The positive feeling that we get from smoking cigarettes is primarily as a result of the nicotine that tobacco contains. This drug acts on the nervous system to increase the impulses around our body helping us to feel more awake, to concentrate more and generally making us feel good.
The effects of smoking typically only last for a few hours and as the drug levels in our bodies start to drop, we are reminded that we need another cigarette in order to give ourselves the next boost in our mood.
One of the main difficulties when quitting smoking is, therefore, the sudden withdrawal of this feeling. Lack of nicotine for a smoke can lead to a number of nasty side effects including tiredness, short temper and difficulties concentrating.
This is why many people trying to quit smoking simply by going cold turkey really struggle as their body is constantly trying to force them to have the next nicotine intake and of course this feeling worsens over time making it harder and harder not to smoke.
By quitting smoking with nicotine replacement therapy you are able to slowly wean yourself off cigarettes as your body stops trying to convince you to smoke.
Over time you strive to reduce the amount of nicotine you are giving yourself until you can wean yourself off the drug altogether. In this way, many nicotine patches, for example, have a number of levels and over a period of some months, you slowly move from one level to the next until you are drug-free.
For many people quitting smoking with nicotine replacement therapy works well but there are potential problems and downsides with this method of giving up smoking.
The first of these is that nicotine normally only stays in the body for between two and four days. If we were to quit smoking altogether in less than a week all the drug would have left our body and we would no longer experience withdrawal symptoms.
Using nicotine replacement therapy, however, we really prolong the time it will take until we are able to live a normal, tobacco free life.
However, the biggest problem of all is that when it comes to quitting smoking there are two distinct aspects to the problem. The first of these is the lack of nicotine, seen by many stop smoking experts as the smaller of the two problems.
The bigger and more serious problem when quitting smoking is the behavioral aspect. Over time we build up associations in our minds about what cigarettes do for us. Maybe we believe they help to calm us down, or give up energy and so on.
Nicotine replacement therapy does nothing to control these behavioral elements of smoking which is why so many people fail when using just this technique.
In my personal experience then whilst nicotine replacement therapy will help some smokers to kick the habit it is a less than perfect solution and for the best results when it comes to giving up smoking you should aim to find a solution that helps you combat the behavioral elements of smoking. Doing so makes quitting much easier, requires less willpower and is far more likely to lead to success.
Life After You Quit Smoking
When we’re considering giving up smoking there are often all sorts of reasons for wanting to quit.
And whilst the idea of finally being free of smoking is an exciting one there is always a little part of the mind that wonders what the other side will be like. Certainly, when you have quit smoking you will feel better. You will be healthier and more able to exercise. You won’t smell of tobacco.
But what will you give up? What are the downsides, if any, to quitting smoking?
Therefore as I understand this concern (I used to have it regularly myself before I finally quit smoking) I thought it might be useful to discuss this topic in some depth to help you visualize the life you’re going to create when you quit smoking.
Firstly, of course, there are a lot of positives things that you gain. No more feeling the need to nip outside at work or at home for a smoke. Sleeping more, spending less.
What about the downsides? Personally one of my biggest concerns related to stress. I used to smoke as a way to deal with stress in my life and found that a quick cigarette would quickly calm me down and enable me to function properly under difficult circumstances.
I wondered how I would handle those situations without the aid of cigarettes and it wasn’t till I quit, and spoke to a few experts, that I had rather a surprise.
Almost all the “stressful” situations that we as smokers experience are made far worse by our body desire for nicotine. As the nicotine levels in your body start to drop soon after you’ve had a smoke, you naturally start to feel anxious and stressed. So a slightly stressful situation is magnified multiple times by your lack of a cigarette.
Having a smoke, after which you feel much better, really just takes you up to the level that most non-smokers feel all the time. And because of this once you have actually quit smoking, and no longer crave nicotine, you will actually find yourself more capable of dealing with stressful situations and in general far less anxious overall.
In other words, don’t worry about how you will handle these difficult situations which normally cause you to light up because once you get off the nicotine these situations simply don’t exist. It’s only in the first few days after you quit smoking that this might be an issue and after that you’re home and dry.
What about the social aspects of smoking? Over the years I was a smoker I got to know a lot of people very well thanks to the social aspects of smoking. I’d start a new job and within days would be great friends with a whole bunch of other people there as we kept meeting for cigarettes. Smoking oiled the social wheels.
The fact is that it’s not so much the smoking itself that helped me to bond with people but rather the act of spending dedicated time with people. Smoking is just a side issue. After you quit smoking you’ll still be able to go outside with your friends even if you aren’t smoking. You can still be sociable. But you’ll smell less and feel better. Even better if it’s freezing cold or pouring down with rain you’ll be able to stay indoors if you want rather than “needing” to go out for a smoke so you have far more control over how you spend your time.
The final concern I had about life after cigarettes was how much like torture it would be. I had convinced myself that I actually “needed” cigarettes. Whilst I wanted to give up, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling jealous of other people when they lit up. I didn’t want the desire for a cigarette to take over my life.
Again this concern proved to be unfounded. When I quit smoking using a program that helped to deal with the behavioral aspects of smoking I very quickly saw me as a non-smoker instead of an ex-smoker. The distinction may seem small but once you’ve quit smoking the difference is actually very large indeed.
The ex-smoker is someone who used to smoke. Who goes on about what a terrible habit it is. Who deals with not smoking by knocking other smokers as though they’re trying to convince themselves that they’ve made the right choice?
On the other hand, the non-smoker is just like everyone else. They don’t need or want to smoke. They don’t long for a cigarette and can happily stand next to someone else who is smoking without feeling any desires to have themselves.
By dealing with the associations that we have with cigarettes we can quickly remove the desire to smoke which means we get no withdrawal symptoms. We aren’t trying to fight against ourselves by not smoking while every other part of us is telling us to go and have a smoke. We just don’t fancy one which means there is no torture involved.
I should mention that it was only when I quit using a program that affected my behavior and dealt with these issues that quitting was easy and painless. When I tried quitting using the various more old-fashioned methods like going cold turkey or using nicotine patches that quitting *was* hard. But doing it the new way was genuine, shockingly easy.
So don’t be concerned about life after cigarettes. When you quit properly once and for all there will only be positives. I understand if you have concerns right now but try to put those out of your mind because you will find that they simply don’t exist.