I am a nicotine addict. I have given up smoking several times but I always take it up again during a period of stress. I know it is no good for me so how do I get the will power to give it up for good‘
You need to learn new ways to cope with stress. You use nicotine to medicate your moods and it does this well. The problem is the health risks associated with smoking. All addiction has one similar characteristic: the choice of short term gain over long-term pain. When you are stressed, you allow yourself to indulge in a cigarette. At that moment, you convince yourself that one won’t hurt. You have forgotten that one cigarette can lead to getting hooked again.
You are ignoring the long-term consequences of this addiction. You risk emphysema, cancer, heart disease and circulation problems with this habit. If, at the moment of choice, you were fully aware of these damaging possibilities and their effects on your life, you would choose to abstain. Becoming clear on the consequences of your addiction can help to build your will power. This only works if you accept that you may suffer these consequences. Usually we protect ourselves by believing that it will never happen to us. The shock of realising otherwise can prove quite profound.
I have a friend whose father was diagnosed with lung cancer. On her first visit to see him, he was outside the ward smoking. He started coughing uncontrollably. She rang for the nurse. Before the nurse arrived, he choked to death before her eyes. Up until this day, my friend had been a heavy smoker with no intention of quitting. On her way out of the hospital, she threw her packet of cigarettes into the bin and never smoked again. Smoking was impossible. The thought of smoking immediately bought to mind an image of her father choking to death. My friend saw, in the starkest possible way, the consequences of her addiction.
You can do the same, if you have the courage. Imagine the damage smoking is doing to your body. See yourself suffering. Bring that image to mind any time you reach for a cigarette. This alone may not cure your addiction. You also need to deal with stress. Many of us over-react to stress. We tend to imagine the worst. Imagining the worst is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you find yourself doing this, stop. Focus instead on one problem at a time. Focus on a problem you can do something about.
In the past, you medicated your stress with nicotine. Now, you need a new strategy. Make your health your highest priority. Instead of indulging in a cigarette, indulge in a gym membership or a massage or a yoga class. Find a counsellor who can help you identify your stressors, and teach you how to minimise their effect. Learn some basic relaxation techniques. Choose whatever strategy feels right for you as long as it doesn’t involve smoking.