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Great American Smokeout
Cold Turkey Quit Smoking Tipsby John R. Polito, Nicotine Cessation Educator
The 35th Great American Smokeout is upon us and so too are a sea of quit smoking product advertisements. Sadly, the Great American Smokeout has been hijacked by pharmaceutical interests. Originally a day to stop smoking nicotine, it's been transformed into a day to use "replacement" nicotine, or new nicotine designer drugs that imitate it.
What no quitting product ad dare tell smokers is the truth, that more smokers will succeed in quitting cold turkey this year than by all other stop smoking methods combined. Instead, as with Pfizer's tortoise and hare Chantix commercials, they'll try to convince smokers that their product prevailed in head-to-head competition against cold turkey quitters. Although badly needed, there were no such studies.
Take a close look at this table created by the American Cancer Society. Although a bit dated, here 91.4% of successful long-term ex-smokers reported having quit cold turkey.
Quitting product ads are designed to make smokers fear their natural quitting instincts. These products prevailed over study participants who joined seeking products that promised that withdrawal would be less intense but were instead randomly assigned to receive a look-a-like placebo. Many participants had lengthy quitting histories, were experts at recognizing their withdrawal syndrome, and grew frustrated upon realizing they'd been given placebos. As you know, placebo isn't even a real quitting method.
The below quit smoking tips are a tiny sampling of the lessons available at WhyQuit, a totally free, all-volunteer, non-commercial quit smoking site that sells nothing and actually declines donations. Since mid-2000 WhyQuit has been the Internet's most popular cold turkey quitting destination. We invite you to explore WhyQuit and discover why.
Cold Turkey Quit Smoking Tips
The Law of Addiction - The Law of Addiction states, "administration of a drug to an addict will cause re-establishment of chemical dependence upon the addictive substance." Yes, just one powerful puff, dip, or chew and you'll be faced with again enduring up to 72 hours of nicotine detox, by far the most challenging period of recovery. Brain scans show that just one puff of nicotine activates up to 50% of nicotinic-type acetylcholine receptors. Although most quitters walk away from smoking just once thinking they've gotten away with a single use, they soon find their brain begging for more. Full adherence to this simple restatement of the Law of Addiction provides a 100% guarantee of success to all: no nicotine just one hour, challenge and day at a time ... "Never Take Another Puff, Dip or Chew!"
Be Honest With You - Although the nicotine addict's dopamine high is alert, not drunk, numb, euphoric or racing, nicotine dependency is every bit as real and permanent as alcoholism, heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine addiction. An external chemical has taken your mind's priorities teacher - your dopamine pathways - hostage. Our dopamine pathways were designed to create "wanting" for food, water, companionship, sex and companionship. Food craves, nicotine craves. Once taken hostage, our mind's priorities teacher left us falsely yet totally convinced that regular nicotine feedings are our new #1 priority in life, more important than family, friends, eating, hostile weather, romance, health or life itself. Repeated nicotine use saturated and numbed reward pathway receptors. It then caused the brain to grow millions of extra nicotinic-type receptors in multiple brain regions (a process known as de-sensitization and up-regulation). First one cigarette per day and then two, and then three, our brain became hard-wired to function on ever so slowly increasing levels of nicotine (known as tolerance). Why play games? Treating true drug addiction as though some "nasty little habit" capable of manipulation, modification or control is a recipe for relapse and death. There is no such thing as "just one." Nicotine dependency recovery truly is all or nothing. There was always only one rule, no nicotine today!
Knowledge is Power - Key to dramatically enhancing our odds of success is to become smarter than our addiction is strong. WhyQuit.com is a free site that's home to the world's most educated ex-users. There you'll find thought provoking motivational stories such as Bryan's, Noni's, Kim's and Deborah's and the Internet's largest library of original quitting articles and free video quitting lessons (in Joel's Library). You find two free quitting ebooks, Joel Spitzer's "Never Take Another Puff" (which has been downloaded more than 2 million times) and John R. Polito's "Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home" (released during 2009). Averaging 2,770 unique visitors per day, WhyQuit is also home to the Net's most focused and education oriented quit smoking support group, Freedom from Nicotine. Discover the power of knowledge.
Calm Your Deep Inner Mind - Nicotine dependency is a true mental illness, a brain wanting disorder. Your primitive impulsive mind (the limbic mind) may falsely see quitting smoking and ending all nicotine use as though you're trying to starve yourself to death. It may attempt to sound the body's anxiety alarms (our fight or flight response). Our impulsive mind does not think, plan or plot against us but simply reacts to years of input from the brain's dopamine pathways, pathways long ago taken hostage by nicotine. Use your conscious thinking mind (your prefrontal cortex) to calm and reassure your impulsive mind. Think about it, why fear coming home to a time and place where we go entire days without once thinking about wanting to smoke? Calm and reassure your subconscious in the fleeting seconds before dosing off into sleep, when the two minds draw near.
Measuring Victory - Forget about quitting "forever." Like attempting the seemingly impossible task of sitting down to eat an entire cow, it is the biggest psychological bite imaginable. Instead, adopt a manageable "one steak at a time," or better yet "one day at a time" recovery philosophy for measuring victory. If we insist on seeing success only in terms of quitting forever, then on which day do we celebrate? It's a bit hard to celebrate once dead. Why not celebrate each challenge overcome, aspect of life reclaimed, and day of freedom and healing.
Four Layers of Recovery -
(1) Physical Withdrawal - Known as nicotine's half-life, unless replenished, every two hours the amount of nicotine remaining in the bloodstream is naturally reduced by half. When quitting, all nicotine, 100%, will have passed from the body within 72 hours of ending all use. Physical nicotine withdrawal peaks by day three and within 2 to 3 weeks the brain physically re-adjusts to functioning without nicotine. During this period it's entirely normal to feel de-sensitized, as if part of you is being left behind. But rest assured, your brain is working overtime to down-regulate receptor counts and restore natural neuro-chemical sensitivities. Be patient with your healing.
(2) Subconscious Cue Extinguishment - You've conditioned and trained your subconscious mind to expect the arrival of a new supply of nicotine upon encountering specific times, locations, activities, people or emotions. The process of reconditioning and breaking or extinguishing these subconscious nicotine use cues peaks during the first week, at about day three. All but remote, infrequent or seasonal nicotine use cues are extinguished within a month.
(3) Emotional Recovery - Chemical dependency upon nicotine was probably the most intense, repetitive, dependable yet destructive relationship we've ever known. It infects every aspect of life. Be prepared to experience a normal sense of emotional loss. Expect to travel through and experience six different emotional phases: (1) denial, (2) anger, (3) bargaining, (4) depression, (5) acceptance, and (6)complacency.
(4) Conscious Thought Fixation - The final layer of recovery, thought fixation, is the least intense yet longest. Here the rational thinking mind finds itself fixating on old nicotine use memories created when an actively feeding nicotine addict satisfied wanting by use of more nicotine. Although at times impossible to appreciate, with each passing day thoughts of wanting gradually grow fewer, shorter in duration and generally less intense. Within a few months they will become the exception, not the rule, as you gradually start to develop an expectation of going entire days without once "thinking" about wanting to use nicotine.
Withdrawal Symptoms - As strange as it sounds, withdrawal symptoms are good not bad. What truer signs of healing could there be? Within reason, it is fairly safe to blame most of what you'll feel during the first three days on quitting smoking. But after that, listen closely to your body and if at all concerned get seen and evaluated. If you must, blame early symptoms on where you have been, not where you are going.
Possible Hidden Health Conditions - Each puff of smoke contained more than 4,000 chemicals. One or more of those chemicals may have been masking an underlying hidden health problem such as a thyroid condition (iodine), breathing problems in smokers, including asthma (bronchiodialiators), or even chronic organic depression (nicotine). Tobacco chemicals may also have been interacting with medications you were already taking and an adjustment may be necessary. Stay alert and get seen if at all concerned.
Quitting Methods - Wow, Chantix advertisements seem to be everywhere. What's most disturbing is what the ads don't say. Normally those seeking to profit by selling quitting products try to paint cold turkey quitting as almost impossible, with few succeeding. Take your own poll. What you'll discover is that the vast majority of all long-term ex-smokers quit smoking cold turkey. Not only is it our most productive quitting method, it is fast, free and safe. But quitting cold -- in ignorance and darkness -- can be frightening. When combined with education, skills development and ongoing support, no quitting product comes close. Not only do cold turkey quitters avoid potential quitting product side effects, such as the 165 potential side effects documented with Chantix, they don't end up hooked on the cure (nearly 40% of all nicotine gum users are chronic long-term users of at least 6 months). All pharmaceutical quitting products share a common feature. They delay brain neuronal re-sensitization to varying degrees. What it means is that there is almost always some level of back-end re-adjustment once product use ends.
Record Your Motivations - Once in the heat of battle it's normal for the mind to quickly forget many of the reasons that motivated us to commence recovery. Imagine being able to reach for a loving reminder card or letter listing all your core motivations when experiencing a crave episode. Write down your reasons for quitting, carry it with you, and make it your first line of defense - a motivational tool that can be pulled out during moments of challenge. As with achievement in almost all human endeavors, the wind beneath our recovery wings will not be strength or willpower but robust dreams and desires. Keep those dreams vibrant, on center-stage and calming your impulsive mind and no circumstance will deprive you of glory.
Don't Skip Meals - With past attempts, did you mind and thinking starting feeling clouded? Nicotine was our spoon, with each puff releasing stored fats and sugars into our bloodstream. It allowed us to skip meals without experiencing wild blood-sugar swing symptoms such as an inability to concentrate (mind fog), the shakes, irritability or hunger related anxieties. Recovery is a time when we re-learn to properly fuel the body by spreading out our normal daily calorie intake more evenly. Eat small, healthy and often.
Three Days of Natural Juices - Unless a health condition or your diet won't allow, drink plenty of natural acidic fruit juice the first three days. Cranberry is excellent. Acidic juices not only aid in more quickly eliminating the alkaloid nicotine from the bloodstream, they help stabilize blood sugars and avoid needless blood-sugar swing related symptoms. Why add hunger craves to nicotine craves? Take care beyond three days as juices can be rather fattening. If diabetic, talk to our doctor about a diet rich in foods low on the glycemic index, foods converted to glucose more slowly, that will leave you feeling fuller longer.
Weight Gain - Be careful, it's normal to want to use food as a substitute dopamine pathway stimulation crutch, in an attempt to satisfy nicotine wanting with food. But still, we'd need to gain at least 75 extra pounds in order to equal the health risks associated with smoking one pack-a-day. If feeling compelled to eat more, consider keeping vegetables and fruits handy, ready and bite sized instead of turning to candies, chips and pastries. You can also engage in moderate daily exercise if at all concerned about weight gain. New ex-smokers can expect a substantial increase in overall lung function within 90 days of quitting. It will aid in engaging in extended periods of brisk physical activity, building cardiovascular endurance, and shedding any unwanted pounds.
Stress Related Anxieties - Contrary to popular thinking, smoking nicotine does not relieve stress but only nicotine's own absence. Nicotine is an alkaloid and stress is an acid-producing event capable of quickly neutralizing the body's nicotine reserves. It is like pouring a liquid baking soda solution on an acid-covered car battery terminal, or watching someone waste money on yard care by applying fertilizer (acid) at the exact same time as they apply lime (an alkaloid). Being a smoker is extra stressful, as we actually added the onset of early withdrawal to every stressful event. New quitters often discover an amazing sense of calm during crisis. In handling stress during this temporary period of readjustment, practice slow, deep breathing while focusing your mind on your favorite object, place or person, to the exclusion of other thoughts.
Quitting for Others - We cannot quit for others. It must be our gift to us. Quitting for a child, spouse, parent, friend, a developing fetus, employer or doctor creates a natural sense of self-deprivation that eats away at our underlying resolve and eventually results in relapse. If quitting for another person, how will an addict's junkie-mind respond the first time that person disappoints us?
Attitude - A positive can-do attitude is important to both the conscious thinking mind, and primitive impulsive mind which controls the body's fight or flight panic response. Recovery can be the most beautiful personal awakening you've ever known. Take pride in each hour of healing and each challenge overcome. Celebrate the full and complete victory each day of freedom and healing reflects. The next few minutes are all that matter and each is entirely do-able. Yes you can!
Patience - Years of satisfying rapidly falling blood-serum nicotine levels conditioned us to be extremely impatient. A deprived nicotine addict could inhale a puff of nicotine and have it arrive in the brain and satisfy wanting within 8 to 10 seconds. Realize the importance of patience to successful recovery. Baby steps, just one hour, challenge and day at a time, and then celebrate.
Keeping or Carrying Smoked or Smokeless Tobacco or NRT - Get rid of all nicotine delivery vehicles, including replacement nicotine products. Keeping a stash of nicotine makes as much sense as someone on suicide watch keeping a loaded gun handy. Why toy with failure or play mind-games with your freedom, health and life? A 2009 study suggests that keeping nicotine handy actually fosters crave intensity. Build in some delay for those less than three minute crave episodes. Fully commit to going the distance. Experience what it's like to awaken to new expectations of your new nicotine and ash free life.
Caffeine/Nicotine Interaction - Amazingly, nicotine somehow doubles the rate by which the body depletes caffeine. The caffeine user's blood-caffeine level will double to 203% of normal baseline if no intake reduction is made when quitting. This interaction isn't a problem for any caffeine user who can handle a doubling of their of normal caffeine intake without experiencing symptoms. But consider a modest caffeine intake reduction of up to one-half if troubled by additional anxieties, difficulty relaxing or trouble sleeping.
Subconscious Trigger Extinguishment - As mentioned, we conditioned our subconscious mind to expect nicotine replenishment when encountering certain locations, times, events, people or emotions. Be prepared for each such cue to trigger a brief crave (wanting) episode, as the subconscious mind sounds the body's fight or flight anxiety alarm. Remember, it is impossible for any use cue to cause relapse so long as nicotine does not enter the bloodstream. Take heart, most triggers are reconditioned and extinguished by a single encounter during which the subconscious mind fails to receive the expected result - nicotine. See each crave episode as an opportunity to receive a reward, the return of another aspect of life!
Crave Episodes Less than Three Minutes - In contrast to conscious thought fixation (the "nice juicy steak" type thinking that can last as long as you have the ability to maintain focus), no subconsciously triggered crave episode will last longer than three minutes.
Time Distortion Symptom - Nicotine cessation causes significant time distortion. Although no crave episode will last longer than three minutes, to a quitter the minutes can feel like hours. Keep a clock or wrist-watch handy to maintain honest perspective on time. It should be mentioned that it is possible to experience multiple use cues at nearly the same time. But the experience is relatively rare and is good news not bad. You are fully capable of navigating up to 6 minutes of challenge, and at the end you stand to be double rewarded, with the return of at least two aspects of life!
Crave Episode Frequency - The "average" number of crave episodes experienced by the "average" quitter on their most challenging day of recovery is six episodes on day three. That's a total of 18 minutes of challenge on your most challenging day. But what if you're not "average?" What if you established and must encounter twice as many nicotine-feeding cues as the "average" quitter? Can you handle up to 36 minutes of significant challenge during which the subconscious mind rings an emotional anxiety alarm, in order to reclaim your mind, health and life? Absolutely! We all can. Be prepared for a small spike in crave episodes on day seven, as you celebrate your first full week of freedom from nicotine. Yes, for most of us, nicotine use was part of celebrations too. Also stay alert for subtle differences between crave-triggers. For example, the Sunday newspaper is much thicker and may have required three cigarettes to read instead of just one.
Understanding the Big Crave - The "average" quitter is down to experiencing just 1.4 crave episodes per day within ten days. After that you may soon begin to experience entire days without encountering a single un-reconditioned subconscious nicotine feeding cue. If a later crave episode ever feels more intense, it is likely that it has been some time since your last significant challenge and you've dropped your guard and defenses a bit. It can feel as though you have been sucker-punched. If one does occur, see the distance between challenges as the wonderful sign of healing it reflects.
Crave Coping Techniques - One crave coping method is to practice slow deep breathing while briefly clearing your mind of all needless chatter by focusing on your favorite person, place or thing. Another popular three minute coping exercise is to say your ABCs while associating each letter with your favorite food, person or place. For example, the letter "A" is for grandmother's hot apple pie. "B" is for warm buttered biscuits. You may never reach the challenging letter "Q" before the challenge peaks.
Embracing Craves - Another coping technique is to mentally reach out and embrace your craves. A crave cannot cut you, burn you, kill you, or make you bleed. Try to be brave just once. In your mind, wrap your arms around the crave's anxiety energy and then feel as it slowly fizzles and dies while within your embrace. Yes, another trigger bites the dust and victory is once again yours, as you reclaim yet another aspect of life!
Confront Your Crave Triggers - Within two weeks, you'll begin to realize and notice that everything you once did while nicotine's slave can again be comfortably done without it, and often better. Meet, greet and defeat your triggers. Don't hide from them. You need not give up anything during recovery except nicotine.
Alcohol Use - Research suggests that alcohol use is associated with roughly 50% of all relapses. Be extremely careful with early alcohol use during the first couple of weeks. Using an inhibition diminishing substance and then surrounding ourselves with people using nicotine, while still engaged in early withdrawal, is a recipe for defeat. Get your recovery legs under you first. If you do use alcohol, once ready to challenge and extinguish your drinking/smoking cues, consider breaking the challenge down into manageable trigger segments. Try drinking at home first without nicotine users around, go out with friends but refrain from drinking, or consider spacing your drinks further apart, or drinking water or juice between drinks. Have an escape plan and a backup, and be fully prepared to use both. Also, should you be chemically dependent upon alcohol too, recent research suggest that the most effective recovery path is to engage in both nicotine and alcohol recovery at the same time.
No Legitimate Excuse for Relapse - Fully recognize that nicotine use cannot solve any crisis. Accept the fact that there is absolutely no legitimate excuse for relapse, including friction with others, a horrible day, boredom, significant stress, holidays, alcohol use, an auto accident, financial crisis, the end of a relationship, job loss, a terrorist attack, a hurricane, an earthquake, storm, flood, the birth of a baby or the eventual inevitable death of those we love most. Try and visualize yourself not smoking or using oral nicotine products through each and every step needed to overcome the most difficult challenge your mind can possibly imagine. Yes you can!
Conscious Thought Fixation - Unlike a less than three-minute subconscious crave episode, we can consciously fixate on any thought of wanting to smoke for as long as we are able to maintain focus and concentration. Don't try to run or hide from rationalizations of "wanting" but instead place each thought under honest light. Flavor? There are zero taste buds inside human lungs. Just one, just one puff? For us nicotine addicts, one is too many and a thousand never enough. Treat nicotine dependency recovery as if it were no different than alcoholism. Do not debate with yourself about wanting "just one." Instead, ask yourself how you would feel about going back to "all of them," back to your old level of consumption or greater. Failure, disease and early death are not a reward. Just one puff or hit of nicotine and you doom your brain dopamine pathways to soon begin begging for more. Like, love? Isn't that what true drug addiction is all about, hostage dopamine pathways elevating chemical use above life itself? Tear down your wall of denial.
Give Yourself Real Rewards - Consider putting aside the money that you would have spent buying cigarettes and treat yourself to something you really want after a week, month or year. Reward yourself by quickly climbing from that deep smoker's rut and spending more time in places where you couldn't smoke, engaging in activities lasting longer than an hour, and by ever so slightly pushing your normal limits of physical endurance in order to sample the amazing healing happening within. Consider getting your teeth cleaned and no longer being afraid to laugh hard or smile, or arrange for a chest x-ray to diminish concerns about possibly having waited too long.
Fully Commit To Coming Home - Why be afraid to tell others how wonderful it feels to have taken back control of our mouth, mind, priorities, health and life? Fully commit to recovery by taking pride in each and every hour of healing, each challenge overcome, in each nicotine feeding cue extinguished and in each aspect of life reclaimed. Shed needless fears of success. Although your dependency long ago buried all memory of what being "home" was like, there is nothing bad about eventually going entire days without once wanting to smoke nicotine.
Avoid All Crutches - A crutch is any form of recovery reliance that is leaned upon so heavily that if quickly removed would likely result in loss of support and relapse. Leaning heavily upon someone commencing recovery at the same time as you can be dangerous. Although great to have them along, if looking to others for support, it is far wiser to pick an already recovered ex-smoker or never-user.
The Smoking Dream - Be prepared for the possibility of extremely vivid dreams, as tobacco odors released by healing mouth tissues, or being swept up bronchial tubes by rapidly healing cilia, come in contact with healing and enhanced senses of smell and taste. See it as the wonderful sign of healing it reflects and nothing more. It has no profound meaning beyond healing./P>
See Marketing as Bait - Your recovery means thousands upon thousands in lost profits to the nicotine addiction industry. They do not want to lose you. See all nicotine product advertising and the hundreds of neatly aligned packs and cartons in stores for what they truly reflect - bait! Hidden within the pretty colored boxes, tins and pouches, and coated by more than 600 flavor additives, is the chemical most dependency experts consider earth's most captivating.
It Is Never Too Late - Regardless of how long we have been hooked, how old we are, or how badly we've damaged our body, it is never too late to arrest our dependency, become its master, and commence the most intense period of healing our body has likely ever known. Delivering at least 1/3 more cancer causing chemicals than oral tobacco (43 vs. 28), and hundreds of toxic gases, there is no debate but that the cigarette is by far the dirtiest and most deadly nicotine delivery device of all. But the harms inflicted by even the cleanest nicotine delivery device should not be taken lightly. Not only does nicotine break down into one of the most potent cancer causing agents of all, NNK, it is a super toxin that, drop for drop, is more deadly than diamondback rattlesnake venom, arsenic, strychnine or cyanide. Just 2-3 drops of pure nicotine on the skin (40 to 60mg) is sufficient to kill a 160-pound human. The average smoker introduces 1mg of nicotine into the bloodstream with each cigarette smoked, an amount sufficient to kill a one-pound rat. Is it any wonder that each nicotine fix eats away more of the brain's gray matter, or that nicotine is capable of damaging or destroying a developing fetus?
Study Nicotine Users Closely - They are not smoking, chewing or sucking nicotine to tease you. They do so because they must, in order to replenish a constantly falling blood-serum nicotine level that declines by half every two hours. Most nicotine is delivered into the bloodstream while on auto-pilot. What cue triggered the public feeding you are now witnessing? Watch acid-producing events such as stress or alcohol more quickly neutralize their body's nicotine reserves. As you watch the smoker in the car beside you, you are witness to their endless mandatory cycle of replenishment.
Thinking vs. Wanting - There is a major distinction between thinking about using nicotine, and wanting to smoke. It's easy to confuse the two. After years of smoking cigarettes you should fully expect to notice nicotine addicts engaged in replenishment (especially in movies), and keenly sense the smell of smoke. But it does not necessarily mean that you want to smoke. For example, at this very moment, you are reading and "thinking" about the topic, yet probably not "wanting" or craving nicotine. Thinking about recovery is good, not bad, as it helps avoid complacency. As for thoughts of wanting, with each passing day they will gradually grow shorter in duration, generally less intense and a bit further apart. Eventually they'll grow so infrequent that when one does arrive it may bring a smile to your face, as it will be the only remaining reminder of the amazing temporary journey of re-adjustment you once made.
Non-Smoker or Ex-Smoker? - What should you call yourself? Although normal to want to be a non-smoker there's a major distinction between a never-smoker and an ex-smoker. Think about it. Only the ex-smoker can grow complacent, use nicotine and relapse.
Complacency - Complacency can destroy healing and glory. The ingredients for relapse are a failing memory of why we quit smoking and of the early challenges, rewriting the Law of Addiction to exempt or exclude ourselves, and an excuse such as stress, celebration, illness, finances, war, death, or a cigar at the birth of a baby. Use birthdays, your quitting date, and encounters with those still in bondage as opportunities to celebrate your freedom and renew your commitment.
Relapse - There are only two good reasons to take a puff after quitting. You decide you want to go back to your old level of consumption until it either cripples or kills you, or you decide you really enjoy withdrawal and want to make it last forever. So long as neither of these options appeals to you, consider living an amazingly simple alternative - no nicotine just one day at a time. Never Take Another Puff, Dip or Chew!
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long!
This tips list was complied by John R. Polito, Nicotine Cessation Educator and Editor of WhyQuit.com, a free online nicotine dependency recovery forum, primarily using articles written by Joel Spitzer, WhyQuit's education advisor(WhyQuit.com/joel/) and research available online through the National Institutes of Health (www.PubMed.gov). These Great American Smokout quit smoking tips may be freely printed and shared by physicians, their patients and all attempting to break nicotine's grip upon their mind health and life. email@example.com
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