Preventing a Relapse
It's taken a lot of hard work, with possibly some challenges to get to this tobacco-free place. This is where you want to remain. Being a recent quitter increases the risk of relapse. Quitting smoking can be physically uncomfortable and mentally exhausting. Consider using a quit medication if you have a difficult time during the first couple of weeks maintaining a quit. Connecting with a support network, reaching out to a quit-buddy, or talking to a smoking cessation counselor is helpful in keeping you focused and on track.
Staying quit and preventing a relapse requires a plan to maintain your new healthy lifestyle. Recognize behavior that could get you in trouble and plan ahead with coping skills, strategies for distraction, and emotional support. You will need to find alternatives to the temptations to smoke; learn from your quitting history where your stumbling triggers lie and seriously commit to doing whatever it takes to not smoke.
Pay attention to signs of a potential relapse. Have you noticed your mind wandering down memory lane? Perhaps thinking of smoking a bit more than usual? Watch out if you find yourself rationalizing that you can smoke just one or feeling over confident and falsely believing you are solid in your quit and can take a few puffs. Slips and relapses all start with one puff so avoid the risk. Ask yourself why you are questioning or contemplating going down this road. Practice countering your smoking rationalizations with truthful statements that support quitting smoking. Respond to ‘I feel healthy.’ and ‘Smoking doesn’t affect me because I don’t inhale.’ by telling yourself ‘Smoking affects every organ and system in my body, including my mouth, teeth and tongue’ ‘Quitting smoking now will reduce my chances of a smoking related illness.’ The only sure way to stay quit is by adhering to the “Not One Puff Ever” maxim. Continue to stay focused on your quit and reward yourself for all your good efforts.
Weight gain associated with quitting smoking is often another reason given for returning to smoking. Try not to become overwhelmed with taking on too many life changes at once. Keep the priority on your quit, knowing that the weight can be dealt with by eating healthy food choices, smaller portions and getting some physical movement daily. A little weight gain is far less harmful to you than continued smoking.
Be prepared to anticipate and identify high risk situations. Being out socially where smoking is prevalent, drinking alcohol or being in a heated argument are all situations that could trigger a relapse. Risky occasions happen when you least expect, during fun times at family gatherings, visiting old friends, even when you’re bored with nothing to do. Protect your quit by rehearsing mentally how you will cope with these varying situations. See yourself saying no to the cigarette offered to you by a friend at a party, or whatever scene may play out in the future and responding with the alternative coping strategy you’ve decided to use instead of smoking. Get suggestions for good trigger strategies from the coaches or members at QuitNet.
Balancing a healthy lifestyle is essential in maintaining a quit. Find new ways to manage the stress in your life; get some physical exercise, meditate, keep a journal and take care of yourself doing things you enjoy. Planning ahead for potential triggers will help you avoid the snare of relapsing.
Keep coming back, and KTQ!