How to get over a smoking ‘slip-up’

Caving in and having a smoke after you’ve given up is not the end of the world, and neither is it an excuse to start the smoking habit again.

Here are some tips if you’ve momentarily lost your footing:

  • Slip-ups happen. They happened when you were being potty-trained too but you still managed to graduate from nappies to grown-up pants, didn’t you? So, have faith and don’t be too hard on yourself. Think of the smoking part of you as a small child; be encouraging of him or her.
  • Specifically, be careful about the words you use to talk to yourself (yes, we all do it, even you; it’s called thinking!). Every time you judge yourself harshly and label yourself a failure, you are one step closer to believing the self-talk. Self-talk can have a huge impact on your success so make sure you’re spouting the right stuff and then repeat it often!
  • Why did it happen? Take a moment to understand what triggered the slip-up. Keep a ‘smoke-free’ journal and make a note of any smoke-related thoughts or cravings, the circumstances in which they arose and how you beat them. This can be a really useful reminder for how to beat them again.
  • At worse, it’s a temporary setback. It’s certainly not a return to ‘square one’ and it doesn’t make you a smoker again. Resist, like the plague, any defeatist self-talk about going back to smoking regularly. That’s just nonsense.
  • Remember, becoming addicted takes practise but becoming un-addicted takes practise too. If you’ve slipped up, then you’ve just not practised enough yet.
  • Think about all the things you’ve already learned how to do through sheer persistence and write them down (ride a bike/ car, walk, learn your mother tongue or another language etc). Add stop smoking to the list and imagine as vividly as possible it has already happened.
  • Stop using that rude four letter ‘f’ word (fail of course!). You only fail when you give up trying. A slip-up does not mean you cannot quit for good.

And when you’ve done all that…

  • Remember all the days you have been smoke-free, and then go to the day just before you did that and imagine looking into that smoke-free future. Be proud of what you have achieved rather than upset about what you haven’t.
  • And start again. Instantly! There is no logic whatsoever in thinking that one cigarette is all it takes to knock you off course…or off your horse, even. Just imagine a tiny cigarette coming towards you and unhorsing you in a jousting competition! It really is that stupid.
  • Remind yourself of why you quit in the first place. What is it that is more important to you than smoking? Reconnect with the emotions behind those reasons.
  • And finally, if quitting forever seems too big a goal, then make a more acceptable goal. This is your journey, we’re all different and you must find what works for you. You may choose to be smoke-free every other day initially, or every other week, or just on weekdays. This will tell you something important about yourself; learn from it.

A personal reflection on perfectionism and guilt

Personally, I think that most people on their quit smoking journey have enough pressure letting go of the addiction without piling on the additional pressure of never slipping up. As a hypnotherapist I have seen plenty of people crippled by perfectionism and guilt and I’ve not yet found one that’s happy about it. My approach to smoking cessation does not involve a big stick, it is gentle, personal and builds a positive expectation of becoming smoke-free. For some this happens instantly in the first session. For others, it can take two or three. My GiveUpTheSmokes programme consists of two sessions with a third ‘top-up’ session which can be taken within twelve months. If you’re looking to stop smoking and would like to talk to me about it, please contact me.

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