"Please help me stop smoking for New Year's!"
New Year's is by far the biggest quit smoking time of the year. Sadly, alcohol use alone contributes to smoking relapse and defeat of up to 50% of New Year's stop smoking resolutions. We hope you'll continue reading until you become smarter than your addiction is strong as knowledge is power!
Question: Each year I promise myself that this New Year's I'll stop smoking, but each year I fail. I've tried most quitting products without success. Could this year be different or am I hopeless? Please help!
Dear Losing Hope:
You have no reason to believe what I'm about to tell you. In fact, smokers have been lied to by quitting product makers for so long that they have every right to be skeptical. But accepting three facts will dramatically increase your odds of success.
Recovery Insight #1: ACCEPT WHO YOU ARE - As harsh as this may sound, you are a real drug addict in every sense. Your brain dopamine pathways, your mind's priorities teacher, have been taken hostage. Compromised, they have placed the importantance of nicotine use on a par with eating food.
As real and permanent as alcoholism, the urges, craves and wanting you feel for nicotine flow from the same brain circuitry as the wanting felt by the alcoholic and the heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine addict. While we can arrest our dependency and live comfortably on probation for the balance of life, we cannot cure or kill it.
Chronic nicotine use desensitized dopamine pathway neurons causing growth of millions of extra nicotinic-type acetylcholine receptors, what's known as up-regulation. Although quitting brings down-regulation, we remain permanently wired for nicotine and relapse. Like alcoholism, there's only one rule that if followed guarantees success: none today!
Recovery Insight #2: KNOW WHERE YOU'VE BEEN - A brain wanting disorder and mental illness, nicotine addiction is about living a lie. Taken hostage by an external chemical, your mind's compromised survival instincts teacher had you falsely convinced that smoking nicotine gave you your edge, helped you cope, that use defines who you are, and that life without using would be horrible. It's all a massive lie.
If only there were a way you could spend an hour experiencing the calm, quiet and comfort inside the average ex-smoker's mind. It's why ex-smokers always seem so obnoxious. Quitting can be our greatest awakening ever. They simply cannot believe how wrong they were.
They discovered greater calm during crisis, that believing that smoking is a stressbuster was a massive lie, that urine acidification had added the onset of early withdrawal to every stressful situation life had thrown their way (see FFN-TJH, Chapter 4, Pages 6-10).
Thousands of old nicotine replenishment memories help form the prison bars that have kept you enslaved. Each screams the lie that the way to end urges and wanting for more is to use. Listening and believing that lie is the only way to guarantee wanting survives. Truth is, the only way to bring urges and wanting to an end is to be brave and learn to say "no!"
Recovery Insight #3: LEARN THE PATH HOME - What sense does it make to fear a temporary journey of readjustment that transports you to entire days where you never once want to smoke nicotine? Embrace coming home, don't fear or fight it. It's wonderful, not bad. Although almost impossible to believe right now, everything we did as smokers can be done as well as or better as us. Recovery is the process of reclaiming life, one activity, person, place or emotion at a time.
Fully accept now that it may take up to 72 hours for your body to become 100% nicotine-free and for you to move beyond peak withdrawal. After that, things will ever so gradually begin to improve. Once nicotine use ends, your brain will work around-the-clock to down-regulate receptor counts and restore natural sensitivities. For some, getting to peak withdrawal may feel like an emotional train wreck. But within 2-3 weeks sensitivity restoration will be substantially complete.
To aid in moving beyond peak withdrawal, do not skip any meals. If unable to concentrate or experiencing mind fog, you've likely skipped a meal. If your diet permits, drink extra natural fruit juices but only for the first 3 days (cranberry is excellent). It will aid in helping stabilize blood sugar levels and help speed nicotine's elimination from the bloodstream.
If a heavy caffeine drinker, be aware that ending nicotine use doubles blood caffeine levels. If drinking twice your normal caffeine intake would make you feel anxious, edgy or make sleep getting to sleep more difficult consider cutting your normal daily caffeine intake by up to one-half.
Also, be aware that up to 50% of all smoking relapses are associated with alcohol use. Allow yourself to move beyond peak withdrawal and begin sensing improvement before drinking alcohol. If unable to go three days without drinking alcohol you may be facing alcohol dependency issues too. If so, research suggests that arresting both chemical dependencies at the same time likely offers the best odds of success.
I strongly encourage you to visit and explore WhyQuit. Download Joel Spitzer's free e-book "Never Take Another Puff" and my e-book "Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home." Watch as many of Joel's nearly 500 free video quitting lessons as time allows, download a detailed quitting tips list, meet Bryan, Noni, Deb and Kim, and visit Turkeyville, our Facebook support group, home to more than 10,000 cold turkey quitters.
Prepare your mind and thinking so as to strive to get as comfortable as possible temporarily being uncomfortable. Accept what you feel, see and experience as good not bad, as evidence of deep and profound healing. You can handle the up to 3 minutes it may take for a crave to peak in intensity, we all can.
Knowledge and understanding are key to a lasting recovery. Why quit afraid, alone and in darkness? Why not turn on the lights? Why try landing a plane without putting the wheels down? Once ready, the next few minutes will be all that matter and each will be do-able. Baby steps! No nicotine just one hour, challenge and day a time. Yes you can!
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- WhyQuit.com - WhyQuit is the Internet's oldest forum devoted to the art, science and psychology of cold turkey quitting, the stop smoking method used by the vast majority of all successful long-term ex-smokers.
- Nicotine Addiction 101 - WhyQuit's basic guide to understanding nicotine dependency.
- Nicotine Cessation Topic Index - An alphabetical subject matter index to more than a thousand nicotine cessation articles, videos and support group discussions.
- Joel's Library - Joel Spitzer began presenting stop smoking clinics and seminars in 1976. WhyQuit's education director since 2000, Joel's Library is home to his life's work. It includes Joel's "Daily Quitting Lesson Guide," more than 100 original stop smoking articles, his free ebook "Never Take Another Puff," and to his ever growing collection of more than 400 stop smoking videos.
- "Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home" - Written by John R. Polito, a former 30-year heavy smoker and WhyQuit's 1999 founder, Freedom from Nicotine shares the science underlying nicotine dependency and successful abrupt nicotine cessation.
- Turkeyville - Imagine surrounding yourself with more than 10,000 cold turkey quitters. Turkeyville is a Facebook support group exclusively for cold turkey quitters.
- Freedom - Freedom was WhyQuit's original 1999 stop smoking support group. No longer accepting members, its 453,000 archived posts continue to share recovery insights.