While filmed on Thanksgiving 2011, video relates to how any holiday or special annual event can result in more smoking thoughts than normal, and the importance of being mentally prepared for the occurrence of such thoughts
Be Prepared for Holiday Triggers
It is one of the busiest travel times of the year and this year in lieu of recent events any traveling may also be causing a little more anxiety than previous years having nothing to do with smoking. But again, even under normal traveling conditions, the first year doing it smoke free can often result in many thoughts about smoking.
Driving to a specific place and following a route you have not driven since you quit smoking, and then getting together with family or friends who only gather on such occasion, or maybe it was eating with only a few people and maybe even being alone and feeling bad because so many others had big plans. Whatever the situation, the thoughts of smoking are likely to resurface from such time periods.
Not all days lend themselves to such predictability, but when they do occur it is best to be ready for them. By their expected nature they afford us the opportunity to take a little extra precaution. If you initially made a list of why you wanted to quit, the day of such events is a good time to pull it out and reread it. If you made posts the first few days here at Freedom, it would be a good time to review your early thoughts and the responses too. You will quickly see how strong of a grip cigarettes had, the importance you put on getting off of cigarettes, and realize that even though the day had its bad moments, in all likelihood it was easier than it was at the beginning and you never want to go through that state again.
I hope you all have a good day one way or another. But even if it is not a great get together, it will still be the first such occasion that you prove to yourself that you can survive it without a cigarette. That will make it a banner day. As awkward as it may or may not be, it will help prepare you for future such occasions. As with any other day, if you wake up the next morning still smoke free, the preceding day was a great day, at least in not smoking terms.
Since not smoking is a gift you give to yourself to help sustain your health and improve your life, whether it was hard or not now is not important. What is important is that it was possible to survive as an ex-smoker and have now proved to yourself that your life has gone on. This is the mark of a great day.
Also be aware that the day after a holiday can be awkward. Sometimes when contemplating an event is going to be rough you bring up a high level of resolve and focus to survive the situation. Once it passes then, you may go to bed relieved that it is finally over, confident that now it will be a breeze. As soon as you feel this sense of relief, you are a prime candidate for the following though process. “Boy, I am glad that is over. That was really tough, but I made it and now on the other side where it will now be easy. I did a great job. Boy do I deserve a cigarette for that!”
It really can happen this way. As soon as you feel it should be easy you can drop your guard. Do appreciate the fact that you did get through a time period, but always understand that moments can still occur and be prepared for them. And no matter what you do, you never deserve a cigarette for anything. A cigarette is not reward but rather a punishment of suicidal proportions.
When Christmas comes, prepare yourself again. Come and read all the same posts, I will have them up again. As long as your guard is up AND your resolve is reinforced you will survive the first time triggers, but you really do need both safe guards in force. Some times are not as easy to predict, when triggers will occur, but others are somewhat foreseeable. At least take extra precautions for those times. For the unexpected triggers, just keep saying to yourself on a daily basis that you will not smoke today, spend a little time reminding yourself why you quit and why you don’t want to go back, and always keep in practice to Never Take Another Puff!
Once again, the holiday season is upon us. The snow on the ground, the chill in the air, crowded stores, people hurrying to and from, family get togethers, television specials, and the sound of Christmas carols everywhere you go. All this hustle and bustle affects everyone, although not always in the same way. Some people find this a happy, exciting time of the year, while others feel the sense of loneliness and depression more now than at any other time. While the holidays may make some people happy and others sad, there is one special group of people who are universally affected the same way. The group, recent ex-smokers, the effect–desiring a cigarette.
It is not that holidays reinforce the need for nicotine. When a person quits smoking, the addiction is broken. Within two weeks of his last puff, he ceases having any physiological withdrawals or cravings. He does not, though, automatically break the established associations between his activities and cigarettes. Whenever he gets into a new situation, sees a person, feels an emotion, hears a song, or smells an aroma which he has not encountered since he has quit smoking, it will trigger the thought for a cigarette. But if he does not take the cigarette, he will break the triggered response. Next time encountering the same situation, he will not even think of a cigarette.
The holiday season is filled with new sensations and emotions. These feelings vary from individual to individual. No matter what the exact emotion is, the automatic impulse is to take a cigarette. If the holidays make you happy, a cigarette just seems like the icing on the cake. “If I just had a cigarette, everything would be perfect!” If the holidays results in a sense of loneliness, the thought will be, “I really miss my cigarette. It was a good friend.”
But if he doesn’t take the cigarette, he will soon realize an interesting fact. The holidays go on without smoking. If the holidays made him happy before, he can be happy again. If instead holidays made him sad, he will be sad again. Smoking does not change it one way or the other. One thing is for sure, though, in a few days the holiday will be over. If he makes it through without taking a cigarette, he will forget about smoking completely until the next time a new situation is encountered. Even then, the desire for a cigarette will be a fleeting thought. The realization that he overcame the urges and didn’t take a cigarette will be a good feeling.
If, on the other hand, he took the first drag, he is once again hooked into a deadly addiction. He will not only crave cigarettes during holidays, but every day, every hour, every waking minute. He will once again be under total control of his cigarette. He will be totally addicted and truly miserable.
Don’t ruin all you achieved when you quit smoking. While the thoughts for a cigarette may be more frequent during the holidays, they are not strong and they will not last long. If you overcome them this year, next year they will be even weaker, and more infrequent, and eventually you will think of them no further. To stay permanently free from this miserable addiction requires only one step, NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!
© Joel Spitzer 1981