Wednesday, October 27, 2010

phases of the quit (quitting smoking, part 2)

So, you decided to quit smoking. Here's what you have to look forward to.

Seventy two hour of nicotine withdrawal. That's three whole days of withdrawal. Whoo hooo.

Here are the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal (from Google health):

  • Craving for nicotine
  • tension
  • irritability
  • headaches
  • difficulty concentrating
  • drowsiness and trouble sleeping
  • increased appetite and weight gain
That's the fun stuff. (FYI, this is the third time that I've stopped, but I stop for the wrong reason, so I start again)

Remember, nicotine withdrawal lasts for 72 hours. That's three days. That's just for the physical part of withdrawal.

There's only one way to quit nicotine, and that's cold turkey. Anything else, is not really quitting, now is it? Cutting back isn't quitting. The patch isn't quitting. Gum isn't quitting. Switching to lights isn't quitting. There's only one way, and that's to just stop. (If you smoke more that 3 packs a day, you should cut back for a while, and then quit once you get down to a pack or less a day, nicotine withdrawal can be fatal, as can Delirium Tremens for people who consume large amounts of alcohol).

Once you've decided to start your three days of nicotine withdrawal, what kind of cool stuff can you expect? From my experience, (and remember, I've done this a couple of times) the fun stuff starts about 11 hours in. This leads to the second part of your withdrawal. The first is the nicotine withdrawal itself. The second part is triggers.

Triggers are the things that make you want to smoke. They are the things where normally, you just reach for a cigarette without even thinking. If you smoke a pack a day, you probably have several triggers that you know about, and probably some that you don't realize that you have. Most peoples first trigger is waking up. Cigarettes are part of your "morning routine". For me, I got up, urinated, then went out and smoked. Within 5 minutes of waking up I have my first trigger. The next one happens after getting dressed and ready to leave. If I'm driving myself, I'd get in the car and light up. If I was getting dropped off, I'd get ready quicker and then have one before getting in the car. Then I get dropped off and light up while walking in. That's my smoking routine.

Other triggers of mine include various portions of the road. If I'm going to a certain place, I know where to light up so that I'm flicking it out as I pull in. From my house to Hooters, if I light up on Windsor at the Lincoln Ave stop light, I finish the smoke right when I pull in to Hooters. So, when I get to that light, it's a trigger. You probably have some mile markers and roadside attractions that you light up at. When I was driving from Danvers to Champaign, I'd have three cigarettes on the drive. One after filling up with gas, one at LeRoy, and one just after Mahomet.

During the day, in addition to specific times that you smoke, you probably have various other triggers. If I'd get done working on a problem, I'd smoke. If I spent some time talking on the phone, I'd smoke. If I got done writing a blog post, I'd smoke. Have a meeting? Smoke one before, smoke one after. The meeting only lasted 15 minutes, doesn't matter, have one after.

You'll start to notice triggers, as you come across them. Don't give in. The cool thing about triggers is that once you break it, it's broken. If you are like me (which you might be) a trigger is "I ALWAYS have a cigarette when..." Break a trigger, and you can remove that line. Because you didn't do it once, the trigger is broken. I drove past that stop light, so therefore I don't always have a cigarette when...

The problem with triggers is that they can kick start a physical withdrawal symptom. You can be doing fine, avoiding all your triggers, but then... a bad phone call, and all of a sudden you REALLY want a smoke. Don't do it. If you are serious about quitting, then don't do it. If you want to have that same feeling 10 (or so) hours later... don't do it.

So, to quit:

Step one, don't smoke for 72 hours. Don't have any nicotine during that time. You don't need the patch, you don't need gum, you don't need to cut back, you need to avoid nicotine. Withdrawal starts from the minute you stop having nicotine. It lasts for 72 hours. Any nicotine just adds 72 hours from the end of that.

Step two, break your triggers. Don't always have one when you... Just don't do it.

*man, do I want a cigarette right now*

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