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Quitting smoking in Azeroth


I'm exceedingly happy with myself. Pleased as punch and content as a clam in mud. Why? I've recently completed the single most difficult thing I've ever attempted: I quit smoking.

Before I actually finished quitting, I was all "How hard could this be?" and "I'll just make the decision to not smoke." And, then, struggling down the tunnel of my actual smoking cessation, I found it much, much more difficult than I had ever imagined. All the wisdom about nicotine addiction being so insidious seemed absolutely true. The simple decision to not light up turned into an epic struggle of willpower.

And, I'm a WoW player. Spending my time in Azeroth actually made the quitting process much more difficult, until I learned to alter my game play in ways that helped me over the hump instead of making it more challenging. There's a lot of little things that you can do while playing WoW that will minimize your temptation. Here's a few tips for which might help you put the cigarettes down, even while putting down the evil forces of the Scourge. (Or, at least, these are things I found worked for me.)

  • PvP is not a quitter's a friend. I'm a big fan of the battlegrounds, and I usually find them a great way to relax after a long day at work. I also enjoy the tactical and high-speed challenges surrounding the Arena.

    But, while I was going through smoking cessation, my old friend PvP became a living hell. It's not anything about the game, necessarily. It's simply the way one plays PvP in WoW. You fight quickly and hard in a single match, and then you have a pause between the previous and next battle.

    Short periods of intense stress and effort obviously drives up the need for a smoke. It's the escalating stress level that comes along with a virtual fight response. And then, once it's over, you are faced with a complete lull in activity. Obviously, I can't speak for everybody here, but I totally used to go for a "coffin nail" between especially intense matches. It helped me straighten up and chill out.

    So, while I'm pretty fine with PvP now that I've quit, it was much more difficult when I was actively going through the process.

  • Keep the raid moving. In exactly the same genre as "PvP is not your friend," you'll find "keep the raid moving" an important tip to ignoring the urge to light up. Many Guilds pull fast and hard through trash, prep intensively for the boss, and completely rocks out to the boss. Then, once the Big Bad is dead, they kind of . . . stand there. They have to dispense loot, and that's when everyone tries to take their breaks.

    Almost always, there's probably a raid member taking their "quick bio" to sneak a cigarette on the balcony. Again, this is because of the intensity-then-pause pattern that's so suggestive to a smoker of "smoking time." And, let's be honest -- grabbing a cigarette at times like these can help you maintain an even keel. It's the same kind of support that non-smokers get from "going for a walk."

    But if you can keep the raid moving, and maintain a steady stream of action, you'll be skipping the little raid breaks that invite you to have a cigarette. You should talk to your raid leader or Guild leader, and let them know that you're trying to avoid down times. Heck, it's going to help your raid, also, by helping you get through the content faster.

  • Give up the FedEx quests for now. We've all done our fair share of kvetching about the "FedEx" quests. They're probably annoying to everyone. But as a smoker, you're leaving yourself several two minute breaks between action. And, similar to what we've talked about twice now, what do you do with a two minute break in action?

    I actually think mods like QuestHelper made bird flights even more tempting for a cigarette. They helpfully display exactly how long the flight path is going to take to get you to your destination. To an addict like me, who was struggling to kick the habit, the text might as well have read "This is how long you have to go enjoy a smoke."

    Skip the text, in my opinion. The quest will still be there after you've gotten further down the smoke-free path, and you don't need the temptation or complication while still in the struggle.
  • Farm, farm, farm. Sure, farming's not the prime choice purely for the sake of making money nowadays. With the opportunity to complete 25 daily quests each day, getting some extra gold has never been so easy. But farming in a mob-rich area like Icecrown or Un'Goro Crater will keep you constantly moving and fighting, which is something that daily quests don't offer.

    The goal here is to keep your action steady and constant. Move from mob to mob and constantly keep an eye out for an efficient route through the bad guys. When you find a sweet farming area, you'll be able to avoid any break in the activity. Once you get your farming-wings under you, you'll find it even that more engrossing.

    If you can't give up PvP while you're quitting, then farming would be a way to stay active between PvP queues. Do it in such a way that as soon as the match is complete, you're dropped immediately into another fight. You'll be able to avoid that "the match is over" queue to go for a smoke.

  • Roleplay. Roleplay isn't a deep part of game play. It's a lot of fun, but it's not a direct feature of the world. It moves at an even better pace for you -- it's purely driven by human beings on each side of the keyboard.

    Find some roleplay partners that will help you get started in the world of in-character life. And then, dive in. Check out popular columns about roleplay, and execute those techniques. Your goal is to drive up your activity level, without building in natural breaks.

    You could experiment with running an in-game tavern. Or, even better, you can maintain a steady stream of escapist discussion in a custom chat channel. (That's what I found worked best for me.) It's great for constantly talking no matter what you're doing, and gives you a good reason to not walk away from the keyboard.

  • Learn from Blizzard's own design. There's one thing that WoW has definitely taught us: rewards are meaningful, and progress counts. Keep a log of how long you've been smoke-free, and constantly keep it up to date. What's more, set yourself some rewards along the way. Make the first rewards very frequent, and then slowly space them out.

    The same way we chase obscure rewards in game at the end of a reputation or level grind, doing so out of game will help us stay on the path to quitting smoking. Make sure the rewards you give yourself are meaningful and escalating, just like quest rewards. Maybe you get a candy bar after your first smoke-free hour, and then a special beer once you're up to an entire day. After a week, you could get a special rendezvous with your loved one. When you've accomplished an entire month without cigarettes, you could buy yourself something awesome. And so on.
These are the things that made such a difference to me. Because of the way I'd previously played WoW, with pause-driven raids and intense PvP, I was making my quitting life a great deal more difficult. Once I changed my play style, though, acknowledging the things I needed to do in order to be temptation-free, my healthy life was much easier to obtain.

I hope these tips help you the same way they helped me. If you have any other ideas to help Azeroth get smoke-free, please drop them off in the comments. We're all in this together.

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