Here is how I finally quit smoking for good and overcame my cigarette habit.
First, let me remind you of what you already know: quitting smoking is hard. You know this because you’ve tried to quit smoking and you’ve failed. I have tried to quit as well, several times, using several different techniques. Now that I have finally quit, and made it stick, I want to help you to do the same. Quitting wasn’t easy for me. I can’t promise that it will be easy for you….we both know that it won’t be. But I think I can help you.
Photo by Axolo71
If you have some interest in quitting smoking (very likely, since you are reading this), then you have experienced a desire to quit smoking—a desire to be free of nicotine.
Now you might think you need a more extreme guide to quitting smoking, or you that you want to quit smoking even though you truly enjoy cigarettes. It’s also possible that you might still need to develop the motivation to quit. If, on the other hand, you have experienced a moment where you were fed up with cigarettes, sick and tired of smoking one after the other, sick of having to feed your addiction, of standing out in the cold, of being miserable. You have made a decision to start considering the possibility of quitting. You are probably still toying with the idea of quitting even though you haven’t made the official decision yet.
If and when you do decide to quit, the strength of your commitment, the strength of your resolve, and—most importantly—the memory of that decision–is of the utmost importance. Let me say that again: the memory of your decision to quit and the level of commitment involved….that is what is critical. You must commit fully. Make a strong, mental commitment to it. Concentrate on remembering this commitment, this decision of yours. Now if you are sitting there reading this, still a smoker, then you probably cannot grasp the importance of this concept. You will probably believe that this information does not apply to you, because you may very well have a strong will and a good memory. So here is the scientific breakthrough for you: nicotine withdrawal changes all of that.
Let me say that another way: nicotine withdrawal changes your brain chemistry. Literally. For some people the withdrawal symptoms are much worse than others, but the fact remains: nicotine withdrawal changes your thinking on a physical level. How will this manifest itself? What you essentially have to prepare for is the fact that—despite your strong-willed resolve to quit smoking and truly give it up for good this time—every single pore of your body, mind, and soul is going to be crying out for a cigarette when you are going through the worst of your withdrawals. You will forget—literally forget—the strength of your resolve to quit smoking. This isn’t just some subtle psychological trick, mind you—this happens on a physical level. You have to be prepared for it. You will question yourself. You will wonder about your decision to quit.
So how can you strengthen your resolve, knowing ahead of time that it is going to be seriously challenged? There are a number of ways. My best suggestion for you is to do some writing. Before you quit, write down the reasons you are quitting. Write a letter to yourself. Write about how sick and tired you are of smoking. Remind yourself not to light up, no matter what. It might feel childish to sit and write about this stuff. Do it anyway.
Remind yourself that you were of sound mind and had rational thought when you made the decision to quit smoking. It seems ridiculous, now, to remind yourself that you were sane when you decided to quit smoking…but I promise you, you will question your decision when you are in the worst of your withdrawals. That is why the reinforcement is needed, to overcome this enormous change in perception. You have to be ready when your brain starts questioning your decision.
Photo by MarkFlemingPhoto
There is an awful lot of money being made out there by products that are designed to help you quit smoking. Understand that the nicotine products—the patch, the gum, the lozenges—are making billions of dollars each year(that is not an exaggeration), precisely because they don’t work. Pretty much the same core population of “quitters” keep buying into the lie: that the nicotine patch or the gum can help them quit smoking. What I am telling you is this: those products do not work and actually make it harder for you to quit smoking. But what about all of those studies proving that the patch or the gum is effective in helping people to quit smoking, you say? With billions of dollars at stake each year, those studies are carefully orchestrated.
Statistically, people wearing the patch do better in the short term (while they are still on the patch) than those who are going cold turkey, but once the patch comes off—guess what? They are smoking again. Volunteer patch-wearing quitters don’t smoke and good numbers get posted for the studies, but these people generally don’t stay quit in the long term. On the other hand, most of the cold turkey quitters from the control group don’t even make it through the first day, but the ones who do make it—stay quit. Replacement strategies seek to replace the nicotine in your body, and I have never had any success with them. Alternatively, supplemental strategies (holistic approaches such as meditation, nutrition, relaxation, or exercise) can be used in conjunction with each other, and can help a smoker quit without putting more drugs into their body (such as with the Nicotine patch).
So my suggestion? Quit cold turkey. I know that sounds like a death sentence. After I had tried and failed to quit smoking so many times, even with the help of the nicotine patch, I felt that I would have no chance going cold turkey. But it worked. Unbelievably, it worked for me and I stayed quit. However, my success was not a matter of will power—I can assure you. I have tried and failed so many times before this. Here is what worked for me:
Don’t smoke no matter what.
Don’t use any nicotine products—the patch, the gum, the lozenges, the inhalers, etc.
Don’t overdo the sweets and sugars. Chew sugar-free gum. (NOT nicotine gum). Chew toothpicks.
Eat smaller portions of food, but do it more frequently throughout the day. Don’t binge on food! Concentrate on purposely eating much slower than usual.
Moderately reduce your caffeine intake, especially if you are a coffee drinker.
Here is what really clinched it for me though: I took a few days off of work for the beginning of my quit. On the first day off, I quit smoking at night before going to bed. I woke up the next day and started flushing my system by drinking massive amounts of cranberry juice. I drank the stuff all day long. By night time I was getting into some more serious cravings. Instead of going to sleep though, I stayed up all night long, flushing my system out further and becoming extra tired. At nine o’clock the next morning I was still awake, dead tired, and entering the worst of my withdrawals. See the timing there? I was extra, extra tired when I was approaching the worst part of my physical withdrawal. I believe this was the key to my success—because at this point, I was able to lie down and sleep for about 24 hours straight—right through the peak of my body’s withdrawals. I literally stayed asleep for over 20 hours. When I finally got up, I could tell that the cravings where subsiding. I was through the worst of it. By a long shot, I was through the worst of it. Every day after that, it got a little easier each day. At the end of day five I was telling people that I was surprised at how easy this was turning out to be.
Photo by GlobalGreen
The exact details and characteristics of nicotine withdrawal will vary a bit from person to person. But there are some averages that you should know about. Your body starts changing the moment you quit. At 72 hours, your bloodstream is completely free from nicotine and your withdrawal symptoms should be peaking. My withdrawal symptoms peaked closer to 48 hours because I was flushing my system so heavily with cranberry juice (not necessarily recommended, although drinking moderate amounts of juice is definitely a good thing). So expect days two, three, and four of your quit to be especially rough.
Remember, the best way to quit smoking is to sleep through the tough part.
As far as cravings go, by the end of week two, you are pretty much out of the woods. Just two weeks, and you will be in a position where you are no longer craving cigarettes. When your withdrawal peaks on day 3, you will probably think about wanting to smoke about once every ten seconds. I remember reading a bunch of tips on how to get through a cigarette craving during these times. How ridiculous. All of day 3 will be one big massive craving. (That is why I honestly recommend sleeping through it). However, at the end of the first week, you can expect to go for five or ten minutes without having the thought of a cigarette. And by the end of two weeks, you will go entire hours without thinking of smoking, and the occasional urge will be nothing more than a mere nuisance. After two months, you will go for a whole day without thinking about a cigarette. A whole day!
Consider that for a moment. You can be nicotine free, enjoying all the benefits of not smoking, all the money saved, all the rewards of a life lived in a healthier manner. You will think of cigarettes less and less as time goes on, and eventually you will have entire days, weeks, months—where you don’t even think about smoking. Not once! You will be free from nicotine. Nobody really needs a reason to quit smoking anymore—not smoking is its own reward. It means tens of thousands of dollars saved, an extra fifteen to twenty years of lifespan, and freedom from the constant feedings that now dominate your life. Make a decision, right now, for a new and better life.