Have you ever tried to quit smoking only to find your emotional stability had gone haywire, making the challenge overwhelming? Did quitting make you so irritable and grouchy that family and friends avoided you, perhaps even encouraged you to smoke again? Were feelings of anxiety and depression reasons to relapse back to smoking? If you can relate to any of these questions, know that you are not alone, and that emotional swings are common in the early stages of your quit. But they do not have to roadblock your success…quitting and staying quit is still an achievable goal!
Grieving the Loss
You may feel sad, lonely and miss smoking your cigarettes. Smoking is like a constant companion who is there in good times and bad, guaranteed to help boost your mood. Giving up this perceived friend may cause you to feel deprived of the enjoyment of smoking. No need to worry -- the loss of this friend is replaced with more money, more time and control over your life so you can live it in the healthiest way possible!
Anger and Mood Swings
Recently-quit smokers often get irritable, frustrated and angry. Emotions may swing from good-natured to snappy in no time flat. Be aware that this is normal and due to nicotine withdrawal. Nicotine elevates dopamine in the brain, which makes you feel good; when you stop smoking, these levels go down and so can your mood. In the past, you may have used cigarettes as a coping tool for dealing with these emotions. Now you will have the choice of practicing other healthier ways of managing these feelings.
Be assertive and deal with your feelings. Don’t stifle them with a smoke! Remove yourself from a situation before things get out of hand. Walk away and take a ‘time out’ to collect yourself by calling a friend and venting. Taking some slow deep breaths, or go outside for a walk if possible. Tell yourself “This too shall pass,” and it will.
Many people feel depressed when they quit smoking. Some depression is caused by nicotine addiction and the withdrawal and recovery process. You may smoke to control your moods and feelings. When you stop smoking you no longer have this mood enhancer and may feel a reversed affect. Depression of this nature is not long-lasting and may be helped along with regular exercise, a healthy diet, and the use of an NRT product.
Many times the depression is an underlying condition that develops when you stop smoking. Nicotine and some chemicals in smoke can decrease depressive symptoms by elevating the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine (feel good neurotransmitters) in the brain and you may smoke to keep this chemistry in balance. If this is your situation, consult your doctor, as there are many helpful treatments for depression due to this nature.
Return to Normalcy
The good news is that all this emotional upheaval is temporary. It will take some time and practice to get used to the new you – the person who no longer uses cigarettes to control moods and feelings. In the meantime here are some ways you can manage these emotions:
- Talk to your support person(s) and vent safely, or journal and write out your thoughts
- Do deep breathing exercises, use relaxation techniques
- Exercise, take a walk, get outdoors, breath fresh air, enjoy nature
- Do things you truly enjoy
- Practice your personal affirmation(s)- use positive self talk, "I love being a non-smoker!"
- Consider using a quit-smoking medication to help minimize the emotional withdrawal symptoms
Quitting smoking is about gaining back control of your life -- emotions and all!
Keep the Quit!
Bette Q TTS-M
Let's be clear about a few things before we begin. Most smokers try to quit smoking cold turkey (CT = without taking medication to manage detox symptoms). It's true. Also true? I quit smoking CT myself (from a 3-pack-per-day habit). And finally, I usually suggest that smokers try CT first, for the same reasons that most people do -- it's the quickest, easiest way to go for someone who wants to quit. No extra $$ spent, no waiting for NRT to arrive in the mail, no "Am I doing this right?"
There's only one problem. Decades of research repeatedly demonstrate that, for most smokers during most quit attempts, cold turkey offers the lowest odds of a successful quit. The conventional wisdom of pro-CT advocates (who often ignore the conclusions and summaries of the very studies they cite) focuses on the numbers of people who quit CT, not the % of quitters who succeed. If you're planning your quit now, be wary of three common myths about cold turkey quitting.
Myth #1. Cold Turkey is the most effective way to quit.
Only 3-6 CT quitters, out of every 100, will succeed during any given quit attempt. This makes cold turkey the least effective of all treatments, even less so than medication placebos. CT successes are so low because the physical, mental and behavioral components of withdrawal can prove too much to handle, and negatively impact quitters' work and personal lives -- especially for those who aren't that motivated to quit in the first place.
This doesn't necessarily mean that you won't be able to quit using CT. Any smoker who can make their quit their top priority, and do whatever it takes to not smoke one day at a time, can quit cold turkey like I did. But in the real world of randomized, controlled studies, most quit-medications demonstrate better quit-rates than CT. (See some references below the Join button)
Myth #2. Cold Turkey is the fastest way through withdrawal.
The longest, most intense detoxifications are usually suffered by CT quitters, depending on their level of addiction. Three days is commonly referred to as make-or-break time for CT withdrawal, but CT quitters can experience mild-to-severe detox symptoms, off and on, for weeks after quitting. I know this from personal experience; each of the three times I quit CT, I went through extended detoxes, what we called the Quit Flu in those days, lasting a week to a month.
Again, this is not to say you will suffer such withdrawal if you quit cold-turkey -- that's largely determined by your current addiction/smoking level and metabolism -- only that you're more likely to. And withdrawal symptoms are the top-reported reasons for relapse.
Myth #3. The intensity of a cold turkey quit inhibits relapse.
Though many CT quitters claim that their quit is/was so horrific that they never want to go through it again, there's no solid research demonstrating that past withdrawal experiences influence current quit-success, or that a bad past experience helps us keep the quit this time. What we often find instead is an increased resistance to the idea of quitting this time because of past difficulties, and higher rates of slips and relapses during intense detoxes.
All that being said...
Cold turkey quitting may still best the way for you to quit. If you're a middle-aged man or post-menopausal woman motivated to quit, have successfully quit before without medicinal intervention, and/or aren't being treated for depression or a bi-polar condition, your odds of quitting CT are better than average. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, or smoke less than half a pack a day, you probably should quit smoking cold turkey (discuss this with your doctor).
However, don't assume that cold turkey means no assistance at all -- research consistently shows that behavioral support and/or assistance from healthcare professionals and other ex-smokers can make the difference between losing or keeping your quit.
But if you know or fear that severe withdrawal will negatively impact your life, or if you haven't been able to get through detox unaided in the past, don't worry. You don't have to quit cold turkey. There are more effective treatment methods available to you!
No matter how you quit, staying quit is your real priority. Good luck, visit QuitNet for help, and KTQ!
Alan Peters, CTTS-M
Note: This blog is about CT quitting for individual smokers. Public health officials sometimes promote CT treatment to large populations, because they feel that's more cost-effective than paying for, distributing, and supporting compliance with quit-medicines on a large scale.
Note: No QuitNet staff, authors, or treatment specialists receive research funding or other remuneration from pharmaceutical companies or quit-smoking medication manufacturers. Our recommendations are always based on science and evidence, and best practices.
Pharmacological interventions for smoking cessation: an overview and network meta-analysis.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: "Higher rates of smoking cessation were associated with NRT (17.6%) and bupropion (19.1%) compared with placebo (10.6%). Varenicline (27.6%) and combination NRT (31.5%) (eg, patch plus inhaler) were most effective for achieving smoking cessation."
Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: "All of the commercially available forms of NRT increase the rate of quitting by 50 to 70%, regardless of setting. The effectiveness of NRT appears to be largely independent of the intensity of additional support provided to the individual."
Usage Patterns of Stop Smoking Medications in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: "Approximately 3–5% of smokers who make an unaided quit attempt report remaining smoke free one year following their quit attempt . In the UK, an evaluation of the NHS indicated that smokers who attempted to quit using stop smoking medication and behavioral support were nearly 4 times more likely to be quit at 52 weeks than smokers who attempted to quit with no assistance ."
Meta-analysis of the efficacy of nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation: differences between men and women.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: "NRT was more effective for men than placebo at 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month follow-ups. The benefits of NRT for women were clearly evident only at the 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Giving NRT in conjunction with high-intensity non-pharmacological support was more important for women than men."
Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update—Clinical Practice Guidelines.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: "Numerous effective medications are available for tobacco dependence, and cllinicians should encourage their use by all patients attempting to quit smoking—except when medically contraindicated or with specific populations for which there is insufficient evidence of effectiveness (i.e., pregnant women, smokeless tobacco users, light smokers, and adolescents)... Clinicians also should consider the use of certain combinations of medications identified as effective in this Guideline."
Center for Disease Control Quit Smoking Fact Sheet
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: "Medications for quitting that have been found to be effective include the following: Nicotine replacement products: Over-the-counter (nicotine patch [which is also available by prescription], gum, lozenge); Prescription (nicotine patch, inhaler, nasal spray); Prescription non-nicotine medications: bupropion SR (Zyban®),6 varenicline tartrate (Chantix®)."
Ever wonder what compels you to smoke, knowing full well the health risks? Most likely the answer is nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes, and a cigarette is the perfect delivery system for nicotine. It takes only ten seconds from inhalation of smoke for nicotine to reach your brain, quicker than an IV drug injection! It's this speed of nicotine to the brain that makes cigarette smoking so easily and heavily addictive. Other additives in cigarettes, such as ammonia and theobromine, also play a part in maximizing this rapid delivery (and are added by tobacco companies for this reason).
Once nicotine reaches your brain, it changes the way your brain cells communicate to each other. Nicotine mimics the neurotransmitter acetylcholine by attaching to special receptors on your brain cells, stimulating the release of chemicals that make you feel good. Dopamine, a main neurotransmitter of the reward pathway in the brain, is one of the chemicals released. Dopamine helps regulate moods and gives you a feeling of pleasure and calm. It's part of what encourages you to keep going back for more tobacco smoke.
When you smoke and expose your brain to nicotine, it increases the number of nicotine receptors, which then require more nicotine for the brain to feel normal. This alteration in brain structure is what makes quitting smoking so difficult. The level of dopamine drops during the time in between smoking cigarettes. You may feel irritable, fidgety, and stressed when that happens, and craving a cigarette to make the withdrawal symptoms subside, so you can feel good again.
As long as you keep on smoking, this cycle of craving, smoking, relaxing, craving will continue. Over time, you build up a tolerance to nicotine and need to smoke more cigarettes to get the same feel good effect. This is why if you switch to a 'low' or 'light' cigarette you will inhale more deeply or smoke more of the cigarette to compensate for the lower dose of nicotine.
Nicotine can have both a stimulating and relaxing effect on your brain. Ever been tired and taken a couple short puffs on a cigarette to perk up...or taken in a few longer drags to help feel relaxed when feeling stressed or tense? That's just another way nicotine gets you hooked in.
The changes nicotine causes in the brain makes smoking highly addictive and difficult to stop. Not only do you deal with the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, such as irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, and strong cravings to smoke, but you also have to contend with the behavioral and environmental triggers that crop up, like having a glass of wine, driving the car, or getting into a heated argument -- all times your brain is used to getting a jolt of nicotine and pleasure. Once you do quit smoking you need to stick with the acronym N.O.P.E -Not One Puff Ever, because even a single cigarette can risk triggering the same cravings to smoke you had before quitting.
As overwhelming as this may sound, quitting smoking is an achievable goal that can make all the difference in leading a healthier life. Consider using a quit-medication if the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms get in the way of a successful quit. The encouraging news is that, though it may take up to six weeks, quitting for good enables the nicotine receptors in your brain to return to normal.
Keep Going and KTQ!
To a longtime smoker, smoking is more than just lighting a cigarette. It is a ritual, a reward, a past time, a close friend, a pick me up, a thought provoking moment, an ice breaker in social situations, a comfort when lonely, and something to look forward to when the alarm rings. The act of smoking is woven through every aspect of what you do. Putting down that last cigarette can leave a void so large, many quitters are at a loss as to how to move forward. The good news is, you can move forward in more ways than you ever thought possible!
Look at all those moments in your life you gave away to smoking. Not anymore! You have a whole new experience ahead of you, and a chance to fill it with everything you have been missing. Embrace the possibilities that come with change. Find your interests. Experiment, reach out, and enjoy. When the smoke clears, there is a beautiful world out there!
You can get started today by identifying the essence of your smoking moments. Answer the question 'What do I feel I am getting from this cigarette?’ for each cigarette you smoke. Chances are good that your answers will be reward, comfort, and treat/pick me up, habit, fun or relaxation. Once you know why you are smoking each cigarette you smoke, you can fill the void so you do not miss cigarettes. Let go of the old tapes playing in your mind that tell you smoking is the only option. Be open to trying new things so you can enjoy the smoke-free you. By filling the void with other behaviors, your emotional needs will be met and your routines altered to support a nonsmoking lifestyle. You will be adding much needed relaxation, reward and fun experiences to your life!
If you are not sure how to come up with ideas, think back to when you were young. Did you like being outside, inside, or in a group? Did you build things, read, bake or draw? Were you the leader of your friends, a lone bicycler, or in your room reading? Did you skate, ski, play music, play ball, go camping, hiking or love to sing? We begin our lives without limitation, and often those original interests are keys to who we really are. Writing, drawing, biking, jogging, baking, dancing, leading a meeting, starting a club, volunteering, fostering, taking lessons, taking a class and other activities can enhance your life and open new doors for you. These interests may have been long forgotten, or simply took a back burner to work, responsibility, and day to day chores. When you quit smoking, give yourself the freedom to spend that extra time and money (re)discovering things you would like to do! At the end of our lives, few look back and were glad they kept their floors mopped or the garage tidy. Times enjoyed, people loved, unique experiences, joy and special moments will be what matter most. So put down the cigarettes, get out there and live a life you enjoy and cherish. You are worth it; KTQ!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Join other quitters for support:
Life can be complicated and unpredictable. Smoking may have been an anchor in the storm, the friend who never left you, a reward on mundane days, or your escape from unpleasant situations. The emotional attachment to the act of smoking is real, long lived and warrants further consideration. Let’s take a look at this important aspect of your Quit, so you can reflect on ways to move towards greater health and wellbeing.
Quitting is all about You taking charge of your health, your choices and your life. You deserve to enjoy your life and be free of old habits that no longer serve you. Think of how happy and confident you will feel as a nonsmoker. Celebrate your freedom from smoking!
Everyone experiences stress and disappointment. Accept this, and learn new ways to relax and unwind that enhance your day to day life experience. Many people spend a lot of time worrying about things that never happen! Stressing on what might happen zaps your energy and joy. Stay in the here and now! Focus on what you can do, and take action. Action reduces stress and increases self confidence. Deal with complications the moment they arise, and let the rest go. Breathe in deep, exhale slowly, and count your blessings. Enjoy all the things around you that you love and care about!
Any lifestyle change has it's ups and downs. Moving, changing jobs, beginning or ending relationships, changes in health status, diet and exercise programs - the list goes on! There is often a grieving process for what was left behind, and that is very normal. Journaling, writing a good bye letter to your old life, and allowing feelings of grief to run it's course are a few helpful ways to cope. It takes time, patience and practice before the new feels as comfortable as the old once did. The secret is you must Keep Going in order to get to the comfortable, successful part! As long as you keep moving forward, you will get to where you want to be. For better or worse, just keep going no matter what happens.
What do you like to do? What inspires you? What makes you laugh? What makes you feel important, special and loved? Seeking joy is the best way to find it! Take time every day to do some things that matter to you and make you happy. Life is too short to spend on autopilot completing tasks. Enjoy yourself!
- May The Quit Be With You!
Surround yourself with support and encouragement from others. Quitting smoking is an exciting and wonderful change you are making for yourself, and there are plenty of cheerleaders standing by! Reach out! gather your support network at home, at work, on line, at the gym, and everywhere you go. The more people who care about your quit success, the better!
Stopping smoking can be an emotional process. Knowing what to expect, and learning how to navigate your feelings effectively will help you live happily and successfully as a nonsmoker. Keep going, and KTQ!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Take the Pledge, and Gather Support From Other Quitters:
It's common knowledge that smoking is bad for your health, especially your heart and lungs. Are you aware of the consequences of smoking and tobacco use on your oral health? Your gums and teeth are the first to bear the onslaught of heat and caustic chemicals when you light up that cigarette. Not only does smoking paint a not so pretty picture, but it also increases your risk of oral cancers and other health problems linked to dental disease. Smoking doesn't stand alone in destroying oral health - all tobacco products are harmful.
Smoking and Those Pearly Whites
Smoking can put a damper on your smile. Smoking stains or discolors teeth, causes bad breath and can lead to tooth loss, all of which affects self-image and confidence. It's the nicotine and tar in tobacco that stain the teeth and eventually builds up in the pores of the enamel, causing tooth discoloration.
The noticeable 'smoker's breath' is from smoke particles and chemicals in tobacco smoke. The heat from smoking dries out the mouth and allows bacteria to grow.
Tobacco smoke reduces blood flow and is toxic to gum tissue. If you smoke or use smokeless tobacco you have a significantly greater risk of getting periodontal (gum) disease - a disease that destroys soft tissue and bone supporting the teeth. With gum disease, pockets form around the teeth and bacteria resides causing infection and inflammation, eventually leading to tooth loss.
Any area in your body that has direct contact with the chemicals in smoke and tobacco is at a higher risk for cancer. For this reason you need to be aware of any changes or sores that persist in your mouth. It's especially important if you smoke or use smokeless tobacco to keep up with regular dentist cleanings and visits, but it's even more vital that you quit for good!
Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body
Research is showing that keeping your gums healthy is good for the rest of your body. Infections in the mouth cause inflammation elsewhere in the body and are linked to heart disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and lung infections. If you have diabetes you are more at risk to develop periodontal disease, which can raise blood sugar and cause other complications. It doesn't stop there; poor oral health is also linked to Alzheimer’s disease and low weight or premature babies.
Lifestyle has a lot to do with your oral health. Make healthy choices in your diet, keep flossing and brushing, and if you smoke make quitting your number one priority. Quitting smoking is a lifestyle change that can only benefit your overall health.
Keep Smiling and Keep the Quit!
Have you ever entered a room and smelled that stale cigarette smell? That was the leftover residue from previously smoked butts, the byproduct of secondhand smoke called thirdhand smoke.
Tar, nicotine, and the chemicals in smoke cling onto indoor surfaces such as furniture, upholstery, carpets and walls. In closed spaces, the air pollutants from tobacco smoke enter your lungs and irritate them. Tobacco residue not only lingers on surfaces, it also remains on fingers, teeth, clothing and hair. It is important to understand that both secondhand and thirdhand smoke can damage your health, but that thirdhand smoke affects the environment long after the smoker has left. There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.
Thirdhand smoke affects the quality of the air we breathe. Tobacco smoke contains 7,000 chemicals, including many carcinogens. Research shows that even after five hours, tobacco particles remain present in the air. They eventually join other indoor pollutants to create a toxic mix. People who come in contact with thirdhand smoke by touching, ingesting or inhaling any of the particles, are increasing their risk of developing a tobacco-related health problem. Children and pets are particularly susceptible to this invisible coating of tar and toxins. Tobacco odor can also be a relapse trigger for most ex-smokers.
How to eliminate thirdhand smoke from your environment
The best way to eliminate thirdhand smoke from your environment is to create a nonsmoking space for yourself, and then staunchly defend it from smokers. Layers of residue from thirdhand smoke accumulate over time, and the combination of particles and tar is difficult to remove. Outlined below are suggestions you can add to your quit plan to eliminate thirdhand smoke from your space:
Make your home, car, office a smoke-free environment.
- Wipe down the tables and other surfaces where you used to smoke.
Throw away any clothes, tablecloths, fabric that contains heavy tobacco smell. Replace with fresh new items.
Have your car professionally cleaned. Most professional car wash centers use professional cleaning products that help eliminate stubborn tobacco odor.
If your budget permits, replace your carpet or have your carpet professionally cleaned.
Stay away from designated smoking areas.
Consider using an air purifier to clean the air in a room.
Removing the thirdhand smoke from your environment is an excellent way to begin a quit, for you and all your loved ones. Your home will be freer from toxins and tobacco tar, and feel fresh and clean. Stay focused and remember that quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health! Keep the quit!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
I quit smoking seventy-two days ago, and for the first time I'm not sure I'm going to make it.
I smoked proudly for fifteen years. I started as an occasional smoker, but over time I needed more and more nicotine (I later learned that most addicts develop dose tolerance to their addictive substances). By the time I quit, I was smoking three packs per day, every day. I smoked during meetings, while walking or driving or eating meals. I woke up in the middle of the night to have a cigarette, and even kept one burning in an ashtray on the toilet tank while I showered, or on the bed stand while making love. I considered myself a smoker's smoker, and couldn't imagine life without cigarettes. Until I met Mary, that is.
Mary was cool, confident, smart and lovely, certainly out of my league, and I immediately fell in love with her. I had to have her. There was one problem with Mary, though -- she was a non-smoker. And not the self-righteous, moralistic type of non-smoker I'd been avoiding for years, either. No, Mary vehemently and absolutely hated tobacco, with a passion I'd never seen. Tobacco had killed her mother, and she held a big-time grudge against it. She made no bones about her refusal to date any smoker, ever.
My self-image hung in the balance. If I entertained any notion at all of hooking up with Mary, I would have to quit smoking. Telling myself that I'd stay quit only long enough to win her heart, and resume smoking sometime after that, I went online to look for quit-smoking info. I registered at a quit-smoking website, picked a quit-smoking date, and announced to everyone that I was quitting -- including Mary, who hugged me at the news!
Being a heavy smoker, I figured I was in for a rough nicotine detox, but decided to quit cold-turkey, anyway. Partially because I wanted to be tough about quitting, but also because it cost $50 for a hundred count of nicotine gum. $50! Never mind that a carton of smokes runs almost twice that; I needed them. Besides, the drama of a severe withdrawal could maybe get me some special attention from Mary... .
Day One wasn't bad at all. I fidgeted a lot, and drummed my fingers madly against things. I kept putting my hands to my mouth, expecting something to be there for me. I sucked on a ton of Lifesavers, but had no overwhelming urge to smoke. Quitting seemed do-able.
Day Two was a little more intense. Mary called to cheer me on and tell me how proud she was of me. My nose started running a bit, and I developed a headache. Felt like I might be coming down with a cold, but suffered only a few severe cravings to smoke. Despite the physical discomfort, and trouble getting to sleep at night, I thought that people were making too big a deal out of quitting smoking.
By Day Three I was a space cadet. I laughed uncontrollably, as if I was stoned on acid. Colors seemed very intense, and my brain raced wildly with bizarre thoughts. (My doctor later said I was experiencing a sustained rush of new oxygen to the brain). My whole body ached, and someone at the quit-smoking website wrote that I'd probably contracted the 'Quit Flu'. I obsessed non-stop about either smoking or not smoking, and became painfully aware of every lit cigarette within sight or smell.
And then a blow to my motivation, on Day Four: Mary left the country with her family, and wouldn't be back for two months! So much for her shoulder to lean on while I quit. A part of me whispered, "You can smoke now and re-quit later, and she'll never know," but I decided to soldier on and have more smoke-free weeks quit under my belt when she returned.
By Day Twenty I was already feeling better. I still wasn't sleeping much (my sleep patterns wouldn't stabilize for another month or two), and I was coughing up a lot of brown goo, but the flu-like symptoms were gone and I was going hours at a time without thinking about a cigarette.
And so it went. I sailed through my quit, noting one surprise benefit of quitting after another. Sleep deprived or not, I felt more alert and like I was really in my body. I took morning walks, and during one of them I suddenly wanted to run. It was exhilarating! I joined the Y, and started lifting weights. I wondered why people seemed to be wearing stronger cologne and perfume lately, until I realized that my sense of smell was returning. When I did have a smoking urge, I logged in to my quit-site and distracted myself. I finally stopped spitting up old lung tar, too, and noted that my wallet always had a lot more cash in it. Why had I never tried quitting before? Doing so had triggered changes in many areas of my life; I even made a couple of new ex-smoking friends, and began thinking of myself as an ex-smoker.
Until this morning, that it is. Mary got back from her long family vacation and introduced me to Mark, her new boyfriend. That was bad. Worse, he reeked of cigarettes! Filthy, stinking cigarettes. I was stunned. After a short, awkward silence, I blurted out something like, "Glad to meet you and by the way I'm still not smoking," and beat a hasty retreat. I felt betrayed. What was Mary's problem? Why would she sell out her values for love? How could she do this to me, after I'd changed my smoking life to be with her (though I never did tell her that, truth be told)? My thoughts turned to smoking. "I'll show her," I resolved. "Screw this quit."
So here I am on Day Seventy-two, and my motivation for quitting is gone. I'm at the convenience store, counting out bills for a pack of my old deadly comfort. In walks one of my new ex-smoking friends. She smiles, sees the pack and the wallet in my hands, and looks at me, silent. "They're not for me," I reply to her unasked question. In that moment I get some clarity. Cigarettes really are not for me, not any more. I'm about to punish myself because I'm upset with Mary? How can I blame her for selling out to follow her heart, anyway? Hadn't I sold out my smoking values to follow mine? Hasn't that been working out pretty well for me?
My quit isn't about Mary, and it never was. She may have been my inspiration to change, but it was my decision and my effort that got me to this place. The benefits of my new, healthier lifestyle are mine alone. I've earned them, and I'm not going to throw them away just because I got my expectations dashed.
I hand the cigarettes back to the clerk and buy a roll of Lifesavers, instead. I walk out of the store with my friend, still smoke-free. I didn't get the girl in the end, but I got a lot more than I expected. Seems I'm the fish I've been trying to catch all along (and quitting smoking was the hook).
Alan Q, CTTS-M
A wonderful New Year is upon us. Will your days be smoke-free? This time of year is full of potential relapse triggers, so take some time today to set yourself up for success.
The secret to having stress-free fun is giving yourself permission to do only things that are relaxing and wonderful to you! Commit to saying 'No' to anything that you don't have a heartfelt interest in doing.
Choose your activities wisely. Take some well-deserved time off. Do whatever you feel like doing. You may want to just hang out in your house alone for once. Maybe you're a 'go out and mingle with the crowds' person; here are some smoke-free things you could do:
- See a movie matinee with a friend.
- Enjoy a pedicure or manicure.
- Drive through decorated neighborhoods, stop for dessert on the way home.
- Go to dinner somewhere new.
- Visit someone special.
- Volunteer wherever your heart leads you (hospital, animal shelter, elderly neighbor, local shop).
- Buy yourself new, warm flannel sheets and sleep in!
- Go out to breakfast by yourself.
Plan ahead. Choose how you want to spend your time! Learn to say 'No' to things that pressure or obligate you needlessly. Give yourself the gift of smoke-free happiness, today and throughout the New Year!
Keep going, and KTQ!
Vikki Q CTTS-M; Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Have a Smoke-Free and Happy New Year at the Q:
No matter how busy you are this holiday season, be sure to keep your quit going strong! Around this time of year, some quitters may find themselves losing momentum. You may be second guessing your reasons for quitting, or feeling overwhelmed by a seemingly endless to-do list. Rest assured, life is not getting in the way of your quit; this is life! Moving forward as a nonsmoker means keeping the quit regardless of what is happening to you or around you.
Reaffirm your commitment to keep your quit going no matter what. Make sure your quit stays your number one priority. Reflect on why being a nonsmoker matters to you, how far you have come and what it took to get here. If you do have a craving or weak moment, address your feelings! What do you really want? Are you seeking comfort, reward, assistance, sleep, enjoyment, social interaction, or a break? Stress free living requires flexibility. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself permission to change plans or take a time out to relax. Celebrate the new habits you have worked so hard to put in place. You have made it this far, so that means you have a successful smoke-free daily routine in place. Acknowledge how awesome you are for quitting smoking. You did it - you actually did it this time! You are amazing, and so is your quit.
Reviewing your quit progress and celebrating your accomplishments ensures your continued success during stressful times. Staying motivated will help prevent relapse. Remember that at this very moment, you are quit; Congratulations! Cherish your quit and commit to spending the holiday season as a nonsmoker this year. As a nonsmoker, you continue to gain:
- Healthier lungs
- A reduced risk of cancer
- Increased longevity
- More energy to enjoy life
- A healthier smile and fresh breath
- Better immunity to fight off colds and flu
- More money to spend on things you need or want
- More time to spend doing things that matter to you
- More time with the people you care about
- Freedom from guilt or pressure about smoking; you're finally free!
- Increased self confidence
- Fresh air around you, your home and your vehicle
- Prettier skin
- Improved mood
- Decreased stress
Those are a lot of gifts to appreciate. Keep giving yourself the best gift of all; a smoke-free life! Keep up the good work, keep going, and KTQ:)
Vikki CTTS-M Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Friends don't let friends Quit alone: