Five Steps to Staying Smoke-Free After You Quit Smoking —Fred H. Kelley

You’ve finally quit smoking, and feel like you have the problem under control. But you still have cravings and feel like you might give in if you aren’t careful.

Quitting smoking is the easy part. Staying quit is the heart of the problem. It is critical that you know how to cope with the days, weeks and months after you quit.

1. You must understand the changes that quitting will bring, not only in you, but also in people around you. You should plan on experiencing one or more of the following: anger, depression, sadness, sickness and other physical or mental stresses. These are normal stages that most ex-smokers go through as they clear their mind and body of the effects of smoking.

You’ll also probably notice changes in the people you “leave behind.” If you have friends who you smoked with, they may no longer feel comfortable around you, or vice versa. Family members who still smoke may pressure you to resume smoking. These changes in you interpersonal relationships can cause stress and sadness. Be aware of these possibilities so you can plan for them. If appropriate, talk openly with the people in your lives about what you are doing, and ask them to help you quit smoking. Also, ask them how you can best make them feel okay about your relationship.

2. Examine the situations that most tempt you to smoke. Keep a “temptation journal” and record the circumstances that make you most susceptible to smoking. For example, you may notice that as you are taking the last few bites of your meal or your dessert, that you begin to crave a cigarette. Or when you enter a smoke-filled restaurant, you instantly crave a cigarette. Keep careful tabs on these temptation triggers, then avoid them as much as possible.

When you run into situations that are unavoidable, you should have a list of actions that you can take to beat the temptation. There are two types of actions you can take: physical and mental. You list of physical actions might include:

  • Take a nap
  • Take a walk
  • Engage in other physical activity
  • Eat or drink something
  • Take several slow deep breaths
  • Get out of the situation you are in (party, bar, etc.)
  • Write in your temptation journal or quit smoking diary
  • Call a friend
  • Talk to another smoker or ex-smoker
  • Take a shower or bath

Your list of mental actions might include:

  • Think about someone very important to you
  • Think about the tremendous effort you have already been through to quit
  • Concentrate on something else in the room or on another problem you have been wrestling with
  • Tell yourself how proud you are that you have quit
  • Focus on the positive benefits of quitting (more energy, longer life, clean lungs, save money, etc.)
  • Visualize the negative impact of smoking (black lungs, your grave marker, your sad family, smelly clothes, yellow teeth, etc.)
  • Instantly tell yourself “I beat cigarettes” or “No smoking” or “I am a non-smoker” or some other phrase that works for you.

Develop your own pre-planned physical and mental responses and have them “at the ready” whenever you face temptation.

3. As mentioned in #1 above, you should consider sharing your feelings and experience with family and friends. Talk openly about what smoking meant to you, what quitting now means to you, and what you are going through. Find someone who is willing to listen, without judgment as you work through quitting.

If possible, find other ex-smokers who understand what you are experiencing. Often, people who have never smoked or have not quit smoking will not be able to comprehend the impact that quitting has on you. You can find support on the message board here:

4. Help someone else quit. When you quit, you gain incredible insight that could help many others who are trying to quit. By sharing your newfound wisdom, you’ll reinforce your decision to quit, while helping someone else. Read this article about helping yourself quit by helping others:

5. Regularly reward yourself. Take each new smoke-free day one at a time, but be sure to reward yourself when you reach milestones. Write down your quitting goals and rewards so you don’t forget them. For example:

  • 7 days…my favorite dessert
  • 21 days…purchase a new shirt
  • One month… dinner and a movie
  • Three months…purchase a new outfit
  • Six months… weekend getaway
  • One year…7 day Bahamas cruise

Make the rewards meaningful to you. These goals should help to overpower the pull of cigarettes.

As you begin your new smoke-free life, take the steps that are necessary to remain a non-smoker. Most things in life that are worth having require some effort. Approach quitting as if your life depended on it!

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