Smoking Relapse: This is How it Happens

A Personal Smoking Relapse Account

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I'd like to introduce you to C, a member of our smoking cessation support forum

C recently learned the lesson of where smoking just one cigarette leads us once we've quit. Anyone who has suffered a smoking relapse will identify with her poignant account.

Knowledge is power, folks. Learning from our missteps along the way helps us succeed in the long run.

Thank you for sharing your story so honestly, C. There is no such thing as just one cigarette and your account helps us all remember that.

From C:

I quit smoking on April 5th with only minor bumps and bruises. I was passionate about it. Having never really tried to quit before, I was proud of myself. 

On June 9th, my husband's brother and his wife came down for a week. They smoke. I was cool not smoking. I had hung out with smokers before with no problem. Then we stayed up late one night, drinking.

My husband (who had quit smoking in March) told me that night that he was close to caving. I told him that we would split a cigarette - just for the heck of it. But just one and that would be it.

I went into the house to use the washroom and a little voice inside my head said, "don't do it." ... but I told that little voice that it would only be one.

Well, we had that one, and then talked some more. At one point I looked at my husband and he was smoking a second cigarette.

"YOU'RE SMOKING!" I said. "Well, give me one then," was what came out of my mouth next.

A little voice inside said "don't do it," but I told that little voice that it would only be one more.

The next day my son's school phoned and we had a somewhat stressful phone conversation. I went out to where my mother-in-law was smoking and grabbed a puff off of her cigarette. A little voice inside said "don't do it," but I told that little voice that it was only one puff.

And then I thought ... well, I have already had a puff, might as well have a cigarette. So I decided that I would only smoke for 24 hours and that would be it.

Then we had a family get together at our house. Many of my husband's relatives were there, and yes, it was stressful. I decided that smoking for a weekend wouldn't be a huge deal ... would it? That little voice piped up and said "don't do it," but I was already doing it.

My husband's brother and wife stayed for a week. We laughed together and drank together and talked and SMOKED. It was almost like I would feel like a hypocrite NOT smoking when I HAD smoked. I decided that once they left that would be IT. No more smoking.

Unfortunately, by the time they left, I had become a full-fledged closet smoker. I couldn't tell my husband (he quit the day after that first night of smoking), and I couldn't tell my son (who still doesn't know). I couldn't really tell anyone.

I would go to work with three cigarettes and smoke them almost at the same time. I gradually took more and more and then felt bad for taking smokes from my mother-in-law, so I bought a pack ... and then another ... and then another ...

And (say it with me, folks) a little voice said "don't do it," every time, but I told that voice that each pack was my LAST pack, so it really didn't matter.

Now I am here.

I am drowning my cigarettes tonight and am ready to grit my teeth and get through it.

A little voice in my head is saying, "DO IT!"

I suppose my point is that I MADE A CONSCIOUS DECISION EACH AND EVERY TIME I SMOKED. I didn't just fall off the wagon, I leaped off the wagon. Consciously.

I need to remember this.


A Word from Verywell

The steps that lead to a smoking relapse are always fueled by the decisions we make. However, once we reintroduce nicotine into our bodies, we replace choice with compulsion and we're back on the road to full blown nicotine addiction once again.

Realizing this is a key step in breaking the cycle of junkie thinking that nicotine addiction puts us in.

Own your actions and you'll empower yourself to change them.

If you're an ex-smoker who has slipped and smoked, or is struggling with thoughts of smoking, revisit your reasons for quitting and use the tools for early smoking cessation to help you get over the bump in the road you're experiencing. 

It takes time to heal from nicotine addiction, so don't become discouraged when smoking urges surface months into cessation. You'll get there just as surely as the next person as long as you give yourself the time needed to let go of the many associations that are made over the years between smoking and your life.

Be patient and stick with it. Smoking cessation is well worth the effort it takes to achieve.

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