The time of the year from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day is loaded with triggers to smoke. A successful quit depends on your ability to remain focused on your goal of a smoke-free life. This is no easy task, especially for the newly quit. The holiday distractions and being with people in places where you used to smoke can lure you back into old habits and lifestyle. Be prepared and get your game plan in place before the festivities begin.
Keep Your Stress Levels In Check
Holiday travel, traffic, shopping, finances, and family issues can pile on the stress and trigger strong cravings to smoke. Do your holiday shopping early and stay within your budget to prevent debt-incurred stress. Homemade gifts or planning a family draw for a gift exchange will keep the costs down but still express the sentiment. Plan your trips, give yourself plenty of time, and avoid travel during busy traffic hours. Exercise is one of the best stress reducers, so get moving daily to boost your mood, relieve tension and any urges to smoke.
Family members grow, move away, pass away, and sometimes hold grievances against one another. Try to be accepting and understanding. If you find yourself getting stressed at a holiday gathering, just step aside and take a breather by going for a walk and getting fresh air. Or simply take in a few deep breaths, hold, and slowly release. Make sure you take some alone time if the holiday cooking, cleaning, and entertaining are getting to you. A hot relaxing bath or listening to soothing music may be all you need to quiet your mind, focus inward, and calm down.
Don't Overindulge In Food Or Drink
Food often seems to play the biggest role in holiday celebrations. Tables are laden with family members' favorite recipes. Expect the temptations to be looking you square in the eye and make the decision beforehand to enjoy in moderation. If you let yourself go hog wild, it may be easier to give in to other temptations or find yourself craving a cigarette to squelch the over-stuffed feeling in your stomach.
Stay away from or limit drinking alcohol. Your resolve not to smoke dissolves the more you drink, making it easier to slip back to smoking without thinking. Alcohol is a smoking trigger for many, so stick to juices, club soda with a splash of cranberry juice, apple cider or water with lemon. Have a plan in place on how you will navigate your way around the table and bar. Promise yourself a reward for getting through the holiday event smoke-free. By not overindulging in food and alcohol you will remain in control, able to make wise decisions and stay strong in your quit.
Seek Out Support
Going to gatherings or parties where others are smoking can be challenging when you are quitting. It's beneficial to let your friends and family know ahead of time you have quit smoking and ask for their support by not smoking around you. Keep your distance. Watching others smoke can trigger strong cravings to light up. Move away from smoking situations and socialize with nonsmokers. Go outside for fresh air at times when there's no avoiding the smoke. If possible bring a nonsmoking friend or support buddy with you to the holiday event. There's no need to quit alone; with a Smartphone you can always find online non-smoking support 24/7 at QuitNet in the forums or chat rooms. Getting through the holiday season with your quit intact is absolutely do-able with careful planning and support!
Happy Holidays and KTQ!
In lieu of a written blog this week, I thought it would be nice to include a history of the Great American Smokeout, which has brought millions of smokers into smoke-free living. The story of how the Smokeout has shaped public perception throughout the years is a fascinating one, and many of us literally owe our lives and our health to the people who made it happen:
ACS Smokeout Story
Thanks to the American Cancer Society for this account.
KTQ, and Happy GASO,
Alan Q, CTTS-M
If you have ever relapsed, this blog is for you! A relapse is a red arrow pointing to your unmanaged personal trigger(s). You can avoid a relapse by learning how to navigate through the following high risk situations.
1. HANDLE STRESS LIKE A PRO
One of the strongest relapse triggers is stress. Stress is particularly dangerous for women, but men and women alike have lost solid quits during stressful times. Today is a great day to identify new, smoke-free coping tools to help you relax, step away, let go. By planning ahead now, you will be prepared before you end up in a difficult situation. This is your quit, so get involved! Brainstorm an answer or two for the following statements, and write them down:
- When I need to relax, I will __________.
- When I feel stress building up, I will __________.
- When I want a reward or comfort, I will __________.
- When I want to socialize or fill my time, I will _____________.
- When I need a break, I will __________________.
If smoking is the only thing you can think of for each item on the above list, that's only because it is only thing you've tried so far! By replacing cigarettes with things that actually do help you diminish stress, you will be able to avoid relapse and keep your quit going strong.
Rethink your stress = smoking connection! Did you know that smoking increases stress levels by causing anxiety, withdrawal and a craving for another cigarette? Smoking prevents you from doing the very things that ease stress, boost confidence, entertain you, and help you feel better. Give other things a chance to work - really work - to help you cope with day-to-day life effectively!
2. PREVENT BOREDOM
Avoid sitting in your usual chair, pondering, "What now?" Do something - anything - to occupy your mind! Boredom leads to bartering, slip justification, romancing the smoke, and the ultimate delusion of 'just one'. Fill your time with every activity, task, project and chore you can think of to keep you away from old habitual smoking patterns. Read, do sit ups, call a friend, take a walk, clean a drawer, do your nails, pay the bills, wash the car, clean a closet, bake something, write something, repeat a mantra, watch a movie, drink ice water, make a cup of tea, knit, surf the internet, clean the top of the refrigerator, take a class, follow an exercise video, brush the dog, talk to your kids, do laundry, stretch, deep breathe, make a meal - stay busy, busy, busy! This will prevent your mind from wandering off towards smoking thoughts. Even if a fleeting smoking thought does occur, you can redirect immediately to the task at hand. Also, be sure to find a personal mantra that is meaningful to you, and repeat it often:
- To inspire myself to keep going, I will repeat this mantra: _________.
3. DEAL WITH OTHER SMOKERS
At some point, you will have to venture out from your super busy, relaxing, controlled home environment into the real world. There may be cigarette ads on gas station windows, smokers gathered at entryways, or even a friend extending a pack toward you! This is where all of your home practice, redirecting smoking thoughts, repeated mantras, advance planning and new coping tools combine to lead you through temptation.
Avoid going on autopilot! Right up front let friends know you have quit, and thank them for their support. Repeat your quit motivations, repeat your mantra, and keep your hands full and busy. Hold a water bottle, hold your cellphone, hold your car keys, have mints or hard candies in your pockets, chew on a toothpick or straw - do all you can to replace the old habit of holding a cigarette. Last but not least, if the going ever gets too tough - leave! You can't relapse if you are driving away from a risky relapse situation while repeating your mantra.
As you work your way through your strongest triggers, you will gain all the confidence, new behaviors and coping tools needed to ensure permanent quit success! Plan ahead, follow your plan and KTQ :)
Vikki Q CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
You don't have to Quit alone;
When you stop smoking, you may have no idea what else to do during those moments you used to smoke. The things you come up with may not really 'do the trick' at first. Finding new emotional coping tools and behaviors can be challenging. The newly-quit often feel lost. Rest assured, most every smoker goes through this during their quit! Allow yourself a month or so to get to the 'feeling better' part. To help you navigate the beginning phase of your quit process, give these 3 tips a try:
1. Get To Know Yourself
What interests you? Motivates you? Inspires you? What do you find relaxing, rewarding or fun? Identify new meaningful activities, effective emotional coping tools and daily routines that really appeal to You. This is your quit, so get involved!
2. Plan For Success
Planning ahead for your personal triggers will ensure you make it to the other side successfully! Identify your top 2 smoking triggers, and that is where you'll want to put your time, energy and focus during the next month. Make a plan. What are some things you can do instead of smoke whenever you encounter a trigger? Could you take a walk, call a friend, listen to music, write in your journal, repeat a mantra or wash the car? What has worked for you before? What else can you try? Where will you go to enjoy yourself that is smoke free & supports your quit? How will you handle anger, stress or boredom? Know your triggers and have a clear plan of action for each and every one of them.
3. Smoking Is Not An Option
If you do not smoke today, you will never smoke again! The new you does not reach for a cigarette, no matter what happens, no matter how you feel. Smoking is not an option, so always ask yourself, "What is an option?" "What can I do?". It is in that moment of choosing something else that you will find the very answers that work perfectly for you. You will also reinforce your identity as a nonsmoker, increase your self confidence and strengthen your quit resolve. N.O.P.E. - Not One Puff Ever!
It takes more than just not smoking to become a nonsmoker! It takes ongoing, daily effort and practice. Try these 3 tips so you can work your quit effectively, make healthy lifestyle changes and gain long term quit success!
Keep going and KTQ,
Vikki Q CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Remember; you can quit smoking for good, and QuitNet is here to help:
Quitting smoking isn't easy, and at times your motivation can begin to lose steam. To ensure success you will need to power up your desire to stay quit.
REASONS FOR QUITTING
One way to boost your motivation is to review all the reasons you wanted to quit in the first place. Are those reasons and motivating factors still important to you? If not, then reevaluate and come up with a new list of valid reasons to quit smoking. Keep in mind that the more reasons you find to motivate yourself in favor of quitting the more likely you are to stay quit.
Make your reasons personal and specific. For example, instead of saying 'To feel healthier' you might say 'So I don't feel out of breath when I play with my children.' Think about the personal costs of smoking for you and those you love. Being a good role model and protecting your family from second hand smoke may pull at your heart strings. Imagine yourself five or ten years down the road if you quit; picture that same time period continuing to smoke and what do you see? Think about the consequences of continued smoking. Where do you want to be? Perhaps you are upset with the control cigarettes have over your life and you want to be free of the addiction. You can't leave out the spiraling cost of cigarettes today, either. With the money saved by not smoking, you could take a trip or pay a bill.
BENEFITS OF QUITTING
Acknowledging the short and long term benefits you receive from quitting smoking, and reframing your thinking to focus on the positive aspects of quitting, will help get you out of a motivational slump. Smoking is detrimental to every organ in your body. Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to improve your overall health. Within minutes of your last cigarette your body begins to heal itself. In the first twenty minutes your blood pressure and heart rate decrease. There are other immediate benefits you become aware of right away, like fresher breath and clean smelling hair. The benefits of quitting get even better over time. Soon you may notice that your morning cough has disappeared, you can walk up the stairs and you are not out of breath, and the food you prepare smells and tastes good. Quitting helps improve self image and self esteem. You conquer an addiction, set a good example and take back control of your life. Your risks for smoking-related diseases decline and you get a chance to live a longer life. Focusing on the positive benefits of quitting will improve your motivation to move forward.
The more people you have cheering you on the better. This is especially helpful when you are going through a tough time and experiencing a lapse in motivation. Words of encouragement can spur you on and help you keep the focus on the positive. Involve yourself with others who are trying to quit smoking or have already quit. Most quitters have experienced dips in motivation; you can learn from them by listening to their stories. A great source of support can be found here on QuitNet, in the forums, clubs and chat. It's also important that you support yourself by recognizing your own quitting progress and the lifestyle changes you made to get to this point. Celebrate your quit milestones and reward yourself by buying something enjoyable with the money you have saved not smoking. Gathering support from others and acknowledging your quit success keeps you motivated and moving forward.
Keep Going and KTQ!
Quit With Us!
Welcome to this week's installment of QMember Stories, featuring JudM! Enjoy her story, in her own words:
I grew up in a smoking home. My parents smoked everywhere all the time. My mother smoked unfiltered Kools and Dad smoked Lucky Strikes.
I hated being around the smoke as a kid, but started smoking while at school in England in 1970, at the age of 20. How dumb is that? I really had to work at teaching myself how to smoke. I learned way too well.
I quit smoking several times, for a few months each time. One quit lasted almost 2 years. The 2 year quit began when I became pregnant with twins; I didn't smoke through the pregnancy and stayed smoke-free up until the twins were almost a year old.
All the time the boys were growing up, they and my husband wanted me to quit smoking, and repeatedly urged me to do so. I did have several short-lived quits over the years from 1981 to 2005 (when I first joined the Q). You're welcome to read my journal at QuitNet.com under my username, JudM. Many of my quit-attempts are journaled there.
My last quit date, the one I count from now, was November 21, 2009. I quit cold turkey, but believe that any way that you can quit is the right way for you. I did have one slip at 9 months into my quit, and almost relapsed back to being a full-time smoker. Thanks to several wonderful people here at the Q, a possible total loss of a quit was kept to just a slip. I actually realized during that slip that the only thing that could make me smoke was me. Sure, I could blame stress, or something a negative person said, but it was still my choice to smoke. In truth, once I made this quit mine -- quitting for me -- it became a lot easier.
Even so, it has been difficult to learn how to live without cigarettes. I have had many tears during my quit. I still seem to cry at the drop of a hat sometimes. What has helped me to get thru craves and stress is learning deep breathing techniques. The Expert QChats provide great help, too. And I enjoy the general chatrooms and all the fantastic people and information here on QuitNet.
What I like most about being quit is not smelling like an ashtray, and saving all those $$$ I used to spend on tobacco. By the fall of 2012, I'd saved enough money to buy a 2011 Dodge Caravan! I say thank you to the Q, and to all the great people here, for that.
You can find me at QuitNet by my user name, JudM. I'm in the chatroom a lot, and people there call Jud-Mud, because Jud is what I go by in 3-D Land (Jud being a nickname for Judith). I tell everyone it's pronounced 'mud', only with a J.
May you all find and have that forever quit you are looking for.
Welcome to this week's installment of QMember Stories, featuring Froglady - who just celebrated a 14 year quit she started at the Q in 1999!
"I smoked at least two packs plus a day for more than 42 years. I tried to quit smoking many, many, many times. But once I joined QuitNet I was successful the very first time, and knew that I had found my forever quit!
"The worst part about my smoking was that 99% of my friends and relatives did not smoke; how they tolerated me I will never know. But, the main reason (other than #1, health concerns) I quit is that I had just bought a brand new silver convertible sports car (little old lady trying to hold on to her youth!) and I vowed that I would never stink it up with foul smoke!
"When I decided to stop smoking I went online looking for a support group, and on July 1, 1999 I found QuitNet. I had never belonged to an online group before so my first stop was the chat room. I was actually still smoking at that time and I was amazed at the warm welcome I received. From that moment on I knew that I had found a new addiction to replace my smoking .... QuitNet. With the help and support of my new found friends, I set a quit date of July 26, 1999, and it has now been 14 over years for me without a single puff!
"I quit using Wellbutrin and the nicotine patch. I had never tried NRTs before and I think that is what made the difference. Some people are against NRTs, but I say do whatever works for you.
"Today, I have freedom, freedom, freedom from being tied to the end of a cigarette! But, the MOST significant change in my life was being invited to visit my brother and sister in law in San Francisco. Because I live in Miami , we didn't get to see each other very often, and while it was never discussed, I knew that I was not invited to visit because I was a smoker. When I quit, I got my first invitation in more than 30 years, became a frequent visitor, and had some wonderful times that I would not have had experienced otherwise if I were still smoking.
"Unfortunately, my brother, who was 7 years my junior and not a smoker, died very suddenly of a heart attack in November, 2010. I never expected that I would outlive him. This is another reason why I am so grateful to QuitNet -- for making it possible to spend so much more special time with him that I otherwise would have missed if I had continued to smoke. My trip to the West Coast for the funeral was surreal and I was in a complete daze, but it wasn't until I arrived home that I realized I had not thought once about having a cigarette. At that point, I knew that I would never go back to smoking again NO MATTER WHAT, and that I was done with cigarettes forever.
"Without a doubt, the most interesting and memorable experiences I have had on the Q was the chance to attend two QuitNet 3D Meets - one in Chicago in 2007 and the other in Seattle in 2008. I met over 100 Q members in person! Real people, and most of them just as nice and caring in person as they were online! I can also remember my worst experience as a smoker -- when I had just started a new job and one of the benefits was a company car......that I promptly set on fire when I threw a cigarette out of the window and it blew back in and landed in the back seat. And, no, I wasn't fired! (pun intended)
"I suggest you use the tools offered to you. For me, the chat room was a place where I literally lived for the first few months of my quit. By using the Forums and reading, reading, reading, I gained invaluable information from people who had already been through the quitting process and applied their advice and experience to my own quit.
"My most valuable piece of advice to others trying to quit smoking? I would say never give up! Anyone can quit if they sincerely want to, and if they commit themselves 100% to reaching that goal. 'There is no can't, only won't.'"
Keep coming back, and KTQ,
Sheila, the Frog Princess (j/k!).
Support from family and friends can be very helpful when you're going through the quitting process. Words of encouragement can spur on progress and keep the focus on the positive. It’s motivating knowing that your family/friends will stick by your side during the uncomfortable times, especially in the early days of your quit.
That being said, family and friends may also unintentionally do and say things that make it more difficult for you to quit, actually doing more harm than help. It’s usually not that family and friends want to roadblock your quit, but rather that they just don’t understand how difficult quitting can be. They may see only the irritable, depressed, and unpleasant person you have become, not realizing you are going through withdrawal and perhaps battling one huge crave after another.
The way to remedy this problem is through discussion. Start by explaining to family and friends how important their support will be in helping you quit for good. Let these people know the reasons why quitting is so important to you. Let them know quitting may be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. Educate family members or friends who have never smoked on the addictiveness of nicotine and how withdrawal causes unpleasant side effects, such as anxiety, irritability, lack of concentration, depression, etc. Remind your family and friends these are normal but temporary quit symptoms.
If you have family or friends who still smoke, ask them if they have ever tried to quit, and if so, what were their experiences? They may have helpful advice. Make a list and think about ways your family and friends can be helpful in supporting your quit. If you live with a smoker ask them not to leave their tobacco products in sight and to smoke out doors and out of view. If needed, remind them that being around people smoking or seeing cigarettes, lighters, etc., are strong triggers to smoke. Tell them under no circumstances are they to offer you a cigarette. Your family and friends are the people in your life who care about you, so an honest and heartfelt request will more likely than not get you the needed support.
You may be a former smoker or a nonsmoker wondering how you can be supportive in helping a family member or friend who is quitting tobacco. You can begin by asking the quitter what they feel would be most helpful and honor their request. If you are a former smoker it may be helpful to share your past experiences; just respect that the quitter may be using a different quit plan. If the quitter is irritable or moody, it’s due to nicotine withdrawal, not a personal feeling towards you; withdrawal symptoms are temporary. Be available to listen to any concerns they may have about quitting. It's better to talk it out versus smoke it out.
Offer to do activities with the quitter that help distract from cravings, such as going to the gym, for a walk, to the movies, a museum, etc. Be in the quitter’s corner by picking up the slack at home when the stress of quitting is getting to them. Offer any needed help to lighten the load. Continue to encourage the quitter, even if the quitter backslides.
Quitting successfully takes many attempts. Each one is an opportunity to learn and move forward to success. Don't forget to praise your family/friend's quit milestones; whether it be one month or two years, all are cause to celebrate!
Keep coming back, and KTQ!
Next week:Joining a Support Group or Smoking Cessation Program
You can quit smoking successfully, and we can help:
Welcome to QMember Stories, featuring Sindie033013 - who celebrates nearly a three month quit!
"I started smoking when I was 13 years old. I remember living in Dunlap, IL, and going out into the woods behind my house and trying a cigarette. Then we would go out behind the bus barn after school and smoke. Both of my parents smoked back then, so I guess it seemed like the thing to do to become an adult.
"We moved to California when I started High school and that’s when I really started smoking regularly. I would swipe Salems from my mom’s closet and smoke away. There was a smoking section at the high school, so it was pretty much accepted in those days.
"There are so many things I dislike about smoking. The worst thing has been the isolation. My addiction to cigarettes has slowly isolated me from people. I live in California where NOBODY smokes, and smokers are very frequently looked down upon. I have rebelled against that thinking for a very long time, but I now see that I was only hurting myself and isolating myself from other people.
"This time I stopped smoking on 3/30/13. I wanted to stop on or near my birthday…and I did, so I am very happy about that. I am using NRT in the form of the nicotine patch. I used this before in a former quit when I stopped for 6 months. I know that it will work for me as long as I stick with it.
"I went searching online for a stop smoking support group and found QuitNet. I am very grateful to have found it. It is a big part of my Recovery Plan. I Joined on my Quit Date, 3/30/13. Going to the Newcomers chat room during Hell Week (week one) was a life saver. I would like to help others by going there when I am more confident in my own quit.
"This is the 4th time (I think) that I have stopped smoking. Each time I have stopped in the past I have learned something. I know now that I CANNOT have just one cigarette. That I CANNOT go Off the Patch too soon; I must give myself enough time. And, just for me, that I CANNOT take anti-depressants as they increased my anxiety the last time to an unbearable point.
"In addition to NRT in the form of the patch, I've used Alan Carr’s Stop Smoking the Easy Way for Women, QuitNet Support, free youtube Stop Smoking Hypnosis, having an actual Quit-Buddy (a very good friend of mine), “smoking” cut off straws in my car and whenever else I feel the urge, being more active, making plans to become a runner, and taking the Daily Pledge every Day at QuitNet.
"My main inspiration for stopping at this time is an upcoming trip to Ireland. I have been fortunate to travel quite a bit but this is the first time I will be traveling solo with a group of new people. I decided I did not want to be smoking and isolating myself during this adventure. I hope that when I return from my trip I will find the motivation to remain smoke free.
"I am feeling so much better already. I had a terrible cough that would not go away. I’ve had it well over a year and would not go to the doctor for it. It is nearly gone now. I keep thinking I may have dodged a bullet and it really could be the very next cigarette that I smoked that would turn that cough into lung cancer. I want to stay alive … to see my son finish college…and to enjoy my future grandchildren.
"Also, I have overcome some life events in recent years and I have finally found a deeper strength within. I believe that I am finally ready to truly stop
and to be able to handle the uncomfortableness of quitting.
"My advice to newcomers? If you decide that you are going to quit, do not let anything stop you. Use each and every resource available to you, and Protect your quit at all costs. Recognize that you are an addict and that you are entering a period of recovery. Be good to yourself…and reach out for support from others…it helps a GREAT deal."
Keep coming back, and KTQ,
"P.S. I am thrilled to let you know that I have returned from my trip to Ireland and survived entirely smoke free!! What an amazing experience!" :)
Welcome to the this week's installment of QMember Stories, which features Kallikak - who celebrates a nearly 7-year quit!
"I smoked 35 years total, interrupted by several earlier quits. I’m not sure that any of us keep track of the number of attempts, once it gets beyond “several”.
"The worst thing about my smoking was that I had no control over my addiction, and that I knew it was killing me. No one in my family, or my extended family, smokes. I was the only addict. They were very tactful about it, but it was clear that they all wanted me to quit. The final straw was an angina attack in July 2006. I instantly became a quitter at that moment.
"I'd first found QuitNet the year before, in January of 2005, after an off-hand remark from someone (probably one of those relatives above) that there probably would be resources online to help with quitting. I did a Google search, and the rest is history.
"I quit on January 1st of that year, and the Q became my lifeline, a lifesaver. A couple dozen of us formed a club in January 2005, and we called it something really clever, like 'Jan2005 Quitters'. We shared a monumental goal, and we all started at the same time. I’ve never seen support like that, but I’m guessing that many clubs here have that magic about them. I’ll never forget the first time a new quitter responded to one of my posts that I had been an inspiration. Whoa, talk about a rush!
"I had 10 months on my quitmeter when I was laid off from a long-time job. That triggered my addiction. I began smoking again, and didn’t stop until the angina attack in July 2006. I've been smoke-free since then.
"In my 2005 semi-final quit, I used the patches, and they worked very well. This final time, I quit cold turkey when I had the angina attack. That served as a clue that I am mortal; that I will not escape the consequences of smoking if I don’t quit. In the early days, my inspiration came most strongly from the Q; it was like being in an intensive care unit.
"I have two outstanding suggestions for anyone thinking about quitting smoking: First, make a list of what smoking was doing to your life, and the reasons you quit; and second, take your quit 'one crave at a time'. Just take care of the next one, and don’t worry about the one after that.
"If you come on to the Q, you can call me Bill. My username is Kallikak - a tribute to a family that was the subject of a study by H.H. Goddard, an early 20th century psychologist who thought he could tell if you were feeble minded just by looking at you; he also gave us the word `moron`!"
Keep coming back, and KTQ,