Monday, September 8, 2008

What is the First Step Towards Quitting Smoking?

After building a desire to quit, many smokers get stuck in a love/hate relationship with their cigarettes. They want to quit but they also don't want to give them up just yet. But if you think of this a process and not a one time event, it will make it easier. So the first step is to start to break your connections to your cigarettes. Most smoker smoke unconsciously. The computer in our head registers a trigger that connects in our mind to light up a cigarette and we have done that without even thinking about it--just like we automatically drive a car--we don't think about pushing the gas pedal or hitting the brake--it is automatic. Our brain is conditioned to smoke and does so automatically. So the first step is to become conscious of the cigarettes you are smoking.
This could be something simple like leaving your cigarettes in another room instead of on the table next to you, so instead of unconsciously reaching for one and lighting it up, you actually have to think for a minute and go get one before you can smoke it. you cold leave them in your car, on top of your refrigerator, in the garage, I know of one person who even left them in their mailbox. Maybe it is just logging in on a piece of paper every time you light up--what time is it, what are you doing and how are you feeling.
I believe in progress, not perfection. You didn't become a smoker over night but your brain had to learn how to smoke and what your individual triggers are before you were a full time smoker. Just like when you learned to drive a car, it took a while before it became automatic. Quitting is a relearning process, the first step is to become aware and conscious. You need to know what you are doing if you are to change it.
Quitting is like a baby learning to walk. First the baby grabs onto the coffee table and holds on, next stands up and immediately falls on their butt and finally takes a first step and falls on butt again. But we would never chastise a baby because they don't take off and start running immediately because we know it is a process and that the baby is learning how to use muscles they have never used before. If you are like so many smokers, you started smoking as a teenager, so you've been smoking longer than you've been doing almost anything else--smoking is connected to sooooo many things in your life, it is a retraining process, a learning process with each cigarette, each instance that you smoke, each habit, each emotion. But often we are too hard on ourselves for not stopping in one day.
So start by learning about your smoking habits, one step at a time.

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