Stop a Smoking Slip From Becoming a Relapse

Cropped Image Of Person Smoking Cigarette
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As of Dec. 20, 2019, the new legal age limit is 21 years old for purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in the U.S.

Smoking one cigarette does not erase all of the smoke-free time you’ve accumulated. However, for some, a single smoking slip means the difference between successfully quitting and returning to smoking full-time.

How you choose to move forward following a smoking slip is up to you. Do what you are comfortable with, but make sure you take some time to analyze and correct the faulty thinking that allowed you to pick up that cigarette and smoke it in the first place.

The Danger of a Few Puffs

Physically, you have reintroduced nicotine into your body. Smokers are nicotine addicts. We are not stronger than the drug. Test that after you've quit, and you run the risk of a return to full time smoking faster than you might think. The only sure way to keep the inner addict in control is to keep nicotine out.

A single puff from a cigarette releases a rush of adrenaline, which sends a signal to the brain to produce higher levels of the feel-good chemical dopamine. It's so easy to become addicted to smoking because we associate each puff with pleasure.

Recovery from nicotine comes gradually. There are going to be triggers that bring on strong urges to smoke as you move through smoking cessation, but it won't always be that way. Each time you overcome those urges, your brain logs it and starts to break down the association with it. In time, triggers to smoke will be rare to nonexistent. For now, though, use that plan you devised to make your way through them without lighting up.

Remember Why You Quit

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking causes upwards of 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. Dive back into why you quit smoking in the first place. Think about how you felt on your quit day.

  • Did you dislike that you couldn't stop smoking?
  • Did you have a chronic cough or shortness of breath?
  • Did you spend a lot of time wishing you could quit smoking, once and for all?
  • Were you embarrassed by your smoking habit?
  • Were you living in fear of contracting a smoking-related illness?
  • Were you sick and tired of smoking?

None of the reasons you had when you quit smoking are any less true today. It's easy to lose sight of the importance of what you're doing when you get a few months of smoke-free time under your belt. Maybe that chronic cough is gone, or you've convinced yourself that quitting isn't that hard and you can smoke for a day and get right back to your quit. But nicotine addiction doesn't let go easily, and if you do light up, you'll quickly be reminded of just how true that is.

Revisit your list of reasons, start a list now if you don't have one. Read everything you can find about the effects of smoking, even if you've read it all before. A refresher will help build your resolve back up.

Relapse Is a Slippery Slope

If you've had a smoking slip, it's important for you to do the work to get your head back in the game. The journey to successfully quitting smoking may not be easy, but it's worth it.

Be patient and give yourself the time you need to allow for healing, both physically and emotionally. The day will come when smoking is a distant, detached memory. Given that on average nonsmokers live 10 years longer than nonsmokers, your health and your livelihood will thank you for sticking with your quitting program.

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