Monday, March 24, 2008

Structure and Routine

by Tracee Sioux

The holidays are finally over and now it's back to daily structure and routine. What a relief.

I used to believe certain things about myself which were tied to smoking. Perhaps you can relate.

Probably do to the portrayal of smoking in films or television, I believed it signified my carefree, come-what-may, laissez fair, free spirit personality.

Then I quit smoking and what I missed the most was the structure and routine smoking provided in my life.

I did not smoke in a care free kind of way. I smoked at strategically placed intervals throughout the day and I wasn't the least flexible about it.

I smoked with my first cup of coffee, on my way to work, during breaks at work, after meals, while on the phone, after getting in the car, before and after tasks, etc.

If someone messed with my routine, by suggesting I skip the cigarette for another activity, I might very well lose it.

The most uncomfortable times during my quit has been those very structured times when I would stop what I was doing and have a cigarette.

Since there were 20 cigarettes during the day, there were 20 places that felt foreign and uncomfortable for me because my routine had been messed with.

It has been a totally achievable struggle to invent another routine for myself. A healthier routine that includes gree tea treats, walks, yoga and large glasses of water.

Post-Quit I now realize I'm not not really a laissez-fair, come-what-may kind of girl. I'm a girl who likes routine and feels secure within structure. I work from home so my structure is self-imposed, but it makes me feel more stable, secure, productive and safe to impose it on myself.

Has anyone else realized their need for structure was integral to their personality and connected it to smoking?


Brandie said...

I think the cigarettes took away the last bit of structure, lol. That was one of things that worried me. Before, my work day was broken up by smoke breaks. Now I realize that I was breaking my routine by smoking, because I would stop everything -- even when I was being super productive, to smoke. So it's been surprisingly simple to work past those times (9:00 am, 10:30 am, 1:00 pm, 2:30) without even noticing that they came and went.

Tracee said...

You're right it does work the other way too. But, sometimes I will just wander around and not really know what I'm doing. It's a time when I used to smoke.

Micah ( said...

Nice blog. You describe me so well ;) I started on Chantix today, and was looking around for some stuff about it and came across this site. I'm wondering now what I'll do when I take a break, from school work, from the movie, and what on earth will I do when I take a break at work? Sit and stare at the wall? Cigarettes help me realign my focus, they help me stay focused. The odd thing is, I can't remember how I went about the business of taking breaks before I smoked. Will I be able to focus when I quit? Will I suddenly drop out of college? I feel like smoking is what makes me succeed, not only through the mini-vacations it offers, but through the structure it offers. I may just get frustrated and throw in the towel if there isn't a cigarette to keep my head on straight.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your link. I am trying so hard with the Chantix to kick the smoking habit right out of my life. I am adding you to my bookmarks. Happy New Year!

Tracee said...

Micah, knowing these are where you will have trouble will make it easier for you to plan.

Decide not to stare at the wall. You have that power. You choose how you fill your time.

It's a lie that smoking makes you productive. That's the addiction talking. Smoking takes hours out of your day serving no positive function.

Your focus will be a little off. But, only until other things take it's place.

I recommend this: during breaks take a walk. Buy a pedometer to add focus and structure to your walks. That way you will be able to have a goal and an accomplishment "I walked 1,000 steps and it was energizing and rejuvenating for my brain."

During shorter breaks drink 16 ounces of water - shoot it if you will. Water is always a healthy choice and it absolutely resolves a craving in your body (kind of like giving yourself a healthy hit).

Keep a crossword puzzle or hand solitaire game nearby to distract yourself when you simply must have something to do with your hands.

Decide now: You will NOT drop out of college!

That's not something that happens to you, it's something you choose not to do.

You deserve mini-vacations - but you get to choose how you spend them. Hot mugs of green tea, short walks, bottles of water, crossword puzzles and even a 20 minute yoga video are all way better mini-vacations than smoking.

Tracee said...

Dari - please feel free to stop by anytime to address any issue. I have a personal goal to respond to any and every smoker who takes the time to leave a comment.

Social support is a key component to quitting smoking. You deserve social support and you deserve to quit smoking!

sandi said...

I agree completely with you post. I also smoked about 1 pack per day. I am on day 10 of Chantix. I didn't fully quit at day 7. I agreed to allow myself to smoke 'when I wanted', thinking I wouldn't have the "panic" of not being able to smoke. That might not be the correct approach, but it seems to have worked for me. I now only want to smoke about 2 times per day. But what I am finding very difficult is how much of my routine (more than I thought!) revolved around/depended on smoking! wake up, smoke, get in car -- smoke.. smoke again and again in the 1 hr commute. Get to work -- smoke. Break -- smoke, etc. Sometimes I still have a craving at "the time". I am going to attempt some of the suggestions you made to get over the hump. I've also found if I just force myself to wait 5 minutes the craving is gone, or even tell myself, "I'm not going to smoke now, I'll smoke after I finish this". By the time I finish, I don't want to smoke. Just giving myself permission to smoke 'in the future' is enough to get thru the craving.

I think I am ready to let go of the 'two times' per day. I think Chantix has altered another part of my brain. My desire to quit smoking now is huge. Not just for the health reasons, but I am honestly embarrassed that I felt so addicted to something -- anything for such a long period of my life.

Tracee said...

Sandi - it sounds like you really, really are on the right track.

I know what you mean about desire. I didn't really want to quit before taking Chantix. What I really wanted was for smoking to miraculously become healthy and acceptable for me. But, after a few weeks of Chantix I really did want to quit smoking.

It just takes time to redirect yourself. You'll figure out what will work for you and it will become less and less of a struggle as you fill the void.

Mz Diva said...

I agree that I also wanted smoking to become healthy and socially acceptable! I do crave structure and routine...but a healthy structure and routine. I am starting to be able to visualize myself walking to release stress instead of going outside for a cigarette. My "quit date" to get a new eating plan and begin adding exercise into my life is next Tuesday. I am excited about it! Yes, I agree I need a break but not to smoke! I just need to find something productive to take up all that time instead. Love your blog as always!

Anonymous said...

I have been on chantix for two weeks, and have three cigs left in my pack and I can't wait to be without it. I have noticed over the last couple of days that they just don't taste the same(gross actually)and I can't stand the smell of the ashtray. I am looking foreward to actually completing some tasks around the house without having to stop and have a smoke. The weather is getting better here in NW PA and I am going to start walking and as my lungs heal I want to run with my daughters. That is my goal for the summer. I am not worried about finding things to do with my time. It is going to be awesome.

Tracee said...

you can do it! Running is a great way to heal your whole body.

lesley said...

I can understand where you're coming from there - cigarettes are a part of a routine for many people, and connected to everything from work to social life, but you can replace them with something else after you've quit smoking. I hope you manage to fill the gap :)

Mz Diva said...

Hey there Tracy,
I miss your no-nonsense blogs! Please post again soon.

Tracee said...

hey Diva - I can be found at and www:// if you miss me.

The trouble is that I'm so completely a non-smoker that I have little to say about it anymore.

It's been a year and I am so completely unobsessed with smoking that I never even think about it enough to write about it.

It's not trouble. It's the best freedom I've known.

Lesley Harrison said...

It sounds like you're much better off since you quit! I'm glad to see that since you quit smoking it has helped you to enjoy all aspects of your life more. I think that's one thing that a lot of people don't think about - how much are they missing out on just because they don't want to miss out on a cigarette chance.

Manager Mom said...

Hmmm.. that is interesting. I quit more than 15 years ago and I don't miss it at all now, in fact I can't physically even stand the smell anymore... but when I smoked I remembered loving the rituals of it. Tapping the new pack, getting a light... I just really, really liked the whole smoking thing back in the day...

Tracee said...

me too mom.

though, it's been a year now and I don't miss it unless something new happens that I used to associate with smoking.

So much better. The smell still makes me miss it though.

Paul said...


I thought I'd share a Stop Smoking Mind Map that may help:


Heidi N. said...

My life on Chantix...

Day 1 of Chantix was fine. Took the pill, went to work, came home - had a normal day.

Day 2 of Chantix was hell. Took the pill, went to work, literally 10 minutes after I got to work I had a seizure. Thank God I didn't have it while I was driving to work!

Day 3 with Chantix - I threw it all in the trash. It's pretty sad when my doctor tells me she'd prefer me smoking than taking Chantix. Tomorrow I start the patches.

Tracee said...

that sucks Heidi. I'm sorry it didn't work out better for you.