You’ve heard all the health messages. You can’t smoke anywhere these days anyway. You feel like a leper standing outside having a quick one. You know it makes sense to quit, but you keep thinking it’s just too hard. How many times have I heard smokers say “I can’t do it on my own doc, I need help”.
Pharmaceutical companies have rushed to fill this perceived need with all manner of nicotine replacement patches, gum, inhalants and pills to stop your cravings.
But guess what? You don’t actually need any of those things to give up smoking. All you need is the will to do it and a plan.
It’s true that nicotine is a very addictive substance, but the physical addiction can be broken in just a few days without any substitution. So it’s not the nicotine that causes people to relapse, it’s the behavioural habit that has been wired into your brain over years and years. But habits can be changed. You just need to be prepared to make some changes to your routine.
The key to giving up smoking is having a plan – failing to plan is planning to fail!
Before you give up, sit down and have a think about your smoking. Identify the triggers for you to have a smoke – the smoke with a cuppa, the smoke after work, the smoke with your glass of wine, the smoke when you’re feeling stressed or annoyed with the world. Think about how you could change your daily rituals to avoid some of these. You might choose to stop drinking for a while, change the route you take home, switch to herbal tea.
The day you decide to stop, get rid of all your cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters and paraphernalia. Clean out your car, wash the curtains if you smoked indoors, start a project or hobby you’ve always wanted to do, buy some running shoes and download an app to get you started. Plan a treat for yourself once you’ve saved $100. If you’re worried about eating more and putting on weight, starting a regular fitness program is a great idea.
Now don’t get me wrong, giving up smoking is not a walk in the park, and you will feel quite awful at times. Some people feel rather depressed. It’s not surprising – saying goodbye to cigarettes is like saying goodbye to an old friend who’s been by your side for most of your life.
If you relapse and buy a packet don’t feel you’ve failed. You’ve already decided you’re a non-smoker. It doesn’t matter if you smoked one. No big deal. Just throw them out again.
Speaking of apps, there are some good ones to help you out and I highly recommend using one. A good free one is Jason Vale Stop Smoking in 2 Hours. Remember that your motivation is the key to your success, so keep reminding yourself of why you have made this decision. You won’t look back!
Dr Fiona Bisshop specialises in LGBT health and writes courtesy of Holdsworth House Medical Centre, Fortitude Valley.