If you’ve recently become a quitter - as in quitting smoking - then you are probably feeling some of the challenges of staying quit. As one wise humorist once quipped, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times” (Mark Twain).
When I was struggling to quit (over a period of what turned out to be many years), I was sure at times that I would never succeed. It seemed as if it took so much effort to stop smoking and so little turmoil to make me want to smoke again.
I found myself in a circular trap of quitting and relapsing, then quitting again, just to relapse again. I wish I could tell you there was a magic bullet, but I will say that when I finally quit for the last time, it was without patches or nicotrol or any other medicines. I quit cold turkey.
I found I had reached a point of what might be called saturation - I was finally ready to get off that merry-go-round. What made me successful includes some of these tips that I will share you with here.
These are not necessarily new ideas, but you might find that you are more ready to hear them now than you were before. Perhaps not all of these tips will work for you, but you should give each one a try. After all, your life is on the line.
- When you feel a craving, do something, anything, to distract yourself. Take a short walk, go for a drink of water, make a phone call to a friend.
- Remove all evidence of smoking from your life. If you used to smoke in your car, remove all lighters and matches and clean your car of that old smoky smell.
- Have your teeth cleaned. There is nothing better then having a bright white smile and you can go smile at yourself in the mirror next time you successfully make it through a craving.
- Find oral substitutes. You were used to moving your hand to your mouth perhaps hundreds of times each day in an act that represented comfort. Use a toothpick, or a carrot stick, or a straw to mimic this movement during times of stress. Eventually you will be able to wean yourself from these gimmicks, but you should do whatever it takes to help you get past the desire to relapse.
- Write down all the reasons you want to quit, and keep adding to it as new ideas come to mind. Refer to this list often throughout the day to remind yourself of your commitment.
- Find a quitting buddy. If your spouse or significant other smokes, try to quit together. It’s really difficult to quit smoking if people around you are smoking. Of course, the danger in quitting together is that you may well relapse together, but if you are both committed, there can be no stronger support network than someone close to you.
- Stay away from places where smoking occurs and distance yourself a little from friends who smoke. One day you may be strong enough to be around smokers, but why put yourself in danger? In many ways you are like a recovering alcoholic who should stay away from bars while the cravings are still rampant.
- Put all the money you would have spent on smoking into a glass jar each night. Watch as that money piles up, and after you reach a comfortable point in your quitting process (which for some people may be six months or more), take yourself out for a shopping spree and get something really cool for yourself or a loved one.
- Tell everyone around you that you have quit smoking. Realize that some may scoff if they’ve heard it all before, but use that as a challenge to prove them wrong this time. You need to hear that the people around you are rooting for your success, and you can’t get that valuable extra support if you keep your quitting effort to yourself.
- Give yourself frequent pats on the back for small successes and don’t feel that one small relapse means you should go back to your old smoking habits. It takes a long time to develop new habits and each day is a new opportunity for a new quit attempt. If you keep at it and keep faith in yourself, you will eventually succeed.
- Bonus tip: Studies* have shown that people who are confident they will be successful at quitting smoking are actually more successful. So my final tip is to imagine yourself as a successful ex-smoker. Keep that image in your mind at all times and you will be successful.
Good luck on getting off that merry-go-round!
* See Smoking Cessation and Self-Efficacy