4 Steps I Used to Quit Smoking

No Smoking - American Cancer Society's Great American Smoke Out.JPG
No Smoking - American Cancer Society's Great American Smoke Out.JPG

Why is it so hard to quit smoking?

That craving for a cigarette comes from the nicotine in the tobacco. You may already know that, but did you know that some studies rank tobacco to be just as or right under heroin. Nicotine addiction is rated by many to be harder to kick then; cocaine, crystal meth, and amphetamines. That is just the physical addiction part of smoking.

For a smoker, cigarettes are a part of their daily life. Smoking is what you do on your break, or your drive home. a smoker will have a cigarette with their beer or coffee. Any moment there is free time, it is time to smoke. Nicotine becomes not just a daily drug, but a part of your every day life. For some, giving up that part of their life almost feels like deciding not to talk to a close friend ever again.

So what can a smoker do to combat all this? There is no one answer. However, these four steps helped me to quit smoking, and hopefully they can help others.

Step 1: Want to Quit Smoking

Step one in this four step process is to want to quit. Obviously if you are reading this you are at least interested in quitting. But that may not be enough. Quitting smoking must be a personal choice, not a choice made for you.

If you are like me, you may have tried many times to quit for other people only to sneak cigarettes when they are not around. Why did you do this? you weren't ready to quit. You were giving up smoking for them, not you. When you do make the decision it must be for YOU, not your spouse, your parents, or even your kids.

How do you know when your ready? When you can honestly say YOU don't want to smoke anymore. If you wrote down your top reasons for quitting smoking and yourself was not at the top of that list, it will be extra difficult for you to quit. So first find out why YOU want to quit.

Step 2: Anticipate the withdrawl symptoms of nicotine.

When you stop smoking there will be withdrawal symptoms. How many and how severe depend on the person. You should prepare yourself, and your family and friends that you will be experiencing them. If the people around you know what you are going through, they can better help you through it. You are the one that must run the race, but others can cheer you on from the stands.

What withdrawal symptoms should you expect? Nicotine withdrawal can cause:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Falling heart rate and blood pressure
  • Fatigue, drowsiness, and insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased hunger and caloric intake
  • Increased desire for the taste of sweets
  • Tobacco cravings

How do you prepare yourself for that? The best thing you can do to prepare is just understand what the symptoms are, and know that this is the first hurdle in your quitting process. What helped me was knowing that the worst of it will be over in about five days. Some symptoms can linger for as much as two weeks. But, the worst part will take less than a week to get through. Warning your family that you may experience those things can go along way with them understanding. Stock up on snacks and eat plenty of fiber to combat constipation and diarrhea.

The best thing you can do to prepare is just understand what the symptoms are, and know that this is the first hurdle in your quitting process. What helped me was knowing that the worst of it will be over in about five days. Some symptoms can linger for as much as two weeks. But, the worst part will take less than a week to get through.

Do not mistake my tone to mean it will be easy. This is the hardest part you will have to face when quitting smoking. It will take every ounce of willpower that you have to push through that week or two. But when you do, that experience will act as ammunition to keep you smoke free as you will see in step five.

Step 3: Replace your smoking routine with others

Smoking becomes a part of your everyday life. It is what you do with those work breaks and other free moments of time. You probably have routine for how you get ready in the morning. You have a way that you clean the house or prepare food. You may not feel quite right if someone asked you to change those routines. Smoking is exactly the same thing.

In order to not smoke when you usually do, it is important to do something else in its stead. For example, my biggest smoking time was at work. More specifically my breaks at work. Smoking was just what I did on break. In order to not be able to smoke I made tea instead.

Making tea may sound odd as a replacement behavior, but it is great for work breaks. The biggest issue with a break was I had nothing to do if I was smoking. The boredom just made me want a cigarette that much more. So I started bringing tea bags to work. My breaks were 15 minutes long, and I smoked for five to eight of those. Making tea filled the gap, it took two minutes to heat up the water, three minutes to dunk the teabag up and down, and about eight to ten minutes to drink the tea.

I later looked online for all kinds of exotic tea blends and spent my money on that instead of cigarettes. There is even an herbal blend called Quit Tea that may help with cravings. Of course your replacement behavior may not be the same as mine. What ever you decide to do instead of smoking, make sure it is something that you enjoy. For example, if you love to exercise, do that instead. But, if you make it to the gym once a year and it's right after new years resolution, that will probably not be a good replacement behavior for smoking.

Here are some examples of things you can do instead of smoke

  • Eat a piece of candy
  • Call a friend
  • Take a relaxing bath
  • Spend the money you saved by not smoking
  • Brush and floss your teeth

There are many more ideas here. http://www.determinedtoquit.com/stayingtobaccofree/thingstodobesidessmoking/

Eventually the other things you do besides smoking will become your normal routine instead of smoking.

Step 4: Manage future cravings

Even after not smoking for a while you will still have weak moments, or a craving every now and again. For me it is whenever I see someone smoking, I want one. If you have com this far though, it only takes five minutes. Generally a craving doesn't make it past that.

Five minutes may seem to take an eternity when you are craving a cigarette though. I personally refer to step 3 and do one of my other behaviors when cravings happen. I am not always in a position to make a cup of tea however. I know someone who always has cough drops with them and they use one whenever they get a craving because cigarettes taste awful with lemon cough drops.

The important thing to do at this stage is remember how far you have come. Remember the withdrawal symptoms you had to go through. the behavior modification etc... Ask your self, "Do I really want to go through that again?" If you are able to resist the temptation, congratulate yourself on your triumph, and keep in mind you have accomplished something that not everyone has been able to do. You went from smoker, to non-smoker.

Recap and Conclusion

So the four steps I used to quit are:

  1. Want to quit
  2. Prepare for the withdraw
  3. Substitute your smoking behavior
  4. Manage future cravings

There are many methods to quit smoking, this one worked for me. If it works for you then please share it with anyone you know who wants to quit smoking as well. If this method does not work for you, don't give up. There are many others ways out there and if you are determined, you will quit.

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© 2014 Levi Henley

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