Quitting is hard
Many ex-smokers say quitting was the hardest thing they ever did.
Do you feel hooked? You're probably addicted to nicotine. Nicotine is in all tobacco products. It makes you feel calm and satisfied, yet also alert and focused. But the more you smoke, the more nicotine you need to feel good. Soon, you don't feel "normal" without nicotine. This is nicotine addiction.
It takes time to break free from nicotine addiction. It may take more than one try to quit for good. So don't give up too soon. You will feel good again.
Quitting is also hard because smoking is a big part of your life. You may enjoy holding a cigarette and puffing on it. You may smoke when you are stressed, bored, or angry. You may light up when you drink coffee or alcohol, talk on the phone, drive, or are with other smokers. After months and years, smoking has become part of your daily routine. You may light up without even thinking about it.
Quitting isn't easy. You may try to quit several times before you're finally done with cigarettes. But you will learn something each time you try. It takes willpower and strength to beat your addiction to nicotine. Remember that millions of people have quit smoking for good. You can be one of them.
Just thinking about quitting may make you anxious. But your chances will be better if you get ready first. Quitting works best when you're prepared. Before you quit, START by taking these five important steps:
S = Set a quit date.
Pick a date within the next 2 weeks to quit. That gives you enough time to get ready. But it's not so long that you will lose your drive to quit.
Think about choosing a special day:
• Your birthday or wedding anniversary
• New Year's Day
• Independence Day
• World No Tobacco Day (May 31)
If you smoke at work, quit on the weekend or during a day off. That way you'll already be cigarette-free when you return.
T = Tell family, friends, and coworkers that you plan to quit.
Quitting smoking is easier with the support of others. Tell your family, friends, and coworkers that you plan to quit. Tell them how they can help you.
Some people like to have friends ask how things are going. Others find it nosy. Tell the people you care about exactly how they can help. Here are some ideas:
• Ask everyone to understand your change in mood. Remind them that this won't last long. (The worst will be over within two weeks.) Tell them this: "The longer I go without cigarettes, the sooner I'll be my old self."
• Does someone close to you smoke? Ask them to quit with you, or at least not to smoke around you.
• Do you take any medicines? Tell your doctor and pharmacist you are quitting. Nicotine changes how some drugs work. You may need to change your prescriptions after you quit.
• Get support from other people. You can try talking with others one-on-one or in a group. You can also get support on the phone. You can even try an Internet chat room. This kind of support helps smokers quit. The more support you get, the better. But even a little can help.
A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you'll face while quitting.
Expecting challenges is an important part of getting ready to quit.
Most people who go back to smoking do it within three months. Your first three months may be hard. You may be more tempted when you are stressed or feeling down. It's hard to be ready for these times before they happen. But it helps to know when you need a cigarette most.
Look over your Craving Journal (PDF). See when you may be tempted to smoke. Plan for how to deal with the urge before it hits.
You should also expect feelings of withdrawal. Withdrawal is the discomfort of giving up nicotine. It is your body's way of telling you it's learning to be smoke-free. These feelings will go away in time.
R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work.
Getting rid of things that remind you of smoking will also help you get ready to quit. Try these ideas:
• Make things clean and fresh at work, in your car, and at home. Clean your drapes and clothes. Shampoo your car. Buy yourself flowers. You will enjoy their scent as your sense of smell returns.
• Throw away all your cigarettes and matches. Give or throw away your lighters and ashtrays. Remember the ashtray and lighter in your car!
• Have your dentist clean your teeth to get rid of smoking stains. See how great they look. Try to keep them that way.
• Some smokers save one pack of cigarettes. They do it "just in case." Or they want to prove they have the willpower not to smoke. Don't! Saving one pack just makes it easier to start smoking again.
T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.
Quitting "cold turkey" isn't your only choice. Talk to your doctor about other ways to quit. Most doctors can answer your questions and give advice. They can suggest medicine to help with withdrawal. You can buy some of these medicines on your own. For others, you need a prescription.
Your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist can also point you to places to find support. The National Council on Drug Abuse can help, too. It can help you find support in your area, refer you to a doctor trained to support you and offer counselling and support.
Adapted from “Clear the Air” Tobacco Cessation Guide – National Cancer Institute.