Quit Smoking – Winning and Losing (the Battle to stay free)

A while back ago, you won a battle in life that you are extremely proud of:

You quit smoking.

However, recently it seems that you are experiencing things that you haven't felt before.

The temptation to smoke again has increased and you feel vulnerable to lighting up again.

How can you avoid a relapse?

Is long term success and a lifetime freedom from tobacco even possible?

Well, you did it! After many spirited attempts and many pitfalls, you have finally done it! You have succeeded in kicking the addiction to nicotine. You can already feel the numerous benefits that kicking the smoking habit has introduced into your life.

It feels great to be able to taste food again.

And not smell like an ash tray when you get home.

Above all, you want to stick to your decision to quit. However, you sometimes feel that you are only two steps away from lighting up another cigarette. What can you do to stop this from happening? 

It is estimated that a smoker must make an average of five to seven attempts before finally quitting smoking for good. So it is important to always keep in mind that for most people it is impossible to smoke a single cigarette, or even sometimes a single puff, without falling back into the habit of smoking.

Knowing this, you should keep your focus on a single goal: “I swear that cigarettes are a thing of the past, there is no turning back.”

Tobacco cessation is not a one-time treatment. It’s not like taking an antibiotic for an infection – tobacco addiction is a chronic, lifelong condition that requires lifelong maintenance. Staying quit is the final, most important stage of a process that is characterized by relapse. If you are fighting to stay tobacco free, being prepared for the situations and urges that lead to relapse is critical, as is being committed to taking aggressive action to stay quit. You must understand nicotine and its withdrawal symptoms on the body (link to Nicotine Dependence article I made)

Long-term success

It has been proven that at the end of one year, only 5% of those who quit smoking without medical assistance and professional healthcare support were still non-smokers. That is a very small percentage considering the symptoms every ex-smoker has to go through.  As well, several studies have demonstrated that the use of anti-smoking aids considerably increases the chance for long-term success.  

Even when we have successfully stopped smoking, it may be advantageous to seek the support and advice of a healthcare professional. Your pharmacist can provide this support, so don’t hesitate to ask for advice. (Please place a link for quit smoking websit)

SLIPS

Most “slips” occur within the first week of quitting smoking. If you slip – that is, if you have a puff, or one or two cigarettes after you’ve quit – it does not mean that you will start smoking again and incur a full-blown relapse. Many people do relapse after a slip, so it is important to remember not to “allow” yourself a slip because you think you can stop after one cigarette. Do not trick yourself to thinking that it is ok to slip occasionally. Fooling yourself will make you the fool in the end.

JUST ONCE: Really?

Very often a single slip triggers negative feelings, self-criticism, and depression. This may lead to a sense that you have no control and, possibly, to more slips. Several slips in a row, or facing conditions where you are seriously tempted to start smoking again, may increase the chance that you will relapse.

When you are faced with a strong temptation to smoke:

Recognize the many health benefits you enjoy since you quit smoking.

Avoid thinking that one cigarette won't hurt you. Most likely, one cigarette will not be enough and usually it just “primes the pump” and makes the urge unbearable.

Remember how hard it was to quit, and realize that you don't want to face that struggle again.

High-risk periods

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Although a slip-up may occur at any time, some circumstances have been identified as times when your vulnerability will be at its maximum. Here are three examples of these high-risk situations:

Heightened emotion or great stress: A bereavement, loss of employment, relationship breakup, dispute or bad news are many examples of situations that can cause high stress in a person. Whatever the reason, remember how when you smoked, a cigarette was a great comfort during those times. This is because smoking triggers the release of a substance in the brain: dopamine. This is the source of a feeling of calmness, relaxation and comfort associated with cigarettes. Your brain will long remember how good it was to smoke when faced with a stressful or painful situation. No wonder that at these times it insists on sending out strong signals for you to smoke again in order to rediscover the effects of dopamine. If this happens to you, don’t let it fool you! Prepare in advance with numerous strategies that will help you find peace and calm other than by smoking: call a close friend, go for a massage, treat yourself to a good meal in a restaurant, etc.  (link to Nicotine Dependence article I made)

A joyous or happy event: An outing with friends, a fishing trip, a vacation down South, an evening around the campfire, etc. Any of these happy moments can sometimes trigger a relapse for some ex-smokers. Given that cigarettes are associated with pleasure (again, another effect of that singular dopamine!), it is normal for your brain to always associate these moments of pleasure or happiness with cigarettes. It will then send you an often intense message like: “Wouldn’t just one cigarette be great?” The answer to that temptation should be a definite ‘no!’ If your desire to smoke occurs during one of these situations, be aware of what is happening inside yourself. And turn your thoughts and interests to the positive lifestyle outlook you are living… without cigarettes.  

“Identifiable” elements: Certain places or objects, some songs, odors, habits, and even some friends seem to bear the label “cigarette.” Every time you are in the presence of these elements, your desire to smoke returns at a gallop. This is completely normal, and is what is known as a “conditioned reflex.” Do you know the story of Pavlov’s dog? At the end of the 19th century a scientist named Pavlov demonstrated this concept by showing how, when a dog’s mealtime dish is accompanied by a particular sound stimulus, this sound can trigger salivation in the animal without the presence of the dog’s food dish. This means that, once again, your brain is having fun playing tricks on you. So don’t fall into the trap. You can try to avoid these identifiable elements, or prepare yourself in advance with a strategy to overcome them.  

I Slipped. What Now?

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Recognize the slip for what it is – a brief return to an old behavior, an action that should be seen as a warning sign that you have begun the slide toward a relapse to smoking. With a renewed effort you can stop the slide and stay on track.

Slips are not signs of failure. Make sure that you don’t give up completely on your efforts to quit.

Talk with one of your support people, such as a family member, another person who has quit, or your doctor.

Make cigarettes hard to get. Don’t buy a pack. Don’t go places where it is easy to get one from someone else.

Don’t let yourself have another cigarette for at least 2 hours. Then decide if you really need it.

Review your smoking journal or your list of reasons to quit, then decide to take control again. Remember past situations in which you showed strength and see yourself as a strong, capable person who has already come far.

A few tips to prevent a relapse

Preventing a relapse is not just a question of willingness, but also of effective strategies. Here are several strategies to help you say no to cigarettes when the desire to smoke pops up:

Think about the reasons that convinced you to stop smoking and of the benefits you have felt for doing so. Remind yourself what your life was like when you were a slave to cigarettes.

Think about all the progress you have made and all the stages you must repeat if you were to start the process of quitting smoking all over again.

When someone offers you a cigarette, ask them why they are doing this. People who offer ex-smokers a cigarette often don’t realize the impact of the consequences of such a gesture.

Ask your friends and family who smoke to respect your decision to quit, and to never offer you a cigarette. Formulate a response in the event this ever occurs.

Remember that you do not need to smoke. No human being needs to smoke. The urges to smoke that your brain sends you are only illusions, messages that tell you it is time to rest, relax or treat yourself. Deal with these messages other than by smoking.

Making positive changes to your life can also help you avoid relapses. Here are a few tips to help you:

Discover new activities or passions: sports, dance, yoga, gardening, cinema, hobbies, etc. The more your mind is occupied by healthy activities that bring you comfort and pleasure, the further it will separate itself from the obsession to smoke.

Think about seeking personal counseling in psychotherapy. Learning more about your personal issues will help you to better understand the reasons that pushed you to smoke and find the means to fight dependence. 

Quitting cigarettes is one thing, but remaining a non-smoker is another issue. So don’t rest on your laurels, and equip yourself as best you can to face the temptations that will undoubtedly appear on your life path. Every person is capable of quitting cigarettes for life, and you are no exception. Have confidence in yourself and you will find, within yourself and around you, the necessary resources to help you stick to your goal!

Don’t Be Discouraged

Most relapses occur within the first three months after quitting. As someone working to stay quit, you must be prepared for difficult situations that can lead to relapse. But if you do start smoking again, don’t be discouraged. Remember, most people try several times before they finally quit. Treat your relapse as a learning experience that you can use later. Every attempt to quit moves you closer to success.

Special Concerns on Quitting

Weight Gain

For some, a concern about weight gain can lead to a decision not to quit. The truth is, weight gain that follows quitting smoking is manageable. Your healthcare provider can help you develop a plan that will minimize the risk. It is much more dangerous to continue smoking than it is to gain a small amount of weight.

Quit smoking first, and then take steps to reduce your weight later.

Focus on ways to help yourself stay healthy.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and limit fat intake.

Drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, and engage in regular physical activity.

Stress

Smokers have come to use nicotine to help cope with stress and unpleasant emotions. When you are in the process of quitting, it is important that you learn new ways of handling stress.

Look at your behaviors. Change those that don’t work and develop new ones.

Use nicotine replacement to help as a short-term solution.

Develop stress reducing strategies that will work for you over the long term.

Use physical activity.

Take stress-management classes.

Taking Care of Yourself

Let your healthcare provider know about your past tobacco use and let them know you’ve quit, so you can be sure you’re getting the preventive healthcare you need. Tobacco use puts you at risk for certain health-related illnesses, so part of your healthcare should focus on related screening and preventive measures to help you stay as healthy as possible, even after you’ve quit.

Check the inside of your mouth for any changes, and have an oral exam by your doctor or dentist to screen yourself for oral cancer.

Be aware of any change in cough, a new cough, coughing up blood, hoarseness, trouble breathing, wheezing, headaches, chest pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, general tiredness, and repeated respiratory infections, as they could be signs of lung cancer or other lung condition

Celebrating and Rewarding yourself because you quit. This is my favorite part 🙂

Track your progress and plan your weekly and monthly celebrations to mark each accomplishment, a celebratory cake and a nae-nae dance will do 🙂

Start a Piggy Bank with the money you saved from smoking and invest for a rainy day. Make a Piggy Bank family of those cute little pigs.

Schedule a dental cleaning session with your dentist. I'm sure he'll be happy to finally clean those yellow teeth after years and years of damage. Wait for the reaction of your office mates as you show them those new pearly whites.

These are some fun things to look forward to on your journey to becoming 100% tobacco free. Please make sure to read our guides on (link to Withdrawal Symptoms article I made) , (link to Nicotine Dependence article I made) to arm yourself with the necessary knowledge you will need to become successful and nicotine free.