Tobacco cessation is not a one-time treatment. It’s not like taking an antibiotic for an infection – tobacco addiction is a chronic, lifelong condition that requires lifelong maintenance. Staying quit is the final, most important stage of a process that is characterized by relapse. If you are fighting to stay tobacco free, being prepared for the situations and urges that lead to relapse is critical, as is being committed to taking aggressive action to stay quit.
When symptoms such as depression, insomnia and irritability hit, find positive ways to work through the symptoms. Download the “I Quit Using Tobacco, and Now I’m Feeling…” tear sheet.
Most “slips” occur within the first week of quitting smoking. If you slip – that is, if you have a puff, or one or two cigarettes after you’ve quit – it does not mean that you will start smoking again and incur a full-blown relapse. Many people do relapse after a slip, so it is important to remember not to “allow” yourself a slip because you think you can stop after one cigarette.
Very often a single slip triggers negative feelings, self-criticism, and depression. This may lead to a sense that you have no control and, possibly, to more slips. Several slips in a row, or facing conditions where you are seriously tempted to start smoking again, may increase the chance that you will relapse.
When you are faced with a strong temptation to smoke:
Find more about preventing slips from WebMD.
Strong desires to smoke can happen sometimes months or even years after you’ve quit. Often, these unexpected urges can be the most dangerous. But relapse never occurs in a vacuum – there is always a triggering event or circumstance that creates craving, poor judgment, and ultimately tobacco use.
You can use the same methods to stay quit as you did to help you through withdrawal. Think ahead to those times when you may be tempted to smoke and plan on how you will use alternatives and activities to cope with these situations. For instance, remember why you quit (was it for your health? your children?) and use your withdrawal methods to “redirect” your urge to smoke.
Find coping skills like managing cravings, redirection, creating positive actions, and get information about common triggers and solutions at our Providers page.
If you feel you may relapse, it’s a good time to call on support. Many former smokers say a support network of family and friends was very important during their quit attempt. Other people who may offer support and encouragement are coworkers, your family doctor, and members of support groups for quitters. You can check with your employer, health insurance company, or local hospital to find support groups, or call the Maine Tobacco HelpLine.
Most relapses occur within the first three months after quitting. As someone working to stay quit, you must be prepared for difficult situations that can lead to relapse. But if you do start smoking again, don’t be discouraged. Remember, most people try several times before they finally quit. Treat your relapse as a learning experience that you can use later. Every attempt to quit moves you closer to success.
For some, a concern about weight gain can lead to a decision not to quit. The truth is, weight gain that follows quitting smoking is managable. Yyour healthcare provider, TTS, or the HelpLine, can help you develop a plan that will minimize the risk. It is much more dangerous to continue smoking than it is to gain a small amount of weight.
Smokers have come to use nicotine to help cope with stress and unpleasant emotions. When you are in the process of quitting, it is important that you learn new ways of handling stress.
Let your healthcare provider know about your past tobacco use and let them know you’ve quit, so you can be sure you’re getting the preventive healthcare you need. Tobacco use puts you at risk for certain health-related illnesses, so part of your healthcare should focus on related screening and preventive measures to help you stay as healthy as possible, even after you’ve quit.
If you have any health concerns that may be related to your tobacco use, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Staying tobacco free when you are pregnant or a new mother means confronting difficult challenges. For new mothers, relapse is common within a year of giving birth. Factors for such high rates of relapse include financial stress, the stress of taking care of a newborn child, a partner who smokes, depression, or a lack of support.
If you are pregnant or a new mother: