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"Please help me stop smoking for New Year's!"

WhyQuit's 2018 New Year's quit smoking resolution banner.  Please share!!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. 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!


Losing Hope

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! But just one powerful puff, and like the alcoholic taking a sip, full and complete relapse is all but assured. It's called the "Law of Addiction."

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 been 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 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 ending wanting 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 a wonderful thing 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 and 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 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 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 or edgy 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 300+ free video quitting lessons as time allows, download a detailed quitting tips list, meet Bryan, Noni, Deb and Kim, and visit our two free online support groups, Turkeyville on Facebook and Freedom at Yuku.

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!

Breathe deep, hug hard, live long,

John R. Polito
Nicotine Cessation Educator
Director WhyQuit

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Written December 14, 2009 and page format updated December 25, 2017 by John R. Polito