“I’m just too weak to quit smoking!”
“I can’t believe it, I’m just too weak to quit smoking.” This statement came to me on the fourth day of a clinic by a participant who could not stop smoking for even one day. When I asked him where he kept getting the cigarettes from, he replied, “They are mine, I never threw them out.” When I asked him why he never got rid of them he said that it was because he knew the only way for him to handle not smoking would be by keeping cigarettes around in case he needed one.
This man was not capable of succeeding in his attempt to quit smoking, not because the addiction to nicotine was too powerful, it was his fear of throwing out his cigarettes which rendered his attempt a failure; He figured if he needed them, he would have them. Sure enough, every day he needed one. So he would smoke one. Then another and still another. Five or six a day, never reaching his optimal level and never breaking the withdrawal cycle. He was discouraged, depressed, embarrassed, mad, and, worst of all, smoking.
Quitting smoking needs to be done in steps. First, the smoker should strengthen his resolve as to why he wishes to quit. He should consider the health consequences, the social implications, the fact that he is totally controlled by his cigarettes, the expense and any other personal problems cigarettes have caused him. It is helpful to write down all of these negative aspects of smoking. In the future when he does get the thought for a cigarette, his own reasons for quitting become powerful ammunition for not returning to smoking.
When the decision is made to quit, the smoker should implement a program that has the greatest potential of success. The first and most important step is to quit cold turkey. To accomplish this goal he should dispose of all smoking material. Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, butts, ashtrays, lighters–anything that was considered smoking paraphernalia. If cigarettes are not there, they can not be smoked.
Then the person only needs to live through the first few days, one day at a time. Physical withdrawal may be rough or very mild. The symptoms will be overcome by making it through the first few days without taking a puff. Within three days the physical withdrawal will peak and by two weeks will cease altogether.
But the real obstacle is the psychological dependence to cigarettes. Most smokers are convinced smoking is essential in performing many normal daily activities. Dealing with stress, working, driving, eating, sleeping, waking up, relaxing – just about everything requires smoking. The only way to overcome this perceived dependence is by proving to oneself that all activities done with cigarettes can be done equally well without cigarettes. Just living through the first few days and functioning in normal required roles will prove that the smoker can survive without cigarettes. It may be difficult, but it is possible.
Once the initial quitting process is overcome, the rest is simple. Sure there will still be times when the ex-smoker wants a cigarette. But the ex-smoker must realize that he does not have the option of only one. Because he is a nicotine addict, smoking is now, and always has been an all or nothing proposition. The thought of relapsing back to his old level of smoking with all the associated consequences is all the ammunition needed to – NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!
Video discusses how important it is to understand that the way you will be able to attain a successful quit is by becoming smarter than nicotine not stronger than it.
From the Freedom from Nicotine board, before we had the zero tolerance relapse policy:
We currently have a person participating here who isn’t quitting smoking. It is not that she can’t, it is that she won’t. I don’t think she understands the difference yet. But we are not here to witness people self-destructing. We are here to help people stop self-destruction. By allowing a person to come in day after day and never getting off cigarettes is doing nobody any good, least of all the smoker him or herself. For if we just take a wait and see attitude about it, so will the smoker. If we just accept it as an acceptable behavior, so will the smoker. I guess if we really wanted to we could survive witnessing the inevitable failure after failure. But the fact is, the smoker may not have such a luxury. For living is what the smoker is putting on the line with every puff of nicotine he or she ingests.
Anyway, to get the point across that the person needs to stop wasting her time, we are pulling membership. This is not an act we do often here, in fact, I don’t think we pulled a membership of anyone since early March. Prior to that we have probably pulled only a handful of memberships that I am unaware of. Out of over 2,000 people members. But everyone here has to realize that we mean business. More important though, everyone here has to realize that they mean business. The business is that everyone here is fighting for his or hers own life.
Hopefully the person will realize that a quit is a 100% commitment, will give that commitment, really quit next time and reapply. But she is only going to fit in here if she quits. Until then she and anyone else who is not ready to quit is welcome to read here and learn here. They will all learn from our members that quitting is possible and that there is life after smoking. Our members all teach each other this. We are not a site of people trying to quit, we are a site of people who have quit. Some for a few hours, some for days, weeks, months or even years. Time without smoking is not the common thread that binds us–success at quitting is.
Do we think that some people just can’t quit, that stopping or staying off is just beyond their means? No, we don’t mean that at all. Our true belief is that everyone can quit smoking. Everyone! But there are just some people who won’t quit smoking. They minimize the importance of each quit. “Oh well, I’ll just quit again tomorrow or some day,” is their battle cry. Nobody here should ever allow himself or herself to fall into this trap. You just never know which cigarette is going to be the one to start an irreversible process, of either a cell mutation or even sudden death. A relapse with the intent of just quitting again can be a fatal miscalculation. You never know whether or not you will have the strength to quit again, the desire, and worst of all, the opportunity before something big goes wrong–something really big. Your only way to minimize your current and past risks of being a smoker is to always remember to never take another puff!
From the Freedom from Nicotine string I tried Freedom once, why bother trying again that was written before The Freedom from Nicotine support board’s zero tolerance relapse policy
Some past participants have shown a certain reluctance to return to Freedom after relapsing back to smoking. Many are embarrassed to come back admitting failure. Others feel they tried Freedom once, and, since they went back to smoking, its techniques must not have worked for them, so why bother trying the same approach again? Still others feel it is an inconvenience and an unnecessary commitment of time and effort considering they “heard it all before.”
The concept of returning after a relapse may seem embarrassing at first, but, the ex-smoker will probably see quickly he is not alone. Many people have had past quits prior to joining Freedom and understand the fragility of a quit. They will generally understand and accept the presence of repeaters enthusiastically. Relapsers offer a strong confirmation of the concept of addiction to our old members and to all new participants. They often openly share their past experience of how, after initially quitting, they came to a point of complacency which allowed the relapse to occur. They generally reflect back at their non-smoking period as a time where they felt emotionally and physically better, and then openly express the disgust and misery that the relapse brought on. Not only did it cause embarrassment, physical discomfort, and maybe even serious health complications, but also, it was putting them through quitting all over again. Their insights offer a valuable lesson to first time participants not to make the one tragic mistake that could lead them back to smoking and the need for quitting over again–taking a puff on a cigarette.
As far as it being an inconvenience, while reading and posting may take a chunk of time out of a smokers life the first few days, in all probability, there is nothing a smoker has to do the week that he or she is stopping that is as important as quitting smoking. Failure to touch base daily with us because of conflicts of time with social or even professional commitments makes about as much sense as a cancer patient skipping life saving chemotherapy treatments for the same events. Missing an entire day because of prior time commitments may jeopardize the quitting process or the long-term maintenance of smoking cessation. This may cost the person his or her life. In the long run, it will probably be viewed as an error in judgment by the patient as well as any significant others who recognize what was put at risk and what was lost in the process.
For those who feel that Freedom didn’t work, the fact is that the techniques taught here didn’t fail, the smoker’s implementation did. Only one recurrent theme runs through Freedom: if you don’t wish to go back to smoking–NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF! No one ever went back to smoking without disregarding that rule. Relapsing is an automatic admission that the smoker disregarded the basic principal taught at Freedom.
As far as feeling that “I’ve heard it all before,” being a relapser is evidence enough that the smoker did not hear it or comprehend it all before, or is the type of person who needs to hear it over and over again in order to keep believing it. Repeaters are people who have trouble initially accepting or keeping the concept of addiction alive. This trait is in all probability the reason why the ex-smoker originally relapsed, or maybe didn’t stop at all the first time. He or she reached a point of complacency where it was believed that smoking could be controlled at an acceptable level. Smoking is an all or nothing proposition. The repeater must recognize the reason for the past failure and learn from the experience. Otherwise, he or she will be doomed to repeat it over and over again.
If you have gone back to smoking, come in and try again. Once you quit smoking, do everything in your power to stay off. Come in for continued reinforcement and witness the mistakes of other past participants who got complacent. As far as addiction goes, it is much better to learn from others’ mistakes than having to attend later due to your own. You just don’t know whether you will ever have the strength, desire, or opportunity to quit the next time. In today’s society, failing to stay off smoking carries long-term risks which include loss of social status, and respect of others; financial implications which range from supporting an addiction costing hundreds to thusands of dollars per year as well as possibly costing your job and career; and, most significantly, eventual loss of health, and possibly loss of life.Considering all of this, the choice to quit smoking and to stay off is an important one. To keep the ability to stay off smoking you need to always remember to NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!
© Joel Spitzer, 2000
Additional commentary written after the policy was implemented:
I feel bad not being able to use this post much any more. Our relapse policy kind of makes this post outdated for if a member relapses they can’t post at Freedom any more. Although if a person relapses they can still utilize all the information that Freedom and WhyQuit.com has to offer, so the post is not totally useless.
The question is sometimes asked of how could a person who has learned about nicotine addiction ever go back to smoking. This letter explains how, they get complacent or cocky and just think that they can now control it. People start to feel so good and so strong that there is just no way that they could go back to smoking. Well the fact is there is one way that any of our members and any lurker and any one who never sees our site can go back to smoking and that is by believing that they can take a puff without relapsing. They will be wrong and time will prove this point to them. There is no guarantee that they will ever have the strength, desire or opportunity to undo that mistake and it may be a mistake that one day costs the person his or her life.
There is in fact only one way to be able to stay a member, at least as far as smoking status goes and that is by always knowing that the only way to keep your membership and more importantly, the only way to keep this quit alive and you with it is to stay totally committed to never take another puff!