If you’re a smoker, you’ve probably already had every health professional you’ve ever met and a sizeable number of your friends tell you to quit smoking. You’ve probably tried quitting more times than you’d care to count, but the cravings are just impossible.
It’s true that quitting an addictive substance is one of the most difficult things you will do in your life. Your brain is so used to the influx of dopamine every time you light up that not smoking makes you feel irritable and depressed. Unfortunately, the smoker identity is a suffocating one, and it will take significant resolve to move past the habits and associations you have built up over years of use.
Smoking and Your Teeth
You’re already aware of how smoking affects your lungs and your increased risk of cancer, but did you also know how it affects your teeth. At GLO Modern Dental, Dr. Rhonda Kalasho sees the effects of smoking every day, as she strives to give patients back the smile years of smoking have destroyed.
It isn’t just that smoking launches plaque and chemicals into your oral cavity and onto your teeth, it also puts you at greater risk for gum disease in two different ways.
- Smoking actively weakens your immune system, which makes it harder for your body and gums to fight off infection.
- Smoking reduces your ability to produce saliva, our natural defense against plaque build-up.
As a result, smoking damages your body’s ability to protect your gums as well as your teeth while simultaneously filling your mouth with a cocktail of dangerous materials.
There are literally hundreds of government foundations and medical institutions that provide coherent advice on how to quit smoking, but many of them lack the empathy that you’ll need while going through this difficult transition. Before you try any of this advice, there are two things you should do.
- Find a therapist you trust: It may seem taboo to older generations, but having a trained professional talk you through this difficult time may be the key to your eventual success. Rather than taking out the inevitable frustrations of withdrawal on friends and family, vent to someone who is trained to help you push through.
- Identify your Supporters: Among your friends and family, there are sure to be enablers, people who won’t hold you accountable for the promise you made to yourself. They aren’t bad people, but you may need to avoid them until they realize you’re serious. Find the people who are most likely to tell you no when you go to buy another pack and keep them close to you. There will likely be a time when you can’t stand them, but they are the support network you need.
Tips for Quitting
Now that you’ve surrounded yourself with trustworthy people who want to see you succeed, you’re finally ready to quit smoking. Avoid the language of “trying.” It’s an unconscious way of giving yourself a pass, and we all do it whether we say we’re “trying to quit smoking” or “trying to eat healthier.” You need to be fully convinced you will succeed, so don’t undercut yourself.
Clear it All Out
Go through your car, your home, your desk, and clear out all tobacco products. Don’t leave a single cigarette or lighter anywhere you can easily access it because, in a moment of withdrawal, you will reach for it.
Identify, Then Avoid or Replace Your Triggers
You may want to keep a craving journal if you’re having trouble figuring out your key triggers. Note where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing when a craving hits to help establish a pattern.
If you know your triggers, it is best to avoid them when possible. If you usually smoke with an alcoholic drink or a cup of coffee, stay away from those until you’re in control. After a meal, replace the cigarette with gum or a small dessert.
The American Lung Association points out that many smokers use the habit to manage stress. Losing your coping mechanism and your dopamine rush at the same time is a hard hit to take. Try talking to your therapist or friends about the things they do to unwind. You may consider things like yoga, video games, cooking, or painting.
Talk to your Doctor
Discuss which NRT medications are best for your lifestyle. A couple of them are prescription only, but you can pick up the patch or nicotine gum easily at your local pharmacy. It’s important to have these options on hand, as they will help you get through the worst of the cravings. Only 6% of people successfully quit without them.
Of course, there are dozens of other little tricks that people use to get through, so why not join an online support group where you can share methods and share your experience. With a strong network of people to support you and the determination to care for yourself, you can do this.