9 Common Rationalizations for Smoking

Learn How to Overcome Junkie Thinking

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When you try to quit smoking, your mind can come up with all sorts of excuses about why you can have just one more cigarette. These rationalizations include everything from stress relief to the fear of gaining weight. Yet, there's a logical response to each and every one of them. Realizing that is a part of successfully becoming an ex-smoker.

Prepare for Junkie Thinking

Thoughts of smoking can creep in and throw you off balance if you're not prepared for them.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons people break down and light up that first cigarette is due to junkie thinking. This includes self-talk like, "I'll really quit tomorrow!" and "One cigarette won't hurt." How can you defeat those tempting thoughts of smoking?

Understanding how your mind tries to negotiate while withdrawing from nicotine addiction is an important first step. Most, if not all, people who are trying to quit experience the urge to give in and smoke, especially during the first few months. 

Common Rationalizations for Smoking

The strange thing about addictions is that many of us experience the same things. We may not know each other and we likely lead entirely different lives, but we share some of the same thoughts. Nicotine addiction doesn't let go without throwing some mental chatter and bargaining our way and many of these rationalizations are all too familiar.

It can be helpful to think of that mental chatter as a sign of the healing taking place within you because that is what it is.

Thoughts of smoking come with the territory early on in cessation, but you can rest assured that they will fade away with time.

Below are some of the most common rationalizations smokers fall prey to. Chances are you'll identify with some of them. Stay ahead of the game by learning how to recognize faulty thinking and stop it in its tracks.

I'm under a lot of stress and smoking relaxes me.

Response: Your body is used to nicotine, so you naturally feel more relaxed when you give your body a substance upon which it has grown dependent. That is the addiction, not true stress relief. While early cessation can cause stress, most ex-smokers feel far less nervous just a few weeks after quitting.

Smoking makes me more effective in my work.

Response: Trouble concentrating can be a short-term symptom of quitting, but smoking actually deprives your brain of oxygen. You'll likely think more clearly once the smokescreen of nicotine addiction is gone.

I've already cut down to a safe level.

Response: Cutting down is a good first step, but it's important to know that there is no such thing as a "safe level" of smoking. Cigarettes are literally brimming with toxins you'd never go near, let alone inhale into your lungs if you were not addicted to nicotine. To date, researchers have uncovered upwards of 7000 chemical compounds in cigarette smoke, including 250 poisonous chemicals and 70 that cause cancer.

It's too hard to stop smoking. I don't have the willpower.

Response: Quitting tobacco is hard, but with education and support, you can make it a lasting reality in your life.

Millions of Americans quit smoking every year. If you have previously tried to quit but failed, remember that most people have to try more than once. Keep at it. The freedom you're after is outstanding and worth every bit of work it takes to achieve.

I'm worried about gaining weight.

Response: Initially, smoking cessation might cause a slight weight gain of five to 10 pounds due to metabolic changes in your body. However, if you are eating and exercising as you were before quitting, the extra weight should fall off within a few months. Also, there are things you can do to help keep your weight stable as you move through recovery from nicotine addiction.

I don't know what to do with my hands.

Response: This is a common complaint among ex-smokers. We spent a lot of time with a cigarette in our hand, and this leaves a void when we first quit. Disrupting the thoughts going through your mind by changing your activity will help you overcome this feeling. 

Make a list of activities you can pick up at a moment's notice when the urge to smoke hits and makes you feel fidgety. Take a look at this list of 101 Things to Do Instead of Smoking compiled by ex-smokers for ideas to help you get started.

Sometimes I have an almost irresistible urge to have a cigarette.

Response: Early on, cravings to smoke are intense. Our minds are working overtime trying to convince us to give in and have just one cigarette. We spent years learning to cope with everything from hunger to anger by lighting up, and when we quit, it can feel like triggers to smoke are hitting us nonstop.

Learn to decipher the urges as they come and you will be able to respond appropriately to what your body needs. If cravings get strong and you realize you're hungry, have a snack or a meal. If the trigger is caused by fatigue, take a nap or go to bed. Angry? Deal with the issue rather than lighting up. The longer you practice this technique, the easier it will get to understand the messages behind the urge to smoke. With time, the cravings will lessen until they're gone altogether.

I blew it. I smoked a cigarette.

Response: Smoking one or a few cigarettes doesn't mean you've "blown it." It does mean that you need to strengthen your resolve to quit and stay close to your support network. You have what it takes to become a successful (and comfortable) ex-smoker. Be patient and keep going!

A Word From Verywell

While these are the most common rationalizations smokers use when trying to quit, it's likely that you'll experience more beyond these. With each new thought, counteract it with logical thinking. Try writing it out in your quit journal or talk about it with your support group. You will often realize just how ridiculous it is and, with enough effort, you can enjoy life as a non-smoker.

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