"Wait a minute. I've come here to quit smoking, not to plan for the next cigarette!"
This is a common response from patients in our residential program when they learn we will be sitting down to create plans to cope with a lapse. After committing so much time and energy to developing a successful quit plan, thinking about what they would do if they slipped can produce a great deal of anxiety and self-doubt. The truth is that stopping smoking is hard and successfully preventing a relapse (a return to an old pattern of use) means looking at all areas of our tobacco use, even those that make us feel uncomfortable.
A message we repeatedly share with our patients is that a lapse does not mean failure. A simple mistake does not mean a person has to give up on their hopes and plans to be smoke-free. In fact, a lapse can be an incredibly powerful learning experience! We can choose to view it as an opportunity to reflect on the trigger that led to tobacco use and develop new strategies to manage similar situations in the future. However, in order to benefit from this experience, we must have a 'crisis plan' in place to ensure a lapse does not turn into a relapse.
It's important to identify the tools that will work best for you. Here are some ideas our residential group came up with this week:
* Throw away ALL tobacco products
* Call someone to help you get back on track/get supportive accountability
* Physically remove yourself from the situation
* Go for a walk to clear your head
* Remember all your reasons for wanting to stop smoking
* "Disempower the lapse" by focusing on the positive progress you have made
* Forgive yourself and re-commit to your plans of living a smoke-free life