Sometimes people say stopping smoking is like giving up your best friend and is not only something the smoker looks forward to but also something they rely on. It is always there when needed. However, the accompanying feelings of doing harm to your health can result in disappointment that you are not living up to your personal values. This can be a love/hate relationship. It is common to feel, “I can’t live with it, and I can’t live without it!” You are not alone. It is normal to go through stages of grief in stopping smoking. These feelings typically include: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
‘Denial’ of the importance of stopping smoking can be countered by remembering (or writing down) the positives of not smoking and the negatives of smoking.
It is also normal to experience the feeling of ‘Anger’, especially if you feel you have to stop something you have been relying on like losing a friend. Recognizing that there is a life (probably more satisfying) without smoking can ease the pain. Recognize it is your decision to choose not to smoke. Next, ‘Bargaining’ is easy to recognize. People will go to great lengths to hang on to an addiction. Common thoughts are: “I’ll only smoke during specific times of the day”, “I’ll substitute cigars”, “I’ll use electronic cigarettes in places I can’t smoke”, “I’ll change brands”, “I’ll only have one,” etc. You have decided to become smoke-free so don’t waste your energy in bargaining. Put the energy to use in positives.
Next, a feeling of some ‘Depression’ is fairly common. Remember nicotine causes an increase of dopamine in the brain, the feeling of pleasure. Eliminating this, especially when the brain wants it, can result in a low mood. Negative mood is also a sign of nicotine withdrawal. Exercise and support from friends are common ways to improve this. If negative mood or feelings of depression become more severe, a health care professional should be involved.
And finally ‘Acceptance’ of tobacco dependence is an overwhelming and destructive addiction that kills over half of those who continue to let it control them can be a last step in grieving for the cigarette. You are writing the next chapter in your life and it does not include cigarettes.