Prepare for the Hurdles
“I decided to quit for the sake of our newborn baby’s health. So I posted a ‘No Smoking’ sign in our house. Just one hour later, the craving for nicotine came over me like a tsunami, and I lit up a cigarette.”—Yoshimitsu, Japan.
AS Yoshimitsu’s experience indicates, the process of quitting has its hurdles. Moreover, studies show that nearly 90 percent of those who stumble stay down by resuming their habit. Hence, if you are trying to quit, you are more likely to succeed if you are prepared for the hurdles. What are the more common ones?
The craving for nicotine: This usually peaks within three days after your last cigarette and subsides after about two weeks. During that time “the desire comes in waves; it is not constant,” says one ex-smoker. Even years later, however, you may have a sudden urge to smoke. If so, don’t do anything rash. Wait for five minutes or so, and the desire should pass.
Other withdrawal symptoms: Initially, people find it harder to stay awake or concentrate and may tend to gain weight more easily. They may also experience aching, itching, sweating, and coughing, as well as mood changes demonstrated by impatience, a proneness to anger, or even depression. Most symptoms, though, abate within four to six weeks.
During this critical time, there are some practical things you can do that will help. For example:
● Allow more time for sleep.
● Drink plenty of water or juice. Eat wholesome food.
● Engage in moderate exercise.
● Breathe deeply, and picture clean air filling your lungs.
Triggers: These are activities or feelings that can trigger the urge to smoke. For instance, perhaps you normally had a cigarette when drinking a beverage. If so, when quitting smoking, don’t linger over your beverage. In time, of course, you will be able to enjoy your beverage at a more leisurely pace.
That said, psychological links can remain long after your body is free of nicotine. “Nineteen years after quitting,” admits Torben, quoted earlier, “I am still tempted to smoke during coffee breaks.” As a general rule, however, the association of smoking with specific activities will weaken in time and lose its force.
With alcohol, the situation is different. Indeed, while you are trying to quit smoking, you may need to abstain from alcohol and avoid places where it is served, for a high percentage of relapses occur while people are drinking. Why is that?
● Even small amounts of alcohol increase the pleasure derived from nicotine.
● Social drinking is often intimately linked with smoking.
● Alcohol impairs judgment and lowers inhibitions. The Bible rightly says: ‘Wine takes away good motive.’—Hosea 4:11.
Associates: Be selective. For instance, avoid needless association with people who smoke or who may invite you to do so. Also stay away from individuals who try to undermine your efforts to quit, perhaps by teasing you about it.
Emotions: In one study almost two thirds of those who relapsed felt stressed or angry just prior to their relapse. If a certain feeling triggers the urge to smoke, distract yourself—perhaps by drinking water, chewing gum, or going for a walk. Try to fill your mind with positive thoughts, perhaps by going to God in prayer or reading a few pages of the Bible.—Psalm 19:14.
Rationalizations to Avoid
● I’ll only take one puff.
Reality: Just one puff can satisfy up to 50 percent of certain nicotine receptors in your brain for three hours. The result is often a full relapse.
● Smoking helps me deal with stress.
Reality: Studies show that nicotine actually increases levels of stress hormones. Any perceived relief from stress may be largely a result of the temporary fading of withdrawal symptoms.
● I’m too far gone to quit.
Reality: Pessimism saps the will. The Bible says: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” (Proverbs 24:10) So avoid defeatist thinking. Anyone who really wants to quit and who applies practical principles, such as those mentioned in this magazine, can succeed.
● The withdrawal symptoms are too much for me.
Reality: Granted, withdrawal symptoms are powerful, but they will subside within just a few weeks. So stay focused! If a desire to smoke resurfaces months or years later, it too will pass, likely in just a few minutes—if you do not light up a cigarette.
● I have a mental illness.
Reality: If you are being treated for a mental condition, such as depression or schizophrenia, ask your doctor to help you quit smoking. He or she might be more than willing to rally to your side, perhaps by altering your treatment to compensate for the effect that your decision may have on your illness or on medicines you may be taking.
● If I have a relapse, I’ll feel that I’m a failure.
Reality: If you trip over a hurdle and have a smoke—as many do while trying to give up smoking—your situation is not hopeless. Simply get up and press on. Falling down does not spell failure. Staying down is failure. So keep trying. Eventually you will succeed!
Consider the experience of Romualdo, who smoked for 26 years and quit over 30 years ago. “I lost count of my relapses,” he writes. “Each time, I felt terrible, as if I were a lost cause. However, once I made a firm determination to have a good relationship with Jehovah God and repeatedly asked for his help in prayer, I was finally able to quit for good.”
In the last article of this series, we will consider just a few more practical suggestions that may help you to become a happy ex-smoker.
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LETHAL IN ALL ITS FORMS
Tobacco is used in many ways. Some tobacco products are even sold in health-food and herbal-medicine stores. Nevertheless, “all forms of tobacco are lethal,” says the World Health Organization. Death may result from any number of tobacco-related diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Smoking mothers may also harm their unborn babies. In what forms are tobacco products usually used?
Bidis: These small, hand-rolled cigarettes are commonly used in Asian lands. Bidis deliver several times more tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide than do regular cigarettes.
Cigars: These are made of filler tobacco tightly wrapped in tobacco leaf or in paper made from tobacco. The slightly alkaline tobacco of cigars, as compared with the acidic tobacco of cigarettes, allows nicotine to be absorbed through the mouth even if the cigar is unlit.
Kreteks, or clove cigarettes: These usually contain about 60 percent tobacco and 40 percent cloves. They deliver more tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide than do regular cigarettes.
Pipes: Smoking a pipe is not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes, for both habits can cause many of the same cancers and other diseases.
Smokeless tobacco: This includes chewing tobacco, snuff, and flavored gutkha used in Southeast Asia. Nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream through the mouth. Smokeless tobacco use is every bit as dangerous as other tobacco use.
Water pipes (bongs, hookahs, narghiles, shishas): With these devices, tobacco smoke passes through water before being inhaled. Nevertheless, the process may not reduce the amount of toxins, including cancer-causing agents, that get into the lungs.
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HELPING SOMEONE ELSE TO QUIT
● Be positive. Praise and rewards work better than nagging and lecturing. “I think you can do it if you try again” has more power than “You failed again!”
● Be forgiving. Do your best to overlook anger or frustration directed at you by someone trying to quit. Use kind expressions such as, “I know this is hard, but I’m so proud of you for doing it.” Never say, “I liked you better when you were smoking!”
● Be a true friend. The Bible states: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” (Proverbs 17:17) Yes, try to be patient and loving “all the time” toward someone trying to quit—whatever the hour of the day or the mood of the person.