Quitting Smoking: Nicotine Relapse Prevention And Recovery
According to a Statistics Canada report entitled A step Forward, a step back: Smoking cessation & relapse by Margot Shields ” Relapsing was strongly associated with the length of time an individual had quit. Approximately 1 in 5 men and women who had quit smoking for two years or less had started again. By contrast, approximately 5% of former daily smokers who had quit for three to five years had started smoking, and among those who had quit for more than five years, the figure was 1%”. Conclusion, the longer you stay quit the less chance you have of starting again. Understanding relapse prevention and recovery may help you to avoid relapsing or it may help you to recover quickly.
Instantaneous relapse occurs when you start smoking because something unexpected occurs. The unexpected situation can occur while on vacation, in the midst of having a great time, or it can be during a new and unusual stressful situation. An example of this is where you are out with friends having a great time, maybe alcohol is involved and out of nowhere someone offers you a cigarette and you take one. Or you come home from work and find your pet is very ill and needs immediate attention. You remember you kept a pack in the cupboard and light one up.
You finally did it; you stopped smoking, got through the craving, withdrawal and habit stages and have been smoke free for some time. But lately and for no apparent reason you have been thinking about cigarettes. Then one day you decide to buy a pack, you know they aren’t good for you, but you buy them anyway. In the back of your mind you have convinced yourself that by now you can control it or maybe you convinced yourself a few won’t hurt or maybe you will be able to ration them and have a few at a time. You bought the cigarettes and now you are playing a mental tug or war game. Part of you say’s don’t do it; the other part says a few can’t hurt. Finally you lose the tug of war and give in; you have the first one and all bets are off.
Latent Relapse Potential
Latent relapse potential is something you need to be aware of because it can sneak up on you when you are least expecting it. You just found out you are pregnant and you instantly quit smoking and can’t believe how easy it was or you stopped smoking before you took a long vacation and you feel great about beating smoking. When something as exciting as a pregnancy occurs you can be so excited you stop instantly but the day after the baby is born some women find themselves right back at it wondering what hit them. The same goes for a long vacation or a hospital stay. While on vacation or in the hospital you didn’t miss smoking. You are away from your normal routine and have been smoke free all along, you return home only to find everything was just as you left it. Knowing that latent relapse potential exists will help you to develop your reentry strategy after giving birth or returning from a vacation or a hospital stay.
Relapse recovery is all about stopping again quickly. The sooner you stop again after that first smoke the higher the probability you will return to being smoke free. When you decide to have one you are at a fork in the road and you have a very important and timely choice to make. One fork is where you continue to smoke. The other fork is where you stop right then and don’t have another one. If you happen to have one don’t panic, don’t give in and don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can control your intake of cigarettes. Get right back onto that horse don’t light up another cigarette and never look back, the sooner you stop again the more likely you will succeed again.
People who convince themselves that they will quit again some time in the future may find they are still smoking a decade later.
When it comes to quitting smoking and relapse prevention an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To protect yourself against relapse:
Expect the Unexpected
Mentally preparing yourself for unexpected or unusual events and situations can prevent you from relapsing. Weddings, family and school reunions, buck and does are events that don’t occur everyday and are events that increase vulnerability. If you are planning to attend one of these events just think ahead or back to what normally happens. At some point smokers will go out for a smoke and you need to have your personal plan in place before you get there. If someone invites you out for a smoke, simply reply, “No thanks I don’t feel like one”.
You can’t control it
The tongue in cheek definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. When it comes to thinking you can have one or that you can manage and control your cigarette consumption, you are deluding yourself. If you are smoking again after quitting you know this to be the case. Some people relapse because they start off with just one cigarette, thinking they can control it, but usually don’t stop there. Statistically the odds are against you controlling your smoking to one or two a day.
Get rid of cigarettes.
Your personal relapse prevention strategy should include getting rid of any remaining cigarettes and smoking paraphernalia in your own way. Some plan their quitting by getting rid of ashtrays, detailing their car or work vehicle and smoking the last one the day they stop. Some wrap their cigarettes in shipping tape so they can’t get at them. Some bury them in the back yard. Do what feels right for you, but make sure you have a plan to say good-bye once and for all to your cigarettes, cigars or pipe tobacco and smoking paraphernalia.
Manage chronic stress
Sudden and unexpected stress can catch you off guard, while chronic stress can make the job of quitting smoking tougher. Chronic stress occurs where you have something, somebody or a job that is constantly causing you to feel uptight and maybe out of control. When it comes to chronic stress you have two choices, eliminate the cause or learn to cope and manage your stress.
Eliminating the cause is the preferred solution but is not always possible. Chronic stress can cause you to secrete cortisol a stress hormone. Normally a good thing, when cortisol is present over a sustained period of time it can be damaging to your health, compromise your immune system and can lead to serious disease. If you can’t change the cause of the stress in your life you will need to find news ways to mange or reduce the effects of chronic stress to your body and mind.
Managing stress involves finding healthy outlets that allow you to temporarily get some relief. For some people this means going to a gym and working out the frustrations with weights and cardio exercise. Some people find yoga, or mediation will give them relief while other people turn to a new hobby or learning to play an instrument. Whatever you choose make sure you enjoy it.
If you wish to further your knowledge on managing stress several books on the subject entitled “The Relaxation Response” by Herbert Benson M.D. and “Natural Highs” by Hyla Cass M.D. may help you to understand and adopt new ways to feel good without cigarettes.