Nicotine is a very powerful drug and breaking free of its control is one of the hardest things you can do. Your first step should be to arm yourself with knowledge. Learn what you can about nicotine and its psychological and physiological pull. Know that you will feel a sense of mourning. Let’s face it, you’re losing the one who kept you company throughout the day, got you through those stressful moments, helped you celebrate your triumphs. Yep, you’re giving up your best friend.
I am proud to say I just finished my first week of not smoking. I quit cold-turkey so the first thing you need to know about the emotions you feel during this time is that you will have them. Lots of them. All of them. Sometimes all at once. Get ready for the rollercoaster ride of your life. The good news is that the worst of it only lasts the first few days. When you quit smoking your body goes into withdrawal, aching for all the effects. You will feel depressed and sad and frustrated and angry all at once. You will feel anxious, jittery, and hopeless.
If you are quitting cold turkey, the nicotine itself should be out of your system after about 48 hours. Drinking lots of water and fruit juice will help flush it from your system. On top of all the emotions, you will physically feel ill, which of course only adds to the emotional rollercoaster. Who else did you turn to when you weren’t feeling your best? Common symptoms are headaches, nausea, dizziness, depression, increased appetite. Don’t worry during this time about weight gain, it’s the least of your worries. Try to eat healthy, but don’t worry about the weight gain. It’s usually nominal and you can worry about that once you have quit smoking. I treated myself to chocolates during my worst times but mostly stuck to healthy munchies like grapes and trail mix.
My first piece of advice would be to plan it over a long weekend. Take a few days off from work if you can so that the worst of your emotions will happen at home when you can just feel them and don’t have to worry about annoying anyone. If you are worried about your job, you will most likely give in and have a smoke just so no one else gets hurt. Arrange it so your spouse can take care of the children for the same reasons. Just take a two to three day time out from your life.
Do something you enjoy doing but not something you usually associate with smoking. I didn’t drive during this time because I always smoked when I drove anywhere. If I absolutely had to go somewhere I made my husband or kids go with me. I rented some good movies and watched a lot of TV because this is something I enjoy doing. I read a book. I pampered myself and let myself feel sorry for myself.
Remind yourself of all the reasons you are quitting. Focus on the one that really gets to you. For me, believe it or not, was the fact that I was saving myself $180 every month. Don’t get me wrong, I also want to live a healthier, longer life. I want to be able to breathe better and get my tastebuds back. But those are abstract and easier to put off to a later date. The monetary savings has an immediate impact on my life.
When you are really feeling bad, do something physical. Go for a walk or a bike ride, clean the house, punch a punching bag, whatever helps. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel better and it helps flush the nicotine out of your body even faster. Don’t forget to keep drinking lots of water.
Once the physical withdrawal is over, it gets much easier. The emotions aren’t a constant onslaught, just an occasional wistful feeling for that lost friend. When that happens, just do something to distract yourself, any of the above activities will work. The craving doesn’t last long and your real friends and family are right there ready to share your life with you, smoke-free.