- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Smokers: Time to Get Serious About Quitting
I loved smoking cigarettes. I smoked for over twenty years. It took several tries before I quit for good. I am so glad I quit, but it was truly one of the hardest things I have ever done. Do you want to quit or have you tried quitting in the past? Now is a good time to try again. Quitting is difficult but it so worth it. You can make quitting easier if you know what to expect and prepare yourself.
To be successful you need to think about all the ways cigarettes are holding you back. Are you are tired of running out of places you can legally smoke in? Are you are tired of the price of cigarettes going up? Are you tired of having to stand outside in the cold or rain because you have to smoke? Have you noticed you cough more often and get sick more often than before? Are you tired of keeping track of how many cigarettes you have to make sure you do not run out? Are you tired often or have you noticed you do not have the same amount of energy you used to? Is your complexion looking dull and haggard? Are you tired of having yellowed teeth and having to use teeth whiteners? Are you starting to feel short of breath going up stairs or even running a few steps to catch a bus or train? Are you tired of being an addict?
If you really think about it, cigarette smoking restricts your life in so many ways. Maintaining the habit takes up a tremendous amount of time, energy and money. What is the payoff for all the resources spent on this habit? Nothing, except health problems and a lot of money spent for nothing. There are more reasons to quit than reasons to continue smoking, so if you want to quit, you have to prepare yourself.
First, pick a quit date. Picking the right date is very important. You will want to pick a date that is neutral, meaning you do not want to quit during a time of stress, such as during major holidays, work deadlines or some other major event in your life. Tell your family, co-workers and friends about your decision and ask for their support. If you have friends that smoke, tell them too, and let them know that you will avoid spending too much time with them during the first few weeks of your quit date. If you cannot avoid your smoker friends for a couple of weeks, then request that they do not smoke in front of you. Or have them agree to activities where smoking is not allowed, such as bowling or going to the movies. It is much easier, however, to avoid other smokers during the first couple of weeks to help you cope with temptation and the intense cravings during that critical early stage.
Now that you have picked your date, get yourself ready to quit. Go through your house, car and workspace to gather all your ashtrays, matches, lighters and cigarettes and other smoking paraphernalia. Get rid of it all. Clean your home, including carpets and drapes and do laundry to remove cigarette odors and replace them with a clean fresh scent. Clean and shampoo the inside of your car so it smells clean and fresh too. After you stop smoking you will soon find that the smell of smoke on things bothers you.
Decide on whether you will try a nicotine replacement therapy. If you are a heavy smoker, someone who smokes a pack or more each day, you should seriously consider using nicotine replacement therapy. Heavy smokers are likely to be heavily addicted to nicotine and you will suffer from severe nicotine withdrawal. If you have previously tried to stop smoking cold turkey and failed, you should also consider using some form of nicotine replacement. There are many different products you can try and they are all effective at delivering small amounts of nicotine into your system so that your cravings are manageable.
The nicotine patch, gum, lozenge are available over the counter or you can speak with your doctor about prescribing medications such as Chantix or Wellbutrin to help stop smoking. Whatever method you use, follow the schedule indicated on the product as closely as possible so that you are able to cut the nicotine dose and eventually get off all forms of nicotine. I used nicotine replacements, first I tried the nicotine patch and then the nicotine lozenge. For each of these products the instructions tell you to stay on a certain dose for a period of time and then drop the dose. Since I was a heavy smoker I found it helpful to double the amount of time I stayed on each dose of the product. It took a little longer to finally stop, but I did manage to stop this way. Even after I finally stopped for good, from time to time I would get an extreme craving out of the blue, for these I kept the lozenges around and one take one to deal with that particular craving. I still have the lozenges at home, and although I have not had to use them in nearly a year, I will continue to keep them around, just in case.
The last thing to do is think about how you will handle situations that make you want to smoke. Smoking is not only a chemical addiction, it is also behavioral, a habit. What triggers it? For some people drinking alcohol is a trigger, if this is your situation, for the first few weeks after your quit date, avoid drinking altogether. Do not visit bars or place yourself in a situation where there is alcohol. Many people are triggered by drinking coffee, it may be helpful to hold the coffee cup in the hand that used to hold the cigarette or if that does not help switch to drinking tea. Some people are triggered by finishing a meal, in that case, brush your teeth or use a breath mint immediately after eating to clear the taste of food from your mouth. Some people want to smoke when they are bored or feeling sad, for this you to find ways to occupy your mind and body. Take up a new hobby, go for a walk or start an exercise program. If you find yourself dealing with a strong craving, stop and think about what is triggering you and think of a way you can distract yourself until the craving passes.
Cravings are difficult to deal with, but if you remember that most cravings only last a few minutes, you can find something to distract yourself until it passes. The absolute worst thing you can do is given in to temptation and smoke a cigarette. Even if you tell yourself it is just one, do not fool yourself. It is never just one. One cigarette you smoke will lead to another and then another and before you know it, you are back to smoking and all your efforts were for nothing. To avoid disappointing yourself, do not give in to it. Not even one cigarette. Develop ways to cope with withdrawal, see How to Deal with Withdrawal Symptoms.
You can stop smoking. It is difficult but not impossible. Once you are free from cigarettes, many things change for the better. Your sense of smell and taste improves. You start breathing better and coughing less. You start to find you have a lot more money left over in your account each month. Your skin starts to look better and your health improves in so many ways. Get yourself ready to quit, you are worth the effort.