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How I Quit Smoking Using a 12-Step Program

Jacob is an activist & writer living in D.C. He loves sharing his unique expertise on a wide-range of mental health and recovery topics.

Out of Options

“Hi. I’m Marcus, and I’m a nicotine addict.” The leader of the meeting introduced himself and continued, “If you have a desire to live nicotine free, you are welcome here.”

I’ll never forget walking into my very first Nicotine Anonymous meeting and hearing those words. There were just a few of us gathered in a small conference room at a local medical center, but something in my gut told me that these people really understood me, and were like me. I was hopelessly addicted to cigarettes, and no matter how many times I tried, it seemed like I could just not find a way to quit smoking that really worked for me.

I had tried every method under the sun to quit. Pills, patches, nicotine gum, quit coaching, electronic devices. I had made at least one hundred serious quit attempts over the past decade of my life, and despite my best efforts, they never seemed to last more than a few weeks. Cigarettes had started to cause some health issues for me, and I was worried if I didn’t find a way to quit, I would end up dying from a smoking-related illness.

I was growing increasingly desperate. I knew there were meetings for people who struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction, and I wondered if there were similar meetings for smokers. I headed to my computer, did a Google search for “Smokers’ Anonymous,” and found that there was indeed a Nicotine Anonymous organization that had meetings around the world. I searched the meeting list and found that there was a meeting in a city nearby, and I decided to go and check it out to see if perhaps it could help me.

My First Nicotine Anonymous Meeting

I was nervous walking into the meeting, but I found that everyone there was incredibly friendly and inviting. People introduced themselves to me and made me feel welcome, but they also gave me space to just sit back and take everything in. I learned that Nicotine Anonymous (NicA) was a 12-step fellowship, and the program was modeled after the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. There was no charge to attend the meeting--though a basket was passed around so people could make a voluntary contribution to help cover group expenses if they wished.

We read a selection from one of the NicA pamphlets, and then different people took turns sharing about their thoughts on the reading, as well as their experiences trying to quit using nicotine. I was surprised that not everyone there was a smoker—one person had used chewing tobacco, and another person used a vape device. The form of nicotine didn’t seem to matter, as the addiction seemed to produce the same kind of problems for everyone. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that several people at the meeting had successfully stopped using nicotine altogether—one person for over 10 years and still going strong!

When the meeting was over, I had a chance to chat with a few other members informally, and also gather phone numbers of people who were willing to talk in between meetings. Everyone I met seemed very happy that I was at the meeting, and almost everyone told me that the most important thing I could do to help me quit was to keep attending meetings regularly.

Diving Into the Recovery Program

I got the impression that the Nicotine Anonymous program was something that could really help me, so I made the decision to get more involved. I started attending the recovery support meetings regularly—in addition to in-person meetings, there are lots of meetings available online or via teleconference. I went to several different meetings because I realized that each one was a little bit different—before long, I found the meetings where I felt most at home, and made those part of my weekly routine.

I read the pamphlets published about quitting nicotine (available for free on their website) and also bought some of the books published by the organization—including their version of the “Big Book” called Nicotine Anonymous: The Book. I made an effort to build relationships with the people I met at the meetings. Most importantly, I followed the advice I got at meetings from people who had successfully quit. After all, if what they did worked for them, I figured it might work for me, too.

I Finally Got My Quit!

I’m pleased to report that, after attending meetings and getting more involved for a few months, I smoked my last cigarette on May 29, 2018. I firmly believe that I was only able to quit because of my involvement with the Nicotine Anonymous program. I had tried just about every medical or behavioral technique I could find to solve my problem with nicotine, but ultimately, the issues were deeper and I needed to find the care & support of other addicts who had the same struggles that I did.

Even though I have been smoke-free for several years now, I still attend NicA meetings regularly, and now try to “give back” by helping to facilitate a weekly online meeting. It is very rewarding to see new people come into the meetings and discover new ways to lead a nicotine free life. Being able to do volunteer work in the organization is one of the most important aspects of the program for me--having that commitment gets me to a meeting regularly, even when I don't feel like going to one.

Nicotine Anonymous is not for everyone; indeed, many people are able to quit with relatively little difficulty and never look back. But if you’re like me and you’ve tried over and over again and still can’t seem to quit, I’d encourage you to look into Nicotine Anonymous to see if it might be a good fit for you. More information about the organization, along with a list of meetings worldwide, can be found at http://www.nicotine-anonymous.org.

Suggested Nicotine Anonymous Literature

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