Preparation is key
The most common reasons for relapsing to smoking are:
- lack of commitment
- lack of preparation
- unexpected situations/stressors
The preparation stage of quitting smoking is, by far, the most important. Of these 3 reasons for relapse, lack of preparation is the most common. So be sure and give yourself enough time to get ready.
Take a few weeks to do the prep work. Start a journal/workbook, and talk to your family doctor about your options - including the various medications available to you.
Buy a notebook which will serve as your workbook/journal as you prepare for your smoke-free life. Make the following headings in your book and address the topics below from your personal experiences with smoking. Be honest with yourself. You can list your target quit-date and summarize your action plan based on the information in your journal. This is a quick and easy reminder of your goals, and how you are going to get there.
Am I addicted? Some important concepts to consider:
- negative consequences (for example: cost, others' opinions, my self-respect, my health)
- compulsive use (for example: broken promises to myself and others, previous attempts and failures to quit, attempts to cut down, spending precious time getting or using the drug, times I have gone to great trouble/inconvenience to get a cigarette, a prepared stash of cigarettes so I wouldn't run out)
- loss of control (for example, times I have tried and failed to limit my number of cigarettes per day)
- tolerance/withdrawal (for example: in the past would feel nausea, discomfort if smoked a cigarette, irritability, and craving if I do not smoke)
Pros and cons
Make two lists side by side: pros and cons, identifying all the benefits of quitting smoking under pro and all the disadvantages under con.
Make a list of people you will tell about your plans for quitting. Write down their phone numbers. Ask some of them to be supports, someone to call when you feel like a cigarette.
Figure out the costs and potential savings of smoking. Make plans for what you are going to do with your savings.
Make a list of rewards you will give yourself at key points in your success at quitting. For example, end of day one, end of week one, end of month one.
Name those times when it will be the most difficult to not smoke. Outline cues or triggers - such as your morning coffee, talking on the phone, just after a good meal, having a drink - so you may decide on alternate coping strategies. Are there any changes in your environment or behavior you should make, even for a while, when you quit smoking?
Nicotine cravings are intense but brief, each lasting less than a minute. With time they quickly fade in intensity and number. Make a list of emergency rescue strategies to handle those cravings. These might include: drink a glass of water, get a back rub, suck on a cinnamon stick, or go for a walk.
An exercise and diet plan will be important if you want to keep your weight from climbing. This part of your journey is very important and very personal. Spend enough time and effort on it to give you a good chance at success.
Choose a quit date
Look ahead on the calendar. It's best to schedule your quit date during a time of relative stability. Situations like starting a new job, going on a holiday trip, or facing a scary event are probably not the sort of things you should be scheduling in your first 2 or 3 weeks of being smoke-free. Then set your Quit Date!
Deal with feelings
Once you have survived early withdrawal you need to develop strategies to handle emotional discomfort. For many of us we must first learn to recognize or identify feelings such as fear, anger, and guilt. There are books, courses, and groups to help us handle life's discomforts without nicotine or other medications. Many people find it helpful to take courses and develop coping skills. Becoming involved in a support discussion group, even if you form it yourself along with other people interested in personal growth, is valuable for increasing awareness and skills in these areas.
It is important to practice your new routines. Balance in your life is key. Don't isolate yourself. Use the phone, even if you don't need it. Give support to someone else. Go to the gym, go for regular walks, or take a cooking course. Reward yourself for the toughest, most important health improvement you have ever made in your life!