Why Am I So Afraid to Quit Smoking?

Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

A reader asks:

I'm about to quit smoking. I have one cigarette left, and after I smoke it, that's it. Even though I am looking forward to quitting, all I feel is fear. 

What am I going to do without my cigarettes? What the heck am I going to do if I can't smoke?!

I've picked a date and have a plan for quitting, but I'm dreading my quit day so much. How can I overcome my fear of quitting and become a successful non-smoker?

There isn't a smoker (or ex-smoker) alive who hasn't felt gut-wrenching fear when thinking about stubbing out their last cigarette...the one that signals the beginning of smoking cessation. We worry we'll be miserable without our smokes, that life will be boring and we'll miss smoking forever

The good news is that the fear we have of quitting tobacco is unwarranted. There is life after quitting, and it's better than you can probably imagine if you're still smoking as you read this. Much better.

Nicotine Addiction Steals Our Right to Choose

We didn't realize the tremendous commitment we were signing onto when we smoked that first cigarette all of those years ago.

We had no idea that by the time we'd finished our first pack of cigarettes, we'd lit the fire under an addiction that would demand to be fed 20 or more times a day, day in and day out, no matter what.

We didn't know that we had taken an action that would require us to devote years upon years of our lives and thousands upon thousands of dollars to smoking.

We didn't know that tobacco was going to call the shots for a long time to come; that nicotine addiction had quietly slipped in and stolen our right to choose.

We were just trying to be cool -- to fit in with our friends.

Fear of Quitting Smoking

By far, the most difficult part of smoking cessation is taking that first step that involves throwing our cigarettes, cigars or smokeless tobacco away and beginning our quit program.

There is one basic truth about smoking cessation that applies to each and every one of us:

We are never truly ready to quit smoking.

Never ready, you say?

But I hate smoking. I've wanted to quit smoking for years; I dream of living my life free of nicotine addiction every single day.  Of course I'm ready. How could I not be!

Wanting to quit smoking -- even passionately -- is not the same as being ready to quit smoking. Regardless of how much we might want or need to quit, nicotine addiction makes us all fear smoking cessation.

Another truth that applies to all of us is that the closer our quit day comes, the more mental contortions we go through trying to wiggle our way out of the commitment we've made...

"I can quit next week when I'm not so stressed....

"I just need to finish this pack of cigarettes before I quit -- I don't want to waste them."

"What was I thinking? Quitting before Joe's party is crazy - I'll be miserable at the party if I'm in the middle of nicotine withdrawal."

Sound familiar? How many quit dates have you put off to similar rationalizations? I know I've had more of them than I can count on two hands.

Take heart. You're not weak, you're addicted.

Dig Your Feet In and Get Started

The fear you have of quitting is common to all of us regardless of how much we want to quit smoking or when we quit, so the best thing you can do is to put the mental chatter in your mind on ignore and stick to your guns.

Quit on the date you chose to quit, and visit our smoking cessation support forum to connect with others who in the same boat that you are. There is incredible strength to be gained through support, and this online community will absolutely help you through the challenges we all face when quitting tobacco.

Ex-smokers Share Their Thoughts on the Anxiety Associated with Quitting Smoking

  • "I think the fear is completely normal and you will surprise yourself if you just change up a few things. For instance If you have a favorite chair you sit in to have a cup of coffee and a smoke, do not sit there for a while. I used to roll out of bed, get my coffee and promptly sit on the couch and smoke. So now I do not enter the living room when I wake up. First thing after getting out of bed is to brush my teeth and then go eat a balanced breakfast."
  • "Oh yes, the fear...It is very real. I was afraid, but after the first month of quitting, I couldn't understand why I was so afraid. Then it turned to fear of not being able to keep quit! I really think the fear is a byproduct of the addiction. Have bottles of cold water handy. Drinking water when you have a craving to smoke seams to knock it out." 
  • "I'm sure we have all had fear of quitting and it must be something with the addiction. Whatever it is, the fear gets smaller and goes away the longer you go without and the longer time you have to learn to cope without your "security blanket". I say that because I think that is the way I thought about my cigs, they were my security blanket. You will find other things to do without them. It is very hard at first, but use your imagination and before long, you will see that you really don't need cigarettes and didn't need them all along like you thought you did." 
  • "An important part for me to keep the fear at bay has been to not think in terms of anything other than one day at a time. Especially at the start, if I thought about camping trips without smoking or no more "down time" after the kids are in bed, etc., the feeling of fear would try to creep back in. I have learned not to think about anything more than today in regards to my quit."
  • "As the saying goes...There is nothing to fear but fear itself. Quitting is doable, one day at a time. Sometimes one minute at a time! I used this forum to fill the void that quitting smoking created. When I didn't know what to do with myself, I would post my thoughts and it helped. Today, I am smoke free and not missing it anymore. I wish I had quit years ago because all of that fear was needless. I love being a non-smoker now. So will you...don't be afraid! Just do it!"

You will never regret quitting, and you'll never regret taking the control of your precious and irreplaceable life back. That is a promise.

Put your blinders on and GO.

Freedom from nicotine addiction is outstanding.