit Smoking" by Alan Carr. It has also helped 5 or 6 of my friends quit as well. I was even able to quit while I was living in South Korea, where cigarettes are only $2 a pack, and you can still smoke in bars and restaurants! As a warning, he was not an author. It's not a well-written book, the message is amazing and it really gets you in the right mind-set to quit. I've been going a full year, and I really do know that I will never smoke again! So keep up the good work, life is better without cigarettes!🙂

    February 5, 2012 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jose

      Here! Here! I used the same method. It has been a wonderful month without a cigarette and I too know I will never smoke that rotten poison. Wonderful man, Mr. Carr.

      February 7, 2012 at 16:15 | Report abuse |
    • Rogerio

      I am an M.D and there are situations in which I can't use the paormacalogichl approach to quitting. Some have had medication interactions while others simply did not want to add another prescription to their long list of medication. Then I have had patients that were eager to try the patch, Zyban, Clonidine, and or Chantix, but it would worked for about 6 months but when things went wrong in their life, they went back to smoking. Smoking cessation groups, and or psychotherapy can be problematic especially if their insurance won't cover the sessions. I heard recently about Joe Weaver's book the Tao of Quitting Smoking and how it is a spiritual approach to quitting. Has anyone read it. Now, of course I know there is no magic book that works for everyone. I have recommended Allen Carr's book, with not go within: Mind, Body, and Spirit. I have recommended Mr. Weaver's book and have had 1 success for 1.5 years. Looking for other books that you have read, which take a spiritual approach.

      March 6, 2012 at 00:48 | Report abuse |
  4. Bluejeans

    This month marks my 4th year of non-smoking. I was a 2-1/2 pack-a-day (menthol) smoker for over 35 years. I know it's probably too late to repair the damage to my body, but I decided I really wanted to show others in our family that quitting really is possible – even by a heavy smoker like me. Perhaps my example can influence someone younger and stronger to quit sooner.

    Maybe once or twice a year I still get a slight twinge of thinking I might want to smoke, but overall I no longer have a mental picture of myself with a cigarette in my hand. After four years could I go back to smoking tomorrow? You bet. That's the devil of this addiction, and blame the cigarette manufacturers for making it so. But I stay vigilant, because I'm better than they are. I didn't just quit smoking; I quit the corporations that manufacture cigarettes.

    February 6, 2012 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. granny25

    I tried – many many times only to fail. Its so hard..........I tried the patch, gum, cold lasar and cold turkey -to no avail. what a disgusting habit........wish there was another way to help me.....

    February 6, 2012 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jose

      Try Allen Carr's book. Stopping smoking doesn't have to be miserable. We have just been brainwashed to think that it is nearly impossible to stop smoking. News Flash! It isn't. It is easier than you think. Don't believe me? Read his book and you will see what I am talking about.

      February 7, 2012 at 16:18 | Report abuse |
    • John

      Hi Granny25,
      I hope this helps. It did big time for me!
      So, I’ve been vaping for a little over a year and the one brand that I fell in love with is http://www.Redbox-Ecigs.com. I tried a couple different 808 carts and the tobacco flavors, that Redbox Electronic Cigarette cartomizers has, are amazing! I think, It’s the best tobacco flavor, that last a long time and when they are empty, the cart shuts off, instead of getting that awful burnt taste in your mouth like the other brands have.
      Has anybody else tried this product???
      I also found a secret coupon code for Redbox-Ecigs that works for 20% off!
      It’s ‘ blog20 ‘, really, and it works!!
      Good Luck

      April 17, 2012 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
  6. Alex

    To people who are having a lot trouble, look into Zyban/Wellbutrin. Perhaps it could work for some of you!

    February 7, 2012 at 02:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Larry

      Oh yeah, Zyban/Wellbutrin. Sure. I tried Wellbutrin many years ago, I was working in a mall, went off to grab lunch in the food court, and when I started to walk back to the store I was working in, I found I couldn't find my way back. I had to get security to help me find the store I was working in, I was so dizzy and confused. I'd rather smoke than do that again.

      But after discovering e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) more than a year ago, I am now a happy non-smoker. E-cigs are not intended to be a method to quit smoking, (although many have, including myself) but as a trade-off that doesn't produce the dozens of carcinogens burning tobacco creates.

      You do still inhale nicotine, but at dramatically lower levels than cigarettes, but it's enough to take the edge off when you have a craving. And you can choose to lower your amount of nicotine, as the 'e-liquid' is available in 'high', 'medium', low or zero nicotine for those who want to end their addiction to nicotine gradually.

      Some may pooh-pooh the idea of e-cigs, but I've found (along with thousands of others) that e-cigs were the ticket for me to finally–after all those decades of smoking–to quit.

      March 9, 2012 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
  7. Vicky

    10+ years smoke free.... (I was hypnotised...worked for me). After stopping I put on 40+ lbs....argghhh. This year I finally decided to loose the last of my "smokefree weight"... I am now under 110 lbs, able to run 2.6 miles – without to much difficulty. Trust me even after 10 years I would LOVE to to have a smoke, Phillip Morris was my best friend (always there for me during the good and bad)... but you have to put the mind set to it.... if you can do it for one day, you can do it for two and so on... eventually you'll have stopped for so long you might be embarrassed to admit that little cig stick was able to kick your a*** if you start up again. Either way wishing anyone who wants to stop the best of luck – its hard no sugar coating it. Either you want to stop or you don't – your choice. (Oh and what caused me to want to stop smoking, crazy as it sounds.... birthcontrol pills warning label... I decided to stop before I turned 35 as I did not want all the risks that came with the pill and smoking.... I'm alive at 45 and man I feel good )

    February 7, 2012 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Glenn

    I'm with you all the way Rick.

    February 8, 2012 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick Morris

      Thanks, Glenn.

      February 12, 2012 at 21:24 | Report abuse |
  9. Ella

    Hey Alex,

    My doctor percribed me Wellbutrin and I went CRAZY! I NOT only did NOT quit but I wound up in the HOSPITAL from that medication. Everyone is different but if you stay in the hospital for two weeks – you will be forced to quit and then pay a $20,000 hospital bill. Cigarettes – should not be sold – We have so much education now that it sickens me that the government would not ban a TOXIC substance. I NEVER had grandparents thanks to cigs. They killed all my family members so what I have concluded is that u have to WANT to quit to actually succeed. If there is a DESIRE – it WONT happen but I DID it and if I can – believe me – anyone can! Stay strong and avoid meds. They might do MORe harm than good. Good luck, Rick!

    February 9, 2012 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Peter Graves

    Rick, Wishing you the best of luck. Do we get to follow your progress on your path to becoming cig free?

    February 10, 2012 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rick Morris

    Just an update, for those of you who have been watching our Triathlon blog and videos, I called it quits on national television during an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. That was Friday, 9 days ago. I feel great today, sleep through the night, can actually take deep breaths, have increased engergy already – as I noticed in my training. Thanks for all your comments and good luck to all who are quitting. Don't try to quit. Just quit. Commit and quit.

    February 12, 2012 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. sam

    What did you do start drinking More BOOZE ?

    February 13, 2012 at 07:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Tanya

    This guy tried a cheap electronic cigarette. I bet if he actually researched truly reputable brands it would of helped him quit! Yes it is an addiction but it is a habit for the person thinking it's not. I'm not quite sure how one would think it is not a habit. For me when I wanted to quit smoking I had to be honest with myself and what I found for me personally and only me here I'm talking about the HABIT itself, not cigarettes, had the hold. The hand to mouth, the feeling. I liked my habit I didn't like what smoking was doing to me. I've been smoke free thanks to going electronic over 5 months now! I feel great! I use to smoke a pack and a half a day. Keep in mind, don't use Google to try to find "the best" when you Google electronic cigarettes you get the best marketeers not the best products. Find an informational forum about them! That should help get anyone on the right track if they're looking to go electronic.

    February 15, 2012 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Anthony

    I don't smoke, but I have chewed for years. Yesterday was my first day without tobacco, although I'm using the nicotine gum method. So far, it's taming the beast that's ripping at the door. A few nights ago I noticed a strange patch of skin on my inner cheek. It freaked me out. I always thought I was immune to diseases, but now that I'm 35 I realize I also have many who depend on me. My children hate my habit, and my wife often refuses to kiss me because of it.

    In short, I'm with you Rick! Bring it on and let's rock and roll.....😉

    Best of luck to you.

    February 24, 2012 at 00:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.