While smoking at some point in time felt like the “cool” thing to do with many smokers only lighting up their first cigarette to fit in or because the people around them were smoking, you’ve just about hit your max with the negative effects of cigarettes and you’re ready to quit cold turkey.
Unfortunately, as good as quitting cold turkey cna be if you’re successful, there’s quite a bit of space for this plan to backfire.
Why Quitting is Hard, and the 3 Parts of Addiction
In an ideal world, you would simply put out your last cigarette, and not buy another pack. It’s that simple, right?
Well, not quite.
Every time you take a pull on a cigarette, your body takes in a mass of chemicals from carbon monoxide to tar to nicotine. With nicotine being a highly addictive substance, it creates a chemical dependency, or a feeling that your body “needs” more.
Like many addictive substances, this chemical is known for releasing dopamine. While dopamine is released naturally within your brain when you do things good for your body like eat a nourishing meal, chemicals such as nicotine force-release large amounts of dopamine to make you “feel good,” rewarding you for doing something not necessarily good for you.
The real underlying issue with quitting cold turkey can be found in the three primary parts of addiction, which are chemical dependency, physical association, and social pressure.
These forms of addiction act not only as a barrier, but also as triggers and “reasons” why you feel you shouldn’t quit. By overcoming these barriers, you are more likely to become smoke-free.
Do you feel like you “need” a cigarette, and you’d do anything to have one?
Do you feel angry when you can’t smoke?
Do you make excuses or put things off so you can have a cigarette “real quick?”
Chemical dependency refers to your body and brain’s addiction to a given something -- when referring to tobacco, this something is nicotine.
During these withdrawals, your body will be going through a wide range of chemical changes which could lead to physical and emotional issues. Your body will be doing everything it can to make you feel as if you need that cigarette because it’s been tricking into thinking nicotine is good for you and it needs it to function.
Nicotine reacts within your brain to release dopamine, which is responsible for rewarding you by making you feel “good.” While dopamine is naturally produced when you get a full night's sleep or eat a healthy meal, nicotine use releases a mass of dopamine, too, and not because nicotine is good for your body.
Over time, your body considers this mass release the new norm, and assumes it will happen regularly to supply that dopamine. When you stop smoking and you suddenly remove nicotine from your daily routine, your body tends to fight back both physically and emotionally.
As your body begins feeling “out of balance” you may find yourself unable to fall asleep, or waking up throughout the night.
Rapid eye movement sleep, also known as REM sleep, is known to be drastically affected due to nicotine withdrawals, creating the feeling of restlessness or a lack of a good night’s sleep.
Since your body won’t be getting its needed deep sleep, you can expect feelings of fatigue.
It’s important to rest and remain relaxed when possible. Your body will be going through major changes when quitting cold turkey.
This could affect work, focus, and productivity primarily due to your decreased ability to focus when fatigued.
Loss of Concentration
Nicotine stimulates brain activity, which could help you focus. Pulling this stimulation away from your body could create a lack of concentration.
To make matters worse, cravings or the thought of having a cigarette take over thoughts creating an even deeper loss of concentration along with cravings.
This is one of the primary reasons doing something to keep your hands and mind busy when trying to quit can become so important.
With nicotine releasing dopamine, your body will now have a rapid decrease in the release of this feel good chemical now that you’ve quit. With such a rapid change, you can expect irritation and a short temper to say the least.
Knowing that this attitude change is possible and likely, you should talk with your partner, friends, family, and coworkers and let them know you’re planning to quit smoking.
Not only can they be a great resource when you need some assistance, but they may be more understanding if you say something rude.
For similar reasons you feel irritability, your body may begin pushing you towards feelings of depression.
While minor depression is completely normal when quitting a chemically dependent substance, this feeling can become very serious if it begins to affect your day to day life.
Due to the risk of depression, it’s important to work through these feelings. Consider creating a list of what’s making you feel this way specifically, that way you can work towards a better you by tackling these feelings at the root.
If these feelings continue, it’s important to talk with someone, whether you give your best friend a call or make an appointment with a therapist.
As you step away from nicotine, you may begin feeling nervous or anxious about quitting, especially since you feel you need nicotine and can’t function right without it.
These feelings can last up to 2 weeks, and shouldn’t be ignored. It’s important to find something such as reading or meditating that allows you to feel calm and relaxed.
Caffeine, which is known for waking you up and creating the feeling of needing to move is known to worsen symptoms of anxiety. In some cases, consider reducing your intake of coffee, soda, and other forms of caffeine as you’re working to quit nicotine.
It’s important to remember that these feelings are temporary and normal, and push yourself towards calming down.
Addiction and the difficulty with quitting is more than just a chemical addiction, but is a physical addiction. When you smoke, you often create a pattern that your body associates with nicotine intake.
These physical patterns often become triggers.
Hand-To-Mouth (Oral Fixation)
The most common form of physical addiction when referring to smoking is known as hand-to-mouth and refers to the action of pulling a cigarette from your mouth, usually to ash, and placing it back in your mouth. This action is done time and time again as you smoke, and is a common form of physical addiction.
A common method of relieving this craving is through snacking or using smoking alternatives such as hemp cigarettes, which allow you to maintain the physical habit and routine while eliminating the chemical dependency.
The smell of a cigarette often becomes an instant trigger for those quitting. In many cases, it’s important to avoid smoking areas or areas with other smokers for the first few days after quitting.
Similar to the smell of a cigarette, the slight taste or associated tastes may create a withdrawal. If you always have a cigarette with your morning coffee, the taste of coffee is associated with the habit and could become a barrier or trigger.
Certain sounds common with smoking can become triggers, such as the sound of packing a pack of cigarettes or flicking a lighter. These sounds aren’t common outside of smoking, but remain an attention-grabbing trigger.
For many smokers, the habit of smoking started with some sort of social pressure. This could be the idea of smoking because everyone around you was smoking on a worksite, or because it was the “cool” thing to do.
As you attempt to quit smoking, similar social pressure may stand in your way.
It’s important to talk with those around you and let them know you’re trying to quit so they can help versus harm.
Being Offered a Smoke
It’s common for a friend to offer you a smoke, especially if you don’t have one on hand. While they are just trying to be a good friend, this offer on top of your cravings can become very tempting.
As a smoker, you’ve likely placed yourself in situations where you could have a cigarette. From hanging out in the garage working on your car, to break time at work, smoking has become a norm.
Just because you're quitting doesn’t mean your friends are. Not only does this become a physical trigger, but also a social trigger.
Where You Usually Smoke
Do you have a normal smoking spot? Do you stop on your way in or out of somewhere to light up?
These areas could become triggers and boundaries that you will regularly have to pass and walk by. It’s important to stimulate the brain as you pass these spots, such as being in an active conversation with someone.
Quittin’ Cold Turkey Ain’t the Only Path For Quittin’
Making the choice to quit smoking is a great first step towards a healthier lifestyle -- now it’s time to choose your path.
With the use and potential of tobacco-free smoking alternatives and lifestyle changes, you can slowly work your way away from tobacco products and reduce the physical and emotional walls that you’ll need to overcome. It’s normal to crave a cigarette or miss smoking, as that’s part of addiction, which is why cigarette alternatives can help you to fulfill some of the cravings while reducing overall use.
Oklahoma Smokes has made it our goal to provide safe, tobacco-free smoking alternatives, while creating a range of reliable sources allowing you to gain a deeper understanding about addiction and how to quit.