Quitting During Final Exams: My Hardest Test Yet


(KATHERINE ELMORE)I have to make this week's entry rather short, because I'm studying for law school final exams. So along with my extreme lack of time and patience at the moment, I'm also facing an extremely stressful situation for the first time as a nonsmoker.

Everyone knows that anything done in the name of "exam preparation" is excusable. I'm not sure what it is about exams that makes us feel like the dark circles under our eyes, the shaking hands from too much caffeine, and a generally disheveled appearance are the signs of someone who is really prepared.

I knew I would have exams at some point, but I never really imagined what it would be like to prepare for exams without smoking. Most of my classmates are responsible adults with good jobs and families, and all have four or more years of college and/or graduate school behind them. Preparing for finals is hardly a new concept. But I'm not the only one who feels like exam week is automatic permission to indulge in some vices; in fact, I know several people who can trace the root of their coffee and cigarette addictions to a dreaded week of final exams long ago.

There's a memorable line in the movie Airplane! when Lloyd Bridges' character says, "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking." He goes on to say the same thing about quitting drinking, amphetamines, and sniffing glue—fortunately I don't have those addictions. Still, I can't help but think of that line every time I reach the end of a chapter and want to step outside. My thought process goes something like, Oh, yeah. I'm not doing that. Wonder what's in the fridge? Oh, right. I'm not doing that either.

And you know what? I didn't realize how disruptive smoke breaks really are to studying until I stopped taking them. I can break out a piece of gum, or grab a diet soda, and keep plowing on for hours. I'm surprised to discover I don't feel any additional stress or particularly deprived. Just like learning any new skill, quitting smoking takes practice. I think I'm getting better at it.

At first I thought of this as a challenge to be overcome. How on earth will I get through finals without cigarettes? The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that it's no more of a challenge than anything else about quitting smoking. Life is stressful and challenging, some days more than others, and most people learn to deal with it without ruining their health. I feel confident that if they can do it, so can I! Or that might just be the 14 cups of coffee talking.

Now I wonder if there's any ice cream left…

Read Katherine's previous posts:
The Elephant in the Room (July 30, 2008)
James Bond Tried to Hypnotize Me to Stop Smoking (July 23, 2008)
I Quit! (I Think) (July 16, 2008)
I'm Quitting Tomorrow (July 9, 2008)

Also read Libby's quitting blog