One of the things I have seen too often is people managing to quit for several months and then suddenly declaring that they have had a relapse. They have smoked one or more cigarettes. Sometimes and hopefully most of the time, this is a once-off situation; a little blip. The person can stop themselves from smoking again without too many problems. Sadly, at other times it leads to the individual going back to smoking full-time and having to quit smoking again at a later date.
Based on my observations there are two main timeframes in which relapses occur. The first is during the initial few days or the very early weeks of having quit. This is when people feel most vulnerable and prone to cravings caused by the depletion of nicotine from their system combined with the psychological aspects of changing their daily routine. The situation is understandable considering the immediacy of the problem. But what of those people who smoke a cigarette out of the blue after several months?
Of course, there can be many explanations. A traumatic event can lead to a sudden relapse based on your past experience of smoking to relieve tension. A few too many drinks can lead you to letting down your guard and thinking “Just one won’t hurt”. It could be that you’ve become so comfortable with not smoking that you’ve lost sight of how addictive it is. It may even be that you think “I’ll just have a few this evening,” or “I’ll just smoke casually at weekends”. I’m sure there are many other situations that I have not mentioned and some that I cannot even imagine.
The depressing thing for me is that these people have been through a lot of effort to quit. They have often suffered physical and psychological withdrawal. They have started to build a new life as a non-smoker (or ex-smoker if you prefer). They have seen others continue to smoke, and they have resisted the temptation. They have found new habits to replace the old. Their bodies have started to heal, and generally they have managed to distance themselves from smoking. Sure, there may still be some reminiscence of the ‘good old days’ (I still have this after over 4 years), but by and large they are well on their way to success. It’s only a putt shot away.
I’m a firm believer in planning to quit and understanding the stages of quitting. That means being aware that once you are over the hump of the first few weeks comes a stage of slow change, and that once you have been quit for several months, you still need to keep up your guard and never forget why you decided to quit in the first place. You’re almost there!