Questions and Answers About the First Week of Smoking Cessation

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The first week of smoking cessation is trying for everyone, regardless of how much we want to quit smoking.  The following questions were posed by new ex-smokers to others who have recently stopped.  Their answers offer practical help to anyone who is working to manage the early days of nicotine withdrawal.

Trouble Getting Started

I just quit after smoking a pack a day for over 20 years.  I have the nicotine patch on to help me, but I keep thinking of having a cigarette. This is my second attempt to quit smoking. I really want to do it this time, but am finding it very hard. I'm also worried about gaining weight and I don't seem to know what to do with myself. Can anyone help me?

Answer from: Ex-Smoker Sandra
I am fairly new to quitting as well. I started with the patch but it gave me a headache so I am plugging along without. I thought about quitting ahead of time and did a few things to prepare.  Maybe some of it will help you get started too:

I joined an online smoking cessation support group and read everything I could about not smoking. I know the health hazards - we all do. I wanted information on how to stop and what to do once I quit.

I made a commitment to myself that I wouldn't smoke ​no matter what and that I would listen to what other people had to say. There are many success stories here.

I made sure I had a refrigerator full of freshly steamed and raw vegetables (I've always eaten a lot of vegetables, so this wasn't something new for me). I also have lots of peaches, berries, bananas, grapefruit, apples, etc... on hand.  I don't keep chips, candy or fattening foods in my home - well, I do have some Ben and Jerry's in the refrigerator,  but once that's gone I will replace it with fruit popsicles.

Use an online food / exercise journaling tool.  There are plenty of good choices and it will help you to be aware of your calorie intake. I, too, don't want to gain weight and if I watch what I eat and exercise, I should be okay. You should be too.

I have a water bottle filled at all times that I carry with me everywhere, including the car.

Water is a good craving-buster and proper hydration keeps me at my best.

My exercise program is in place and I go to the gym at least once a day for a class or just to lift weights. If you don't exercise regularly, think about starting something.  Walking is good, but check with your doctor if you haven't been active in awhile.

Every time I want a cigarette I do deep breathing exercises.

I read and answer messages the online forum linked above, which helps me tremendously.  However, I can't do this all of the time, so one needs to find things to do, hobbies, walks, talking to someone, etc.

The tips above are working for me. Read what others have done and take it a day at a time. Honestly, I can say that the last few days were a bit rough but not nearly as rough as I thought they would be or what other people said. We all have different experiences with this.  Do not be afraid - you are not giving up a friend here, you are escaping from a killer!

Feeling Angry and Antsy

 I'd forgotten how hard this is! I have not had a cigarette for a whole 1 DAY 4 HOURS, 37 MINUTES AND 54 SECONDS and I am tearing my hair out.  I am feeling so miserable.

I woke this morning congratulating myself on the first 24 hours without smoking but the euphoria didn't last long, I am like a bear with a sore head, I want to climb the walls and scream the place down!

Answer from: Jill:
This quit is for you alone, Paula, so please be extra kind to yourself and remember to take baby steps to start with. Think in terms of one hour or even one minute at a time. Don't look ahead at tomorrow, next week or next year. Keep your eyes on the day you have in front of you only.

Make lists of why you want to quit and things to do when a craving to smoke hits you (avoidance tactics!). Also make a list of special treats you can use to reward yourself. Simple things like making time for yourself, reading a favorite magazine, listening to some relaxing music or going for a walk somewhere nice.

And hey, if you want to scream, then do so if it helps you!

Wanting to Smoke

Just looking for some encouragement. At 2 weeks smoke-free (cold turkey) I know the physical withdrawal should be over, but I'm hurting and looking for a reason to NOT go buy a pack.

Answer from Rick:
There are a thousand reasons to not go buy a pack. I'm sure you have repeated them all to yourself at least a hundred times, so I won't go over them again. I would like to comment on two things.

One...you are working to defeat one of, if not the toughest addiction in the world. Try drinking lots of ice water, especially when a bad craving hits. Find something to put in your mouth. A lot of people here swear by the tangerine Altoids. Use hard candy, suck on a straw, or do like I have done...eat your way thru a forest's worth of toothpicks. Hang in there. Eventually it will get better and easier...please note...I said easier, not easy.  Quitting takes a lot of work for most of us.

Two...  I want to highlight what I consider to be the most important day of your quit. That day is TODAY.

Do not look at this quit in the long range. Don't tell yourself you will never smoke again. Just deal with it a day at a time. Remember this...the only day that is important is TODAY. Today, today, today... You cannot do a thing about yesterday. It is gone forever and can never be changed. Tomorrow never comes. Even when the clock crosses midnight you are not dealing with tomorrow, it is now today. The only day you can do anything about is today. Tell yourself  I will not smoke today ... or this hour ... or this minute. Break it down to whatever length of time you need to to be successful but never longer than today. Milestones are great and they feel so very good as we hit them. But, we get to them one day at a time.

One last thought...

Before giving in to that one cigarette, remember: there is no such thing as just one.. they travel in packs.

How to Deal with Non-Stop Cravings to Smoke?

It's now 7:55 a.m. and I'm having a terrible craving. I tried exercising, gum, and drinking water, but nothing seems to get rid of it. This has been going on for almost an hour now.

In a couple of minutes, I have to leave for work (only day of the week that I can get out and go to work, I'm a stay at home mom). Will I have the strength to just pass the convenient store? I pray I do. I really don't want to go through the first week of quitting again.


Answer from Anne:
I can hear just how uncomfortable these cravings are making you, but I have found, and still find, that good deep breathing is one of the best ways to cope with them. A craving is not a command to smoke, so just acknowledge it for what it is, let it wash over you, deep breathe your way through it, and relax.

Try not to dwell on the fact that you want to smoke. Smoking does not stop the cravings....20 minutes or so after you smoke, the craving for another one will be back!  As an ex-smoker, take comfort in the fact that as you ride out the cravings and get practice at refusing them, the stronger you'll become, and the weaker the urges will get.  Eventually, the day will come when you know you are in charge of your own destiny and not the slave of a deadly drug over which you have no control.

Be proud of what you have achieved so far. Don't give in. You can do this.

Smoking cessation is a process, not an event. 

The advice from those who have been through it is solid.  Try to slow down and take your quit program one simple day (or hour) at a time. Don't worry about tomorrow, and don't fret about yesterday.  Focus only on the day you have in front of you and believe in your ability to stay quit just for today.  If you can do that for as long as it takes for you, you'll get there just as surely as anyone else has.

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