Smoking is something a lot of us try at some point, and something people often find hard to quit once they do.
We’re all familiar with the health warnings (often gross and very scary), and the point of this section isn’t to preach.
Cigarettes, and rolling tobacco, contain a chemical called nicotine, that the body can become addicted to pretty quickly. It sends chemical messages to receptors in our brain, and the receptors get used to receiving those messages.
Then if we stop smoking, these receptors feel like something is missing. We feel a physical craving for a cigarette.
Withdrawal symptoms when our body doesn’t get the nicotine it’s used to can include headaches, nausea and being in fairly bad form.
These reactions to quitting are only temporary and breaking the addiction is totally possible. People do it all the time.
Understanding that your body is physically dependent can help because it’s good to be prepared for what’s going to happen and how you weather your own physical reactions.
It’s also why, statistically, people are by and large more successful if they get some advice from their doctor or try things like nicotine patches or gum.
Like a lot of addictions, if you smoke, you usually get into the habit of having a cigarette at particular times – when you’re stressed out, or out with your friends.
Smoking often starts as a social thing, and then the physical craving for a cigarette becomes associated with being in a particular situation, or feeling a particular way.
You can also get pretty used to having something to do with your hands, the smell, the taste and the ritual of going outside with fellow smokers. Don’t under-estimate these factors, as they’re pretty powerful.
But, like your body can overcome the physical addiction, you can overcome the psychological one with a bit of time, patience and some helpful mates. Check out the tips below.
Reasons to quit (or not to start)
Again, this isn’t meant to be a sermon, but here are some things to think about if you’re either tempted or hooked:
- Money – smoking is a very expensive habit, and there’s probably other things you could spend your cash on.
- Health – in the long-term, smoking massively increases the risks of getting cancer, lung disease, heart disease or having a stroke. In the short-term, it impairs your fitness. You won’t be an Olympian, and you may well soon be out of breath walking up stairs. The emphysema cough isn’t so attractive either.
- The face in the mirror – wrinkles, yellow teeth, yellow nails. ‘Nuff said.
- Taste buds – give it up, and you’ll soon find you appreciate cake again.
- Washing – no one enjoys laundry, and you’ll to do a lot less if everything you own doesn’t smell like an ashtray. Plus less washing is better for the planet.
- Going outside in the rain – especially if you’ve left someone sitting on their own.
- The morning after – hangovers are just that much worse if you’ve had a cigarette with every drink.
Breaking the habit
Everyone’s different and there’s no magic solution that works every time. The important thing to remember is that it can take a few goes before you manage it,so don’t be too hard on yourself.
It’s not just a question of willpower. Your body needs to get used to it. Just keep trying and you’ll get there.
- Get support – there’s loads of help out there for everyone who’s trying to quit smoking. There’s a National Quit Helpline that you can ring on 1850 201 203, or visit www.quit.ie for advice.
- Tell your friends – let your friends and family know what you’re doing. That way they can support you through the rough patches, or even just spend time with you doing something that doesn’t involve smoking.
- Avoid temptation – throw out your cigarettes, lighters, skins etc. Distract yourself – when you find yourself craving a cigarette, try to distract yourself until the feeling passes. Go for a run, call a friend, or if you’re out, dance.
- Persevere – if you get tempted and end up having one, you can pick up where you left off. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed and you might as well keep smoking, it just means you had a cigarette. Chin up!