The First Week of Being a Non-Smoker

If you’ve made it past your first day quitting smoking, congratulations! The next week is likely to be the most difficult period within your quitting cycle, but you have the strength to overcome it.

The first week in a non-smoker’s new life is the most difficult for them. It is a time when the psychological aspects of cigarette addiction and the physical withdrawal from nicotine itself occurs. This can feel stressful, anxiety-ridden, angry, and even overwhelming at times. You may find yourself experiencing emotional responses that you may otherwise not have. It is common to be very tired, short-tempered, or even to experience intense bursts of anger during this period of time. This can make it very difficult to refrain from smoking, but with the right coping skills and tools, you will be successful.

The First Week is Difficult

This particular stage in the quitting process is one in which many emotions may come up, but these emotions tend to be temporary. You are likely to experience cravings during this time, although cravings typically only last about five minutes. These cravings may occur several times a day in the first few days that you quit, but will eventually reduce in number until they occur only occasionally. Think of your quitting process this way; quitting is temporary, and so are cravings. The health benefits you will receive from quitting smoking far outweigh the downsides of smoking.

Fortunately, there are a number of tips you can use to ensure your success. Before you quit, or even if you are quitting right now, remember these important tips:

  • Remind yourself that each craving is a temporary, transient experience. If you can distract yourself for just five minutes, you will likely succeed over the craving. 

  • Remember your reasons for quitting, too. Your motivations are your own, but they can be a great way to keep yourself on track when you are experiencing difficult cravings or emotions. Consider keeping a list for yourself; this will help to keep you on track.

  • At some point, your brain is going to try to rationalize having a cigarette. If you can  determine what these rationalizations will be in advance, you can help to convince yourself to avoid them when they occur. For example, you may rationalize that one cigarette won’t be the end of the world. You may decide that a difficult situation warrants having a cigarette. Or, you may decide that smoking when you drink alcohol is ok, as long as you don’t smoke the rest of the time. By identifying these in advance, you can remind yourself that they are rationalizations when they occur. This can prevent you from falling back into those same daily habits.

  • Drinking water is extremely important. Water will help to remove nicotine from your system more quickly, but is also extremely important for general health. This will also give you something to preoccupy yourself with. Additionally, drinking plenty of water will help to ward off food cravings. While coffee and alcohol may make cravings worse, instead of better, herbal tea and fruit juice is also a good choice.

  • Practice distraction techniques when your cravings or difficult emotions occur. Remember that it may seem as if everything is stacked against your quitting efforts at times. Again, these are temporary thought processes. With will power, distraction, and keeping yourself busy, you can keep yourself from becoming mired in these thoughts.

  • Change your routine, from the very first day you quit. If you typically wake up, and smoke while drinking, consider waking up and going to a local coffee shop for your java.  Avoid other situations in which you would normally smoke. Right after meals, during your drive or commute to work, and when you first get home from work are all high-risk points in time. Consider what you can do differently around these times throughout the day. Maybe you choose to take the bus home from work, rather than drive. Or, perhaps you go out to eat for the first few days. Do whatever you need to do to stay away from smoking.

  • Reach out to your contact network. This may be friends, therapists, or family members who have agreed to support you while you quit smoking. Just speaking with a friend for five minutes can sometimes be enough to get through a craving.

Stay Strong

The first week is the most difficult during the quitting process. If you can power through the first week of quitting smoking, you stand a higher chance of succeeding in the end. You may always have mild cravings or urges to smoke, but these will reduce in intensity to a level that is far easier to overcome. Stay focused, dedicated, and remember why you are on the path you are on.

Issues During the First Week

During the first week without cigarettes, you will also likely experience:

  • Cravings
    The nicotine itself is the addictive ingredient in smokeless tobacco. You will still experience cravings, although you will crave your chosen tobacco form.

  • Irritability and Intense Emotions
    You will still experience nicotine withdrawal in many of the same ways that a smoker would. You may experience anxiety, irritability, and anger. You will need to be patient with yourself; ask others around you to be patient, too.

  • Food Cravings
    People who are withdrawing from nicotine often experience food cravings. You may find yourself very hungry. Ward this off with crunchy fruits and vegetables.

But don’t let these negative side effects deter you. Remember that they are only temporary, a small blip on the radar leading to a healthier life.

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