Preparing to Quit Smoking

Patient Expert

So you've decided to quit smoking - or maybe you've tried to quit before and are ready to try again. What can you do to make your first week as successful as possible? Here are some tips from someone who's been there (over and over again) and finally quit for good.

Step 1: Set a quit date

You may want to pick a Monday since the weekends can be difficult if they are filled with too many commitments. Or you may choose Saturday morning so you can have a couple of days under your belt before you get back to work. Realize that your life will never be so perfect that you feel you are finally ready - you just have to jump in and do it.

Whichever day you choose, don't make it too far into the future, since you want to take advantage of your motivation to quit while it's still fresh. And the sooner you get it over with, the sooner you can celebrate your first week smoke-free

Step 2: Remove all traces of smoking paraphernalia

Get rid of all your ashtrays, matches, lighters, cigarette cases, etc. If you have an especially beautiful case, give it away to someone who promises to pass it on to someone else when they are ready to quit.

Do not stash away a pack of cigarettes "just in case." It's too easy to relapse if all you have to do is go dig out your emergency stash. Get rid of it all and you will find that you really can weather the inevitable storms that life throws your way.

Step 3: Prepare for withdrawal symptoms
The first 72 hours or so after quitting smoking are the most difficult. You will be restless, irritable, and itching for a smoke. Prepare yourself by getting a nicotine replacement product such as the patch or nicotine gum (I really liked the nicotrol inhaler, but eventually I quit successfully by going cold-turkey).

Gather items like gum, toothpicks, and crispy vegetables to munch on. This will help you get past the desire to hold something and bring it to your mouth. That physical movement has been a part of your life for a long time and it helps to have healthy replacement items, at least for a little while.

Step 4: Tell your friends and family

You will need support - even if this is your 502nd attempt and everyone is sick of hearing that you're quitting, tell them anyway. You want people to know that you might be on edge so they can cut you some slack and be extra gentle with you. Maybe you'll even find a quit partner with whom you can commiserate and cheer on.

Step 5: Clear your calendar

While you don't want to live in a cocoon your first few weeks, you also don't want to have a calendar jammed with parties or special events. Try to give yourself space so you can avoid alcohol and other smokers. You want to give yourself every advantage for success, so create a buffer zone that can help you stay on track.

By preparing for the big day, you will be emotionally ready for the challenge. People often say that quitting smoking is the most difficult thing they ever did (for me it definitely was). You will want to do everything you can to stack the odds in your favor. Good luck!

Next: Quit Smoking - Week 1