What happens when you quit smoking?
A stage by stage process of quitting smoking
It's only natural to be worried about what might happen next when you make a lifestyle choice so we've put together a step-by-step guide to give you a rough idea of the various stages you might go through when quitting smoking.
The stages of quitting smoking
You may go through some or all of these stages when you give up the cigarettes.
Stage One: Thinking about quitting
You know smoking is bad for you but you're not sure whether to quit or not. Part of you feels that kicking your nicotine addiction is one of the best things you can do for your health but there's another part of you that just can't let the cigarettes go because you enjoy smoking. It's almost as though you've got a little row going on inside your head.
At this stage you might consider drawing up a list of pros and cons to help you decide what to do next.
Stage Two: Making the decision to quit smoking
You've decided to listen to the little voice that's telling you it's time to quit smoking. You know what you need to do and now it's time to get ready to give it a go.
- Set your date and stick to it.
- During this stage you should work out a strategy to make the process as easy as possible. Drawing up a list of triggers (things that you know will lead to you craving a cigarette) might be helpful. Do you need to find something else to do on your coffee break? Could you make any changes around the house to make things that bit easier?
- You might even consider going to visit your GP to talk about your options in terms of scientifically proven treatments and aids that will help you along the way. Combining an effective treatment with personal support will really increase your chances of success.
Stage Three: Putting out your last cigarette
- You set the date during Stage Two and when the big day arrives you cut out the cigarettes completely. This will be the most difficult part of the process because if there's one thing your body will be screaming out for, it's a cigarette.
- You're probably going to have withdrawal symptoms and crave cigarettes but if you just hang on in there it'll get a bit easier after a few days.
- Try the 4 Ds for Dealing with Cravings. Distract yourself by focusing on something else, Delay until the urge passes – usually within 3 to 5 minutes, Take a Deep breath 20 times and Drink a glass of cold water or fruit juice.
- It's not unusual to feel anxious and have trouble sleeping either. Eventually those initial feelings will wear off and you'll go through something of a honeymoon period. You'll feel a LOT better as your mood improves, your energy returns and the cravings die down a little.
- The second slump may hit just when you think you're out of the woods. Sometimes it'll bring flu-like symptoms with it and you might feel tired and irritable. Those cravings you thought were long gone may rear their ugly heads again so it's important to stand your ground until things calm down.
- Things can only get better after that but most smokers are bound to have a relapse phase, when any exposure to risky situations (heading to the smoking area for a chat with friends, for example) could bring on those cravings once again. Get to know your triggers so you've got the best chance of staying on track.
- If you can make it this far, things will stabilise and you'll be well on the road to staying smoke free for good.
Stage Four: Staying off the cigarettes
- Congratulations. You've made it through the worst of the withdrawal and got a handle on your cravings.
- Whatever you do during this stage, you MUST keep your guard up because you could become a bit complacent, forget just how hard it was to get here and consider having "just the one". If you do, all your hard work will be undone and you'll be right back at the very beginning.
- You've been doing great and every day you stay away from cigarettes is another day of success!
Stage Five: Staying smoke free
- Cigarettes? What cigarettes? It's time to celebrate because you've put an end to all those cravings and no longer rely on nicotine to get you through your day. You've probably figured out exactly what triggered your need for a smoke in the first place and managed to find a tobacco-free way to deal with the situation.
- You might even start referring to yourself as a non-smoker. Who'd have thought it eh?
- However, you can't forget the fact that you've had a long-standing relationship with cigarettes and the temptation to go back will ALWAYS be there in some shape or form. No matter how much time passes, taking just one puff of a cigarette could send you all the way back to becoming a full blown smoker.
Stage Six: Slipping up and smoking
- So you've slipped and had a cigarette? Don't worry, it's not the end of the world. In fact, it's a natural part of the quitting process.
- Some smokers quit successfully the first time but for many others it'll take a few attempts before they manage to give the cigarettes up for good. That might not be much consolation when you're feeling disappointed but it's well worth keeping it in the back of your mind.
- Don't allow the negative feelings to overwhelm you or start doubting yourself. Just take a look back, figure out what worked and what didn't, and then get ready to give it a go again.
Things to remember
- You CAN do this. You CAN quit.
- Get help and support to QUIT smoking
- Visit Quit.ie for tips on how to stop smoking. Call the Quitline on Freephone 1800 201 203 to talk to someone who understands and can help you quit.
- FreeText QUIT to 50100
- Head to the Quit.ie Facebook page to read stories from others who have quit smoking and to share your own.
- Check out SpunOut's articles about giving up cigarettes.