What do I do if I start smoking again?
You’ve been doing great, and think you’ve beaten smoking.
Then, suddenly, you have a moment of weakness and you’re back on the cigarettes.
All is not lost. In fact, many smokers need several attempts before they can finally quit for good. However, it is important to understand why you have relapsed, and learn how to help prevent a relapse in the future.
What causes a smoking relapse?
Stress – When the pressure is on and sometimes you are in a stressful environment that you can’t control, it is easy to slip back into the mindset that just one cigarette will help.
Overconfidence – It’s been two weeks and you haven’t had a cigarette. You’ve nailed it completely; you don’t need any more help or to think about it anymore. This couldn’t be further from the truth; overconfidence can be a big influence of starting smoking again.
Old routines – Slipping back into old routines that are based around your old smoking behaviours can quickly encourage smoking behaviours again.
Isolation – As with overconfidence, isolation from your support network can cause a smoking relapse. You need to consistently lean on the support of family, friends and stop smoking services. Otherwise the habit will rear its head again.
Other smokers – Keeping yourself surrounded by other smokers, especially in a social environment, is a sure-fire way to start smoking again. It’s not just the smoking habit you have to break.
What to do if you start smoking again
Don’t panic. A smoking relapse may happen once or a hundred times, it doesn’t matter. As long as you are actively trying to quit then you are on the right path. Most people will have a slip in the first week of starting their quit attempt and many will fully relapse in the first few months.
Just remember that you are still in control. You may have had a cigarette or two, or even a pack, but you are aware. That means you can just jump back on the wagon. These tips will help:
Focus on one day at a time – If you have a smoking relapse then only focus on your quit attempt for the next day. Hour by hour track how you feel and how you are doing. Looking too far into the future can be counterproductive and completely unhelpful. “I haven’t smoked for two hours; I can do the next hour”.
What happened? – Write down what happened, what the trigger was and what you were thinking when you had your relapse. This is great for identifying what your triggers are and how you can avoid them easily in the future.
Plan again – We have spoken before about your quitting plan. Maybe this one wasn’t the right one for you. Quitting smoking is a lot of trial and error, and it can be incredibly frustrating. But there are many routes you can take, and maybe this wasn’t the right one. Make a new plan.
Talk – Use a stop smoking service, friends, family or other people trying to quit smoking. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and others who know what you are going through.
These relapses back to smoking can cause you to feel down and a failure, but this is more likely to encourage smoking. Fortunately, we know both from research and from vapers who have successfully quit that sometimes it can take time to fully switch from smoking to vaping.
Again, the key here is to get straight back into a positive mindset, realise that you are in control and start again. Take heart if vaping has helped you reduce the number of cigarettes you have smoked and, when you are ready, re-adopt the mantra of “just one puff”.
How to prevent a smoking relapse
Eliminating as many smoking triggers as possible is the best way to succeed. It can be difficult to completely change your life and you won’t be able to avoid all of your smoking triggers, but by always remaining aware you increase your chances of a successful quit attempt.
Stress is one of the biggest smoking triggers. If you find yourself encountering a stressful situation don’t default back to ‘a cigarette will relieve the stress’. Try and incorporate some other ways to cope with stress than reaching for cigarettes. Other smokers have succeeded by employing deep breathing techniques, meditation, exercise or self care to cope with stress and high-pressure environments.
Social situations are a particularly tricky area to incorporate change, especially if there are smokers in your circle. Try to break old habits rather than always focusing on smoking. In these social situations, don’t go outside by default and don’t go outside with other smokers.
Your support network is extremely important. Being over confident, isolating yourself and old routines all need to be kept in check. This is much easier if you keep in contact with your quit smoking support network. Check in with friends and family if you have the urge to smoke. Not only is this an effective distraction technique but they can remind you why you quit in the first place.
Stop smoking services are also a fantastic resource. An increasing number of them have been trained to understand the benefits of vaping, and they can also help you with different paths if you are really struggling.