Nicotine Withdrawal Advice From Successful Ex-Smokers

How to Manage the Discomforts Without Lighting Up

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There is no better teacher than the voice of experience, and when it comes nicotine withdrawal, there are no better teachers than the members of the About Smoking Cessation forum. They are an important resource for new ex-smokers.  Their tips on managing nicotine withdrawal are some of the best -- creative, practical, and real.

Settle in and read what they have to say, and when you're done, print this article out and refer to it when you've having a bad day. Next thing you know, you'll be the one sharing the tips that helped you most -- with smoking comfortably in your past.

Beating Physical Cravings to Smoke

  • Drink plenty of water. Water is one of nature's best quit aids and will help you beat back cravings to smoke.  You'll be well-hydrated, which in turn keeps you at your best to deal with the discomforts of the first few weeks of smoking cessation. Water can help control snacking, and flush the toxins from cigarettes out of your body more quickly. ~Terry
  • I stayed home and avoided all smokers for the first week. Climbing the walls was necessary, but I did manage it. Sipping on ice water and deep breathing kept me sane. ~Char
  • Chewing on spicy things like cinnamon candies and whole cloves helped a lot. ~Jules
  • I always had a box of Good and Plenty candies in my shirt pocket. It really helped to have something in that pocket when I automatically reached for a smoke. The taste of black licorice seemed to be a big help with the taste thing. ~Dave
  • I armed myself with sugar-free bubble gum, mints and candy at all times, and did not drink alcohol. ~grammie2rylee
  • I do not fight the cravings and urges to smoke, because it only makes me more tense. I try to accept, if not welcome them as a natural part of my addiction recovery. I let them wash over me, take deep breaths and just ride them out.  ~Carol C.
  • Snack on sunflower seeds in the shell. Messy, but they will keep you busy and satisfied when craving a smoke.  ~Terry
  • Take hot baths and showers. It wasn't possible to crave smoking in the shower, for some reason.  ~Nyniane
  • I cut my coffee intake to one, sometimes two cups per day. If I started grabbing for food, I sucked on sugarless candy or ate an apple. ~Williegenny
  • If I'm craving a smoke, I climb a flight of stairs, jump and down or just get up and move somewhere else for a few minutes.  ~Sept192007
  • Sing! The physical act of singing works great as a crave-buster. It gives the lungs a workout, gets the blood flowing, and kills the urge to smoke in the process. Pick you favorite, motivating music, and as an added bonus, it improves your mood too!  ~LtHousLady
  • My suggestion is string cheese. Yeah you know, it looks like a tube in a plastic wrap but it's cheese. You pull on it in tiny pieces and it comes off like string. It can easily take up 20 to 25 minutes of your crave time if you want it to. It keeps your fingers busy and it's challenging to see just how small of a string you can pull off. If you like cheese, give it a try.  ~punkn'head
  • The thing that helps me a lot is popscicles!  ~Nayls
  • Something that really helped me with cravings to smoke were hot /spicy dill pickles.  ~Shenna2

Releasing the "Habit" of Smoking

  • Change your routines. For instance, take a different route to work. Have your morning coffee and meals in a different room than you usually do.  ~Chris
  • I had to break old routines that involved smoking. Instead of talking on the phone and smoking, I would clean the house. Of course, after every chore, I would think I'd earned a smoke, which led to more cleaning! From there I got into scrapbooking and all sorts of crafts. You have to stay busy with things that aren't your normal routine early on.  ~Tammy
  • I recognized, after the initial physical withdrawal from nicotine, that I was breaking a habit. So I thought about how I could replace that habit with something healthy. For instance, I use to smoke on my porch. I started taking herbal tea to the porch, and before long I didn't feel comfortable going out there without my tea. I had replaced that habit.  ~Kimmie1213
  • I look past the desire for a cigarette to the bigger meaning. The only thing smoking a cigarette would accomplish (besides making me feel bad) would be to make me want another cigarette. Even if it satisfied me, how long would that satisfaction last? How long before I'd want another one?  ~Nyniane
  • Go places where you cannot smoke. Movies were the best for me because I couldn't smoke for hours at a time. The movie distracted me and the snack bar was full of crave busting goodies.  ~Charlie777222
  • When you learn to identify the source of your discomfort, you can react with a better choice than smoking. If you're tired - rest, hungry, eat, etc.  ~Terry

Reducing Stress

  • Exercise! I make it a practice to get in at least 30-40 minutes of brisk walking daily. ~Lanie
  • What helped me the most the first few weeks was this smoking cessation forum. I would post and post and read and read. I think I lived here 24/7!  ~Tabby294
  • The thing which helped me most for the first weeks/months was to write in a diary each day. I actually wrote Day 1, Day 2 etc., and under each heading described how I felt and how I dealt with various situations.  ~KissesForSam
  • Pamper yourself during the early stages of your quit. I tend to be very critical of myself, so I told myself it was okay if I had a few days where I did nothing but rest and relax. It made nicotine withdrawal a lot easier because I didn't expect too much of myself during the first few days. That was a good thing, because I didn't have much to give!  ~lorrhaw
  • Breathe! Use meditation techniques, circular breathing, following the breath... whatever works. Most of what makes a crave "bad" is panic. Breathing calms you down.  ~Nyiane
  • I found a quit buddy -- someone who quit the same day I did. No way was I going to smoke and let her have more free time than me! That really was a good incentive.  ~Gaylene
  • When I am in the middle of a craving to smoke, I take big, deep breaths with equal amounts of time on the inhale as well as the exhale and I picture the most peaceful place on earth that I want to be. It works!  ~Wingnit
  • I used a stress ball. It is a 2" cloth covered gel ball. On those anxious days when I had the fidgets, I could squeeze the dickens out of that ball, roll it across tables, lob it in the air and it went everywhere with me like a security blanket.  ~Pancake
  • Keep your sense of humor. Watch comedies on TV, funny movies and find joke websites on the Internet.  ~Sugarfree

Adjusting Your Attitude

  • I choose to work it just for today. I don't worry about tomorrow. If I keep my focus on staying smoke-free just for today; it becomes less overwhelming.   ~Lanie
  • Never give up even if you don't feel well. See your doctor if need be. Remember quitting isn't an event, it is a process. Everyone's process is different. It does get better for some earlier, and for others (like me) later.  ~Lanie
  • Recite NOPE (not one puff ever)  as often as you need, make a song out of it and chant it when you have a crave, this helped me immensely in the beginning.  ~Melana617
  • Knowledge is power. Understanding this addiction and our internal junkie goes a long way toward beating it.  ~Pancake
  • I spent a lot of time fighting craves by reading Gaylene's cancer journal, researching smoking-related illnesses and looking at pictures of those who've suffered disfigurement because of nicotine addiction. The fear of illness was one great motivator in quitting and helped me to keep my resolve and realize I wasn't giving up anything good.  ~JustOneLife
  • When I see a smoker "enjoying a cigarette, I remind myself that they probably wish that they could quit like I have. I know that's how I felt as a smoker whenever someone I knew had quit.  ~Mistalula
  • I remind myself that nicotine withdrawal takes a lot of work and I will just have to start at the beginning again should I relapse. I also remind myself that there is no such thing as having just one cigarette. I know from personal experience and have made that mistake too many times before. It never works.  ~Carol C.
  • I altered the way that I thought about smoking. Instead of obsessing about not "getting" to smoke, I simply told myself that I had quit, so smoking was not an option for me. For other people, perhaps, but not me. This made the cravings much easier to bear because it removed that whole dimension of the crave where you feel like you have to stop yourself from caving in and smoking. Since smoking was not an option, the cravings just became something unpleasant to get through. This is the tip that helped me most.  ~Jules
  • Keep a "money saved" jar. Get straps of one dollar bills from the bank and a big jar. Every night at bedtime, peel off the approximate cost of what you would have smoked that day and put it in the jar. It makes a great visual and a pat on the back for going another day. You can dream about how to use the money in a meaningful way later on, too.  ~Nyniane

Thankfully, nicotine withdrawal is a short-lived phase of smoking cessation, but it can be intense while it lasts. The more you understand about what to expect when you quit smoking, the better prepared you'll be to plan for and successfully navigate the challenges that may present themselves along the way.

Be patient with yourself and willing to devote full attention to your quit program. Cast off any preconceived notions you might have about how long the recovery process should take. Rather, relax into your quit and take it one simple day at a time. The difficulties of nicotine withdrawal pale in comparison to the strength and empowerment that comes from beating nicotine addiction.

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