There seems to be a lot of information available regarding how to quit smoking. Quitting is easy, many smokers have done it at least once. Staying quit is the truly difficult part. Just take a look at the relapse rates.
Quitting smoking is a process
You would imagine that after 1-2, 4 or 6 months of not smoking, cravings should not appear anymore. You are not supposed to fight the urges, you should be “cured” by now. You tell yourself that you do not want to spend the rest of your life craving a cigarette. And the truth is you will still desire cigarettes, you simply need to use the same tools as you did in the beginning. Remind yourself that you have gone through the worst part. The mood swings, the headaches, the constant irritability, the lack of concentration, the sleepiness, the dizziness are not kicking your butt anymore. You have to deal only with the desire to smoke. Yey! Also, the desires will be less and less frequent.After a while, you may go days, weeks and even months without thinking about lighting up.
What has helped me through this period is realising three things:
- I would prefer to be a non-smoker than a smoker
- If I start smoking again, I will want to quit again, and I will have to go through the first couple of days/weeks/months again. I don’t want those anymore. They do not get any better after you are an experienced quitter. They can get even worse. When they are easy, relapse is usually just around the corner. Most importantly, I can not choose to quit smoking in the future. I can only make choices right now. I can not guarantee that my future self will quit smoking or be better equipped to quit. I’ve got the upper hand because I have already stayed stopped for a number of days.
- The best time to quit smoking is *drum roll* as soon as possible. It is better to quit now than in a week or ten years. So if you are wondering when you should quit smoking, that moment is NOW.
I always remember what has made me quit this time. I was sick and tired of trying to quit smoking while smoking. Yes, for the past four years I have made several efforts to quit smoking and stayed nicotine free for less than five months every time. I was starting to lose faith that I would finally make it. I would keep it a secret that I had quit because I was tired of being congratulated or being pitied each time I confirmed quitting smoking.
I don’t like permanent decisions so it was difficult for me to stand by my quitting. But I hope quitting smoking will equip me with the tools necessary to become more decisive.
What can you do when the urges reappear
Realise that this too shall pass. Even if you feel like it’s only a matter of time until you give in and smoke a cigarette, the cravings will eventually pass and you will feel better. So take a deep breath (or ten), sip some water, smile, scream into a pillow, whatever works.
Find a good support system. What has worked for me this time and what I‘ve seen worked for many others is finding people who go through the same thing. I joined a forum. I was not very active, I wrote more posts that I published because sometimes all you need to do is express your feelings and see that you are not alone in your journey. And that others have made it. They have gone through the same struggles and have been able to kick the habit.
The cravings that appear weeks after you were feeling comfortable not smoking are not stronger than the ones from the hell weeks. They just catch you by surprise and you are not prepared to handle them.
Make a list of the things you gain by smoking. And a list of things that you gain by staying stopped. This way you will remember all the many reasons you decided to quit in the first place.
Realise that once you light that first cigarette you will be exposed to a lot of health risks. Research them.
Imagine yourself smoking. See yourself hating and loving the first puffs, telling yourself that you don't enjoy this, that you can not relapse now because you don't like the taste. Accept the fact that one puff will make you addicted again whether you like it or not. Think about all those situations when you need to smoke even if you don't want it. Remember the moments when you chain smoke even if your head hurts, your mouth tastes like an ashtray and your lungs feel like they have had more than enough. You miss 2-5 cigarettes per day. Are you willing to accept the other 5-10-30-40 cigarettes that you have to smoke once you pick the habit again?
Whenever you have a crave, think it through, don't act on it. More importantly, don't try to reason with an addiction. You will lose. Remember that the more time you waste debating about smoking or not smoking, the more the cravings will last. You've made a decision to not smoke. Stick with it. It's simpler than you think; the addiction complicates things.
Stay strong! You are doing something extraordinary for yourself, for your friends, family and future generations!
Quitting smoking is not for quitters!