Smoking is basically a two part problem. The physical addiction to nicotine is very strong. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be so hard to quit. Medications (i.e. Chantix, Wellbutrin or Nicotine replacement in gum or patches) can be helpful to address the physiologic addiction.
Nicotine gum or patches substitute small amounts of nicotine to allow a weaning and gradual easing of withdrawal symptoms when quitting. Chantix and Wellbutrin work in a way that is both imperfect, not well understood, but probably most effective in fooling the center in the brain that controls nicotine desire. Neither has any nicotine but favorably affect neurotransmitters, chemical messengers between brain cells. This is similar to the way antidepressants have a positive effect on mood and anxiety. The net result is less interest in the seductive power of nicotine.
The second part of quitting is the habit or simple automatic behavior. Once you can see past the strong addiction to nicotine, you have to learn to cope with the stressors (boredom, anxiety, etc.) for particular situations in a different way. Changing your behavior is more straightforward but requires a plan and structure. Creating new habits in place of the old ones takes some persistence but is very attainable.
Here’s a simple behavior modification tip for quitting smoking:
1) Make a very specific list of the time of day “when” you smoke and “why” you smoke at that time. You can map out a typical day in writing. It should be in writing, but you need not share it with anyone. It is simply for your own edification. Writing it down allows you to be clear with all the tough moments throughout your day giving it careful review.
2) Then decide what you are going to do instead of smoking “at 9:40 a.m. when you have your break.” The structure and planning ahead provides a type of handrail to get through the difficult moment. Some ideas could be: eating hard candy, baby carrots, celery sticks, chewing gum, going for a walk, making a phone call. Any activity except for smoking will do. You must write it down so you can outline what you do accurately and make a definite plan in anticipation of the moment. Don’t leave it to the impulse of the moment.
Many people who quit smoking are not successful the first time. Anyone who has quit after the first try remains the lucky exception. Most people need a few times before they stop for good. So don’t view your past efforts as failures. The next time you are ready to give it a try, you are more likely than ever to succeed in being tobacco free – forever.
This small investment pays big dividends no matter what method you use to quit. Obviously, consult your physician to see if one of the helpful medications is right for you.
Ultimately, you have to change your behavior. It may seem daunting, but you can do it.
– Dr. Bruce Kaler