We’re on the home stretch folks, woohoo! If you are working the steps in order and this is your Become a Non-smoker Day congratulations! If you are reading through the steps as you do them, then by this point, you have been doing the positive self-talk for a while and you’re likely beginning to feel the stirrings of what happens when those messages become ingrained in your subconscious mind. When that happens you will begin to feel like it is entirely possible that you can do it and it will be easy. Those new positive thoughts about being a non-smoker become your new automatic thoughts, if you continue to repeat them to yourself many times a day, especially when you are smoking. I will include the physiological and psychological rationale for why this happens in another post. In this step we’re going to talk about the big day, your BAN day. Here are some tips based on lessons I learned.
In the previous step you thought about how this day would look and you’ve got a plan in place and maybe are even prepared for how your new life as a non-smoker will begin. Maybe you will do as I did and have your last couple of smokes with your morning coffee, put on a nicotine patch and then rid your environment of everything related to smoking. You can do it any way you like, maybe you will start this day as a non-smoker from the get go or maybe you’ll delay until evening. That is up to you, but this is the day you’ve been waiting for and there are a couple of things you can do to ease that transition from being a smoker to being a non-smoker.
- get rid of all your smoking paraphernalia, you can just pack it away into storage if you have smoking friends who you want to accommodate when they come over but it is best if you put it away. Out of sight, out of mind as they say, this is also a bit of a ritual making it official that you are now a non-smoker and have no need of these things. If like me, your positive statements included ones about eliminating the stink of smoking from you and your home, doing this is important for that reason too.
- on your BAN day you will reword your positive self-talk to the present tense. i.e. rather than, “I can’t wait to smell better, to get rid of the stink of cigarettes and ashtrays” instead you will say “It is so great to smell better, to have a fresh smelling home, car and clothes, to be rid of stinky ashtrays. I love it!” If you’re not already convinced that this is awesome, then it becomes even more important to do this until you are so convinced that it is an automatic thought.
- if you think you need a bit of help, like I did, use the nicotine patch (or another form of nicotine replacement therapy). I found it to be a great tool in convincing myself that I was not experiencing any physiological withdrawal. I don’t know if there really is a physiological withdrawal, we are certainly told there is by the medical community and I have read research that supports a short period of physiological withdrawal. Even if there isn’t, the nicotine replacement will take care of any automatic thoughts about it that pop up. I will explain in another post, my understanding, of how cravings work. For now I would just suggest that the patch is a good backup.
- remember your other back up activities or items. Use them during those times when you would normally smoke. If you haven’t prepared them then this is the time to do it. These items or activities can not only be used as replacements, but also as a bit of a reward. Nicotine is a feel good chemical and when you smoke you are rewarded with that good feeling, you need to replace it with different rewards. I used salty and/or sugary snacks because they stimulate the same reward neurotransmitters. It is different but similar enough. Weight gain was not a concern for me, if it is, choose healthy snacks or activities instead. Other things that stimulate the same pleasure response in the body include exercise, sex and of course chocolate. Just a few ideas for you.
- if you do have an automatic thought like “I need a cigarette”, talk back to it. Tell it firmly, “no” I don’t need a cigarette. Even if you’re not using the patch (although this is where it comes in very handy) you can still say NO to that craving. I’ll explain more about this in another post but for now trust me when I tell you this works. If you talk back to that automatic thought it will go away. If you have done enough of the positive self-talk it will go away, even faster, and maybe even stay away permanently.
- distraction can be another tool that you use. You can enlist your loved ones in this one too. Let them know that you’re having thoughts about cigarettes and ask them to help distract you. Maybe bike riding was your activity you came up with to replace smoking so taking a bike ride with your loved one (maybe to the ice cream parlor) might be just the thing. Activities that are the best distractions are those that don’t allow you to focus internally. When you are just sitting around or doing mindless work is when the internal chatterbox starts up. So doing something with someone else or reading a good book or watching an action packed movie are good choices.
Not everyone will experience cravings or thoughts of smoking. I’ve had people use this model and report that it was a breeze to become a non-smoker. My experience was that the first day did I have any kind of physiological or psychological reaction. After that it was smooth sailing and many others have had that same experience with this model. This step is really the last one, if this is your BAN day, you are now a non-smoker. Congratulations!
I will tell you more about why I keep referring to quitting smoking as becoming a non-smoker in (you guessed it) another post. I am also going to present one more step because it may be something that causes some people to back slide. It is not really a step in the model but it is good to be aware of so if it happens for you it won’t surprise you and trick you into reverting back to your old habit. Check out step 7 to learn more.