Imagine you were moving to another country in a month. You’d discover a new landscape, make new friends and learn another language and culture. Quitting tobacco is similar to moving to a foreign country. It takes courage. It may involve some temporary discomfort. But most importantly, it requires planning to do it successfully.
The U.S. Public Health Service has identified five things that successful quitters have in common. People who quit successfully:
- Set a quit date
- Use quit medications effectively
- Learn how to cope with urges to use tobacco
- Remove tobacco products from their surroundings
- Get support from family and friends
Think of this as your personal travel guide to the land of tobacco-free living. Let’s explore these five key behaviors for quitting tobacco.
1. Set a quit date
If a friend asked, “When are you moving?” it would be odd to say, “Oh, sometime soon, but I don’t really know when.”
The same is true about setting a quit date.
Commit yourself to picking a date, and mark it on your calendar. Give yourself a few weeks to prepare for this big day and treat your quit date with the same level of importance as birthdays, marriages and other life-changing events.
If you find yourself ready to make the move to tobacco-free living but “don’t really know when,” get support from QUITPLAN Services or talk with former tobacco users about what they did.
2. Use quit medications effectively
Just as modern conveniences have made it easier to travel than in the past, modern science has developed quit medications that make it easier to overcome the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. As recently as the 1980s, people who wanted to quit smoking had only one option: cold turkey.
The invention of nicotine replacement therapy — nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, etc. — has made it easier to manage nicotine withdrawal. Most recently, the prescription medications Bupropion SR (Zyban and Wellbutrin) and Varenicline (Chantix) were developed specifically to ease nicotine withdrawal.
When used correctly, quit medications can double your chances of success over those who try to go cold turkey.
3. Learn to cope with urges
You’ve set your quit date. You’ve got your quit medication to make you more comfortable. And even though this will help ease your physical cravings from nicotine withdrawal, you’re still likely to have urges.
The patterns and routines of most tobacco users develop over years. For example, if you smoked 20 cigarettes a day for 20 years, you have rehearsed the habit about 146,000 times! A patch or a pill will never take the place of the “after-meal cigarette” or the “dip of chew when out fishing.” These types of cravings require planning to manage and are personal for everyone.
There is no right way to fight cravings. The best strategies involve things you can do easily within your normal routine that get you past the craving and that are enjoyable to you. Read about conquering your cravings and experiment with different strategies until you find one that’s best for you.
4. Remove tobacco from your environment
The process of moving involves the decision of what to take and what to leave behind. When it comes to tobacco, the decision should be easy.
Go through the cupboards, coat pockets, your car and anywhere else in your environment that you might find tobacco. Throw it all away. Even things that just remind you of tobacco: lighters, ashtrays, etc. Some people shampoo their carpets or clean the interior of their cars to eliminate any lingering smells. If it’s not there, it’s less likely to tempt you.
5. Get support
There’s a saying: “Many hands make light work.” This is especially true with difficult tasks. Whether it’s packing your moving van, taking you to the airport or supporting you as you quit tobacco, the help of friends and family can make things a lot easier.
The kind of support you need is a personal decision. Think about what would help you and then ask for it. Do you need a pat on the back? Help with daily chores? Would it help if someone took the kids for a couple of hours? Or maybe you just want to be left alone for a little while. It all helps you quit.
These five strategies will help you on your journey to a tobacco-free life and give you the best chance at a safe arrival.