A good support system is essential in maintaining a quit. This support comes from family and friends (covered in last week’s blog) or provided by a support group or quit-smoking program. Quitting smoking is no easy feat; it may be one of the most difficult life changes you make, so the more emotional support you gather the better. There’s no need to quit alone. Support groups and smoking cessation programs are out there for the joining; you just need to reach out in your community or search the internet. Read on to find the right fit for you.
Nicotine Anonymous is a quit smoking support group that uses principles from the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step program. This program focuses on the addictive nature of nicotine and the admission that you have lost control over your life and the use of tobacco. The Twelve Steps suggest a spiritual approach in believing that a power greater than you can help. There is no religious affiliation other than your own understanding and preference of a higher power. Quitting smoking is managed one day at a time and with the belief that following the 12 Steps promotes a healthier emotional and spiritual life enabling you to remain nicotine-free. New members are encouraged to find sponsors who will support and guide them through the recovery process. The anonymity of the program requires first names only; with this confidentiality participants may speak more freely in the group, obtaining the needed support. The meetings are free and world wide. For meeting locations and times visit http://www.nicotine-anonymous.org/
Smoking cessation programs are available in most communities. Often these structured programs are offered in local hospitals, doctor’s offices or community centers. Usually the classes are four to eight weeks in duration and meet on a weekly schedule, except on quit week, where a follow-up class is added two days into the quit for support. The classes are anywhere from one to two hours long, providing educational information and group interaction. The group interaction allows you to learn from others and provide mutual social support. This is especially helpful for those who lack support from family or friends. Discussed in class are reasons for quitting and the benefits, the addiction of nicotine and coping skills and strategies for handling cravings. Information is given on medications to help you quit. The class participants are asked to commit to a specific quit date. It’s always helpful if the class extends past the quit date so you will have the needed support. Depending on the length, the weekly classes cover support for maintaining your quit, weight gain, managing stress and relapse prevention. The facilitator should be experienced in group programs and qualified as a tobacco treatment specialist. Most smoking cessation programs have a fee, though some may be sponsored or covered by health insurance. General costs are $50.00 to $275.00.
The internet is a great way to access support for quitting smoking. There are many web sites that offer free support for quitting smoking, my all time favorite being QuitNetwww.quitnet.com . The benefit of QuitNet www.quitnet.com is that not only do you have access to online tobacco treatment specialists, but you have around the clock cessation support by means of the forums, clubs and chat rooms. The social support of connecting with other quitters is a powerful behavioral tool to use when quitting tobacco. Interacting with other ex-smokers who have gone or are going through similar quit experiences is extremely helpful, especially when you need some support during tough times. A web based support group like QuitNet www.quitnet.com is the perfect follow-up for the smoking cessation class that ended too soon, providing continued quit support. Online quit support is convenient and saves time. It may be as close to home as you can get.
Keep coming back, and KTQ,
You’ve quit smoking and you’re glad you did. You’re happier and healthier for it! So why does the thought of facing society again without cigarettes strike fear into your heart? Why is it that all you really want to do is to crawl under a rock somewhere and hide?
Let’s face it: having a social life after cigarettes can be daunting. For many ex-smokers, that sense of “self” was wrapped up in cigarettes. Every work break, holiday party, after work drink, pool party, camping trip, and other social gathering involved cigarettes. Many people around you might still smoke—your friends, co-workers, family, and perhaps even your spouse. When you quit smoking, not only does your lifestyle change, but so might your relationships with people. But change is not necessarily a bad thing!
First recognize that there was always more to you than your smoking. Quitting smoking is an opportunity to re-discover yourself! Many people find that quitting unleashes a torrent of emotions. Consciously or not, you may have used cigarettes in the past to deal (or not deal) with emotions. Now you have to find new, healthier ways of coping with stress, anger, boredom, anxiety, happiness, etc. These new emotions may feel more intense and you may not feel like yourself. In time you will be feeling more like yourself. Perhaps even “new and improved”!
You can and will re-learn how to enjoy social activities without lighting up. If you are newly quit, you may find that you have to avoid social situations, at least until you are feeling more solid in your quit. Social gatherings, where alcohol and other smokers mix, can be a huge trigger. But social situations cannot be avoided forever. Eventually you will have to face the world! Here are a few suggestions:
- Avoid alcohol. Not only is there a strong association between alcohol and cigarettes, but alcohol lowers inhibition and judgment. Order a non-alcoholic drink when going out or eating at a restaurant. If you must drink, give yourself a limit. Plan ahead by creating an "exit plan," connect with other ex-smokers when you first get to the club, etc.
- Practice effective coping strategies. If you find yourself in a situation where you might light up, step out for a "fresh air break," bring your list of reasons for quitting and review them, chew some gum or suck on hard candies, have objects in your pocket you can fidget with--coins, dice, a stress ball, etc.
- Practice what you will say if someone offers you a cigarette: "No thanks, I've quit!"
- Bring a buddy (preferably non-smoking) who can help keep you on track.
- Find a smoke-free social activity like a dance or exercise class, join a sport, pick up a hobby (how about photography?), go to the movies, etc.
Ultimately, with a little planning and a lot of practice, you can still enjoy many of your old social activities, but without smoking. Perhaps you may find you do them better!
As for you how your relationships with others may change, some of them might. But hopefully they change for the better. Consider this: friendships should not be based soley on smoking status. You can enjoy shared interests or find new ones without smoking. Good friends, co-workers, and family should support you in your quit. And if they don't, then maybe it's time to hang out with a new crowd. Make new friends and connect with other quitters at QuitNet or in the real world.
You've quit smoking because you want to have better health, more time, more money, a better quality of life and freedom. Quitting smoking is truly something to be proud of! So come out from hiding and enjoy your newfound social life!