Monday, February 23, 2009

Staying Quit Forever and Preventing Relapse

I always ask the participants in my stop smoking workshops, "What is the longest time you have been off cigarettes?" Their answer tells me quite a bit about how to help them be successful with their latest quit attempt. Here is what some of their answers mean:

"I've never quit for more than a few days." This smoker is probably heavily addicted to nicotine and relapses because of the withdrawal symptoms. They might have used medications in the past but probably incorrectly or in inadequate amounts or they might need a combination of medications to be successful. Unfortunately, once the physical aspect is handled, these smokers still need to deal with the other aspects of their smoking and without addressing those issues, they will relapse and blame it on the medication not working.

"I can go 2 or 3 weeks before I give in and smoke." These smokers need help overcoming habitual smoking. Most smokers think that the habit cigarettes are the hardest one to overcome, yet actually it only seems that way for the first month, after that habit cigarettes fall away because smokers get to practice avoiding habits several times every day. For example, often when smokers get a new car, they will avoid smoking in it and very quickly, the urge to smoke in their car passes and this habit is extinguished. These smokers need help with different quitting tips for individual habits.

"I've quit for a year and then something happened and I went back to smoking." When I ask what it was that happened, it is usually stress, negative emotions, or a positive social situation. These smokers need additional coping techniques for these areas.

"This is my first time quitting." Virgin quitters often will have an easy time quitting, too easy and they think they can control their smoking, which they can't. They are too cocky and will almost always relapse.

"It wasn't that hard to quit and I thought I could have one when I wanted to smoke." Very similar to virgin quitters. These smokers underestimate the addictive nature of nicotine. they also may have a selective memory about how hard it was to quit and even if it was easy, it may be more difficult the second time around.

"This class is my last resort, I've tried everything and nothing works." I love getting these smokers in my class because I know that they have the basic foundation to be successful--motivation-otherwise they wouldn't keep trying to quit. They are willing to try almost anything but they lack the confidence that they can be successful and they need an personalized plan to overcome their individual roadblocks to successful. this is where my expertise can help them finally be successful.

Most of the participants in my stop smoking classes are able to quit. It's not magic but it is because I understand the psychology of smokers and I understand the relapse cycle and what it takes to become a successful quitter.

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