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Stay Tobacco-Free and Avoid Relapse: 6 Tips That Worked for Me

I was a heavy smoker for more than 30 years. After many attempts, I finally managed to kick the habit.

Now that You Have Quit Smoking, You Need to Stay Quit

Congratulations on quitting smoking. You must already be feeling the benefits of being smoke-free. Even if it's only been a few days, I am sure you are breathing easier, feeling more energetic, and generally seeing the world in a new way. Unless you were a very light smoker, I bet you also have more time on your hands. Now that you really see just how time consuming smoking is, you can use that extra time for all kinds of wonderful things. If you play your cards right you won't be bored and you won't have time to miss your old friend, cigarettes. The best is yet to come. From here on in, every day that you manage to remain completely smoke-free is a day that increases your chance of success at becoming a permanent ex-smoker.

Depending on whether or not you are using pharmaceuticals like Chantix or Zyban to ease withdrawal—or if you are using nicotine replacement therapy in the form of gum, patches, lozenges or nasal spray to help you through the initial stages of smoking cessation—you may also be experiencing intense physical cravings. In the early days and weeks of cessation you almost certainly will find yourself faced with some serious psychological triggers that can lead you back to smoking, where you definitely do NOT want to go.

Even one puff at this stage can blow your entire quitting effort out of the water. Along with the tips I am going to give you in this article, I want you to remember one key thing. The desire to smoke will almost always pass within ten minutes. Before you take a puff, just wait... tell yourself that if you still want it in ten minutes you can have it. In ten minutes, I guarantee you will be able to resist the urge. The more times you can do this, the stronger you will become.

You Are Not an Exception to the Rule

You say you had a cigarette at a party last night, and it has not led you down the garden path? I say, not yet. Do it a few more times and you will be right back to smoking because you have to, not because you want to.

I hasten to add that there are a few people who can manage to bum a cigarette at a party now and then and enjoy a smoke. They are the exception, not the rule, and if you are reading this article, you are probably not one of them. People who can do this were usually not heavily addicted or even heavy smokers. Do you really want to take the chance and find out the hard way?

I cannot tell you how many times I quit, got cocky after a month or so, and then gave into temptation at a party, or after a particularly stressful incident, or just because I was with somebody who was smoking, or had just finished a meal, or wanted to smoke with coffee, or whatever. I failed at staying quit dozens of times because it took me so long to realize that when I smoke one cigarette at a party, I am not just smoking one cigarette. I am picking up a two-and-a-half-pack-a-day habit and activating an addiction. Once I was able to really internalize that simple fact, I was able to resist the temptation. The desire passed, and I am still smoke-free today. (I quit for good in the year 2000.)

Rule number one for staying quit after you have gone to the trouble of giving up smoking is NEVER to give into the urge to have even one puff. A little voice in your head that says, "It's been awhile now so I can have just one now and then," is almost certainly lying. It is coming from the part of your brain that needs its nicotine fix. The conversation in your head starts when you smell smoke, are around smokers, talking about smoking or even just watching people smoking in an old movie or TV show. I'm going to talk about six common triggers and give you some tips on how to deal with them. Feel free to share your own experiences and personal triggers in the comments section. I would love to hear and will definitely respond.

Why Former Smokers Relapse

Six Specific Tips To Help You Stay Smoke-Free

Tip #1 - Turn the Loss Into a Gain

As a recent ex-smoker, you are almost certainly mourning the loss of a good friend. Even though you are feeling better, you may find yourself nostalgic about smoking from time to time, You miss it. You only remember the good moments. You tell yourself you enjoyed smoking. You did? Really? No you didn't. That's why they call it addiction.

You can take those feelings of loss and turn them into a gain by doing small things that cumulatively make a big difference. For example, when you brush your teeth, think about how clean and fresh your mouth feels and imagine how it used to feel before you quit. Leave a note on your fridge about how much better food tastes now that you don't smoke. Get the idea? Focus on what you have gained not what you miss about smoking. Make a gratitude list of things you like about being smoke free and post it near your bed. Read it every night before you go to sleep.

Tip #2 - Reward Yourself for Not Smoking

Every day that you don't smoke, do something nice for yourself. Here's my personal favorite. This helped me a lot when I was quitting. Figure out how much money you spent on cigarettes every day. Get a big jar and put that amount of money in it faithfully every day that you do not smoke. Make it a ritual. You will be amazed at how quickly the money adds up. At the end of the week or, if you prefer, the end of the month, use the money you saved in the jar to buy something nice for yourself. Make that something you will use and see and enjoy. It will remind you of your success.

Tip #3 - Get Rid of The Smoke in Your Life

Now that you can actually smell dead tobacco, you know how awful it is. Get it out of your house, your clothes, your car, your office--everywhere. Wash, scrub, clean, paint, throw away. Get rid of ashtrays, lighters and of course, don't keep any cigarettes in your home. Do what you have to do to get everything around you clean and sweet smelling. Repaint rooms if you have to. Get your car detailed. Do what you have to do. After you have put in all that time and effort, you won't want to mess things up by smoking

Tip #4 - Don't Use Fear of Weight Gain As an Excuse for Relapse

The fact of the matter is you probably will gain some weight when you quit. Do not, under any circumstances, let weight gain drive you back to smoking. Things will subside eventually and you will be able to lose the weight. If you give in and start smoking again, you will be heavier AND smoking and, trust me, I know, you will feel horrible about yourself. There are physiological reasons why you gain weight when you quit smoking. Relax and go with the flow and don't pick up even one cigarette.

Tip #5 - Stay Away From Your Personal Psychological Triggers

Of course you are going to surround yourself with people who support your non smoking as much as possible. But, you might also want to make some temporary changes in your routine for a few weeks until the new non-smoking you really takes hold. I switched from coffee to tea in the morning because for me, the idea of drinking coffee without having a cigarette was more than I could bear. If you like a few beers after work, you might want to forgo them for a few weeks. Alcohol lowers inhibitions. People tend to smoke in bars, and if you associate smoking and drinking this could be a real pitfall.

If you always smoke first thing in the morning. Brush your teeth and use mouthwash first thing instead. Make a list of your personal triggers. Talking on the phone? Stress at work? after a workout? After meals? Think about the times when you are most likely to miss having a smoke and substitute something else. make it a game.

Tip #6 - Revisit the Medical Literature on Smoking

When I was a smoker I simply tuned out all the statistics about longevity and no part of me wanted to look at pictures of diseased lungs or look at videos made by people with advanced COPD. I somehow operated under the illusion that it could not happen to me. Once I quit, I took another look at all the statistics and found that I saw them with new eyes. I was especially interested in how quickly the body healed from the effects of smoking and how quickly my disease and mortality risks went down. Do some quick surfing on the web and you will be fascinated by what you find that will reinforce your decision not to smoke.

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What You Need to Remember

What you need to remember is that you have done a wonderful thing for yourself by quitting. This is true whether you have been smoking for six months or thirty years. By quitting you have added years to your life and life to your years. Whether this is your first try or your tenth, you can make it your last if you remember what I said at the beginning—that there is no such thing as just having one cigarette.

You cannot have even one puff. Ride out the urges, use your bag of mental tricks and the desire will lessen. The cravings will become weaker and further and further apart and you will, within a matter of a few months, be really tobacco-free.

Congratulations on winning your battle with the cigarette beast, and welcome to the world of happy, healthy ex-smokers.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Roberta Kyle


Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on December 09, 2015:

Glad you liked it bethperry. Thank you for reading and commenting. Much appreciated.

Beth Perry from Tennesee on December 09, 2015:

Interesting tips! I have a friend who would probably benefit from reading this. Thanks for posting.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on April 23, 2015:

Good luck Nell......I have mixed feelings about e-cigs. but many people have used them successfully to quit. Just remember that the vapor does contain nicotine, but then so does the gum and so do the lozenges..... whatever works for you, I'm keeping my fingers crossed :-)

Nell Rose from England on April 22, 2015:

Just gave up again, and this time for good! no more, I need the money which I will spend on other things, if I get stuck for one I will user the new ecig that I have, but don't want to get stuck on that either! lol! great advice, and something i will come back too, nell

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on April 22, 2015:

So good to see you always,billybuc. haha... seems to me I spent a lot of my life running away from myself using one addiction or another.... but, as we both know from personal experience, you can run but you can't hide :-) and there are a few I didn't try, thank God.....and I am just grateful that I was able to stop while I still had my health and a few marbles left. I started smoking when I was 15 and started trying to quit in my late 40's by which time I was up to three packs a day. It took me many tries but today it has been 15 years since my last cigarette. In some ways it was harder to stop than drinking... don't know why....oh well, these days I who used to smoke Marlboros and down at least three Martinis before dinner am reduced to mineral water and breath mints and the occasional piece of chocolate cake... but then, I've never been happier so it all works out in the end. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 22, 2015:

I'm not sure how I missed this, Roberta, but sorry I'm late. Great tips for sure. Those addictions can be real buggers, can't they? :) I know for sure I have an addictive personality and today I'm always on guard.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on February 05, 2015:

There is always next time, Sanjay :-) I think I must have quit a dozen times before it stuck. Each time you quit is practice for the next time.... definitely not a failure, just a bump in the road :-) Thanks for commenting

Sanjay Sharma from Mandi (HP) India on February 04, 2015:

Thanks for the tips. But I have again started smoking after quitting it.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on January 20, 2015:

Hi Nell Rose.... I envy you... if I could limit myself to only four a day, I would still be smoking I am sure. :-) For me it was either two packs a day or nothing, but then we are all different and I am glad to hear your voice speak up for moderation here. Moderation is always the best, I think, if one can do it. I salute you :-)

Nell Rose from England on January 19, 2015:

Hi I gave up smoking years ago, horrible stuff happened in my life with family, went straight back on it! its the stress that makes you reach for that packet, i stop and start, and at the moment smoke around 4 a day!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on March 19, 2014:

Thanks for stopping by and commenting, TurtleDog. I'm on my way over to your profile now to check out your hubs. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

TurtleDog on March 06, 2014:

I love tip #4. A friend of mine swears he'll get fat (aka out of shape ) if he quits smoking again... Nice post. voted up and awesome. I also like 'tip jar' reward system.... easy for me to say though, I've never smoked

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on July 03, 2013:

Thanks Vinaya . I agree that relapse is the curse of addiction and this is especially true of smoking because it is legal and in many places, still socially acceptable. Nobody throws you in jail for smoking a Marlboro and you certainly don't need a Doctor's prescription. Oh well, thank you for stopping by and for the comment. Much appreciated

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on July 03, 2013:

The worst thing about quitting any kind of addiction is that we can easily get into addiction again. I don't smoke, but I know lots of people who are trying hard to quit. I will pass onto them.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on July 03, 2013:

Hellow all of you. Sorry I didn't get back here to check comments last night, but here I am now :-) Hi Steph. I love what you have to say about the things all addictions have in common.

Pegcole17. So great to see you. Seems we have being ex smokers in common too. I was shocked when I was in CVS the other day to see that a carton of cigs here in new jersey costs $78-- yikes, I used to smoke between 2 and 3 packs a day. Can you imagine? And when I started at the age of 16, cigarettes were 25 cents a pack

mariervam yup it is funny about habits, isn't it? Coffee and cigarettes went together for me and I simply could not drink coffee without a smoke in my hand at the beginning. Ditto talking on the phone, after meals, drinking wine etc. and breaking the trigger was really important.... amazing that such a mechanical thing as drinking tea instead of coffee could help, but it did and btw I am back to my morning coffee and am a total coffeeholic LOL

DDE Totally on the same page with you. I hate being around smoke and smokers now. In fact I am almost allergic to smoke. My lungs just close up. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 03, 2013:

Smoking is just a bad habit for it is one of the worst habits and don't like being near smokers, great tips.

Marie Ryan from Andalusia, Spain on July 02, 2013:

I agree with 'stephhicks68' on this one! Addictive behaviours have a lot in common with each other and I think that Tip#5 on Personal Triggers and how to avoid them is a crucial tip for all those fighting with any addictions.

There is a real art to recognising those 'triggers' and I smiled reading about your associating your morning COFFEE with smoking, yet not the tea! Great stuff and well done!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on July 02, 2013:

This is so true, Robie2. The tips you've given here are key to giving up the habit. I used tip number two when I was in the process of quitting. It amazed me that I would never hesitate to spend the money on a pack of cigs but to spend that (accumulated) sum of money on myself was just something I wouldn't do. That is, until I quit. Then I could add up the savings in just one week or two and buy a new pair of shoes or something totally frivolous just for me. My frugality kicked the habit! Cigs are over $5 a pack out here in TX. In just one month, the savings would pay for a trip to Del Frisco's Steakhouse.

Great ideas and thanks for this helpful hub.

Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on July 02, 2013:

What a helpful and inspiring article! Useful for other addictions, as well, I might say. :) Your own personal experience is a great foundation for your tips. Rated up and sharing. I hope a lot of people that have quit smoking or are trying to do so read this hub. Best, Steph

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on July 02, 2013:

Thanks torilynn. Glad you liked the hub and thanks for stopping by.

torrilynn on July 02, 2013:

@robie2 really nice useful tips that you have here. Such a nice read! voted up

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on July 02, 2013:

Thanks alocsin and labelufiroz for the comments and the votes. Much appreciated:-)

Firoz from India on July 01, 2013:

Useful tips. Voted up.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on July 01, 2013:

Another tip I'd like to offer is to hang around non-smokers and give them permission to tell you to avoid smoking. Voting this Up and Useful.

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