From the age of 17 to 27 I smoked around a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. Strangely, I never smoked around my parents or when I was visiting. So every Christmas and once or twice a summer (during this time I spent around seven summers living with them too) I would have to go through nicotine withdrawal, and then stay off of cigarettes from one to three months.
Though that was difficult, it gave me a better understanding of the process of withdrawal, making it much easier to ultimately quit for good ten years ago and to transition recently to a lifestyle more consistent both with fatherhood and being a serious student of yoga (not just as an excercise routine, but also a philosophy). And my personal experience strongly supports the claim that twelve step programs are radically incomplete in some ways. So here's some advice for anybody trying to kick anything that plays a destructive role in their lives.
(1) When you kick anything that has a destructive role in your life, you are in for four days of feeling physically crappy. This is true for tobacco, caffeine, boy/girlfriends, alcohol, refined sugar, too many carbohydrates, etc.as well as illegal drugs. So it really helps to treat the four days like a physical illness. Lay around in bed and read books in which you can easily lose yourself. Take lots of baths. Get people to cook for you.
(2) On the fourth night you will have the best night of sleep you've had in God knows how long and from the fifth day onward you will feel on average physically better than you did with the monkey on your back. However, now you will have intense psychological cravings that are triggered by certain events. Do not avoid these events! Instead confront them and figure out ways to replace the bad stimulus with something else. If you've kicked coffee, drink herbal tea when you used to drink coffee. If you really miss a glass of wine with a gourmet meal, treat your mineral water with some of the same ritual you treated the wine. If you are quitting pot then do something else during the times you used to smoke up.
(3) For every person there are joys you have to pay back with interest and joys that keep on giving. The secret to being healthy is replacing the former with the latter. For example, if you are an alcoholic, all that means is that alcohol is the former for you rather than the latter. The signature failure of 12 step inspired programs is that they don't get this, and as a result even many members of the groups continue to be deformed in the same ways that led them to become addicts. The thirteenth and fourteenth steps are this. (13) Find things that you enjoy learning, and dedicate a portion of your day to reading about them. Take classes at the community college if you can. It doesn't matter what these things are, there is a universe out there waiting to be known about (examples- history of ancient Rome, Buddhism, baseball, computer aided design, foreign languages, math, anthropology). Go to the public library and walk through the non-fiction section until you find a book that looks cool. Read it and if you enjoy then read several more books on the same topic, What matters is that you get joy out of learning more and more about them. (14) Get hobbies that involve creative work in which lose yourself and pursue with passion. This used to be the norm! Before the division of labor, the division between hobbies and work did not exist and people built stuff as a matter of fact. Before passive entertainment people filled their time making things and making art. So play music, paint paintings, design software, cultivate a garden, learn to sew. Again, it doesn't matter what it is.
The point of both 13 and 14 is to replace joys that charge interest with joys that pay dividends. The fundamental problems that addicts face are a lack of meaning and a lack of joyful affect. The only way to kick an addiction without becoming a walking cripple or dry drunk is to replace the medicine with things that actually bring real meaning and joy.
(4) The learning and creativity of the above must be done every single day, especially at times in which the bad habits were engaged. For example, I've had to cult my caloric intake pretty dramatically due to GI problems. Before each meal I do yoga, after lunch I go for a brief walk and write a paragraph or two of bad fiction, after dinner I play music with my wife.
(5) Part of what make addictions so difficult is that they are related to stuff that humans have to do. Humans need to recapture the warmth they felt when being held by their mother as babies. Humans must eat. Humans need to be excited and expectant. Most harmful addictions exploit these basic needs. The only way to break out of this subtle form of exploitation is by practicing what the Buddhists call "mindfulness." When I first turned over control of food portions to my wife, I found myself getting irritated because I'd finish the food before she did. But then I realized that if I made sure to put half as much on my fork or spoon as I used to, and payed close attention to each bite of food, I didn't finish before her. I also found that I didn't want more. Since then I've discovered that there is a movement for "mindful eating." Check out the recent stories in the wall street journal and on parents.com as well as the web page devoted to the topic.
In this regard, I've found yoga to be invaluable as well.
(6) You couldn't handle the thing you are trying to quit. This is your weakness, not a sign of moral superiority. I can no longer put Tabasco sauce on my food. That doesn't make Tabasco sauce bad or the people who are strong enough to handle it bad people. For nearly any drug or kind of food there are societies where most people that use that drug or kind of food do so responsibly. Individuals should not be judgmental jerks about people with different lifestyles than themselves, and social policy should: (1) at most limit itself to promoting responsible and balanced use of drugs and potentially unhealthy foodstuffs (as opposed to prohibition), and (2) respect people's ability to formulate conceptions of the good life for themselves (e.g it is not automatically irrational to the point of non-autonomy if someone decides to drink, smoke cigarettes, or eat more food than the government people dictate; life is a series of trade-offs and people have to decide for themselves how to negotiate them).