Quitting cigarette smoking is as much a battle as any other addiction. While the withdrawal symptoms may not be as pronounced as the DTs seen with quitting alcohol, it is nevertheless just as much a disruption to the person who quits. It is often within the first 3 days of quitting that a person returns to the habit, and the chances of staying on the bandwagon significantly increases after day 10 of quitting. The key to quitting is dealing with it one day at a time. After completing the first day successfully, you will figure out what works for you or not and repeat this on each successive day.
The bottom line is that cigarette smoking is an addiction, both physiological and psychological. In that regard it has to be approached in a manner that any addiction would – controlling the withdrawal symptoms, reducing the stress or triggers that drives a person to use and support from family and friends. Some people have the willpower to go it alone and successfully give up their nicotine addiction but for most help is needed during the recovery period. Understanding the process and what to expect is the first step in overcoming it.
Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
Nicotine is a stimulant and along with the other chemicals in cigarettes, it enhances the mood and increases stamina to some degree. Blood pressure and heart rate is also raised by cigarette smoking. In this regard, a person will feel “low” or “down” in terms of mood, tired and unlikely to be able to cope with daily activities as is normally the case. Irritability is another prominent feature when quitting. Difficulty concentrating and a “cloudiness” of the mind often drives a person to seek that “one last smoke” in order to get by the day.
However, this only serves to disenchant a person about their willpower to quit and lead to the misconception that cigarettes control them and can never be given up. It is therefore advisable that every person who decides to quit should consider nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), be it in the form of a nicotine spray, gum or patch. Even if it is not used, having it at hand will allow a person to better cope with the withdrawal symptoms and reach out for it when it is most needed.
Other symptoms that one can expect is very mild tremors, constipation and sleepiness throughout the day. Many people benefit from the use of antidepressants during this period, and the more popular smoking cessation drugs are actually antidepressants. This does not mean that every smoker or person who has just quit is depressed but rather the chemical effect of antidepressant helps to counteract the withdrawal symptoms. Acupuncture, meditation and breathing exercises may all prove useful to some degree and depends on a person’s preference in coping with the recovery period.
Support for Quitting Cigarettes
Support needs to be present at multiple levels. From the closest members of the family who assist with easing the daily stresses to friends and colleagues who discourage the odd smoke or even not smoke around the person. This should extend further with support groups in the area or even counseling by a trained professional on a one-on-one basis.
Avoiding the Triggers
Although quitting cigarettes should be dealt with on a day-by-day basis, it is often easier to monitor each hour in the first few days. Avoiding triggers that drives you to smoke is essential but first it must be identified. For some it is about having a smoke with that cup of coffee, or the social smoke break with colleagues at work. Others need to have a smoke after meals or while driving. Ideally these triggers should be dealt with prior to quitting cigarettes. In other words, if you have become accustomed to smoking with every cup of coffee, then first try to break this habit before you quit cigarettes. Avoid smokers as far as possible, and while this may make you a little anti-social at the outset, your friends and colleagues will understand that it is just one step in quitting.
Irrespective of our age, we all like to be rewarded for our efforts. Rewards for quitting smoking is the same. Save up the money that you would have otherwise spent on cigarettes and motivate yourself to keep off cigarettes. For moderate smokers, the money spent on cigarettes within a year can be a fair amount, which may not buy you exactly what you want but can still go a long way in affording a treat that you otherwise would not have considered. Most importantly, remind yourself of the health benefits of having quit and how this will be an advantage to both you and your dependents in the long run. That alone is often rewarding enough for most people.