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Surviving Without Smoke: Month 1

After You Quit Smoking

So you’ve made your preparations, you’ve thrown away your packs, and you’ve smoked your last cigarette. Now it’s time to act like an ex-smoker. What next?

First, you need to learn to delay the urge. There will be an urge to smoke -- almost immediately. Any given urge to smoke lasts about 30 seconds before diminishing again, Arvon says, so you need to do things to keep your mind and body busy until the urge fades again. Some options:

  • Take 10 deep breaths, walk to the sink, pour yourself a glass of ice water, and drink it slowly.
  • Fix a healthy snack. Something that makes your breath and teeth feel fresh is great, such as carrot sticks or a citrus fruit. Or suck on a peppermint.
  • Keep a paperback book with you on a subject you want to learn about. When you feel the urge to smoke, pull the book out along with a pen or highlighter and read a few pages while making notes or highlighting passages. “You’re occupying your mind and your hands with something other than a cigarette,” says Arvon.
  • Take out your list of reasons why you’re no longer a smoker and read it to yourself. Out loud if you have to.
  • Call a friend or a family member who supports your efforts to quit smoking. You don’t have to talk to them about smoking or quitting -- just hold the phone in your hand instead of a cigarette, and talk about sports, the weather, or your next vacation until the craving passes.
  • Go high-tech. Download a quit smoking application for your smartphone that helps you delay your urges. Try Quitter, which tracks how long you’ve been smoke-free and shows you the money you’ve saved. Next time you want a cigarette, check out your riches instead.
  • Remember that jar with all your old ashtray contents? Keep it handy, in your desk drawer or under the kitchen sink. When a craving hits hard, pull out that jar, open it up and take a big whiff. “It’s really disgusting,” says Arvon. “It makes you want to never see a cigarette again.”

Many people, knowingly or unknowingly, sabotage themselves during the first weeks of quitting, says Arvon. During this time when you’re very vulnerable, don’t put yourself in situations that will up the pressure to smoke. For example:

  • Don’t go out with friends who are smokers for a few weeks. This doesn’t mean to drop your smoking friends completely. Just tell them you’ll be taking a break while you’re in the early, difficult days of quitting and back when you’re feeling stronger.
  • Change your habits. If sitting outside your favorite coffee shop with your morning coffee and a cigarette is an old familiar routine, you might find it almost impossible not to light up there. Instead, have tea or juice on the front porch with your morning paper.
  • Many people associate alcohol with having a cigarette, so you might want to stay away from happy hour for a few weeks.

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