Nicotine patches, gum and vapes might help to satisfy among the cravings, but they can’t replace the rituals of getting a cigarette: the retreat outside with a co-conspirator, the crinkling of cellophane and foil as you open a latest pack, the heady buzz of that first drag.
Bruce Holaday, 69, a retired educator from Mill Valley, Calif., knows full well the ability of nicotine. Over the past five many years, Mr. Holaday reckons he has tried to quit 100 times, often counting on nicotine substitute products. But he invariably returned to his lifelong, pack-a-day affair with Marlboro Lights.
His last attempt in August, a chilly turkey gambit without nicotine substitute therapy, triggered an excruciating maelstrom of cravings that lasted several months. “It was like a sudden earthquake of desire and wish, after which there can be these tremors for the subsequent 10 to quarter-hour,” he said.
But this time, Mr. Holaday joined a support group at Stanford Health Care, which introduced a strong social component into his quest. He described the effect as “not wanting to let the team down” and said he learned to avoid stressful situations, like watching the news. He discovered that if he could face down the initial waves of craving, they invariably subsided.
In late June, he passed the one-year mark since taking his last drag.
He gained weight but not gets easily winded on hikes. And he’s confident he won’t ever return to smoking.
Asked concerning the prospect of drastic government intervention to compel Americans to quit, Mr. Holaday paused and thought concerning the first puff he took a half-century ago as a university freshman. “Without that nicotine rush, I’d have probably walked away and never smoked again,” he said. “It can be rough for smokers, but anything we are able to do to forestall a latest generation from getting hooked is a great thing.”
Robert Chiarito contributed reporting from Chicago.