Cigarette smoking is one of the largest global contributors to disease and premature death. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of cancers of the mouth and throat, lung, oesophagus, pancreas, cervix, kidney, bladder, stomach, colon, rectum, and liver, further it increases the risk for heart attack, stroke and a number of terrible lung diseases. Smoking is detrimental to every human organ system. This factual information may serve as motivation to quit smoking, but doesn’t make quitting any easier.
You need an organized plan to quit smoking. The plan needs to be simple, short and most importantly effective. Let’s organize this into simple easy to follow steps.
Step one – How dependent are you ?
Quantify the level of your dependence using the Fagerstrom test for nicotine dependence, this test will tell you if you are going to need nicotine replacement to help you quit. Those who are classified as “low dependence” may not need nicotine replacement, while all others may benefit from nicotine replacement. the test will take less than 2 minutes to complete.
Step two – Answer these questions !
Why do you want to quit? Look inside yourself and figure out why you want to quit. The stronger this is, more likely that you will succeed. Spend some time contemplating why you want to quit. If it for your wife or your children, you may risk a relapse when these people disappoint you. You need to find a reason deep within yourself!
What stops you from quitting? You have known that cigarettes are bad for you from the day you smoked your first cigarette. What has kept it going? Why are you unable to go back to the “non-smoker” state of mind?. Now that you have decided to quit, what are your biggest challenges?
When are you going to quit? The best answer to that one is NOW! You know and I know that we have decided to quit several times. It never stuck though. If you are serious about quitting, now is the best time for it. If your brain tries to convince you otherwise, it’s tricking you, trying to keep the habit going.
Step three– Dealing with the cravings !
By quitting, you are depriving your brain of that rewarding nicotine rush it loves so much. Your brain is going to miss the nicotine and try to get to you to smoke by hook or crook. You need a robust craving busting strategy. This is a two step process.
Identify you craving clock – What are the regular times you smoke. What are your common triggers, where do you smoke, with whom do you smoke, where do you buy your cigarettes. Each one of the above has the potential to kick off a craving. Carvings are usually intense for around 10 minutes after which they temporarily abate. It would take you around 3 months to completely get rid of regular cravings.
Identify your coping strategy – When a craving strikes, you need to be ready. You need to remind yourself why you quit, and dig deep into that motivation bucket. The weaker your motivation, the more likely you will buckle here. Sugar-free gums can help, a distracting game on the phone can help, physical activity, a special motivational video or song, a chat with the wife or girlfriend. There are a million possible ways to help one beat a craving, find a way to beat the craving without succumbing to it. You may try chewing on carrots, pickles, apples, celery, sugarless gum, or hard candy to beat the cravings
If you are unable to do this by yourself, please seek help from a medical professional.
Step four- Dealing with the withdrawal !
Your highest chances of a relapse are in the first week. Withdrawal peaks on day 3-7 and gradually begins diminishing. It takes around a month for the physical withdrawal symptoms to completely subside. Here are the most common withdrawal symptoms that you can expect.
- Anger, frustration, and irritability.
- Weight gain.
- Brain fog
All of these are transient and usually diminish within a few weeks even without treatment. On average, people who have never smoked weigh a few pounds more than smokers, and, when smokers quit, they usually attain the weight they would have had if they had never smoked. If withdrawal symptoms are severe or impairing, please talk to your doctor about the same.
Step five -Staying away !
At any point during your journey out of smoking, nicotine can trick your brain back into it. You need to remember your answer to step two. Your lifestyle will have to reflect that of a non-smoker, you are going to have to start saying no to your smoking buddies. You may even have to start becoming more active to take advantage of those healthy lungs of yours. On average, at the end of one year around 50 per cent of people who take active steps to quit end up relapsing. Around 25% stay smoke-free. Keep some of your friends and/or family in the loop, open up about your struggles.
You can do this ! All the very best !
If this is too tricky for you or if you scored more than a “low dependence” on the Fagerstrom test for nicotine dependence please seek medical help. Doctors will be able to prescribe medication that help you quit smoking.