Ask Jessandra

Dear Jessandra,

I know I should quit smoking cigarettes, but I don’t actually want to. How can I convince myself and others that my vice isn’t that bad and I can keep doing it?

Your friend,
Nikki Teen

Dear Nikki Teen,

As someone who has struggled with this same problem, I can assure you there is no life hack to getting your lungs back. We both know you can access the CDC’s fact sheet on tobacco risks online to be reminded of all the reasons why you should definitely quit smoking, and that smoking can have negative impacts on your sex life, despite being sexy to many.

But the thing is, “should” is one of the worst motivational concepts ever. If the main reason you want to quit smoking is that you should, it’s not going to work, and you might as well keep smoking. Also, does convincing people it’s okay for you to smoke make them more likely to smoke? I don’t think you should convince anyone smoking “isn’t that bad.” But if you’re going to smoke, just do it. It’s your life! (Is this a good time to mention I am not a doctor?)

If you get to a point of wanting to quit because you actually want to, that is when you can make progress. It happens differently for everyone, but most people I know who have quit smoking had to try quitting a crazy number of times. Practice having patience and compassion toward yourself. Here are Jessandra’s top five tips for quitting smoking if and when you’ve reached a point of sincerely wanting to do so:

5. Keep trying again and again to quit, no matter how many times you fail. Quitting smoking is extremely difficult for most people, so if you quit for a while, then find yourself smoking again, just try to quit again when you’re ready. Instead of being pissed you didn’t quit well enough, thank yourself for trying to quit. This may sound silly, but trust me. You’re trying to change the chemical patterns in your brain. It may take time.

4. Identify scenarios that make you want to smoke, and learn to approach them differently. One common place where we all want to smoke is at bars. It makes sense, right? Or how about the downtime at shows, between bands when everybody goes outside? It seems impossible not to smoke in some situations. This is where wanting to quit comes in. If you really don’t want to smoke any more, you can practice finding ways to alter your routine. How about meeting friends at restaurants rather than bars, or jogging around the block between bands? Tea instead of coffee in the morning? Experiment with that shit!

3. Distract your urge to smoke with other things. Crunchy snacks (especially celery)! Candy! Hot tea! Bath/shower! Aerobic exercise! Yoga! Singing! Screaming into a pillow! Personally the urge to smoke is located in my jaw, lungs, and diaphragm. Once I figured that out, it was easier to find what feels like the “next best thing.” Sometimes it helps just to talk about stressful feelings.

2. Spend time with people who don’t smoke. If everyone you know smokes, your role model could be a fictional character from a book or TV series. But it helps spending time with people who don’t smoke because you can see what they do instead of smoking. How do they deal with stress? What do they do to take breaks?

1. Be nice to yourself!! Whether you’re trying to quit smoking or not, I’ll tell you one thing you should definitely quit: being too hard on yourself! You’re a human being who experiences difficulty in life. Nobody’s perfect. Life is not about doing everything all perfect all the time. Treat yourself with compassion whenever possible, and always remember that your experiences in life are valid. You’re on a super intense journey. Life isn’t so simple as ordering a pizza and eating it, okay? You’re fine. Just keep workin’ away at the Big Whatever.

Peace and good luck,

Jessandra would love to answer your questions about life, relationships, personal problems, or pretty much whatever! She may not be a professional, but at least she’ll tell you the truth. Send your requests for advice to [email protected] with the subject line “Jessandra” and hopefully she’ll get back to you soon!