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I slipped and smoked a cigarette - do I have to start my quit program over?

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Updated June 27, 2007

I slipped and smoked a cigarette - do I have to start my quit program over?

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Question: I slipped and smoked a cigarette - do I have to start my quit program over?
I quit smoking three months ago. I've been feeling depressed, and smoking was tempting me more and more. I slipped and smoked, but I only had one cigarette. In fact, I didn't smoke the whole thing--just a few puffs. Do I have to start over from day one again now, or should I just go on as though it didn't happen?

Answer: Smoking one cigarette does not erase all of the smoke-free time you’ve accumulated. And for some people, starting over from scratch is so demoralizing that they run the risk of giving up entirely, returning to smoking on a full-time basis. How you choose to move forward following a smoking slip is up to you. Do what you are comfortable with, but 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.

Physically, the danger of smoking one cigarette is almost nothing. Psychologically, however, that cigarette puts you on shaky ground. The mindset that allowed you to light up needs to be addressed, otherwise you run the risk of relapse.

Remember Your Reasons for Quitting

Dive back into why you quit smoking in the first place. Think about how you felt on your quit day.
  • Were you sick and tired of smoking?
  • Were you afraid you'd get a smoking-related illness?
  • Did you feel like a slave to nicotine addiction?
  • Did you have a chronic cough or shortness of breath?
  • Were you embarrassed by your smoking habit?
  • Did you spend a lot of time wishing you could quit smoking, once and for all?
None of the reasons you had when you quit smoking are any less true today. Revisit your list of reasons, start a list now if you don't have one. 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. 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.

Spend some time in the Smoking Cessation Forum here on About.com reading messages from those who are in their first couple of weeks of cessation. You'll quickly remember what it was like in the beginning and how much you don't want to have to start over.

Relapse is a Slippery Slope

If you've had a smoking slip, it's important for you to do the work to get your thinking back on track. It may not be easy, but I guarantee 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. When it does, you'll be thankful you stuck with your quit program through thick and thin.

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