Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ending your love affair with smoking

Many smokers will tell you that they "love" to smoke and a decision to become smoke-free can be as traumatic as going through a divorce.

There are three phases to any change in life: an ending of the old, a transition period and a new beginning:

Before a marriage ends, there is turmoil trying to to make the decision of whether to stay and try to make the marriage work or to end it. There is ambivalence and fear of a future without a partner. It is the same thing with quitting - it is the end of a love relationship and smokers agonize over the same issues when trying to make the decision to quit. Smokers love smoking but as it presents problems in the smokers life, the smoker starts to think that maybe that relationship needs to end. There is ambivalence about whether they should quit or not. On the one hand they love to smoke, there are so many benefits yet, there are problems also. It is no easy decision to end a marriage and smokers go through the same emotions ending a relationship with their cigarettes. 

Once the decision has been made to divorce, there is a transition period. For someone married for many years, it may feel odd to be single, not knowing how to date, or how to meet someone new. A smoker will go through a similar transition where it is easy to fall back in love with their cigarettes. Before a new relationship can begin, the old one must be completely over. For too many smokers before a new identity as a former smoker is formed, many will relapse, unable to complete the transition to that of a former smoker; just like someone going back to a previous relationship which feels comfortable. In the transition period, a smoker must learn how to learn to live every aspect of their life without a cigarette.

During the transition there can be dangers as well as opportunities:
  • Dangers: decreased motivation, self-doubt where they can make it, energy is drained, uncertainty, begin overwhelmed, confusion, anxiety, control is sought but chaos abounds.
  • Opportunities: a time to be creative and reframe issues from a negative into something positive.

Finally the new beginning is as a former smoker. The benefits of being smoke-free are now evident and the smoker wonders what took them so long to finally make the change.

Most of us like the status quo, we don't like a lot of change, yet with life change is constant and the status quo is temporary. We want to keep a status quo but we live in change. Change is all around us every day.

Change can evoke many different emotions. The feelings that come up during change are anxiety, stress, nervousness, maybe excitement and a sense of hope. Some emotions are positive but most are negative because change means diving into the unknown. Change is an external situation while transition is the internal psychological process of adaptation.

The smoker must learn to deal with the end of their relationship with cigarettes, learn to deal with the grieving and loss during the transition period and deal with a new beginning as a former smoker.

But before you can move forward in a new beginning, you have to let go of the old. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross gave us the Five Stages of Dying which are the same stages someone goes through of any loss: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and finally acceptance. A smoker may feel many of the same emotions in their transition from dedicated smoker to former smoker.

The psychological transition is when new values and attitudes are formed. The new beginning can bring a sense of purpose and identity. For true change there must be an emotional commitment. They are clear on their purpose. For success, the smoker must see and feel what it will be like to be a former smoker, lay out a action plan to create certainty that they will know what to do as a non-smoker. 

If you are ready to divorce your cigarettes, my book, "How to Win at Quitting Smoking" can help you through this process. 

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