Smoking is a challenging and complicated addiction. Quitting smoking is no small task and you will need a lot of support to be successful. You need the best tools to help with the physical and emotional symptoms, and acupuncture is a great resource that can help you succeed. What follows is a thorough tour through a variety of tools, ideas and insights about how to give up cigarettes for good. Please take the time to read through all of this, and if you live in Sebastopol or any of its surrounding areas like Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Graton, Forestville, Occidental, or Bodega I am accepting new patients and can help you like I have helped others break free from their addiction to nicotine by using acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms usually reach their peak 2 to 3 days after you quit, and are gone within 1 to 3 months. It takes at least 3 months for your brain chemistry to return to normal after you quit smoking.
It is important to know the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal so that you know that these symptoms are strictly due to the withdrawal. They will not last forever, however uncomfortable they are right now. You can think of them as symptoms of healing. It can also help to think that you can either go through them now, or go through them later. In order to quit smoking, you have to be willing to experience this discomfort.
We tend to want to soothe and eliminate uncomfortable situations and experiences, but these are ones that we can't walk away from. Embrace the discomfort and breathe into it, knowing that there will be a time that you won’t experience these and will be free from the powerful addictive nature of nicotine. If at all possible, take these moments of intense symptoms and cravings and be alone to meditate, walk, breathe fresh air and experience the emotions that are coming up for you. They may be uncomfortable but learning to embrace this discomfort will only enable you to be a healthier, more resourceful and wise individual.
The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can begin within 30 minutes of your last use of tobacco. Symptoms will depend on your level of addiction. Factors such as how long you used tobacco and how much tobacco you use on a daily basis will impact the severity of your symptoms.
Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include
These symptoms will often go away within a couple of weeks, lessening in severity day by day. Sometimes a day will be easier, and you think you are clear of the feelings and then they come back due to stress or boredom or other emotions or circumstances. Hang in there! Remind yourself that these feelings are part of the process.
How to Manage Cravings
You won't be able to avoid all of your triggers, so you will need to learn how to manage when they come up. YOU WILL BE TRIGGERED AND YOU WILL GET CRAVINGS. When a craving happens, remember: cravings typically last 5 to 10 minutes. It might be uncomfortable, but try to wait it out. Make a list of things you can do to get through the craving. Here are a few to try.
Think About Your Reasons for Quitting
Do Something Other than Smoking
Quitting smoking is a conscious, mindful resistance to the addiction compounded with a willingness to experience the discomfort of the withdrawal.
Learn to recognize your smoking triggers. Be mindful about when you want to smoke (when you’re lonely, bored, anxious, tired, after a meal, frustrated, with your coffee, during a break). If you take the time to notice these times, you will start to have a way to manage these times of conditioned response.
You are conditioned to relate these experiences and emotions with smoking. You need to have the cognition that, for example, you love to smoke in your car on long drives. So be prepared that you will crave during this time. This knowledge will help you stay strong during that time and not let the conditioned response and addiction trick you into smoking a cigarette, when what you desire is clean lungs and a long healthy life free of smoking related disease.
Get yourself a small journal to carry in your pocket, you can log your craving times and write down any emotions or triggers that are occurring. It can help to discharge some of the intensity of the moment and will help you get to know your triggers better so you can manage them. You can also record these moments in an app on your phone. It might seem like annoying busy work but this can be important to your process. These little things are worth it and can be very helpful, even if they seem corny and like a waste of time.
If you can, avoid situations that initiate the trigger response. If you love to smoke while you watch TV then minimize your viewing, or instead, go for a walk! You can go back to your programs after your cravings and addiction have minimized in intensity or relinquished. Remember: this is not forever, this is your adjustment period! If you love to smoke while you walk your dog, try a different path. If you’re still getting cravings while walking your dog, plan ahead ways to manage these cravings.
Know that when you crave you are going to text your ‘quit smoking buddy’ (someone who agrees to support you, if they’re someone who has quit themselves – even better!). You can manage it with a 10 minute meditation, or a series of breathing exercises. Try checking out YouTube for some different types – there are breathing and meditation exercises for everyone. Include the amount of time you would like to spend and you will see many options. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a personal favorite of mine.
Let Your Loved Ones Know
Finally, congratulate yourself and continue to treat yourself to special activities or things in honor of your work. If its difficult for you to give these things to yourself, please challenge this way of being. For now, in this time of transition, you’re going to need to be very generous with things that make you feel taken care of and like life is generous. Give yourself as much as you can - anything you can do for yourself while you are in this time of change will make it an easier adjustment. This is not a normal time for you. You won’t be like this forever. Giving yourself an extra day off, a trip to the department store for a new clothing item, a hike in the woods, a trip to the beach, an evening on the couch watching a movie, a massage. Give yourself whatever you can so that you can feel nourished in this time! It will be worth it, to help you quit smoking. And you just keep that mantra going, “it won’t be like this forever”. There will be a day that you don’t even think about smoking cigarettes. The thought will be a distant memory, and the act will seem strange and foreign. For now, be gentle, take care of yourself, and have some pride that you are doing this for yourself.
Acupuncture Is Very Effective To Help Stop Smoking.
Acupuncture has been used to help combat addiction and curb cigarette cravings very effectively. Many people have had success and research supports these claims. Acupuncture helps with smoking addiction in many ways. It stops jitters, curbs cravings, lessens irritability and restlessness, increases relaxation and helps detoxify the body. It can also restore balance in your constitution and jumpstart the healing process.
Acupuncture Can Reduce Cravings, But Will NOT Change Habits.
Physical cravings are only one aspect of cigarette addiction. Many times, the habit of smoking is harder to stop than the physical addiction. If smoking helps you cope during difficult emotional situations, not smoking can make you feel naked and vulnerable. If smoking is part of a daily ritual, not smoking can make your day feel “off.” All of this is normal and challenging.
You should use all the support systems that you have available. Get help from family and friends. Join a support group. Exercise. Find new smoke-free activities. Stopping a smoking addiction requires support—physically, emotionally and socially.
Acupressure Techniques Can Help with Cravings
Ear massage is one way you can cope with cravings at home. It releases endorphins and these chemicals are natural painkillers. It also stimulates acupuncture points which help balance Qi.
There are many ear massage techniques. You can place your thumbs in the widest upper part of your ears and massage in circular motions. You can massage the small inner crevices and the front of your ear where it attaches to your head. And you can massage your earlobes, with gentle pulls and circular motions.
REALLY VERY IMPORTANT – KEY MAGIC TECHNIQUE!!!
And perhaps one of the forgotten and magical techniques: don’t give up! If you make a mistake and give into the addiction, you can get right back up and try again. I know people that have actually bought a pack of cigarettes, then walked out the door and dropped them immediately into the trash can. Its never too late to say “no, thank you! I choose health!” If you smoke one cigarette from that pack you gave in and bought, you can get rid of the rest. And try again! Every smoke-free moment is a winner and gets you closer to your goal of being a non-smoker!
Chase L. Desso, LAc