Quitting any addiction is hard and we applaud you for making the decision to stop smoking. In order to be successful at kicking an addiction, however, you need to prepare ahead of time and know what to expect in order to have the resources to succeed. For Bucks County, PA residents we offer a support/education program to help you quit smoking. We have both in-person and zoom meetings depending on the support you need.
Recognize the addiction
Remember that this is not a sign of personal weakness. Nicotine is addictive – physically, mentally, and behaviorally. Physical addiction refers to the body craving the chemical compounds in tobacco. Mental addiction refers to the mental or emotional desire to experience the effects of tobacco. And behavioral addiction refers to the situations in which you generally smoke. To effectively treat your nicotine addiction, it has to be addressed in all three ways.
Determine your “why”
Kicking a tobacco addiction is difficult. The most powerful weapon you can have in this battle is a very strong incentive to quit. All the benefits you may hear about – better health, more energy, decreased risk of cancer and heart disease – are not always enough incentive to quit smoking. Personal reasons are sometimes more effective. Frame your reasons in a personal and emotional way, such as:
- “We just had a baby and I don’t want to smoke in the house around my precious child.”
- “After smoking a pack a day for 20 years, I had a heart attack. I don’t want to go through that again.”
- “I ran a footrace with my sons, ages 9 and 11, and I barely won, I was so out of breath. That made me realize I need to quit.”
- “I didn’t realize how much my clothes smell of tobacco until I took some out of a drawer that I thought were clean and they smelled.”
Whether it’s for your family, your health, or your personal appearance, find a strong “why” and keep reminding yourself of it. Write it out in very personal terms and post it in a place where you’ll see it frequently.
Plan for success
Plan to reward yourself once you’ve kicked the habit. What does “kick the habit” mean? It should mean overcoming the craving for a cigarette most of the time and being able to easily resist when you do have the hankering for a smoke. Your reward could be almost anything, but if it’s connected to your “why” it may be yet another strong incentive.
For instance, if you’re quitting because you don’t want to smoke around your children, try putting away all the money you save from not buying cigarettes and plan to use it on a trip to an amusement park with the kids. Let them know about the plan, and they will be your enthusiastic cheerleaders!
Kicking the physical addiction
Unfortunately, you will likely feel the ill effects of withdrawal. But the best defense against the physical effects is to know they’re coming and to know they will lessen greatly after a few days.
You will probably have headaches. You may feel shaky, angry, depressed, anxious, or restless. You may even feel tightness in the chest, coughing, bad breath, or trouble sleeping. Nicotine takes over about 200 neurochemicals in the brain and they need to be detoxed. Remain resolute during this period and usually within 72 hours they will begin to decrease.
Intense cravings usually only last a few minutes at a time. Clear your environment of all cigarettes and it will be easier for you to resist, simply because you won’t have any. If you tell yourself “I’m going to wait 10 minutes before I go for a cigarette” and then distract yourself with some other activity like those listed below, you may find those 10 minutes pass by and you no longer have the urge.
Kicking the mental addiction
If you smoked to help you relax, replace it with something else that’s good for you:
- a massage from your partner after a long day
- sitting and listening to relaxing music with headphones on, blocking out the world
- picking up a relaxing hobby, like cross-stitching or yoga
Activity helps to distract the mind from the craving for a cigarette. Try some of these:
- Clean the house
- Go for a walk
- Get a membership to a gym and go regularly
- Brush your teeth – who wants to smoke with a fresh minty toothpaste taste in your mouth?
Kicking the behavioral addiction
Avoid trigger situations as much as possible. Think about where you tended to smoke or what you were doing and either avoid those situations or replace the cigarette with something healthful:
- If you used to smoke while watching the game on tv, don’t replace the cigarette with a bottle of beer or a bag of chips! You could be replacing one health-damaging habit with another. Instead, have crunchy tasty veggies and dip for a snack or sugarless gum to keep your mouth busy.
- Since alcohol makes it difficult to stick to resolutions, it’s best to avoid going to bars or drinking with friends while trying to kick the habit.
- If you used to smoke while drinking your morning coffee, try switching to tea or another beverage, even a morning smoothie, that just wouldn’t taste good with a cigarette.
- If you smoked while talking on the phone, hold a pen in your hand instead and doodle fun things on a pad while talking.
- Take a different route to work to avoid the store where you used to buy cigarettes.
- If you have buddies who smoke, you may need to tell them that for the time being you won’t be able to hang out with them while you try to quit. Hopefully, they will respect your decision and maybe even decide to try to quit with you.
One of the most important aspects of overcoming addiction is to enlist the help of friends and family. Have a support system of people who will encourage you and will help to distract you when you feel like smoking.
Besides family and friends, you can join a support group, in person or online, with others who are trying to kick the nicotine habit or have succeeded in doing so. Stories of their success and the benefits of quitting will help you stick to it until you’ve succeeded.
If necessary, nicotine therapy is available. This is sometimes recommended for people who are trying to overcome a very severe smoking habit. This temporary therapy could include nicotine gum, lozenges, nasal sprays, or inhalers along with nicotine patches. They lessen the cravings during the most intense period of withdrawal. Talk to your doctor to see if this would be helpful to you.
Most importantly, remember that if you try to quit once and go back to smoking, consider it a learning experience and try again. Some people have to try a few times, but they do eventually kick the smoking habit. You can do it, too.