Coping with Smoking Relapse

Quitting smoking can be one of life’s most difficult challenges and may require several attempts in order to finally reach your goal. The most common causes of relapse are stress, weight gain, and nicotine and tobacco withdrawal symptoms.

The good news is that there are helpful ways of coping with smoking relapse. "Slips," may occur within the first week, months, or even years after you have decided to quit smoking. While these unexpected urges may be dangerous, there are ways to cope and help you in your efforts to not relapse.

I Slipped Up, Now What?

Most slipups occur within the first week of trying to quit smoking. Just because you take a puff or two of a cigarette or slide into a full-blown relapse does not mean that you cannot begin again. The important thing to remember is that you are still in control and can move forward in your efforts to quit smoking.

Also, remember that you are not alone. Every year nearly 70 percent of all adult smokers report wanting to quit smoking completely and millions of people try to quit smoking at least once during the year. Many try a variety of methods to assist with their efforts, including clinical interventions, counseling, nicotine replacement products, and alternative therapies.

A single slipup may result in negative feelings, depression, and self-condemnation. This can often lead to feelings of hopelessness and wanting to give up trying to quit. Several slips may result in a full-blown relapse, but it is never too late to start again. When you come face-to-face with the desire to smoke again, avoid thinking that just one cigarette will not hurt you and focus on the many health benefits you may enjoy since quitting smoking.

Relapse Triggers

While desires to smoke again may arise at any point throughout your life, unexpected urges may prove to be dangerous and more likely to cause you to relapse. Triggers, events, or circumstances can all work together to create a smoking relapse. It is important to make yourself aware of these triggers and avoid them, if at all possible.

Common relapse triggers may include:

  • associating with other smokers, especially in a leisure environment
  • consuming alcohol
  • feeling overconfident
  • becoming isolated from friends, family members and support group members
  • not getting enough sleep or getting poor quality of rest
  • coming into contact with stressful situations on a frequent basis
  • becoming a victim, with feelings of anger and self-pity
  • adapting to a negative, pessimistic attitude

By eliminating as many triggers as you can, the smoking cessation success rate can be greatly increased. While it may be impossible to eliminate all triggers, doing your best to prevent them ahead of time will provide you with a better likelihood of success.

Stress is one of the strongest smoking triggers, but also one that can be greatly reduced. Relieving stress can improve your quitting efforts if implemented and utilized both before and during a stressful situation. Learning to cope by using stress outlets can lead to success. Exercise, going for a walk, taking a warm bath, and meditation are all useful ways to eliminate stressful triggers in your life.

Surrounding yourself with a good network of supporters is helpful when coping with a smoking relapse or slip-up. It is important to not get down on yourself and your failed attempts, but move forward and not give up.

Don’t Give Up

Whether you have relapsed on one occasion or one hundred, you shouldn’t give up your efforts to quit smoking. Most people try several times before succeeding. If you have relapsed, treat this incident as something to learn from, and an experience that you can use later on. Each and every attempt to quit smoking leads you that much further toward success.

Surrounding yourself with supporters can be encouraging during the quitting phase. Former smokers report that a good support network made up of family, friends, and co-workers is very helpful when trying to quit. If you don’t have a large supply of friends or family members at your disposal, doctors, and health care professionals may offer support and encouragement during this transitional time.

Support groups can provide encouragement at just the right time and assist you in getting back on track following a slip or relapse. Tobacco help lines can be found through your health insurance company, local hospitals, and clinics or employers. Many have a phone line or website that provides useful information and assistance with smoking cessation.