Cigarette butt
Cold Turkey

Cold Turkey Facts

No matter how you decided to quit smoking, it is a decision that takes great willpower and perseverance. However, this seems even more true when you make the decision to kick the habit “Cold Turkey.” Even though it seems like the hardest, it is still the most frequently used method when it comes to quitting smoking and with proper planning and a lot of strength and willpower it can be successful. In fact, there are studies that even show cold turkey is just a viable and successful an option sometimes as using other cessation methods.

There are a multitude of ways to try to quit smoking, even if you aim to quit without any medication or nicotine replacement therapies. Weighing the options of what is right for you will help to determine the quit smoking plan that best suits you and your life and in turn give you the greatest chance for success.

Quitting smoking is a commitment no matter what, but there is a certain level of bravery associated with going on your willpower alone. The cold turkey method requires taking hold of the reigns and going for it. However, if you plan to be successful, you will need to be prepared for what’s to come. Unfortunately, there is no best method, no magic cure-all that works for everyone trying to quit smoking. And it is because everyone’s experience is different and unique, that each smoker has many different obstacles to triumph over during their unique quitting process. There are, however, several tips and practices you can adopt to help you cope and get through your difficult cravings and unfortunate slip-ups.

Tobacco Free Colleges’ goal is to aid you in the quitting process by providing practical, real-world advice that can be easily adjusted to your unique needs. Increasing your chances of success, and help you win the fight against tobacco and quit smoking for good.

How to Get Started

As simple and straightforward as this concept seems, the first, perhaps most difficult step to quitting is truly being ready to put the cigarettes or chewing tobacco down once and for all. Most tobacco users know they need to stop smoking, but deciding they are finally prepared to do so is a very difficult prospect. Lack of a real drive and desire to quit is setting yourself up for failure from the start.

The real fact is that many smokers and tobacco users will attempt to quit several times using just as many methods. Just to end up right back where they started, discouraged, and less likely to try going through the withdrawal process again. However failure should not keep you from trying again; failure should become one of the best motivators to give quitting another go. First remember that it is an addiction, recognize it for what it is, forgive your past failures and start to prepare yourself for success the right way.

Educate Yourself

Let’s face it, you are going to have to be tough. This will be one the hardest things you will ever have to do, so make sure you prepare yourself mentally for the challenges ahead. One of the best ways to prepare to quit smoking or using tobacco successfully is to educate yourself about your nicotine addiction– this is your key to your success.

Some may scoff at nicotine addiction but to put in perspective, some researchers believe that is an even harder habit to break than an addiction to heroin. To break these habits down, you much recognize your physical addiction to the nicotine as well as your psychological addiction to the habit itself. Knowing what triggers your addiction and your cravings will help you combat them later with the proper tools and tricks. Once you know how your addiction ticks, you will be able to take control and beat it once and for all.

Planning your Time to Quit

It may seem a little silly at first, but picking an official quit date is an important step in proper preparation. You will want to choose your quit date wisely. Try and consider your life as a whole and identify the best time for you. You will want a day and time that is likely to be less stressful. For instance if the end of the month is a busy time at work, you may want to wait until your stressful time passes. If money woes get you down, try quitting right around payday, so you won’t have that low bank account stress to contend with. Whatever time works best for you is really an important thing to consider. Otherwise, you run the risk of setting yourself up for failure before you even get started.

Now most ex-smokers would agree that the first week of quitting smoking or using smokeless tobacco is the toughest. It is when the most difficult aspects of your physical and psychological addiction to nicotine rear themselves. Withdrawal symptoms often begin in as little as an hour after having your last nicotine fix as your body needs to keep what has become a “normal” level of nicotine in your body at all times. We’ve all experienced the first withdrawal symptoms, cravings. At first these desires will seem a constant, but rest assured this is only temporary.

Depending on how heavy a tobacco user you were the craving will begin to subside within the first two to three days. These first three days are when most generally “slip” once. Don’t be discouraged, it happens to many, including myself. If you have made it this far without completely falling back on old habits, pat yourself on the back, you have done a fantastic job. Even though the quitting process is far from over, you’ve won your first battle, and you should be proud.

Once you get started, keep track of each day you go smoke free. This will help encourage you and track your progress as you go, keeping you accountable and motivated.

5 Tips to Get through the First Week of Cravings:

Drink plenty of water when you feel a craving coming on.
Drinking water helps in flushing remaining nicotine from your system faster.

Distract yourself and stay busy.
Keeping busy, especially during the first few weeks of quitting will help distract you from those nagging cravings.

A craving is short lived. Not the end of the world.
Carvings last, at most, 30 minutes so find a way to distract yourself. It is the perfect opportunity to introduce more positive habits into your life and make them routine.

Take slow, deep breaths and relax.
There is a lot of anxiety to deal with when quitting. Ten slow, deep breaths will help lower heart rate, blood pressure and help calm you down.

Logic is your friend in dismissing craving.
This is the perfect opportunity to give yourself a pep talk and tell  yourself “this is only a temporary feeling.” That “I CAN handle this.”

Coping with Nicotine Withdrawal

The symptoms of withdrawal are going to happen; there’s no getting around it. But in both the short and long term, withdrawal symptoms can be managed with great success. Nicotine withdrawal can rear its head in several nasty forms, however none are impossible to overcome. Making sure you are prepared for your upcoming withdrawals will only help increase your chances of success. Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue/drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Depressed mood

You won’t get all the symptoms, of course, but it’s important to understand what you might experience. By making yourself aware of what is possible to come you will be better equipped to handle whatever your journey to quit smoking throws at you. Consider even preparing an emergency kit to help you keep the cravings and symptoms in check. Keep aspirin, gum, water, whatever might help you to cope, with you to make the symptoms as minimal as possible.

Physical withdrawal symptoms are experienced their strongest during the first week. Just remember this part of nicotine withdrawal only last the first week and is just the body’s way getting rid of the nicotine and in turn, your addiction. It will become easier, but you’ll need to remind yourself to stay strong to keep the cravings at bay.

Coping with the Psychological Addiction

Tobacco users and smokers who have tried to quit but failed say the psychological aspects of nicotine withdrawal are far worse than the physical. Symptoms of depression, anger, mood swings even anger are just your body’s way of expressing the need for nicotine.

Both the physical and psychological aspects of withdrawal work closely together. Working hard to convince you that all you need is one drag or dip to feel better. It’s just one; I won’t relapse. Who’s going to know? These are all ways your mind is rationalizing your addiction. Stay strong. Keep fighting and don’t give in. It is all part of the process that you can win.

Those choosing the cold turkey method to quit smoking or using tobacco, given its nature, are a bit more likely to give in to a craving or relapse than those who choose a nicotine replacement therapy option. The urge to have just one drag or dip is a strong one.

Addiction is a fickle mistress and giving in to those cravings immediately puts you right back at the beginning of the withdrawal process and be starting all over again. In other words, as difficult as withdrawal can be, you are far better off if you fight your way through the quitting process the first time around.

Other Tips and Tricks

Change Your Routine and Avoid Triggers

Smoking is a habit. And as habits go, it’s one that invades almost every aspect of your life, because, as a tobacco user, you tend to plan your day around getting your fix. It becomes as routine as tying your shoes. In the first few weeks of quitting smoking, it is a good idea to avoid common triggers. Things like friends that still smoke, alcohol or coffee, as these are all temptations that bring those cravings to the forefront. Changing your habits and routine, even slightly, is one simple an effective way to avoid triggering those cravings.

Create a Support Network

Another crucial aspect of quitting success is a strong support network. Tell your family and friends about the journey you are on. Big life changes are stressful and difficult to deal with, talk to them about the difficulty of it all. Getting it all out in the open and listening to their words of encouragement not only helps alleviate the stress of quitting but keeps you accountable to your goals and actions along the way. Look for the positive life changes, reward you’re quitting milestones and celebrate your success, you have come a long way. These are some of the best tools at your disposal in the fight against tobacco addiction.

Stay Active and Busy

If the average cigarette takes 5 minutes to smoke, and you smoke a pack a day, when you quit cold turkey that will leave you with an hour and forty minutes of extra time on your hands. Which is why you may consider picking up a new hobby. Find something you can occupy your brain and your hands with to fill the void of the missing cigarette.

Exercise is also a natural endorphin. It will release natural feel good sensors, much like that nicotine you are used to, but in a healthy and positive way. Finding new ways to fill your day will help make the tough times pass quicker and get you through even the most difficult of cravings.

Stress Management

Let’s face it. Nothing calms you down like a smoke, right? Well, if you want to succeed you are going have to find a way to change that statement. There are several ways to deal with stress that don’t involve lighting up. Before you even begin your quit smoking journey you should identify any action or practice you can take that will help you lower your stress when you are met with something that starts to push you over the edge.

Meditation and deep breathing are two common forms of stress management that works for a lot of people trying to find a way to reduce the anxiety level. Focus on your overall goal and use redirection to coerce your mind into thinking about something other than your stress and the accompanying cravings.

If at all possible, search for a way to remove yourself from potentially stressful situations and triggers to avoid dealing with a stress craving in the first place. If you can identify specific triggers and then avoid them accordingly, you will find that stress won’t even be a factor, and you won’t be reaching for that calm down smoke anymore.

Also, if you do slip up, don’t let it add to your anxiety and stress. let it go and keep trying.

Know When You Need More Help

If quitting cold turkey just doesn’t seem to be working, don’t be afraid to get some more help. If you nicotine cravings seem to keep you on edge, you may consider a nicotine replacement option, such as patches, gum, or maybe even e-cigarettes. Hypnosis has also proven effective for many people. The point is, if you’re struggling there may be an answer out there to help you find success in your journey to kick the habit.

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