The date you circled as your Quit Day is staring at you from the calendar. If you haven’t yet read ‘Be Prepared”, go back and skim through it. Then read on...
The lead-up to Quit Day
Quit Day is a pretty momentous occasion. It is, quite literally, the start of a new life. So get everything in place in the week or so leading up to it to maximise your chances of success. These tips can help ease the transition to ex-smoker status:
- Get rid of any signs or reminders of smoking, like packs of cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays. And don’t hang on to paraphernalia like a favourite tobacco pouch or special lighter; give them away, or, better yet, throw them away so that you don’t encourage others to smoke. (OK, if it’s a really special lighter, you can keep it. But put it with your candles and incense or beside the fireplace, and use it for those lighting purposes only.)
- Do for your home what you’re doing for your body i.e. give it a spring clean. Launder your clothes and bedding, shake out rugs and throws, vacuum and let the fresh air flow. The smell of cigarettes takes a while to dissipate, and some smokers find it makes them want to smoke.
- Ask your dentist about getting your teeth cleaned of tobacco stains. You’ll feel motivated to keep them looking white.
- Choose a suitable Quit Day. It’s probably best to pick a day when you don’t have too many work or social tasks and stressors, when you can focus your energy on not smoking. Some people choose a chronologically significant date, like New Year’s or a birthday, to give their Quit Day added emphasis.
- Although your Quit Day should be relaxed, it shouldn’t be idle. Plan it well, to make sure that you keep pleasantly occupied. Think of some enjoyable activities that don’t involve temptation: go for a hike in a beautiful natural setting, see a movie, make a delicious meal for friends (with the proviso that all guests leave their cigarettes at home!)
- If you’ve dediced to try nicotine replacement therapy, make sure you have your supply ready for Quit Day – but only start using it once you’ve stopped smoking. (See: More About Nicotine Replacement Therapy.) If you’re considering trying Zyban to help you stop smoking, it’s best to start taking the drug one to two weeks before your Quit Date. (See: More About Zyban). If you’re thinking of joining a quit-smoking programme, organise that this coincides with Quit Day.
Quit Day – and beyond
You’re on your way. You know you’ve got to be tough on yourself, but remember to be good to yourself too on Quit Day and the challenging weeks to follow:
- Do something special to reward yourself on Quit Day, and for each day or week you’ve been smoke-free. Apart from motivating you, it helps you feel less deprived. Whether it’s going for a massage or buying a new item for your home or wardrobe, you deserve to treat yourself. Put aside the money you would have spent on cigarettes each week or month, and buy yourself or one of your supporters a gift.
- The famous tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous – one day at a time – is applicable to anyone freeing themselves from an addiction. Don’t dwell on the months stretching ahead, unless it’s to remind yourself that each day in the future will be a little easier than today.
- Make a big noise about your Quit Day: shout it from the rooftops. Tell everyone you know, and ask them to support you and help make sure you don’t slip up. Ask them to keep inquiring how it’s going in the days to come. Announce how many days you’ve been smoke-free at every opportunity.
- If you’ve decided to try nicotine replacement therapy, Quit Day is the best time to start using it.
- Until you’ve been smoke-free for at least a few days, and are starting to build up confidence about your willpower, rather avoid places and situations where people are likely to smoke, and where/when you would have been likely to smoke in your past life as a smoker. Deliberately spend more time in no-smoking zones, and involve yourself in activities that aren’t conducive to smoking, like sports or spending time with your kids. Ask smoker friends, family members and colleagues not to smoke in your presence. If they aren’t supportive, avoid them.
- Don’t let withdrawal symptoms derail you. Keep in mind that they don’t go on for more than a few weeks, and become increasingly less intense after the first two to three days. Think of them as a positive sign of your body ridding itself of toxins and starting to fight its way back to health.
- Don’t fall into the ‘just one cigarette won’t hurt’ trap. You may feel particularly tempted if you hit a stressful situation, like a work deadline, or even if a ‘special occasion’ like a party crops up. Remember that just one cigarette leads to just one more, and just like that, you’ll be smoking again.
For more useful tips, see ‘What Makes You Smoke?’
Relapse: not the end of the road
So you had a cigarette. Maybe a few. But that’s no reason to despair and let all your good work go out the window.
Giving up smoking may require several attempts: the statistics are that people fail to quit five to seven times before succeeding. So don’t beat yourself up about it too much; instead, channel your energy into regrouping as quickly as possible. Identify what it was that made you slip up, and decide what you’re going to do to avoid that trigger in the future. Reassess your battle tactics and consider making some changes or additions. For example, if you decided to ‘go it alone’ before, this time consider nicotine replacement therapy or counselling.
Remind yourself of all the reasons you wanted to give up. Make that list again. If you need inspiration, look at ‘Benefits of giving up smoking’ and ‘How smoking affects your body’.
Think of relapse not as a failure, but as a recognised stage in the long-term process of quitting for good. The very fact that you’ve tried to give up before means you’ll have more skills for the next attempt. Don’t give up. Keep exercising that willpower muscle, and you’ll get there. (Olivia Rose-Innes)
How can I stop smoking?
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