Many people put a lot of time and care into maintaining the largest organ in the body--our skin. We wear protective clothing to shield our skin from the sun’s harmful UVA/UVB rays. We lather our skin with sunscreen when we do go out. And we spend money on lotions, creams, cleansers, and other beauty products designed to keep our skin healthy, radiant and youthful. But one of the best things you can do for your skin is quit smoking.
Most people are aware of the risk smoking poses to the heart and lungs. But smoking is also one of your skin’s biggest enemies. Even if you don’t smoke, exposure to secondhand smoke can be damaging because the chemicals can act as a skin irritant and have a drying effect. There are over 4,000 chemicals in second hand smoke! These chemicals wreak havoc both inside and outside your body. Smoking is damaging to your skin's health because it:
- decreases blood flow to the skin which robs your skin of oxygen and vital nutrients;
- decreases the production of elastin and collagen; both are important in keeping skin soft and supple;
- deprives your skin of certain vital nutrients and minerals including vitamins A, C, and E;
- delays wound healing and increases risk for scarring.
All of these things can contribute to wrinkling (earlier, deeper and more numerous wrinkles), dull skin, loss of skin elasticity and suppleness, and premature aging. Smoking doesn't just add years to the face; it can also affect other areas on the body, including the neck and arms. The skin in these areas can become more loose and saggy. On top of this, smoking is a risk factor for skin conditions such as psoriasis (a chronic skin condition characterized by itchy, dry, red, flaky skin), adult acne (aka atypical post-adolescent acne), and squamous cell skin cancer.
The good news? While not all damage to the skin from smoking is reversible, it can be slowed down. Within weeks of quitting smoking you should notice an improvement in skin coloring and texture. Many people also notice their gums getting more pink and healthier, and the stains on fingers and fingernails fading. So with all of these improvements in skin, why do ex-smokers sometimes get acne? While not completely understood, "quit zits," may be part of the body's detox process (clogging of skin's pores due to increased sebum production, hormonal changes, etc.). Luckily, they are temporary, albeit annoying.
What else can you do to take care of your skin besides quitting smoking?
- Wear protective clothing when spending time outside.
- Wear sunscreen with at least SPF 15 (and reapply often).
- Clean your skin twice daily with a gentle cleanser (or just water) to help remove dirt and make-up.
- Wash/rinse your face with water after exercise, paying special attention to the hairline if you wear caps, helmets or other headgear.
- Avoid using harsh chemicals on your skin which may cause irritation or outbreaks.
- Drink plenty of water which helps moisturize skin and replenish cells and tissues.
- Eat a healthy diet. Fruits and veggies are filled with vitamins and minerals your skin needs to repair and maintain healthy functioning.
- Talk to your doctor first about over-the-counter or prescription medications for acne and other skin conditions.
Quitting smoking is an important step in improving your health, including your skin health! Healthier skin not only makes you look better, but feel better. By making a few small changes, you will find that healthier, more beautiful skin is within touching distance!
Fake it Until You Make It, Part II
My first cigarette ever (smoked in the back of the high-school bus in response to taunting by Robbie the neighbor boy) left me vomiting and shaking behind the milk shed. I stumbled up to the house and collapsed into my bed on that sunny spring afternoon, my head spinning and stomach churning, certain I’d puke some more if I dared move a finger. Never again, I swore. Smoking is stupid. Next time someone taunts me or calls me a sissy for not smoking, I'll just tell them to forget it.
Even as I thought those thoughts, I felt the cold fist of doubt in my guts. If the cool kids smoked, and I didn’t, how was I going to fit in? I was the new guy in a rural school, and desperate for acceptance. I was also pretty small, barely 5 feet tall and 100 lbs, an easy mark for bullies. Being with the cool kids meant no bullying of me, so being made sick by smoking was a real problem.
When mom came home I told her I must have caught the spring flu, that I wouldn’t be able to keep down supper. It took hours before the headache and nausea were gone. I slept fitfully all night. I worried about what I’d do the next day, when I would certainly be expected to smoke again. I was at a real-life crossroads, for sure.
Robbie treated me differently the next day. He’d saved a seat for me on the bus, and invited me to hang out later with him and his friends at the ‘smoking doors’ (behind the gym at the back of the school). I begged off with a story of a typing class assignment that was long overdue.
All day, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about smoking. That night I watched TV actors smoking and laughing, smoking and beating up bad guys, smoking and getting the girl. I saw a parade of commercials about cowboys on horses roping cattle; sleek, sexy women coming a long way, baby; and other guys with black eyes who’d rather fight than switch. Was I the problem, I wondered, and not the cigarettes? Maybe I just wasn’t manly enough. Maybe I needed to toughen up and learn how to smoke right. After all, I saw smokers smoking everywhere I looked, and not one of them was getting sick over it. I resolved then and there to try the smoking experiment again. Maybe smoking would actually make me tough enough to smoke!
The next morning I asked Robbie if he was going to be at the smoking doors after 3rd period. When I showed up, there were half a dozen boys in jeans and flannel shirts, swearing and roughhousing and smoking. One boy held out his pack of Winstons and offered me a cigarette. I can still feel the thrill of that moment, the personal validation of the gesture, the implied respect and acceptance that came with not only being offered a smoke, but with accepting and smoking it. Even better was the social cachet of hanging out with the other smokers, or, rather, being seen hanging out with them; that was worth any amount of physical discomfort.
I took tiny little tobacco puffs while pretending to take big ones. I could feel the dizziness and nausea returning, but somehow managed to not lose control—until Mr. Benoit, the Civics teacher, burst through the smoking doors and caught us red-handed (smoking on school grounds was prohibited even then). Startled, I inhaled a monster hit of tobacco smoke and burst into a coughing fit. The other boys escaped, but I was too busy choking and drooling to go anywhere. Mr. Benoit collared me and hauled me off to the principal’s office.
This smoking-related trouble turned out to be a lucky break for me, however. It gave me street cred with Robbie and Co, while providing me the alibi I needed to avoid smoking with them for the rest of the year. It also gave me a break from my conflicted thoughts about smoking. In fact, I really believed my smoking dilemma had been resolved once and for all--in favor of not smoking.
Until my senior year in high school, that is. I fell hard for a classmate, Janice A. She was bold and brash. She did what she wanted when she wanted, took no crap from anyone…and she smoked. But I didn’t care about that; I would have done anything to get her to pay attention to me. All my previous bad history with tobacco fled my memory. Before you could say smoking kills I was at the local market (which regularly sold tobacco to underage kids) buying Janice’s favorite brand. And a fancy Zippo lighter.
As I remember it, I wasn’t really thinking about smoking those cigarettes myself. I had in mind a clear image of offering her a smoke, just like in the movies; of snapping the Zippo lighter to light the lady's cigarette; of cupping my hands just so around the burning end to shelter the flame from the wind. And surely, just like in the movies, love would flow from that moment.
I learned that Janice usually snuck down to the park to smoke during study hall, and so arranged to ‘accidentally’ bump into her there. My plan worked. Me, Janice, and a red and white pack of cigarettes wound up occupying the same point at the same time. I offered her a cigarette, gave her a light, cupped my hands just so to get the fire started…She looked at me quizzically and asked, “Aren’t you going to have one?”
“I just had one,” I replied.
“Well, I hate to smoke alone,” she said. So I grabbed a butt and stuck it in my pie hole. I lit it, but only pretended to take a real puff. I sucked some smoke into my mouth (taking great care not to inhale), held it in there while faking a deep dive into the lungs, and then slowly exhaled with my mouth pursed and my cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk’s. It was hard to hold a conversation like this, and after a few minutes of bemused observation, she came out with, “How come you don’t inhale?” I was shocked, certain I’d given a command performance.
“I do inhale,” I answered.
“Not today , you don’t,” she responded.
“Well, I’m in training,” I offered.
“Training for what?” she asked. “Training to smoke?”
I don’t remember what I said after that. Janice and I never did hook up, but I spent the rest of that school year avoiding smokers and telling myself they were losers.
Next time: An Army of smokers?
Alan P, CTTS-M
When we're planning to quit smoking, it can be helpful to think back on our smoking history, to learn from our own journey and experiences. How did we start smoking, and why? How long did it take for us to become addicted, or daily users? How have we tried to quit before, and why? What worked, or didn't? What did we like or dislike about being ex-smokers? How did we end up back on the death sticks again? What's different about this quit?
Sometimes it's enlightening, even fun, to tell our smoking story to someone else. In my next series of blogs, I'm going to write about my own descent into tobacco addiction, and my long, tortured rise out of it into smoke-free living. Hopefully both you and I will learn a thing or two, or at least be able to relate to each other better as we help each other stay quit.
Most smokers start smoking before the age of 18. I was no exception. In fact, smoking imagery was such a part of our culture that I remember pretending to smoke even as a four year old. My aunts and uncles thought that was cute, and from time to time handed me lit cigarettes to hold, just for laughs.
By elementary school, me and my friends were already stealing death sticks from adults (though none of us had the courage to actually light them). I remember being repulsed by the smell of them, unlit, but that didn't matter. All my heroes smoked in those days, and every TV show and movie showed folks puffing away, usually in situations of high stress or emotional drama. Cigarette smoke didn't just look cool, it solved problems, too. And tobacco was heavily advertised in all media, often with bogus claims from doctors about the health benefits of smoking!
The first time I remember deliberately breathing smoke into my lungs was in the sixth grade. My buddy Tom had swiped his brother's Zippo lighter and some lunch school milk straws still in their paper wrappers. We held the straws as if they were cigarettes, and practiced lighting them for each other and ourselves. They burned up pretty quickly, of course, being milk straws, but we managed to take in some heavy puffs of paper smoke into our young lungs. As we hacked and gagged, Tom's brother Larry came to investigate. "You stupid idiots," he barked. "Why don't you just stick your head in the burning barrel and breathe it in!" (I grew up on a farm in the rural Midwest; in those days we disposed of our own trash in large burning barrels, every Thursday night). We were embarrassed, and not feeling so hot, either.
I attended our country church school through grade school, and went to a seminary prep high school for two years after that. Smoking was considered a mortal sin by my religion, and punishments for being caught doing it were severe. So I was never exposed to tobacco smoke until I switched to the local public school in my junior year. Being the new kid in a small town, I was desperate to fit in, to be accepted by the other kids. Most of them smoked openly, and repeatedly urged me to join them. I was hesitant, remembering the smoking straws caper from years back and not really liking the smell of cigarettes anyway. But I also wanted the other kids' approval...
They say if you hang around in a barber shop long enough, you'll end up with a haircut. The day came when I could no longer refuse my peers' challenge to smoke. It all went down in the back of the yellow school bus, riding from school to the farm on a warm, sunny summer day. Some boy called me a sissy for not accepting his cigarette, and taunted me in front of a girl I liked.. I grabbed his lit cigarette and took a couple of big pulls. I don't know why I didn't explode into a coughing fit, but I was able to maintain for the next several minutes until we reached my stop.
As soon as I was off the bus, I dashed to the milk shed (where no one could see me) and vomited until I was dry heaving. Then I staggered up the driveway to the house, and collapsed into my bed. The room spun around me, and I swore I'd never smoke again. I have rarely been that ill since.
Next time: Faking it till I 'made it'...
Alan P, MTTS
High speed winds and towering water swells heralded the arrival of Storm Sandy earlier this week. In wake, it left collapsed buildings and homes, flooded streets, power outages, debris, lost lives and general chaos.
Natural disasters and times of crisis are common relapse triggers to smoking. You may be overwhelmed with feelings of fear, powerlessness and lack of control. Your "old way" of responding to a crisis may have been to stock up on cigarettes and put yourself on lock-down in preparation for the storm and the recovery time ahead. However, now that you've quit smoking, cigarettes are not an option. Being caught in the middle of disaster may not be a choice you have, but choosing to remain smoke-free, can be.
Your ability to get through a crisis without lighting up is an important part of a quit process. No amount of smoking is going to change things so you may as well weather the storm! Part of damage control means being prepared for emergency situations in the first place. If you live in parts of the country where earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes and other natural disasters can strike, take the time to create a plan and build a kit of basic emergency items you may need.
Now more than ever it's also important for you to reach out to the community. Instead of turning to cigarettes for support, turn to others--friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and fellow quitters:
Share stories, express your concerns, keep others posted on your status as well as get updates on how others are coping. If you're stuck at home, stay distracted by catching up on old movies, calling up friends and family members, playing video games, baking, etc. If you have no power, no means of transportation or are otherwise incommunicado, keep yourself busy until power returns. Some ideas include:
- Board games
- Working on a hobby
- Reading books
- Writing in a journal
- Prayer/meditation/positive affirmations and mantras
Do whatever it takes to remain smoke-free.
Even if you weren't directly hit by a crisis like Storm Sandy, you may have family and loved ones who were. Concern over their well-being, not knowing if they are safe and/or not being able to communicate can be frustrating and stressful. You can maintain some semblance of order by continuing with your usual daily routines. You can also try connecting with family members and friends who are reachable. Focus on the things you can control and let the rest go.
The road to recovery can be a lengthy one. But be confident in tackling any situation that comes your way with a sense of calm determination. Stay safe and stay smoke-free,
Halloween is rife with scary music, ghoulish décor and fiendish costumes. But for some, nothing could be more frightening than a trip to the dentist. Nothing, except perhaps going to the dentist and finding out that you have a cavity or gum disease.
Children are not the only ones getting cavities; adults have their fair share as well. According to the National Institutes of Health, 92% of adults have dental caries in their permanent teeth. Factors contributing to tooth and gum disease include brushing habits, genetics, stress and smoking!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smokers are 4 times more likely than never smokers to have problems with oral health. These problems include:
- Bad breath
- Tooth discoloration
- Increased build up of plaque and tartar on the teeth
- Increased loss of bone in the jaw
- Increased risk for leukoplakia (white patches inside the mouth)
- Increased risk of gum disease
- Increased risk of oral cancer
- Problems with hot/cold sensitivity
- Tooth decay/loss
With every cigarette, thousands of chemicals, heat and smoke assault the teeth, gums and oral cavity. This alters the acidity of the mouth, contributes to plaque build up and staining of the teeth, damages taste buds and nerve cells, and impairs blood circulation. Smoking also compromises the immune system, making a smoker more susceptible to infections like cold sores.
Cigar smoking is not any better for oral health, even if you don’t inhale. Some cigars contain the equivalant amount of tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes! The smoke and chemicals from cigar smoke can irritate the gums and can cause them to recede at rates similar to cigarette smokers.
Even without smoke or heat, tobacco in general is bad news for oral health. Smokeless tobacco comes into direct contact with the gums and causes even greater irritation and recession of the gum line. Furthermore, bacteria in the mouth “feed” on the sugar added to smokeless tobacco. This bacteria produces acid which eventually wears away at the tooth’s enamel, making smokeless tobacco users four times more likely than nonusers to develop cavities according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.
Knowing all of this, quitting all tobacco products for healthier teeth is a no brainer. When smokers quit, they cite noticing pinker gums and lips. Another benefit noticeable within days of quitting is improved sense of taste and smell—making food more enjoyable again! There may also be some less pleasant side effects. Sometimes smokers will notice gum sensitivity or gums that bleed more easily. Ex-smokers might also notice a “metallic” taste in mouth, a medical term known as dysguesia (altered taste). These symptoms are temporary and can probably be attributed to improved blood circulation, repair of taste buds and nerve cells, and other signs of healing those early weeks of quitting.
In the meantime, it’s important to keep up with a regular dental routine (brushing and flossing, using a "soft" toothbrush head, and being as gentle as possible) as well as maintaining regular visits to the dentist. Limiting sticky, sugary foods like juice, nougat, caramel and taffy will also help prevent cavities. Your dentist will no doubt notice the improvements and compliment you. And that's something to smile about.
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:
There are many things that might be considered romantic in life. A picnic for two by the lake. Walking along the beach at sunset. A candlelit dinner. Smoking, however, should should not be one of them. And yet, it isn't uncommon for ex-smokers to find themselves reminiscing about the “good old days” of smoking.
- What would it be like to have just one puff again?
- I really loved smoking.
- Things were better when I smoked.
- I miss smoking.
- Smoking isn't really that bad.
- I can always quit again...tomorrow.
Recognize this self-talk for what it is: romancing the cigarette. Romancing the cigarette means that despite all the bad things there is to say about cigarettes (and despite all the reasons you decided to quit in the first place), you find reasons to go back to smoking. There is nothing romantic about smoking. In fact the opposite is true. Smoking should be considered bad romance! Cigarettes will lie to you. Just one won’t hurt. Cigarettes will control you. When is it time for the next smoke break? Cigarettes will lead you to put it above your own comfort and welfare. Time to stand out in the rain/cold for my nicotine fix. And cigarettes will make you do things you normally would not do. I think I will buy the carton of cigarettes over milk and groceries.
Romantic notions of smoking are false. Tobacco addiction leads you to believe that all those fond memories--smoking on camping trips, late night chats with friends, mingling at parties, etc.--were due to that cigarette, but they weren't. If you went back through all of your happy memories, you would find that the true joy came from the people you spent time with, the activities you were doing, and the places you were visiting. Cigarettes only served one purpose during these times: to perpetuate the addiction. You may have associated your good times with smoking, but smoking was never the source of your enjoyment.
Re-learning how to enjoy life without cigarettes might be hard to imagine, or even scary at first. You probabably spent several years smoking; becoming an ex-smoker won't happen overnight. And whether you realize it or not, smoking was integrated into every part of your life (from first thing in the morning when you get up to the last thing you do before going to bed) and was used as a coping strategy for anger, sadness, stress, boredom, anxiety and other emotions. Undoing the relationship with cigarettes in your life will take some time and practice. It can be done!
Start with re-visiting your reasons for quitting. If they aren't "compelling" enough, go back and make them more specific and personal to you. So for example, if one of your reasons for quitting smoking was for improved health, a better reason to quit smoking might be to train and run your first 5K. Or to be able to climb a flight of stairs without getting short of breath. Or to have energy to be able to play with your children/grandchildren. Bolster those reasons for quitting by letting others in the community know you are re-committing to your quit!!!
Move away from romancing the cigarettes, by making new memories; ones without cigarettes! Take it one moment at a time. Like any bad relationship, it is normal to wonder, “What if….” Catch yourself when your thoughts go down that road. Quitting is like getting out of a bad relationship. You’ve ended the abuse on your body and your mind. Acknowledge there may have been some things you got out of that relationship with smoking. But that was then; this is now. Move forward with your life, smoke-free.
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
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