The majority of smokers want to quit to improve their health and wellbeing.
Most however, will make numerous attempts to quit, with the majority of new non-smokers relapsing within the first week.
Initially, new non-smokers may experience a slip up or two, where they’ve had 1 or 2 cigarettes or a puff, and decide to remain smokefree.
For others, they feel that they have now blown their quit attempt, and as a result, return to regular smoking; this is considered a relapse.
Relapse is a normal part of the quitting process and doesn’t mean you have failed. Whilst you may feel that returning to smoking is not what you had hoped for, it is important to learn from the experience and start again.
So why do smokers relapse?
There are many reasons why people return to full-time smoking. They can include:
- cravings and withdrawal symptoms
- a stressful situation or crisis
- gaining weight
- not putting effective strategies in place to cope with habits and emotional triggers
- not rewarding and acknowledging success
- deciding to have ‘just one’
- having a slip up and using it as a reason to return to full time smoking
- not ready to quit and may have felt pressure to stop
The first week after quitting is particularly crucial, as this is often when withdrawal symptoms peak.
It is also often the time when new non-smokers struggle to cope with their daily activities without their cigarettes.
So what can you do?
These five tips can help:
1. Be clear about what triggers you to smoke and put effective strategies in place
Think about what led you back to smoking. Was it a stressful situation or were you socialising with friends at a party?
Plan ahead by thinking about what you could do differently next time. If it was a crisis, how can you manage your stress effectively without smoking? How do your non-smoking family and friends manage their stress?
One of our previous posts on managing stress can also help…
If you were out socialising and drinking, what could you do next time if you were tempted to smoke? Could you possibly cut down on your drinking, or could you alternate your alcoholic beverages with water?
Decide which strategies you’re going to put in place and quit again.
Remind yourself of why you quit in the first place, and the benefits you will gain. This will help motivate you and help you stay on track with your smokefree goals.
2. Manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms
If you relapsed because of cravings and withdrawal symptoms, use the quitting medications to help ease the symptoms. This includes either using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), or the prescribed medications, Champix or bupropion (commonly known as Zyban).
Current NRT products that are available in Australia (and over the counter), include the patches, gum, inhalator, lozenge, oral strips and mouth spray.
If you wish to try the prescription medications, have a chat to your doctor to assess whether these products are suitable for you.
If you have already tried one or two of the quitting medications, and you felt that they didn’t work for you, think about whether you used the product correctly and for a suitable length of time – a minimum of 8 to 10 weeks is recommended.
Another option is to try a different quitting medication – it may be exactly what you need to help you successfully quit this time around.
If you would like further information about the range of medications available and how they work, one of our previous posts can help. Also speak to your doctor.
3. Reward yourself for the progress you’ve made
With any successful behaviour change, putting rewards in place is an important step to help reinforce the new behaviour. Rewards also help to remind us of the progress we’ve made and how far we’ve come.
Not sure how to reward yourself? Make a list of small luxuries that you would like to buy with the money you’ve saved by quitting. Calculate how many cigarettes or packs of cigarettes will ‘buy’ these items.
Some examples include:
- going to the movies Gold class style
- indulging in a shoulder massage or facial
- spending a weekend away with your partner
- buying some new shoes or clothing
- going out for dinner at a fancy restaurant
- purchasing a gym membership
- buying some new fishing gear or a new digital camera
How will you reward yourself for the progress you’ve made?
4. Form a new identity as a non-smoker
The moment you have made the decision to quit, remind yourself that now you are a ‘non-smoker’, and that you can live your life without cigarettes.
Be proud of the decision and action you’re taking to improve your health and wellbeing. Remind yourself on a daily basis that smoking is no longer part of who you are.
Give yourself a pep talk that you CAN and WILL be successful – try and stay positive by affirming that you “can make it” without a cigarette.
5. Seek support
Relapse is a normal part of the behaviour change process with every quit attempt bringing you closer to your smokefree goal. If you’re struggling to quit or remain smokefree, speak to your doctor, pharmacist or local health professional.
For the cost of a local call, call the Quitline on 137 848 and speak to a Quitline advisor. The Quitline advisors are trained counsellors, are non-judgemental and can discuss the best options for you. You can remain anonymous if you wish.
That even though quitting smoking is difficult, it is achievable with the right information, planning and support.
So put some effective strategies in place, use the quitting medications to help ease withdrawal, remind yourself that you are now a non-smoker, and get the information and support you need to help you quit for good.
Every step you take along your quitting journey, is a step in the right direction. Even if you have gone back to smoking, take the opportunity to learn more about your smoking triggers, and think about what you could do differently next time.
Quitting is one of the best things that you can do for your health, giving you the life you deserve to live – a long and healthy one!