I believe the most important skill you need to quit smoking permanently, is to learn how to manage your cravings to smoke. When we give in, to our unhealthy desires, we stay on the addiction merry-go-round. Just because you have an urge to do something, it doesn’t mean you should act on it.
1. Wait until you are craving a cigarette.
2. Take a deep breath and ask that desire to grow as quickly as possible. Continue to breathe deeply as you focus on the craving growing stronger and multiplying throughout your body. You may experience anxiety or intense feelings but deal with it by asking the desire to increase.
3. Now imagine smoking 3 cigarettes at once, and as soon as you finish those, imagine doing it again. Taste the acetone, ammonia, arsenic, butane, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, insecticide, lead and tar you're pulling into your lungs. Really feel the 7,000 chemicals, which at least 70 of those chemicals are known to cause cancer - burning your tongue, your throat, and your lungs.
4. Imagine indulging your craving until you're sick… The horrible taste in your mouth, the smoke singeing your throat and your lungs. Feel your throat and lungs constricting, your chest hurting as your muscles spasm in protest of the poison you're sucking into your lungs. Your body racked with a coughing fit.
5. Tell yourself you can smoke, but you're going to go hard. Feel the dizziness, your head spinning, and wave of nausea washing over you. Remember how you felt when you first smoked, how you felt lightheaded, your body breaking out in a cold sweat just like before you get sick. Feel how disappointed you would feel if you had a cigarette, how disappointed the people that care about you would be.
Within a few minutes, your desire to smoke will vanish or be greatly reduced, and instead, you'll feel calm and accepting of your desire to smoke and know you will be able to handle the feelings that come up when you are craving a cigarette.
6. Repeat every time you have the urge to smoke. Your craving will vanish faster each time, usually in seconds, and be replaced with a genuine feeling of exceptional well-being and energy. This technique works well with anxiety and panic attacks, and any type of craving that you are trying to resist.
Part of what causes cravings is that your subconscious believes it needs nicotine to survive since it’s in your system all of the time - like water or oxygen. By asking the desire to increase, you are telling your body and mind that you are okay. Through accepting and not resisting the cravings, you shift them very quickly.
There really is something to the 12 step program’s motto of “one day at a time”. Stay in the present. You don’t need to commit to not ever smoking again for the rest of your life, you’re just not going to have one right now.
"You can have just one…" your brain may tell you, but it's most likely that you won't stop at one. And then what? You end up smoking for the rest of your life. Do you really want to risk it?
Each time you deny the desire to smoke it will be an effort but, in time, the cravings will fade. You won't always be struggling with it. A good acronym to remember is N.O.P.E (Not one puff, ever!)
After a while, it may recur only for 30 seconds once every couple of months, but even if the urge strikes for only a few seconds, that's enough time to light up, so it's smart to be mentally prepared. At that moment, you don't want to forget how much you like not smoking.