Anatomy of a Smoking Relapse - Steve's Story

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How easy it can be to talk yourself into smoking "just one" cigarette, and how hard it can be to quit again once you do!

Most smokers who have tried to stop have gone through a smoking relapse or two. Time and distance from smoking have a way of blurring the edges on our reasons for quitting,and from there, it's a short step to lighting up the cigarette that starts the vicious cycle all over again.

Steve is a member of the support forum here at About.com Smoking Cessation who quit successfully several years ago.  He went through his share of relapses before finding a way to quit for good however, so the advice he shares comes from firsthand experience. 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Steve.  In order to succeed for the long term, we have to learn how to outsmart the junkie thoughts that can come with smoking cessation.  Your message helps us do that.

From Steve:

Some people may wonder how someone could relapse after fighting the battle to quit smoking for months. I pretty much was a relapse king for years - yeah, I eventually figured it out, but below are a few thoughts and experiences I had. 

It is TOUGH to get started again after a relapse.  Sometimes I would go months where I made a heartfelt promise EVERY DAY to get back on the wagon tomorrow.  Tomorrow came and went over and over.

Every drag from every cigarette was a reminder of how much I hated being addicted to nicotine. AHHH smoking is horrible.

I cannot stress enough that we are all one cigarette away from a full blown addiction. You may not believe it, so let me describe how it can happen:

One day you might be (stressed, depressed, happy, sad, etc) and you might think you 'need' one cigarette.

You might feel some pangs of guilt, but then you think "One couldn't hurt."  I've had times where I was driving to the store - TELLING myself that this was stupid, but I wanted one. After months of being free (& happy) from nicotine, you get your hands on one cigarette.

You look at this cigarette and you feel bad,  but then you hear the chatter in your mind saying "What the heck, a few drags will be OK." That first puff tastes horrible.  You think,  "Maybe the next drag or two will taste better (no)."  You look down and the cigarette is gone. You are left with a horrible taste in your mouth and guilt. Complete disgust.

Over the next few days you are riddled with guilt.  Thoughts of "Why did I do that?" ring through your mind. Then you get (stressed, tired, angry, etc, etc) and you think "its only been a week, one will be OK. I need it!" This may repeat a few times. Soon you find yourself trying to control your smoking - if you can limit smoking to one or two cigarettes a week you'll be OK (right!).

Then you find yourself outside in the cold one early morning, shivering as you light up a cigarette, thoughts of stopping tomorrow echoing in your head.

Now you are full on addicted once again, back to thinking about the first two weeks - and really the first three months of withdrawal.

Its really tough to start over..... and you did it to yourself.  You think: "How could I have been so dumb?!?!"

So much easier to not smoke in the first place.

Steve - Quit Date:  8/19/12

More Reading:  

Smoking Relapse:  This is How it Happens

5 Faulty Thought Patterns That Set You Up for a Relapse

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