As you approach the date marked on your calendar, you'll need to prepare yourself for the actual quitting process. Since smoking has been part of your whole existence including your physical self, your emotional self, and part of your general surroundings, each of these areas needs preparation for the quitting process.
Preparation of Surroundings
Cigarette smoking has been part of your life and as such has probably left its mark all around you. In your efforts to quit smoking it is important for you to remove the evidence and reminders of your smoking habit. This will serve to decrease temptation from these reminders as well as to strengthen your commitment to the quitting process through visible reminders.
1. Two weeks prior to quit date, limit your smoking to one room in your home. This room should be the least comfortable place. For example, choose the laundry room, the basement, or the porch. Move all of your smoking paraphernalia, such as ashtray and lighter, to that room. Limiting where you smoke will help you to cut down on the quantity of cigarettes that you smoke by making the process more inconvenient. A pack of cigarettes that is next to the couch and in front of the television set will probably be smoked. Further, by limiting where you smoke you also eliminate many of the cues and triggers you identified in earlier chapters. If you tend to smoke when watching television or finishing a meal, you will begin to break that association by learning to smoke without engaging in either activity. Smoking should become merely an act of inhaling and putting out your cigarette and not a part of your daily routines.
2. Clean out your car. Remove all evidence that your car was that of a smoker. Vacuum out the carpet, remove the ashtray and lighter, and discard any remaining cigarettes. After your car is clean, make this a non-smoking area for yourself and other guests who ride in your car. By preparing your car, you will begin to break any associations that you may have between driving your car and smoking a cigarette. For example, if somebody cuts you off when you are driving and normally you would reach for a cigarette, you will now be forced to adopt an alternative strategy to manage this frustration. Also, as a non-smoking area your car will become a safe haven for you when you are tempted to smoke. Now you have eliminated one more trigger or cue for your smoking.
3. Clean and deodorize your home. Since you have now limited your smoking to only one room in your home, you can begin to clean and prepare the remaining rooms for your actual quit date. Get your carpets and draperies cleaned. Remove the odor of cigarettes from your furniture and clothing. Discover and remove those hidden cigarettes that may be lurking in the couch cushion, under the bed, or in the back of the refrigerator. During those initial days after your quit date, you may be tempted by any stray cigarette that you can find. Remove the temptation now before your quit date.
Preparation of Your Physical Self
Once your surroundings are prepared it is time to get yourself physically in shape for the quitting process. As you've seen in the preceding chapters, nicotine is a physically addicting chemical and as such your body may experience some withdrawal symptoms after you quit smoking. To make the process a little more comfortable, it is important to get yourself physically prepared for these changes.
1. Visit your dentist. Get your teeth cleaned. This will serve to remind you that you are about to begin life as a non-smoker. With the tar and nicotine removed from your teeth you are literally starting fresh without cigarettes.
2. Monitor your alcohol consumption prior to and immediately after quitting. The effects of alcohol are intensified when used in conjunction with cigarettes. That is, when alcohol and cigarettes are used together they each bring out the most harmful physical effects of the other. Further, when you drink alcohol your inhibitions are decreased and you are therefore more likely to relapse into smoking. For many smokers alcohol is also paired or associated with smoking. Therefore, when you have a drink you may automatically begin thinking about a cigarette, which puts you more at risk for relapsing into smoking. It maybe important for you to avoid alcohol during the first couple of months after quitting until you are beyond the most difficult phase of quitting. Then you can slowly reintroduce alcohol consumption back into your life.
3. Reduce your caffeine consumption prior to quitting. Nicotine acts on the body by changing your metabolism. If you are used to consuming a fair amount of caffeine as a smoker, your body may not be able to tolerate the same amount after you quit smoking. If this is the case, you may experience a jittery/nervous sensation which may not be related to tobacco withdrawal but rather caffeine intoxication. Several weeks before your quit date begin to reduce your caffeine consumption. Remember, caffeine is not just found in coffee but also in chocolate, soda pop, etc. Once you have quit smoking you will then be in a better position to re-establish an appropriate amount of caffeine for you.
4. Get plenty of rest. During your first smoke-free week it is important to get plenty of rest. You probably have been bombarding your body with the drug nicotine for many years. Once you stop the drug your body needs time to readjust without the drug. This healing process can be difficult and exhausting for the first couple of weeks. Plenty of rest will help move you physically through this process with greater ease. Think about this phase as a time for recovery.
5. Drink plenty of fluids. The healing process requires good nutrition and plenty of fluids. Try to drink fruit juices, which tend to cut down on the craving for nicotine for many people.
6. Use healthy oral substitutes. During the initial few weeks after quitting it is important to have healthy foods prepared for snacking. For example, keep celery, carrots, raisins, apples, pickles, sunflower seeds, etc. readily available for snacking. These snacks will help you when a craving strikes and you need something oral to satisfy you. However, make sure that the snacks you are choosing are low in calories and high in bulk. This will help with the craving but minimize the weight gain. [Note from QuitSmoking.com: Our E-Z Quit artificial cigarette is an excellent and healthy oral substitute.]
7. Chew sugarless gum and hard candy. During the first few weeks after you quit smoking your throat may feel dry or you may have a "tickle" cough; sucking on ice chips, hard candy, or chewing gum can help. Also, you can use the candy or gum as a substitute when you have a craving.
Preparation of Your Emotional Self
One of the biggest challenges to quitting smoking is preparing yourself emotionally. Many smokers talk about feeling a sense of loss when thinking about quitting smoking. You may find yourself thinking about quitting smoking as losing a friend or at the very least losing your coping strategy. Either way you describe it you may sense the loss of security and control when you quit smoking. To overcome these feelings you need to prepare yourself emotionally for the process of quitting smoking, and for life after cigarettes.
1. Repeat to yourself your reasons for needing to quit smoking. Although this has been stated many places throughout this book it bears repeating because it is so important. Your reasons for needing to quit smoking will provide you with the strength and willpower to get through the quitting process. Review these reasons. Reinforce them to yourself several times a day. Write them down and carry them with you. Place them in a visible area for yourself.
2. Plan activities for your first smoke-free week. The worst thing that can happen on your quit date or the weeks that follow is to find yourself in a situation where you are craving a cigarette and you have no alternative strategy available to you other than reaching for a cigarette. Plan activities that are inconsistent with smoking such as doing crossword puzzles, jogging, swimming, washing dishes, going to the grocery store, visiting the library or church, etc. Idle or empty time can be dangerous during the initial quitting process. Stay active and busy.
3. Occupy your hands with other objects. Use pencils, toothpicks, paper clips, rubber bands, etc. to occupy your hands when you feel something is missing without a cigarette.
4. Beware of cigarette advertisements. As a smoker you have probably been bombarded with literature on cigarettes, offered many coupons and rebates on cigarettes, and tempted by magazine and billboard ads. Don't be tempted. It may be helpful for you to analyze and seriously consider what these ads are really saying to you. For example, ask yourself how companies have been able to sell you a product that causes serious medical diseases that can lead to death. Why is it that the individuals who are portrayed in these ads always have smooth skin and white teeth? Nicotine alters the elasticity in the skin and yellows your teeth. Is your health really only worth that 50 cent coupon? Why do cigarette ads always show healthy, young, attractive individuals who are very happy? Most smokers tend to suffer from some effects of their smoking habit such as coughing and more frequent episodes of colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Many smokers continue to smoke as a way of dealing with depression and stress. What is so cool and refreshing about tar sticking to your lungs, and 4,000-plus substances being deposited in your lungs (including arsenic, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide)? After years of smoking many smokers would not be able to participate in the vigorous activities that are shown in cigarette ads, nor are they able to breathe in and smell the fresh mountain air that is shown. Cigarette advertisements are successful in luring individuals into smoking and continuing to smoke by appealing to your perceived vulnerabilities. Everyone wants to be seen as attractive, successful, sexy, and fun. The reality is that by being pulled in by these ads you are risking your life to help the tobacco company make money. If you remind yourself of these realities you will be less likely to be tempted and intrigued by these ads. Rather you should be angry that they are making money at your expense.
5. Never allow yourself to think that one cigarette won't hurt. Many smokers relapse because they fall into the trap of believing that they can control their smoking and one cigarette won't hurt. This is harmful thinking because the majority of smokers may be able to have one for a while but eventually this will lead to two and before you realize it you will be back smoking the same quantity of cigarettes. Further, in order for your body to begin healing itself and to complete the withdrawal process you need to have all nicotine out of your system. By smoking one cigarette you re-introduce nicotine back into your system which delays healing.
6. "Smoking is no longer an option for me." Immediately after quitting you may find yourself looking for excuses to justify smoking. Excuses are easy to find when you are looking for them. However, if you have told yourself that smoking is not an option for you anymore you will need to find another option when your feel stressed or nervous, or when you are finishing a meal or waiting for a friend. On your quit date remind yourself that smoking is no longer an option for you and therefore you must handle whatever situation presents itself to you. This statement will empower you to find and use alternative coping strategies.
Fear of "Losing a Friend"
As your quit date approaches, you may find yourself feeling sad--as if you were about to lose a friend. Frequently, smokers will describe their cigarettes as a good "friend." Smoking may have helped them deal with periods of stress in their life, been a source of comfort when they felt lonely and depressed, and in some ways proved a companion when they felt socially awkward angry or isolated. If you share these feelings you may be fearful of what life will be like without this "friend." The following exercise is one developed in workshops. Smokers have reported that when they put this "friend" in a different context they could let go with a little more ease. By following the instructions below you, too, will be able to see your "friend" in a new way.
Close your eyes and picture your cigarette. Imagine that the cigarette is as tall as you are and you are standing side by side. Put your arm around the cigarette. You are now feeling comfort and support from your "friend." You believe that this "friend" will support you, will help you to feel in control, will take away your worry and stress, and will provide companionship for you when you are lonely. Imagine that the two of you are walking arm in arm. You believe in this "friend" and you trust this "friend." You are now approaching a grassy knoll. As you get closer to the hill, you see a hole in the ground with dirt piled around it. Your "friend" brings you closer to the hole. You feel the cold air and see that it is a grave site. Your name is on the gravestone. Arm in arm your "friend" walks you around the hole. You and your "friend" walk around and around the hole. You continue to get closer and closer to the edge of the hole. You begin to lose your footing and you reach for your "friend." You are afraid. You keep reaching and reaching and reaching for your "friend" but your friend keeps walking you closer and closer to the dark hole. Is this your "friend"?
The above exercise can be frightening and sobering. However, it is important for you to focus on the reality of your smoking. A friend would not want you to be in harm's way. A friend wants what is best for you. Although you may not find yourself using the word "friend" when you think about your cigarettes, you may be using and relying on them as such. Remember, a true friend does not just put a bandage on a situation but rather helps to guide you towards long-term coping. Cigarettes may make you feel better for the moment but in the end they lead you closer and closer to years of suffering. Cigarettes are not your friend.
Enlisting Social Support for Your Quit Date
1. Use your support systems. Remind your friends and family that you are going through the quitting process and that it is important to you that they support you. Smokers who have more social support have more success in quitting. Avoid friends or family members who may be jealous of your attempt and success at quitting smoking, particularly if they themselves have failed in the past to quit smoking. Rely on individuals who really want to see you succeed, including those who have successfully quit smoking or who are nonsmokers.
2. Be assertive and direct when asking for support. Be assertive when asking that others not smoke around you or place you in high risk situations. Be specific in your request for support or help. For example, you may ask that others be tolerant of irritable behavior during the first couple of weeks, suggest that others not smoke around you, and seek out rewards and praise from others for your efforts. Everyone needs encouragement and praise for persevering through the difficult process of quitting smoking. Don't view this as a sign of weakness.
3. Negotiating with a live-in smoker. Living with a smoker may make your efforts to quit smoking more difficult. Therefore, it is important to work out an agreement prior to your quit date that you can both feel comfortable with. For example, you may request that the smoker not leave cigarettes lying around the house. It may be a good idea to have the smoker smoke in only one room in the house or at least not smoke in your presence during the first couple of weeks after your quit date. Reinforce to the smoker how important quitting smoking is to you and how you value his or her support. Request that the smoker not do things or say things to undermine your efforts to quit smoking. If the smoker really cares about you and your health he or she will want to support your efforts in improving your overall well-being. Sometimes it is difficult for current smokers (even those with good intentions) to really support someone else's efforts to quit smoking. This can occur for several reasons. The smoker may be jealous that you are succeeding at quitting while he or she is not and therefore feel weak by comparison. The smoker may feel abandoned for having lost his or her "smoking partner." This may take some of the social pleasure of smoking away from him or her. Prior to your quit date, it will be helpful for you to discuss these feelings with the smoker in order to prevent any potential sabotage of your efforts and to increase all-around support of you.
4. Working with a smoker. What do you do if a co-worker smokes and is not interested in quitting? It is much easier to negotiate with a family member or friend than it is with a co-worker because loved ones presumably have your best interest at heart. However, this may not be the case with fellow employees. It is important to make a request for support or at the very least for respect of your efforts to quit smoking. Your co-workers may feel that you do not have a right to impose on them or they may share feelings such as jealousy. This is all right. You still have a right to make the request and to work out an equitable arrangement regarding smoking in the workplace. For example, you may ask for a transfer to a work area that is smoke-free. You may find your co-workers commenting on your attitude and saying, "You are so crabby you're driving us crazy--just smoke a cigarette." Remind yourself and them that part of your irritability is related to nicotine withdrawal and therefore it is short-term. This short-term irritability is probably related to physical changes in your body. However, it is important that you not use this as an opportunity to intentionally treat others poorly. Monitor your own behavior and mood. Get distance from a situation if you feel yourself getting irritated. This will help reduce any potential conflict in the workplace. Finally, you may also need to discuss the office smoking policy with your employer. Be aware of your rights.
How Family and Friends Can Provide Support
Friends and family members can play an important role in your efforts to quit smoking. It is important for them to stay supportive of you and your desire to quit and at the same time not to be confrontational or punitive. Many smokers report that the type of support they get from their family and friends ranges from nagging to encouraging them to smoke because their mood and behavior is "out of control." This can leave you feeling like a failure and this discouragement may lead to a return to smoking.
Answering the following questions will help you define specifically what role your family and friends play in your efforts to quit smoking.
What are some things that your family has said to you regarding your efforts to quit in the past?
What are they currently saying about your present efforts to quit smoking?
What have your family members done in the past when you have attempted to quit smoking? For example, have they offered you a cigarette when you got crabby?
What have your friends said to you in the past regarding your attempts to quit smoking?
What are your friends currently saying to you regarding your attempt to quit smoking?
Is there a difference between the support you receive from your smoking friends versus your non-smoking friends?
Ideas for Supportive Family and Friends
Your Quit Date and the Weeks That Follow
1. Visualize and reinterpret your physical symptoms as "symptoms of recovery." In chapter 14 on nicotine substitution you saw a list of physical withdrawal symptoms that you may experience during the initial phase of quitting. Keep in mind that these symptoms are short-term and necessary to the healing process. Try to think about them as "symptoms of recovery." This means that when you are feeling irritable and restless or are having a "craving" remind yourself that although these symptoms may not feel good they remind you that your body is healing. If your body were transparent you would be able to see positive changes occurring. However, since you cannot see the changes you need to use these "physical symptoms" as a reminder or cue that your body is healing. "The pain is healing pain." Each time you feel "uncomfortable" think about what is happening in your body. Use the following imagery exercise to guide you through this healing process.
Close your eyes and imagine your lungs. See the black tar sitting on the tiny little air sacs that makes it hard for you to breathe at times. Each time you feel "uncomfortable" imagine this tar gradually being lifted off your lungs. Each breath that you take feels easier. You feel the clean air healing the wounded lung tissue. You see the 4,000-plus particles that are floating in your bloodstream being washed away. You feel your arteries relaxing and allowing blood to pass more readily through, cutting your risk for strokes and heart attacks. With each passing day you see more and more healing occurring inside your body. With each "discomfort" that you feel you see healing occurring in your body. You remind yourself that these symptoms are short-term.
2. Pay attention to your "high risk" situations. In chapter 7 you filled out a chart that defined your own smoking patterns. Refer to this chart and focus on your "high risk" areas. These are times, such as when you are stressed at work or finishing a meal, when you are most likely to desire a cigarette. During the initial weeks after quitting smoking it is important that you pay close attention to these situations or feelings. Prepare for them and have alternative strategies available. You are most at risk for automatically falling back into your routine of smoking during the first couple of weeks after quitting smoking if you are not vigilant about these "high risk" areas. Try either to avoid these situations or at the very least to have alternative strategies available.
3. Use distraction techniques. When you find yourself tempted to smoke a cigarette get some distance from the thought or situation. Distraction is a wonderful technique for preventing impulsive smoking. Distraction could include physically removing yourself from the situation, shifting your thought to something other than smoking, or engaging in an activity that makes smoking difficult (such as washing dishes, exercising, or visiting a nonsmoking friend). It is important to remember that the "desire" to smoke is generally very brief, lasting only seconds. Initially after quitting you may find that the "desire" for a cigarette feels fairly strong and you may "desire" a cigarette quite frequently. However, with time you will notice that the strength and frequency of the desire will decrease. This is why distraction can be very helpful. If you distract yourself for a brief period of time, the "desire" will fade and over time you will not experience the desire as often. Say to yourself, "This desire will only last for a short period of time and if I give into it and smoke I will have to start the healing process all over again. If I can distract myself the desire will pass and I will be one step closer to reducing the frequency of this desire." Reward yourself each time you successfully distract yourself away from the "desire."
4. Reinforce your reasons for needing to quit smoking. During the initial weeks after quitting smoking you will need to continue to reinforce for yourself your reasons for needing to quit smoking. Remember, these reasons need to be specific and personal to you. These reasons will help get you through the periods of temptation.
5. Repeat to yourself the benefits of quitting smoking. You need to remind yourself that good will come of the discomfort, inconvenience, lifestyle changes, and general effort that you are making during this quitting process. Repeat the following list of benefits to yourself several times a day.
Benefits of Quitting Smoking
1. Circulation improves
2. Decreases or cures allergies (smokers have three times more allergies than nonsmokers)
3. Eliminates chronic bronchitis (which decreases energy level, resistance to infection, and predisposes one to emphysema) in a few months after cessation
4. Reduces number of cavities and increases chance of keeping your own teeth (smokers have three times more cavities and gum disease than non-smokers)
5. Decreases risk of esophageal cancer by 500 percent
6. Decreases risk of kidney cancer by 50 percent
7. Decreases frequency and intensity of headaches
8. Non-smoking women have less discomfort and less problems with menopause
9. Decreases risk of osteoporosis
10. Increases lung and breathing capacity
11. Increases female fertility by 50 percent
12. Significantly decreases your risk for lung cancer and emphysema