A Former Smoker Offers 5 Things To Do When You Quit Smoking

by AnomalousArtist

Deciding to quit smoking is a wonderful thing but it's important to keep your momentum going once you've gone through with it. Read this article for some suggestions!

Probably the most difficult part of quitting smoking is the feeling that you're being denied something you want and feel you have a right to HAVE. I would assume this would be true of anything...if someone said you could never again have your favorite food, drink or other item of comfort it would be the same thing. Nicotine IS an addicting drug and your body does go through a period of withdrawal when you quit smoking but that doesn't end up being the part that's hardest to overcome; the part that is most difficult is breaking a habit you enjoy and are used to.

Perhaps you smoked while you talked on the phone or while having a drink or with friends? Maybe, like me, you smoked while you watched movies in your apartment. Maybe you liked to smoke at the end of a long, stressful day, right before you went to bed or right after you woke up. Possibly you just liked knowing every 15 minutes or so you were going to get a "fix."

When you quit smoking you have to re-train your brain, to teach yourself how to exist without the periodic "reward" that a smoke break is for most smokers.

Most people who don't succeed at quitting smoking have approached it from the angle of being something they have to do that they don't WANT to do. They see it as a form of punishment and are thus not as likely to succeed.

The trick is going into it all with a game plan and a good attitude. Here are some suggestions that helped me when I quit several years ago; I hope they can help someone else too!

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1) Stay upbeat


I tried to quit a few times intially and each time I didn't make it because I just felt so BAD when I quit.  I felt like I was being denied something that gave me genuine pleasure, something there just wasn't enough of in my life.  For the few minutes I sat there puffing away throughout the day I felt all was right with the world...well, it IS a drug, after all!  When I had to face a world without that comfort I got very depressed, very sad, lonely...ANGRY.

Well, it IS the end of a relationship (with your "old" self); it makes sense you'd have to go through a grieving period, right?

I finally fought this with a combination of denial and basic positive thinking. 

  • Denial:  I kept telling myself I didn't have to quit FOREVER, actually.  I made a pact to quit for as long as I'd been smoking (10 years).  If, after 10 years, I really, really felt the need to smoke again I could. I knew of course, even then, I wouldn't want to smoke again.  It was a small mental trick, and maybe a pretty silly one that wouldn't work for everyone but it helped me a lot.  I wasn't quitting "forever," just...for a time.  That one clarification made a big difference in the first few days.

  • Positive Thinking:  I've never believed you can talk yourself out of feeling bad in some situations, or that you should...I think sometimes you just can, do, maybe even NEED to feel unhappy, it's a balance.  That being said, if you want to be miserable you will be...if you want to be HAPPY you can be.

I'd suggest playing upbeat music that gets your heart moving, hanging out with happy people (preferably non-smoking but it actually doesn't matter that much when you really want to quit) who will let you talk about how excited you are to quit smoking.  Keep reminding yourself what a wonderful thing it is you are doing for yourself and everyone around you. 

Keep telling yourself this is something you really wanted to do...you haven't picked up another cigarette because you don't WANT to, it's not because you CAN'T.  You could pick up a cigarette any time if you chose because you're free and happy...you just aren't going to because the reward of not doing so is greater than the temporary reward of a fix of nicotine!


2) Talk lots of walks

This was probably the biggest key to my success (other than my original attitude that I just didn't want to smoke anymore!).  I lived at the base of Universal Studios and each night I'd take a walk up the steep hill, walk around the Citiwalk shopping area with all the people, lights and music and then come back down again. 

Walking gets your heart going, can make you sweat and breathe and be alive in the moment.  It can put you in a meditative mood.  I personally like to listen to music or a story while I walk, my brain can only handle so much input and if you have all that going on it's harder to obsess about things. Walking also takes time; at the end of a walk my evening would be over and it would be time to go to bed, and I hadn't thought about smoking at all.  Another day without cigarettes down, congratulations!

In time the walks I took became something to look forward to and then grew into a habit that I keep today.  It got me out of the house, engaged my mind and body and created a distracting habit that was healthy and pleasant. 

3) Start a fitness program

After I quit smoking I had more wind, more energy, more time and more MONEY, so I joined a gym.  Again I found that the repetition, activity and change of location from just sitting around my place "missing" my habitual smoking times worked wonders, and I replaced a bad habit with a good one.

One of the benefits of quitting smoking is that you're likely to SLEEP better when you quit, as nicotine affects your body's rhythms and works on your nervous system like caffeine does.  So, very quickly you should find yourself sleeping better which in turn leads to having MORE energy, which gives you more stamina for a work-out routine, which then gives you more energy and makes you fall asleep easier, etc.

I will add that in the first few days you may find it harder to sleep for a variety of reasons, physical and mental.  It's best if you know that going in and prepare for it--for the first few days it helps to have friends/family/partners handy who will stay up late and talk with you or some all-engaging task for your mind and body (like writing articles on Wizzley!)

4) Substitutes

This didn't work so well for me, actually, but it DID help.  The hardest part for me by far was finding a way to be comfortable while watching TV.  I had loved to sit and watch hours of sleazy horror films or something, and spend the whole time puffing away.  Cigarettes relaxed me enough to put me in a mood where I enjoyed sitting still for a long time and also kept me awake enough to get through the worst movies imaginable!  Once I quit smoking I found myself falling asleep in front of the TV.  I grew restless and bored. 

Now, the UP side of this was I quit watching garbage--nowadays I don't watch much TV, I still get restless, but when I do I try to watch things that will stimulate my brain.

The only "substitute" that ever helped was munching on things while I watched, a sort of substitute oral fixation.  It's never been the same--food fills you up and the kind of food *I* like is probably about as bad for you as cigarettes! 

But I know people who have done well with this--they have carrot/celery sticks or something; one guy I know just gnaws on toothpicks.  Good for them--it never worked for me but I pass the info along in hope it might work for others.

One trick that I found pretty useful:  Every time you feel an unbearable craving for a cigarette, have a drink of water instead.  The logic is that a craving WILL pass if you just ignore it long enough--I tested this and it turned out to be true for me.

If you give in to the urge for some kind of oral fixation--and water is the best one imaginable--you're feeding your body's instinct for something in a distracting way.  No, it's not like getting a "fix" but it makes you think about it while you're doing it:  "OK, I'm going to have this water now and 'drink' the urge away." 

I guarantee that if you just wait out an urge and busy yourself with something else the urge DOES die...IF you want it to (again, see #1--if you are feeling as though you're being punished it's likely the urge to smoke will increase until you feel the need to go on a binge). 

5) Do things you enjoy

This may seem obvious, maybe not.  One of the reasons I quit smoking when I did was because I'd built up a head of steam...for months I'd been rather disappointed in my life...there were all these things I wanted to do but I never had the energy to do them or the motivation to start (a backlog of writing and recording projects, working out, dating).  With the constant dulling of my nerves and blasting of my lungs with poison my body could barely keep me going through the day some times.  I made a promise to myself that I'd quit one day soon and, having done so, would "enjoy" things more.  I'd have energy to create things, energy to meet people without having to slip away every so often to get a "fix," energy to ride around on my bike and just enjoy being alive.   Eventually all that happened, and more.

One of the odd conundrums of nicotine is that it makes you feel "better" in the moment but more or less kills your ability to "feel" things fully.  If you're a true smoker who feeds your body's need regularly, your system is constantly in a sort of limbo/zombie state where your highs and lows are kept at a minimum.  To be free of the dampening powers of nicotine on your nervous system is to see a whole, bright, amazing world that assaults your senses.  You might find yourself crying more, laughing more, feeling more anxious, afraid, angry.  Keep reminding yourself this isn't something to be afraid of; it's a GOOD thing.  We were given senses to USE them, not lock them away with drugs.  Whatever comes up, you can handle it without a security blanket that is slowly taking your life away--millions of people do it every day...and you did it yourself before you picked up cigarettes! 

Do things YOU want to do.  Put yourself first--your friends and family will understand, because you're doing something great for yourself and them too! 

One caution: if one thing you like to do is consume alcohol on occasion, I'd suggest being wary.  I managed OK personally but I know that alcohol has a tendency to numb inhibitions and break resolve and judgment.  There were a few times when I was out with friends and they were sharing a cigarette and I'd have a bit of a buzz and think, "Oh I could just take a puff, it wouldn't be a big deal."  Yeah?  Then *why do it at all!*  I never gave into temptation because my resolve was so strong, but  cigarettes are like any other drug: one hit is too many and never enough.  Best to just avoid temptation altogether if you can.


About five years after I quit smoking I got checked by a doctor who told me there was no sign in my lungs that I'd ever smoked at all.  It was like getting a gold star in kindergarten!

This is just a partial list of suggestions; if you have any that you know have worked I'd love to hear about them.  If you are a smoker, have quit or have a friend or loved one you'd like to see quit I wish you best of luck and hope my thoughts were of some use in your journey!

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Updated: 05/11/2013, AnomalousArtist
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