Going Head-to-Head with Your Smoking Temptations
Because smoking is a long-term habit that becomes part of a lifestyle, even successfully quitting for a few months might not be enough to quit for good. Many people find themselves smoking again after getting past all the physical withdrawals and even psychological cravings. Why? Often it’s because older, more well-established habits rear their ugly heads. Spending time with old friends, going to places where you used to smoke all the time, or a recurrence of stress triggers that you used to smoke to deal with can all result in a cigarette in your mouth before the thought has even fully processed.
It’s okay. Almost everyone relapses at least once, and you’re still capable of quitting a second time. Heck, if all you had was one cigarette, quitting should be even easier than before as long as you deal with the triggers that caused you to smoke again in the first place. The key is not to get caught off-guard. You are a grown adult and deserve to make your own decisions, not have your habits decide for you. The more you know about your smoking temptations and the more you plan to handle them, the less likely you are to start smoking again when they occur.
Step 1 – Make a List
Start carrying a little notepad and pencil that stay together in your pocket or purse and are easy to retrieve. If you still think about smoking all the time, playing with and chewing on the pencil might help to redirect the hold physical habits, but it’s the notepad that’s really the important part here. Every time you want to smoke, make a note of it. Don’t just put the date and time, not the actual circumstances and what made you want to smoke. Maybe it was spending time with a particular friend, smelling something specific, or hanging out somewhere familiar. Be particularly sensitive to the emotions and interactions going on, as stress and influence are special triggers that often lead to smoking even if you aren’t smoking now.
Step 2 – Address the Triggers
At the end of each day or week, look over your notes and categorize them with some basic data. Sort entries by type of trigger first like ‘work stress’ or ‘old friend’ and then sort these categories by the time of day. This will give you an idea about the frequency that you crave cigarettes, along with the environments and influences that make the situation worse. If there are big sections of the day where you didn’t make any notes, this should also be considered as times when you’re doing something that distracts you from thinking about cigarettes at all. Organizing your temptation notes will help you know what to watch out for, when to be careful, and who to stay away from if you’re having a bad day. Be especially wary of people who still smoke and might be willing to give you a cigarette. While friendly, they are a high risk to your new smoke-free lifestyle.
Step 3 – Make an Action Plan
While you don’t have to completely avoid circumstances and people that make you want to smoke again, the best way to take control of your life is have a plan to deal with your known temptations. If all your friends hang out at the smoking area during breaks at work, bring an incense stick to play with, so you can have a little smoke for fun and a new smell to surround yourself in. If it’s the commute that gets to you and you’re always tempted to buy a pack on your way to or from work, try a new podcast to distract you and a package of celery or carrot sticks to crunch your frustration out on instead. If you are most tempted after a hard day at work, consider a new relaxation ritual like a hot bath and/or a square of very dark chocolate.
The key to responding well to temptation is to give yourself something completely new to do or think about. Rather than focusing on how much you want a cigarette, remind yourself that you’re simply not going to have one then think hard about something else. Some people find that a puzzle book like sudoku or crosswords are great for those in-between moments when you’d usually smoke to pass the time and you might even find that you’re becoming a better conversationalist as an effort not to simply stand around and wish you were smoking.
Step 4 – Rebuild Your Smoke-Free Life
Puffing one or two cigarettes after quitting isn’t the end of the world, but it does mean that you need to get a whole new handle on your self-control. Slipping means that you lost control for a moment, probably several moments, and rebuilding your life will require putting yourself back in the position of absolute control. You don’t smoke because you’ve chosen not to, just like you choose not to walk on cliff edges or wear really unflattering hats. Every time you’re tempted to smoke a cigarette, remember your action plan. Do something else, say something interesting, or remove yourself from the situation if all else fails. You deserve control over your life and have the right to build that control. Even if you slipped once, all it takes is a re-establishment of self-control to once again kick the habit and conquer your temptation to smoke.
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