I’d like to chat about what to expect once you put down that lighter, during withdrawal. It would be unfair to let you think this was going to be easy.
As much as you have to look forward to when you stop smoking, there’ll be a few roadblocks and potholes along the way. But it’s not an easy process for anyone, so be kind to yourself.
Going through withdrawal is probably the worst part of becoming smoke-free. Over the number of years you smoked, your body chemistry completely adjusted to the nicotine input.
Your system is literally addicted to the nicotine and won’t give it up without a fight. That’s where your commitment comes in handy.
Withdrawal is both a physical and emotional process.
Your body will argue with you about the reduced nicotine levels and you’ll “notice” the signs it gives as it tries to talk you into meeting the usual demand.
At the same time, you have to make an emotional adjustment so that you don’t rely on smoking as a coping mechanism.
The most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Increased hunger and of course
- An overwhelming craving for nicotine.
If you ever tried to quit by changing from regular to reduced-nicotine (“Light”) cigarettes, you may have felt some of these withdrawal symptoms. Keep in mind that to stop smoking is to battle your body to regain control over what nicotine has captured from you.
➡ As you inhale the smoke, nicotine rushes to the lungs, where it’s rapidly absorbed.
➡ From there, nicotine goes to the heart, liver, spleen, and brain.
➡ Nicotine is so invasive that it’s easily detected in breast milk and even in the umbilical cord blood of a newborn. That’s why smoking while pregnant is so dangerous to the health of an unborn child.
Nicotine is tough for the body to get rid of. Even after you stop smoking, it stays in your body for up to three days.
With each cigarette you smoked over the years, your body built up a higher tolerance for this toxic substance. And what happens, based on many brain-based studies, is that smoking increases as the smoker tries to get the same level of satisfaction.
➡ That’s because nicotine stimulates the mesolimbic system, which is what kicks up intense cravings. Over time, it takes more and more nicotine for the brain to signal the same pleasure reaction.
Unfortunately, at the same time, the lungs, heart, and liver are getting slammed with the harmful impact of nicotine.
➡ As with any lifestyle change, the first few days are going to be hard, so don’t start this on Monday morning when you have a busy week at work or school to contend with.
➡ If possible, take a day off on Friday and start that morning. Then you’ll have three uninterrupted days to be obnoxious with fewer people subjected to it (yes, you may be a bit grumpy during this time!).
➡ You can clear the smoking stuff (ashtrays, lighters, cigarettes) out of the house and not be around the same smoking cues that you’ll have at work or in a social setting.
The early days of withdrawal aren’t easy – on you or on those around you.
➡ Make sure you talk to those you love and let them know what you’re doing so that they can provide a support system when you need to vent.
The Battle to Stop Smoking Begins With You
Cigarettes are easily accessible and socially accepted, and it can be hard to stay away from them.
➡ With other forms of chemical dependency, addicts must remove themselves completely from the culture that supports their habit. When you can buy your drug of choice at the local supermarket though, this becomes a much greater challenge.
➡ Perhaps the most important thing that you can do if you have decided that you want to stop smoking is to enlist the help of a friend or family member to hold you accountable.
Having someone there to provide encouragement along the way will be more valuable than any stop smoking product that you can buy because smoking can be as much an emotional addiction as it is physical.
There are, of course, a number of products on the market to help you stop smoking. Everything from chewing gum, to arm patches to prescription medications, to curb your cravings for the next cigarette.
➡ Some smokers have found these products to be helpful in varying degrees, but it is important to remember that they’re only tools. The ultimate decision to quit must still come from inside of you.
➡ In my opinion, if you feel a need to use any of these products, your best bet is to speak to your primary doctor and ask for a prescription medication or patch. And I would encourage you to do plenty of research ahead of time so that you know what to expect.
➡ You should also make it a point to discuss any potential or present side effects with your doctor.
In the battle to quit smoking, the responsibility ultimately land on you.
While you can utilize the best products available and surround yourself with a strong network of support, none of that will help if you haven’t made a commitment to yourself to stop smoking.
Take the first step
Decide that you won’t be a slave to addiction and that you will do whatever it takes to improve the quality of your life, and in turn, the quality of life for your loved ones.
Coming Up: Part 4 – Put Down That Lighter And Make A Plan, Stan…Set some structure