There are some misconceptions about quit support products, specifically surrounding the ‘support’ part! Take Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) for example. As tobacco treatment specialists, we sometimes hear "My NRT is not working". Let's look at the role NRT plays for a basic overview of what to expect. NRT does not make you quit smoking. It does not remove the habitual want to smoke, or the emotional need to smoke. NRT does not eliminate withdrawal symptoms, nor does it prevent the detox process from occurring.
So what does NRT do? It takes the edge off cravings so you can focus on breaking your lifelong habitual, behavioral and emotional attachment to the daily ritual of smoking. NRT supports your efforts by reducing the physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms so you are more likely to stick with the quit process long enough to succeed.
NRT is not designed to match your smoking habit nicotine consumption milligram for milligram, but rather to reduce cravings by delivering a slow, steady dose of nicotine in your system based on the average amount of cigarettes you smoked prior to your quit date. This slow, steady dosing avoids the rapid and addictive 'rush/crash/crave' cycle that smoking provides (and makes quitting so difficult). NRT helps by lessening the intensity of physical withdrawal symptoms. Physical withdrawals will still occur as your body detoxes, heals and adjusts after years of inhaling toxic, chemical filled smoke, tar and gasses into your lungs and throughout your entire system. Nicotine is just one of the many thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke.
NRT is advised to be used for at least the first 8 weeks of your quit while stepping down gradually. Stepping down as directed ensures minimal cravings and maximum quit support. Why 8 weeks? Research shows it takes a good 8 weeks of practicing new behaviors, habits and coping tools to learn a new habit, such as being a nonsmoker! Doing so with overwhelming physical cravings often leads to relapse before any of the learning new behaviors or habit breaking part takes place. Nicotine and temporary cravings are a small part of the Big Picture. Long term quit success comes from having 8 weeks of practice and actively working to learn new behaviors and coping tools, not from 'using NRT'. The Quitter must actively work their quit process in order for NRT support to be most effective.
So, how do you work your quit process? Start by identifying your top 3 tobacco triggers. Then, come up with effective new coping tools that will work for You. This is where you want to put your time, energy and focus during the next 8 weeks you have NRT support. Practice getting through stress, boredom, relationships, disappointments and day to day life situations without using tobacco. Practicing new coping tools ensures your quit process gets easier as time goes by. No amount of NRT can do this particular part of the quit, which is a good thing! It forces the newly quit to start really thinking about living their day to day lives without a cigarette. In each of those moments where you choose to do something else instead of smoke, you will be laying the foundation for becoming a nonsmoker.
The key to success is to let NRT do it's job by using it correctly as directed, while you do your job - actively work your quit process! Along the way, you'll discover lots of new things to do as you enjoy your healthy, smoke free lifestyle.
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Don't quit alone! We can help:
Smoking triggers can increase stress and weaken resolve. Triggers haunt the newly quit and sneak up on long time nonsmokers. You can prevent triggers from leading to relapse by being prepared. When a trigger strikes, repeating a personal quit mantra can help you feel focused and strenghten your commitment to keep your quit.
Smoking thoughts and negative self talk also sabotage your quit. Repeating your mantra can change those addictive thought patterns from "I can't" to "I was born to do this!"
So what is a mantra? It is a positive phrase, motivating statement or empowering affirmation that inspires you. It could be spiritual or religious in nature, a favorite quote, an acronym or a statement you create yourself. Mantras make effective quit tools when repeated during times of stress, triggers and junky thinking ("Just one won't hurt").
Mantras can fire you up or calm you down. Some people respond better to "Nothing defeats me" while another would be inspired by "My health is a blessing I treasure." The most effective mantras focus on what you do want ("I love being a nonsmoker") rather than what you don't want ("I hate smoking.") Mantras should be in present tense, reinforcing success is here and now. Start with a short statement that is easy to recall and repeat. Make it personal! You should feel a sense of calm, inspiration or energy when you repeat your personal statement. It should really resonate with you. Here are a few examples:
- Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. ~ George Bernard Shaw
- The difference between try and triumph is just a little umph! ~ Marvin Phillips
- I'm a successful nonsmoker.
- I've got this!
- My best is always good enough.
- Breathe, Let Go, Enjoy
- Just Do It
- My Life Matters
- It's not easy, but it's worth it.
- N.O.P.E. (Not One Puff Ever)
- KTQ (Keep The Quit)
- Look at me, finally free!
- Cravings last 5 minutes, my health is forever!
Get in the Zone! Elite athletes use mantra's in their mental 'training zone' to attain peak performance. You can, too. To create your own zone, think of your favorite place, song, person or personal memory. Visualize it. Is it by the ocean, a reunion with a loved one, a childs birth? Where are you? How does it feel; is there a breeze, the sound of laughter, smell of rain? Breathe deeply. Next, repeat your mantra several times as temptation and stress fade away. This process will help you stay grounded whenever you feel your resolve slipping. Use your mantra to help you quit smoking, and any time you need to take a minute for yourself.
Please feel free to share your favorite mantra in the Comments section below, and KTQ!
Vikki Chavez CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Don't Quit Alone
Times change and life moves forward. Few things are the same for us as they were back in the day. Many smokers grew up smoking. At a young age, we were drawn to a glamourized perception of smoking. Maybe we thought it looked masculine, sexy or rebellious. Maybe we wanted to be cool or important, or part of the 'in crowd'. Perhaps it made us feel exotic, independent, edgy or grown up. With cigarette in hand, we were no longer shy or boring, uncomfortable or lonely - we were smokers!
When we needed a break, we smoked. Angry, sad, mad, tired, in trouble, needed a friend – we smoked! There were always smokers hanging around to listen, feel our pain and keep us company. Smokers understood us, were there for us and supported us. Relationships were forged over the common bond of smoking.
Years and years of smoking followed; through marriages, jobs, kids, joy, change, disappointment and day to day life – all experienced via the porch, kitchen table, favorite chair or parking lot with a cigarette.
Fast forward to today... smoking is not considered rebellious or cool anymore. In fact, it is frowned upon by many and illegal in most places! Everyone knows Cigarettes Kill. They kill you, your children, your pets, your friends, your family and future. They kill opportunity. You may not get that apartment, job, insurance policy or date if you are smoker. Of course, you know things have changed since your youthful choice to start smoking, and you really do want to stop.
But you are a smoker! How do you let go of who you are? What about your special lighter, that crystal ashtray your mom gave you, your favorite brand that has been in your pocket or purse for the last 20 years – how do you just stop being you? And what about your smoking friends? Will you lose them? What will they think of you? Will you even be you anymore?
Truthfully, smoking was never ‘who you were’, but rather 'something you did'. You have done lots of things differently since then, and stopped doing many things from your youth. (Hopefully the mullet, snakeskin boots or shoulder pads are long gone?) And yet, here you are and you are still you! You will do lots of new things as your life moves forward. You are not only still you, but reveal the Real You when you courageously let go of the old habits and patterns that no longer serve you. Smoking no longer serves you! Only by letting go and embracing the gift of change can you move forward to your best possible future.
Celebrate your quit. Let go of the past and make room for some new things to come to you that really are cool – like feeling great or having more energy, time and money to enjoy, living longer and breathing deeply as you move about the day. That is all about you, and you deserve it!
Every long term smoker goes through the ‘Letting go of the old me’ process during their quit. As you go through this process, you are actually 'becoming a nonsmoker' and as a result, will find your quit gets easier and easier as time goes by. You will come to think about things differently. Instead of thinking "I am stressed, I need a smoke" you will think "I am stressed, I’d like to go for a walk/call a friend/make tea." You will learn new ways of coping with old habits and triggers that are healthier than smoking. You will gain confidence and have a sense of pride and accomplishment.
As you let go of your old attachment to being a smoker, you will welcome in a new indentity that is healthier, happier and cooler than ever before :)
Keep going and KTQ!
Vikki Chavez CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Summer is here and along with it comes warmer weather and the urge to get outside!
But for some, enjoying the summer can be stressful, especially if you associate summer activities with smoking cigarettes. Outdoor activities which were enjoyable in the past--camping, vacationing, hitting the pool, taking road trips and barbecueing--can make summer feel less relaxing and more like a chore if you are constantly worried about not smoking.
Look forward to summer by re-discovering how to enjoy these activities without cigarettes! Here are a few tips to help you survive summer smoke-free:
Plan ahead when vacationing abroad.
Reserve non-smoking hotel rooms and rental cars . Ask to stay with non-smoking friends and family members. If you are staying with family members who smoke, let them know you’ve quit. Ask for their support by not smoking in front of you.
Practice effective coping strategies.
Pack a “quit kit" which may include things like a stress ball, your personal list of reasons for quitting, a journal or notebook, straws, toothpicks, sugar-free candies and gum, sunflower seeds, motivational quotes, etc. Download games and apps onto your smartphone to help keep your mind off cigarettes, keep your hands busy, or relieve stress. Pack your exercise shoes, and hit the gym or go for a walk (and breath of fresh air) whenever the urge to light up is strong.
Consider passing on the alcohol at weddings, reunions and other social events.
The association between smoking and drinking can be a very strong one. In addition, too much alcohol can impede judgment and lower inhibition. Order a "virgin" drink or juice, iced tea, soda or other non-alcoholic drink. You won't always have to avoid alcohol but it's a good idea, particularly for recent quitters. If you choose to drink, limit yourself and/or have a buddy look out for you to help keep you smoke-free.
Plan and engage in smoke-free activities.
Research the area you are visiting for smoke-free beaches, restaurants and bars, museums, amusement parks, etc. Visit a visitor center for information on local events. If you are staying in a hotel, ask about planned activities on-site like exercise classes, local tours, and outings.
Start a new tradition. Sitting around the campfire with a cigarette may have been something you used to do on your camping trips. Replace old traditions and routines with new ones. For example, start a new tradition of telling campfire stories, bring a deck of cards or play board games, start a contest (how about a chili cook-off?), tell jokes, or turn up the music and sing outloud or get up and dance!
Stay connected with other ex-smokers. Even if you are away from home, you can bring your support system with you on vacation! Write down contact information for friends and quit buddies who you can call, email or text when you feel the urge to smoke or just need to vent. Look into local resources for internet access such as libraries, community centers, internet cafes, and business centers located in your own hotel when you are away from home. There is almost always someone on the Q 24/7:
This summer, imagine yourself climbing the Spanish Steps or hiking Mount Kilamanjaro without huffing and pufffing. Imagine yourself enjoying a museum or sitting down to a meal at a restaurant without having to step out for a smoke. Imagine yourself having the energy to do all of the outdoor activities summer has in store for you. Imagine yourself smoke-free!
Summer is no time to go into hibernation. Get out and play!
Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist