Preparation is key
The most common reasons for relapsing to smoking are:
- lack of commitment
- lack of preparation
- unexpected situations/stressors
Of these 3 reasons for relapse, lack of preparation is the most common. So be sure to give yourself enough time to get ready: the preparation stage of quitting smoking is, by far, the most important.
Take a few weeks to do the prep work. Start your journal or workbook, and talk to your family doctor about your options - including the various medications available to you. For more information on medications to help with quitting smoking, read "Quitting smoking medications."
Buy a notebook, which will serve as your workbook or journal as you prepare for your smoke-free life. Make the following headings in your book and address the topics below from your personal experiences with smoking. Be honest with yourself. You can list your target quit date and summarize your action plan based on the information in your journal. This is a quick and easy reminder of your goals, and how you are going to get there.
Am I addicted? Some important concepts to consider:
- negative consequences, e.g., cost, others' opinions, my self-respect, my health
- compulsive use, e.g., broken promises to myself and others, previous attempts and failures to quit, attempts to cut down, times I have gone to great trouble or inconvenience to get a cigarette, a prepared stash of cigarettes so I wouldn't run out
- loss of control, e.g., times I have tried and failed to limit my number of cigarettes per day
- withdrawal, e.g., in the past would feel nausea or discomfort if smoked a cigarette, irritability, and craving if I do not smoke
Pros and cons
List the pros and cons side by side. Identify all the benefits of quitting smoking under "pro" and all the disadvantages under "con."
Make a list of people you will tell about your plans for quitting. Write down their phone numbers. Ask some of them to be supports, someone to call when you feel like a cigarette.
Figure out the costs and potential savings of smoking. Make plans for what you are going to do with your savings.
Make a list of rewards you will give yourself at key points in your success at quitting. For example, at the end of day one, week one, or the end of month one.
Name those times when it will be the most difficult to not smoke. Outline your cues or triggers - such as your morning coffee, talking on the phone, just after a good meal, having a drink - so you can decide on alternate coping strategies. Are there any changes in your environment or behaviour you should make, even for while, when you quit smoking?
Nicotine cravings are intense but brief, each lasting a few minutes. With time they quickly fade in intensity and number. Make a list of emergency rescue strategies to handle those cravings. These might include drinking a glass of water, getting a back rub, sucking on a cinnamon stick, or going for a walk. Read "The road to recovery" for more information.
An exercise and diet plan will be important if you want to maintain your weight. This part of your journey is very important and very personal. Spend enough time and effort on it so you have a good chance of success. Read "he road to recovery" for more information.
Choose a quit date
Look ahead on the calendar. It's best to schedule your quit date during a time of relative stability. Situations like starting a new job, going on a holiday trip, facing a scary event are probably not the sort of things you should be scheduling in your first 2 or 3 weeks of being smoke-free. Then set your quit date!
Deal with feelings
Once you have survived the withdrawal symptoms that happen early on, you need to develop strategies to handle emotional discomfort. For many of us, we must first learn to recognize or identify feelings such as fear, anger, and guilt. There are books, courses, and groups to help us handle life's discomforts without nicotine or other medications. Many people find it helpful to take courses and develop coping skills. Becoming involved in a support discussion group, even if you form it yourself along with other people interested in personal growth, is valuable for increasing awareness and skills in these areas.
It is important to practice your new routines. Balance in your life is key. Don't isolate yourself. Use the phone, even if you don't need it. Give support to someone else. Go to the gym, go for regular walks, or take a cooking course. Reward yourself for the toughest, most important health improvement you have ever made in your life!
Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team