How long have you been a smoker, and what led to your decision to quit?
I was a smoker for five years. I started smoking later than most of my friends, at age 20, whereas the majority of my friends who smoke started smoking around the age of 16. I stayed away from cigarettes longer because I have chronic asthma, I was diagnosed with it at the age of two. But one day the girl I had a crush on said to me, "You'd look so hot with a cigarette right now." So I lit up and became addicted. Worst reason to do something ever. I started with Camel Lights and from there ran a gamut of all the popular and not-so-popular brands until settling upon Marlboro Lights as my personal brand. In the beginning, I smoked less than half a pack a day, but near the end, I was up to two packs a day. For a chronic asthma sufferer, this only worsened things tenfold. Not to mention that I was paying around $300 a month to feel like crap. It was because of these two reasons that I made the choice to finally, ahem, stomp out this bad habit.
How did you come up with the idea of using Pokémon to help you quit smoking?
"I just decided that I was going to play Pokémon instead of smoking. So I went down to the local Target and purchased Pokémon Pearl."
I can't really say for sure what made me choose Pokémon to help me quit. Back when Pokémon Red and Blue first came out, I was addicted to those games. I caught them all, even borrowing a friend's Gameshark to help me get the elusive number 151, Mew. After that, I more or less forgot about Pokémon for 10 years or so. It was only while getting trophies in Super Smash Brothers Brawl that I was reminded of all the different Pokémon, and I became sort of nostalgic for the series. Then one day in-between rounds, I just decided that I was going to play Pokémon instead of smoking. So I went down to the local Target and purchased Pokémon Pearl.
How does it work? Walk us through the process.
I decided that every time that I wanted a cigarette, I would turn on my DS and play some Pokémon. But the thing about going from two packs a day to cold turkey is that at first, you always want a cigarette. So the first three days, I did nothing but play Pokémon non-stop. My routine was to sleep extra late (because if I'm not awake, I'm not craving a smoke), play Pokémon for about 8 hours with breaks to stretch and eat, read Pokémon walkthroughs, F.A.Q.s, strategies, and websites, and then sleep. Experience has shown me from previous attempts to quit smoking that the hardest thing is to be around other smokers. Unfortunately for me, every single one of my friends that I see on a regular basis are smokers. So for those first few days, I went into seclusion, locking myself in my room and not answering my phone. After the initial push, it just required the willpower to keep playing Pokémon instead of smoking.
How long have you been doing this now? Any backsliding?
Today marks day 40 without cigarettes. The 10th day was the first day I saw my friends since I made the commitment to quit, and was the one time where I slipped. My friends and I like to drink some, and to celebrate my quitting we drank a little bit more. After they left that night, I found a wayward cigarette and lit it up. I took three puffs, retched a few times and quickly stamped it out. I blame the whole experience on the booze. [laughs]
Do you think this would work as well with other games? Got any suggestions?
I think this worked so well for me with Pokémon because I had a previous Pokémon addiction when I was 15. As a previous Pokémaniac I knew what to expect with the new generation of Pokémon games. In the past I have also been addicted to other games, such as World of Warcraft. The reason why World of Warcraft was not helpful to curb my addiction was that as much as I played it, it made me rather stressed out, and caused me to crave more cigarettes. I tried playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but when I play that game I end up getting too into it and playing too hard and I end up needing a break every 20 or 30 minutes. And what would I do during that break? I would smoke. Pokémon worked well because it was able to engage both my mind and my hands for an extended period of time, and I needed no break from Pokémon. To help you in the process of quitting smoking, I would recommend any game that is able to grab your mind and keep you entertained and engaged for an extended period of time.
Any words of wisdom for other people trying to quit?
The best advice I can give to anyone who is trying to quit is this: Just keep with it. The longer you go without smoking, the easier it is to go without smoking.
As a former smoker (three years off now!), this blogger fully agrees. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, and good luck with the quitting!