Many people who are attempting to quit smoking will find themselves relapsing from time to time. Even the most determined people can find that giving up for good can take several attempts. However, recognising what went wrong and avoiding it next time is the best thing you can do to avoid it happening again in future. Dust yourself off, set another quit date, and stay positive about your next attempt.
How to prevent a relapse
When attempting to quit, the biggest hurdle to overcome is successfully dealing with cravings. These are caused by the withdrawal effects of nicotine, and can start just a few minutes after your last cigarette.
Giving in to these cravings is the main reason people relapse, so preparing for them and having solutions in place is the best method of getting through them. Cravings can last for several minutes, but over time the urges will disappear altogether. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is one option for dealing with cravings, which supplies your body with the nicotine it wants but avoids the toxic chemicals in cigarettes. Gradually, the dose can be reduced, which means a few weeks later you can wean yourself off and go without altogether.
NRT doubles your chances of quitting successfully and is available in several forms, including patches, gum, microtabs, lozenges, inhalators, and mouth and nasal sprays. Which option is best for you depends upon your lifestyle, with patches offering slow and steady releases of nicotine, while sprays give you an immediate short burst. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you decide which best suits your needs.
However, NRT isn't the only thing you should consider. Medications to reduce your cravings, such as Champix® and Zyban®, can also be extremely effective - again, your doctor will be able to advise you on your options here.
Changes to your lifestyle and behaviours can also help you avoid falling into traps with cravings, so make plans for when you would typically smoke. Many people like to smoke after they've eaten, or when they first wake up. Going for a walk after a meal might help take your mind off cigarettes, while going for a shower while you're craving a cigarette first thing in the morning could be a handy alternative. Exercise can help to reduce cravings, and helps to reduce stress levels which can be brought about when trying to quit, too.
Above all, when the urge to smoke intensifies, remember that it will be short-lived and that each time you resist, you are one step nearer to quitting for good.
Tips to help you quit
1. Think positively. Even if you've failed before there's no need to think you'll fail this time.
2. Set a date and stick to it. You'll find it much easier to quit if you plan in advance. Don't let your social calendar affect your decision, as the looming birthdays and parties will make the decision harder.
3. Make changes to what you eat and drink. Some research suggests that certain food and drink make cigarettes more satisfying. If your favourite cigarette of the day was after dinner, change what you eat to help resist the temptation.
4. Be aware of your cravings. Cravings can last for long periods - develop a range of strategies for dealing with them.
5. Ask for help from family and friends. Giving up smoking is a difficult enough task when you've got help, but going it alone makes it even tougher. Ask friends not to smoke around you to resist temptation, and they may even want to join your efforts to quit.
6. Spend time with your non-smoking friends. You've less chance of being tempted to smoke if your friends don't smoke either, so spend some time with the non-smokers. Your smoking friends will understand.
7. Remind yourself why you want to quit. When you need a bit of help, the reasons on your list should help you keep your resolve. Some smokers have suggested that keeping a photo of their children and loved ones with them really helped when they were struggling with cravings.