Trying To Quit Smoking? How I Did It And How You Can Too
Non-smokers don't get it. They don't understand how relaxing and satisfying having a cigarette really is. They tell you to quit but you can't. It isn't easy. They'll never understand just how much of a challenge it is to stop smoking.
I inhaled my first cigarette on my 15th birthday. From that day, I was addicted. I smoked a pack of day for 16 years. I never thought I would quit. In fact I was pretty much convinced that the cigarettes would kill me one day, but I did it.
Brain Chemicals and Smoking
I'm not going to lie, quitting is hell. Having to deal with life without cigarettes is a challenge. Everyone talks about the physical withdrawls but the psychological withdrawals are much worse. The physical symptoms last about 3-7 days. The psycholgical withdrawals last much longer.
Some physical withdrawal symptoms are insomnia, constipation, stomach pains and inability to concentrate.
Psychological withdrawl symptoms include saddness, depression, irritability and anger.
Nicotine increases dopamine in your brain. A significant drop of dopamine can cause depression. Nicotine increases dopamine at a very high rate so it will drop back down a while after your nicotine fix. Makes sense doesn't it? That's why when you're stressed at work you need that smoke break at 10:30am and 3pm. It's why after a fight with your significant other you find yourself smoking more than usual. It makes you feel better.
Therapy, medication and support groups can help ease the psychological withdrawals.
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Smoking Cessation Aids
I have a friend who smokes. She told me she was going to try Zyban to stop smoking. A month had gone by and when I saw her again, I asked her how she was doing with the medication.
"Ugh", she said, "It made the cigarettes taste like crap. I just stopped the medication after three days."
Needless to say, my friend was not ready to quit. The thing about medication, patches, hypnosis and the rest is that none of it will work if you are not serious about quitting. All of these methods work if you are ready to stop for good. It's important to know this.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy works by weaning you off the nicotine. You can choose from patches, gum, lozenges or nasal spray. The good thing about this form of quitting is that you get nicotine into your bloodstream without all the other harmful chemicals that cigarettes have. It's important not to smoke when your using a nicotine replacement, even if you take it off you need to wait at least a day to smoke again. You can overdose on nicotine.
Medications do not contain nicotine. Two main medications are Chantix and Zyban. You'll need a prescription for both.
Zyban was first marketed as an anti-depressant called Wellbutrin. It's still not really understood how Zyban works as a smoking cessation aid but it does work. It will combat depression and irritability while quitting. This drug is also being studied as a weight loss drug. This is great news to smokers who are afraid of gaining weight. You can also safely combine Zyban with a nicotine replacement. Drinking alcohol on Zyban is dangerous so don't drink if you are taking it.
Chantix works by blocking nicotine receptors in your brain so that nicotine can't reach it. Chantix also gives you similar effects of nicotine and increases dopamine levels in a similar way to cigarettes. Unlike Zyban, nicotine replacements such as the patch should not be used together. Studies have shown Chantix to be more effective than Zyban.
Reading books on quitting is very helpful. I read The Complete Idiot's Guide to Quitting Smoking. This book if filled with information and tips. It's written by two doctors, one of whom was a heavy smoker for many years. I highly recommend this book.
Some Useful Tips
If you can't do it cold turkey, don't despair. Most of us can't. Nicotine is a powerful drug and it has nothing to do with willpower. You should try using one of the aids mentioned above. A lot of people use the patch. Medications are very popular as well. Recently the electronic cigarette made it's debut. There are so many different methods. Talk to your doctor about choosing one.
Once you've chosen your method pick a quit date. Have a date at least two weeks away. Pick a day where you know you'll be busy. Try cutting down in the two weeks before you quit. Write down your reasons for quitting on a piece of paper and carry it with you. Read it often.
The day before you quit, throw away your ashtrays and lighters. If you smoke indoors, clean your home well to remove any lingering smell of cigarettes.
On your quit day keep yourself busy so that your mind is not on smoking. Drink a lot of water to flush the nicotine out of your system. When you have a craving take deep breaths. This sounds very simple but it is extremely effective. Remember the first three to four days are going to be tough due to physical withdrawls. Physical withdrawls include insomnia, tiredness, coughing, headaches and many others. If you chose a nicotine replacement your withdrawls won't be so bad.
How I Did It...
I was ready to stop. I was tired of getting bronchitis every year. I was sick of smelling bad and I just didn't feel comfortable smoking anymore.
My doctor recommended Zyban. I didn't start it right away. I planned a quit date and started Zyban a week before. I kept busy that first week I stopped smoking. I drank a ton of water and took long walks every day. Zyban reduced most of my withdrawl symptoms so I did not have insomnia. In fact I slept alot.
I suffered through a terrible depression after quitting. Zyban just was not powerful enough to combat my depression. I could have gone back to the cigarettes but I refused to go through this all over again. It dawned on me that I was self-medicating all of these years wtih the cigarettes.
I decided to battle my depression and got some therapy. This was a turning point in my life. I discovered that I was suffering from major depression and that I had it for years. If I never had quit smoking, I would never have gotten the help I needed.
I smoked my last cigarette June 6th 2006. I've never gone back and I never intend to.
You Can Do It
If you want something bad enough, you'll get it. Sounds a bit cliché but it is true. Start thinking of yourself as a non-smoker. Imagine someone asking you for a light and you responding 'Sorry, I don't smoke.' Imagery can be powerful.
Remember that when you crave a cigarette, the craving will pass whether you have a cigarette or not.