Despite I’ve always been very anti-smoking, there were a few years during my youth when I was too dependent on the cigarettes.
Although I’ve never been a huge smoker, I’d like it in certain occasions or moments of the day. However, the simple fact of being a “smoker” was something that didn’t really suit the person I wanted to be. I was not comfortable with that, so my attempts to quit for good were numerous… all unsuccessful until I finally achieved it back in 2012, and may it last forever.
Giving up smoking for good is not easy. First of all, if you are trying to quit, well done on giving a go to a healthier life! 🙂
Here are the tips that worked for me and I hope can help with your nicotine-free journey.
Don’t be afraid to try giving up – Each time you try to give up and fail, you learn something. If it wasn’t for all the times I quit and came back eventually (once it was more than a year later), I wouldn’t know what to be aware of on my next try. Remember: each try to quit teaches you something about yourself and your habit, so don’t be afraid to try. Better to try and fail than to never try, so congratulate yourself for being brave and give it a go (or as many as you need!).
Avoid extra pressure, keep it to yourself if necessary – the famous book from Allen Carr advises telling everyone that you are going to quit in order to make it official and serious. In my case, the opposite worked. After trying and failing, I started to keep all the tries to myself, so I could stay focused and avoid any external pressure to distract me, or make me crave it even more.
Quitting smoking forever is a hard achievement and requires lots of will-power. Sometimes, getting someone to put extra pressure on us is detrimental rather than helpful. It is your decision, and therefore it is your business, if extra pressure from friends and family only will make you want to smoke even more, just keep it to yourself and don’t make a fuss. The last time I tried to quit (and finally did), I just gave a vague response to my friends (when they asked), something like “I’m trying to quit, let’s see how it goes…”
Smoking is like alcoholism, do not ever smoke again (not even one) – a friend of mine who was a super smoker and quit for good, told me once that for her, smoking was an addiction similar to say alcoholism. Therefore, if alcoholics cannot drink ever again once they quit alcohol, nicotine addicts should look at smoking in the same way.
Some people are lucky to be just social smokers and never craving a cigarette outside a party. That was not my case, unfortunately. I learnt from my previous attempts that having “just one” cigarette eventually leads to another one, even if it is a month later. The frequency increases and, in a matter of weeks, you are smoking again (as I know from my own experience).
Nicotine is very addictive and “allowing” yourself to have one as a “treat” is a way of cheating to your brain, and basically to yourself. If what you really want is to be a non-smoker, you need to accept that you cannot smoke ever again, because you are vulnerable to the drug.
Don’t think that you will never smoke again – okay yes, I just said that you should never smoke again, and I mean it. However, when you are trying to quit, that very thought can be very stressful. Therefore, don’t over-think about the future and focus on each day at a time. When you are into the habit and giving up, it is easier to say no to one cigarette than to a lifetime of not smoking, so avoid extra pressure and don’t make it harder to yourself. Each day at a time. Once you realised a week, a whole month, or a whole year passed, you will actually be your main anti-smoking advocate.
Understand your need for smoking and your moments of weakness – in one of my old attempts to quit (an unsuccessful one) I did an interesting test where I had to specify which are the moments when I want a cigarette the most.
We all smoke for different reasons and at different times. Because we are having fun, because we are bored, sad, anxious, happy, hungry, nervous, relaxed… In my case, the cigarettes I wanted the most were when having a good chat and coffee with my girlfriends, at a party with a drink, and when I felt anxious or worried.
Knowing my weaknesses helped me to be prepared for such situations when I tried to quit in the future: arm myself with chewing gums or other tricks, and sail through the first weeks as best as I could. It is harder at the beginning, so don’t pretend it is not. If you know you are going to a party and will want to smoke, mentalise yourself in advance that the temptation will be there and you will have to be ready to say no.
The first month is the hardest, use a calendar and count it down – this is how I eventually quit. My partner got a free NHS kit to give up smoking, which included a calendar to count down the first few weeks. Every certain periods it told you how much cleaner your body was and how well you were doing, and knowing I was getting healthier already was a big encouragement for me.
Despite I think having a calendar helps to take a day at a time and see your progress, I’m not keen to set a day in the future to quit. This works for many people and might work for you, but for me, it just added extra pressure – what if I really want to smoke on that day? What if something very stressful happens?
The day I quit was a Sunday. I woke up from a party feeling disgusting from all the cigarettes and alcohol. I tried not to smoke on that day and made it through. The following day arrived, and I decided to give that second day a go as well, and I did! That is two days, that is a lot, what about a third? …and the rest is history, as they say. I already wanted to quit, so just needed to find the right time for me. I also had the NHS kit on the way, so when it arrived I made the most of it.
Craving after a month off is just mental, do not fall into that – when I was educating myself to quit, I once read that after a month or so without smoking, your body doesn’t have any more nicotine inside any more, so any cravings are only mental. Learning that really helped me to avoid that “just one” cigarette as a prize because “I’ve been so good for the last two months without smoking”.
Do not fall into that. Your body doesn’t need it really – it is just mental. Remember that one will lead to more eventually, so save yourself from having to “quit” again. Do not ruin all your efforts for a moment of self-indulgence, and do not smoke that cigarette.