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The Challenges of Quitting Tobacco

I know the look of fear and frustration that appears on all of my clients faces when I suggest they quit smoking. Then I enjoy the look of surprise that replaces it when I tell them that I know how hard it is. Stopping smoking is one of the hardest things I have ever asked another person to do. it is truly an addiction, one that was manufactured to sell more cigarettes.

In my long career, I have seen people quit alcohol and hard drugs with less difficulty than leaving cigarettes behind. Cigarettes have been designed to increase the speed and efficiency of delivering addictive substances into the bloodstream of smokers. Along with nicotine, addictive in its own right, they add other harmful substances that damage the lungs and inner linings of our arteries, the tubes that deliver oxygenated blood to all the tissues and organs in our bodies.

It is this damage to the lining of our arteries that encourages the formation of blockages that reduces the flow of blood to tissues. This is what causes strokes, heart attacks, kidney disease, blockages to the legs that can cause claudication, or pain in the muscles with walking.

It seems crazy to do something that would cause a heart attack or lung cancer, doesn’t it? But that is the nature of an addiction. Being upset with yourself doesn’t change that, so my first rule in trying to quit is to be kind to yourself.

Wouldn’t you like to be around for your family? A wedding? A graduation of a loved one? Wouldn’t you want to be healthy enough to go fishing or hiking in nature, or being able to care for yourself if you are so lucky to live a long life?

Stopping smoking would certainly be a great first step to allow you to have the chance to do these things in better health.

Many of my clients tell me that they have tried everything and still couldn’t quit. This is nothing to worry about or to be upset with yourself over, because any period of time you’re not smoking is a success. Remember, it’s the purpose of an addictive substance to be difficult to give up.

Some clients who have successfully quit have tried many times. That is the nature of an addiction, and you shouldn’t be upset with yourself if smoking calls you back. Some things they have done to be successful include:

  1. Picking a relatively lower stress time to quit, and planning for this ahead of time. This allows you to get your mind in a better place and consider ways of doing things differently so you can be more successful.

  2. Keeping a photo or message reminding you of your goals for not smoking handy. IF getting to your granddaughter’s wedding and being healthy help you not pick up a cigarette, then remind yourself at every opportunity.

  3. If you can afford it, try to quit when you are traveling away from home. It’s been shown that being in an environment that doesn’t have the same triggers for smoking will help you kick-start a successful path to quitting smoking.

  4. If most of the people you know smoke, consider spending time with a different group of friends, or develop different hobbies that will keep you out of triggering environments and situations.

  5. Consider starting a low stress exercise program that is simple and easy for you to do. Perhaps go for a short walk when you feel like smoking, or use some stretching bands at home if you get the urge. While you’re doing this, give yourself pats on the back for making a healthier choice.

  6. Most people gain a few pounds when they quit smoking. Prepare for this by remembering that a few pounds is safer than smoking, and we can help you lose them later. If you are planning to quit, buy healthier snacks to keep you satisfied instead of reaching for fast food. Snacks like unsalted popcorn, almonds (even chocolate covered ones), or crunchy carrots can help you get through this period.

  7. Don’t get upset if you pick up a cigarette. They are addicting, and it’s not your fault. Just keep trying, and remember, all the moments you are not smoking are cause for celebration!

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