Survival of the quitter

Updated: Apr 28, 2020, 11:09 IST | Prachi Sibal | Mumbai

As tobacco and alcohol sales ban continues, Mumbaikars discuss hacks to get through the lockdown and what they do with thoughts of kicking the butt

With the lockdown, smokers and drinkers have been facing a particularly hard time. The sale of tobacco products and alcohol is banned and illegal sales have resulted in them being available only at exorbitant prices. All these factors seem to have worked like a charm for those looking to quit or reduce smoking. Sudden cessation and reduction is known to leave you with withdrawal symptoms. Mumbaikars who have been there and done that let you in on what's working for them.

Taste of quitting

Nikhil Paul

I used to be a heavy smoker. I had begun cutting down to about six or seven cigarettes a day, before the lockdown. The lack of availability at this time was a good excuse to quit. I told my parents I am quitting so I have their support. I did it cold turkey and experienced all the symptoms that came with it — from mood swings to weight gain and constipation. Home workouts on the Cult app have kept me going as has hydrating myself regularly. I also close my eyes and meditate for a few minutes every day. Cravings only last three to five minutes and when those come, the Livstrong app helps me. It tells me what each day of not smoking can do to the body. That's quite motivating. I've also been able to taste better and that makes me enjoy my food more. Something to distract yourself helps too, like learning a new language. I've slipped a few times and that's fine as long as I don't go back to it the next day. As for drinking, I practise good old rationing, twice a week.

Nikhil Paul, pilot

Moderation is key

Mrinal Prakash

I've been a smoker and I've cut down [from a pack a day to one in two to three days] cigarettes during the lockdown. Firstly, they are not available and if they are, they cost a lot. More importantly, with the Coronavirus around it is not a good idea to have a smoker's cough. Once you stop, your cough reflex ceases slowly. It also harms the immune system, and it's time to work on staying healthy. I've started working out with a friend and have taken to cooking. I've also retrieved my keyboard that was tucked away, and am trying to play again. Sipping on water or another fluid for oral stimulation can help with the cravings. Nicotine gums have helped some of my friends and I have only tried them a few years ago.

Mrinal Prakash, orthopaedic doctor

Social no more

Shayan Chowdhury

Accessibility doesn't play a big role; if you do want to find cigarettes, you will. The thought of quitting has crossed my mind and it seemed like a good time to do that. Even though the number of cigarettes I smoke has gone up to 10 a day, the weekly number has come down. This has to do with the fact that I smoke more when I drink, and drinking is largely a social activity, a pastime that has come down. Whenever I feel like smoking, I binge-watch something, do household chores, or work. That works as a distraction.

Shayan Chowdhury, marketing director

By the gum

Since the lockdown, I've been living with my parents and they don't know I smoke. So, the lack of availability, increased prices and the secrecy have all been factors in kicking the butt. I tried a nicotine gum and have been able to control my cravings. This has led to a lot of snacking especially late at night. My sugar cravings for cold drinks in particular have gone up. I try to keep myself engaged with online courses. I've wanted to learn to play chess for a long time, and now I am able to. There is no definite answer to whether it will stay this way after the lockdown. It depends on a lot of factors including my favourite tea shop being open.

Suraj Pal (name changed), theatre artiste

Tips on quitting

Dr Amit Saraf, director, internal medicine, Jupiter Hospitals
Dr Amit Saraf, director, internal medicine, Jupiter Hospitals

. Self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques can be helpful. Shavasana is a great practice and easy to do before you go to sleep.
. Drowning yourself in music or a hobby you enjoy that surrounds you can help manage cravings. We call this technique escapism.
. Strenuous physical activity like Zumba can enable you to deal with those three to five-minute cravings.
. Nicotine gums and patches can be a substitute for the increased serotonin levels that come with smoking.
. You could also try art and sound healing therapy.
. Counselling and de-addiction may be required for extreme cases.

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