Whether you’re a social smoker or a lifetime pack-a-day smoker, quitting can be tough. The more you learn about your options and prepare for quitting, the easier it will be. With the right plan you can break the addiction, manage your cravings and join millions who have kicked the habit for good.
Smoking tobacco is both a physical addiction and a psychological habit. Nicotine from cigarettes provides a temporary and addictive high. When you remove that regular fix of nicotine your body will experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Because of nicotine’s “feel good” effect on the brain, you may have become accustomed to smoking as a way of coping with stress, depression or even boredom.
Smoking is often a highly ingrained ritual. You may have a cigarette after a meal, while taking a break from work or school or talking on the phone. In order to quit you need to address both the addiction and the habits that go with it.
Some smokers successfully quit cold turkey, but most do better with a plan to keep themselves on track. A good plan will address both the short-term challenge of quitting and prevent relapse on the long term. It should be tailored to your specific needs and smoking habits.
Take a bit of time to develop your own quit plan that will:
- Anticipate the challenges – What are triggers that make you want to light up? You will need to change your routine to avoid these as much as possible. If coffee reminds you of smoking, switch to tea or water.
- Address withdrawal – How will you handle withdrawal cravings? For example, if you are feeling irritable a strategy could be going for a walk. Being prepared for withdrawal symptoms will make dealing with them easier.
- Identify supports – Speak to your health care provider to learn about nicotine replacement therapies and stop smoking medications. The NWT Quitline (1-866-286-5099) is good. It offers confidential support for the quitting process by trained counselors. Identify family and friends you can count on for help to avoid tempting situations or keep you distracted when a craving hits.
- Set a date – The final step of your quit plan should be to set a date to begin your life without tobacco. Choose a date within the next two weeks so you have time to prepare without losing your motivation to quit. Let others know about your quit date.
A big part of quitting is changing your thinking. It is important to keep in mind all your reasons for wanting to quit and use them to refocus your thoughts whenever you crave a cigarette.
Most people try to quit several times before kicking the habit for good. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip. It is important to regain control and learn from the experience.
There are excellent smoking cessation resources available online to help on you be smoke free. On the Road to Quitting, produced by Health Canada, provides a detailed step by step guide to cessation. You can order one at gosmokefree.ca
Finally, never stop reminding yourself of all the positive reasons why you want to quit smoking: improve your health, be a good role model for your children or grandchildren, saving money etc. By preparing yourself in advance you can make that goal a reality!
Dr. André Corriveau; NWT Chief Medical Officer