Cigarette/tobacco smoking is an unhealthy habit and addiction. We all know people who struggle to give it up, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not. To make sure you are in the success camp, here are the best strategies for kicking the tobacco habit.
We all know individuals who become defensive, claiming tobacco smoking is unfairly maligned. They tell about Uncle Joe who smoked a pack a day for 30 years and he’s still alive. They forget to mention Uncle Joe’s quality of life. Uncle Joe could have one or more of the following diseases.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Coronary artery disease
- Peripheral artery disease
- Colorectal cancer
- Liver cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Stomach cancer
- Bladder and kidney cancer
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Acute myeloid leukemia
- Cervical cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
Economically, Uncle Joe set fire to his money. He never had enough money to take a vacation let alone save enough for a down payment on a house.
We try smoking for a variety of reasons. It creates a sense of belonging with the group, or a sense of being an adult and having control over one’s own life. There is a happy, euphoric hit of emotion. Some claim greater clarity of thinking, or a sense of relaxation. And smoking seems to go really well with coffee, alcohol, and socializing. These are the initial emotional roots of addiction.
Craig Nakken author of The Addictive Personality: Understanding the Addictive Process and Compulsive Behavior, tells us why, even after an addict has given up the object of addiction she/he will never be done with recovery. He says addiction is a process of buying into false and empty promises. There is a false promise of relief, the false promise of emotional security, the false sense of fulfillment, and the false sense of intimacy with the world.
Like any other major illness, Nakken says addiction is an experience that changes people in permanent ways. Research now shows that the nicotine in tobacco changes the biochemistry of the brain and body. The individual trying to give up smoking has to undo the body’s craving, as well, the emotional craving and the habit behavior. To succeed all three areas must be addressed.
The rate of smoking in those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression, and other mental illnesses is two to four times greater than the general population. Among those with schizophrenia smoking rates are as high as 90 percent.
There are more than 7,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke.
To master the smoking/nicotine addiction one must have an acceptance of the need to change, and develop a commitment to work toward change.
For many, kicking the tobacco habit can seem like an impossible challenge, but it can be done. Winter is a good time to start giving up smoking when you find yourself exiled to a frozen fire escape and forced out onto the icy streets to sate your cravings.
Doireann Maddock of the British Heart Foundation tells us quitting smoking is a process. She does not recommend quitting cold turkey. She believes success comes with preparation:
- Set a date to quit and make sure to pick a relatively stress-free time
- Change behavior by voiding situations where you know you’ll be tempted, like post-work drinks
- Plan what you’re going to do with all the money you save
- Tell yours friends and family that you’re quitting – to help your focus
For most smokers the phrase ‘cold turkey’ brings to mind visions of suffering, anxiety, and drudgery, but quitting by pure will power may be the best way. . According to a meta-analysis published by the American Public Health Association, cold turkey was a successful method used by 85 per cent of successful long-term quitters.
Strategies for Ending Smoking Behavior
Herbal supplements are a healthier alternative to anti-smoking drugs. Valerian, motherwort and holy basil have been used for centuries in folk medicine to combat stress, anxiety and depression, the common side effects of quitting nicotine. In a pilot study, a combination of St John’s Wort with smoking cessation counseling boosted quit rates by 37.5 per cent.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been used to treat everything from depression to stuttering, and has a strong track record in its applications to conquer addictions. The process consists of working together with a therapist to change deeply ingrained patterns of thought and behavior by reprogramming the smoker’s mind away from nicotine. Professional therapies, such as CBT, can double your chances of successfully quitting.
Robin Hayley, MD and therapist, states once smokers lose their fear, it really is easy to stop smoking. Haley says the idea that smoking provides any genuine pleasure or crutch is a delusion. Physically, the stress that nicotine supposedly relieves is actually created by the nicotine itself – it’s a bit like putting on a tight pair of shoes just for the pleasure of taking them off again.
Hypnosis advocates claim that drugs and self help books only affect the conscious mind, and as a result ignore the huge power of the subconscious. By unlocking the power of mind, hypnosis can improve motivation, focus of attention, positive visual imagery and freedom from anxiety and tension. Hypnosis can break the subconscious association of smoking with pleasure.
Gaylene Mooney, chair of the American Association for Respiratory Care’s Subcommittee on Smoking and Tobacco says keep a list of when you smoke for a week before quitting, note what you’re doing at the time and how bad the craving is to see if specific times of the day or activities increase your cravings.
Daniel Z. Lieberman, M.D., director of the Clinical Psychiatric Research Center at George Washington University Medical Center recommends:
- Make an honest list of all the things you like about smoking
- Draw a line down the center of a piece of paper and write them on one side
- On the other side make a list of all the things you dislike about smoking. Review and think about the list over time and make changes
- Seek feedback from family and friends about your use of cigarettes
- When the negative side outweighs the positive side, you are ready to quit
Lieberman says now make another list of why quitting won’t be easy. He recommends being thorough even if the list gets long and discouraging. Anticipate the challenges to quitting, and their solutions, to increases your chance of success.
Next to each entry list one or more alternatives for overcoming that challenge. For example:
- Nicotine is an addictive drug – try a nicotine replacement alternative
- Smoking helps me deal with stress – take five-minute walks instead
Consider the quit date a contract and it should include your signature and that of a supportive witness.
Write all your reasons for quitting on an index card and keep it with you.
Stop buying cartons of cigarettes, only buy a pack at a time, and only carry two or three cigarettes with you at a time. Eventually you’ll find that when you want a smoke, you won’t have any immediately available. That will slowly wean you down to fewer cigarettes.
Quit when you’re in a good mood. Studies show when you’re depressed or under a great deal of stress it is more difficult to quit.
When your quit date arrives, throw away anything that reminds you of smoking, leftover cigarettes, matches, lighters, ashtrays, cigarette holders, even the lighter in your car.
Put all the money you save on cigarettes in a large glass jar so you will physically see how much you’ve been spending.
Earmark that money for something you’ve always dreamed of doing, but never thought you could afford, like a cruise to Alaska.
Switch to decaf coffee until you’ve been cigarette-free for two months, too much caffeine while quitting can cause the jitters.
Think of the difficult things you have done in the past and build on that persistence and success attitude.
Meditation is about mindfulness. Addiction studies show awareness of the body, thoughts, and feelings in the present moment is more effective when trying to change behavior rather than avoiding thoughts of cravings. Meditation creates a method for self-acceptance of negative thoughts and fears. Meditation has the ability to change thought processes and brain activities that can affect the body’s chemistry.
Alternative behaviors to smoking
Make copies of this list and keep one with you so when the craving hits, you can find an alternative
- Take a walk
- Drink a glass of water
- Kiss your partner or child
- Throw the ball for the dog
- Play a game
- Wash the car
- Clean out a cupboard or closet
- Have sex
- Chew a piece of gum
- Wash your face
- Brush your teeth
- Take a nap
- Get a cup of coffee or tea
- Practice deep breathing
- Light a candle
- Carry cinnamon-flavored toothpicks and suck on one whenever a cigarette craving hits
- Find a healthy snack food you can carry with you, like sunflower seeds
- Switch your cigarette habit for a nut habit to get the same physical and oral sensations you get from smoking.
- Switch to a cup of herbal tea whenever you usually have a cigarette.
- The act of brewing the tea and slowing sipping it as it cools will provide the same stress relief as a hit of nicotine.
- Instead of a cigarette break at work, play a game of solitaire on your computer
- Avoid places where smokers congregate.
- Picture yourself playing tennis, or go play tennis. British researchers found volunteers trying to quit smoking were better able to ignore their urges to smoke when they were told to visualize a tennis match.
- Create a smoke-free zone.
- Don’t allow anyone to use tobacco in your home or car
- Make actual “No Smoking” signs and hang them around your house and in your car.
- To minimize cravings, change your routine. Sit in a different chair at breakfast or take a different route to work.
- Try Avena sativa (oat) extract. One study found that taken at 1 milliliters four times daily, habitual tobacco smokers significantly decrease the number of cigarettes they smoke.
- Don’t bottle up your emotions. If something makes you angry, express it instead of smothering it with cigarette smoke.
- Make an appointment with an acupuncturist.
- If you relapse, just start again. You haven’t failed. Some people have to quit as many as eight times before they are successful.
- Avoid triggers. Urges for tobacco are likely to be strongest in situations where you smoked often. Identify your trigger situations and have a plan in place to avoid them entirely or get through them without using tobacco.
- Don’t set yourself up for a smoking relapse. If you usually smoked while you talked on the phone keep a pen and paper nearby to occupy yourself with doodling rather than smoking.
- If you feel like you’re going to give in to your tobacco craving, tell yourself that you must first wait 10 more minutes and then do something to distract yourself for that period of time.
- Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can have just one cigarette and stop. Physical activity can help. distract you from tobacco cravings and reduce their intensity.
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, yoga, visualization, hypnosis and massage.
- Call for reinforcements; touch base with a family member, friend or support group to resist a tobacco craving.
- Join an online stop-smoking program, or read a quitter’s blog and post encouraging thoughts for someone else who might be struggling with tobacco cravings.
If you stumble don’t give up. Revise your plan. Be sure your plan addresses physical needs, emotional needs and habitual behaviors. Visualize your healthy, smoke free life. It never hurts to ask a Higher Power for strength.
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