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There is No Such Thing as "Just One" Cigarette

Will One Cigarette Cause a Smoking Relapse?


Updated July 29, 2014

There is No Such Thing as
Sami Sarkis/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

When we quit smoking, most of us go through a fair amount of junkie thinking - the internal battle between nicotine addiction and ourselves. And, early on in smoking cessation, that dialog can seem relentless. It's persistent, annoying and exhausting. It is however, temporary.  The less attention you give to unhealthy thoughts of smoking, the better. But how?

Don't Give Junkie Thoughts Power

It's important for you to realize ahead of time that the mental contortions you're going to experience are a normal part of the recovery process. Time will lessen the pull of these thoughts that trigger cravings to smoke, but in the meantime, use distraction to jolt yourself out of them as they come up.

Create a list of things you can do at a moment's notice for these occasions so that you're not left struggling when the time comes.  Be proactive and know that with each smoking urge you overcome, your brains is registering new ways of coping. In time, coping will be easier, and with more time, cravings will be gone.

Some Days Will Be Harder Than Others

Such is smoking cessation, and such is life. On those days when simple distractions don't work and you're feeling agitated and unhappy, turn to another list you can have ready for bad days called:

Ways to Pamper Myself

Most of us tend to neglect our own comfort in favor of our loved ones.  We put them first on the list, and while this is admirable, it is important to take care of our own needs, especially during smoking cessation.

So, create a pamper list for yourself.  Put things on it that you know will make you feel good and might rejuvenate your body and mind after a hard day.  Things like:

  • An afternoon at the movies.
  • A pedicure and/or a manicure.
  • Taking a long walk in nature with the dog.
  • Giving yourself an hour to soak in a long hot bath.
  • Relaxing with a good book.
  • Heading to the gym for a workout and a swim.
  • Taking a power nap.
  • Splurging on a hot fudge sundae with all the fixings.

Whatever the treat, make it self-indulgent and guilt-free. You're working hard to free yourself from a tough addiction, and a little positive reinforcement goes a long way. If all else fails, put your mind on ignore and go to bed earlier than usual. Tomorrow will be a better day.

There is No Such Thing as Just One Cigarette

As ex-smokers are fond of saying, cigarettes travel in packs.   Research shows that upwards of 90% of ex-smokers who smoke one cigarette after quitting can't stop there and end up in a full-blown smoking relapse.

The only way to keep the beast at bay is to keep nicotine out of your system. If you decide to go ahead and smoke just one, chances are you'll be back to smoking as much as you used to again soon.

There is No Such Thing as Just One Cigarette.

If you absolutely cannot get thoughts of smoking out of your mind and you fear you're about to cave in and smoke, stop everything.  Sit down with  pen and paper and honestly answer the questions below.

  • How did I feel about smoking just before I quit?
  • How many years did I smoke...and how long did I spend wishing I didn't?
  • How long has it been since I quit smoking, and how long should I expect it to take to heal from the years of nicotine addiction?
  • Will I feel good about it if I go back to smoking?   Will I wish I hadn't lit up?
  • How long will it be before I quit again? Weeks...months...years? When illness strikes?
  • Will it be any easier the next time around?
  • What benefits will smoking offer me that I can't find smoke-free replacements for?
  • Is smoking now worth giving up all of the work I've invested in cessation?

These are the questions you must seriously consider when the urge to smoke seems so important that you're ready to throw everything you've worked for away and give in.  

The truth of the matter is that smoking offers you nothing of value, and that empty feeling you have that smoking used to fill will go away in time...as long as you don't smoke.

Keep your memory green and don't lose sight of the reasons you quit smoking. They are no less true today than they were when you quit, but if you're not careful, they can feel less critical.

Be patient with yourself and allow the healing process to take place, regardless of how long it takes. Nurture and protect your quit program because it's the path to a healthier and happier life that you deserve.

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