Giving Up Smoking or Alcohol. Tips for Staying on Track. (Can also be applied to eating regulation)
Cognitive processes (thought patterns) that lead to starting up again after you have initially stopped.
Learn what your high risk thoughts are. Once you know what your high risk thoughts are, you can prepare some balanced thoughts to counteract the problem thoughts.
These are some common high risk thoughts.
“I deserve to relax. I’ve worked hard today. Or, I’ve had a hard day”
“I can stop another time”.
“When the time is right I will give up for good. If I feel like going back to smoking or drinking now, maybe now isn’t the right time to give up”.
“When its meant to be, I’ll be successful in giving up permanently”.
“Telling people I’m not smoking/drinking will be awkward. No one believes any more that I will give up for good”.
Write a balanced thought for each specific problem thought. Keep the list in your wallet, or stick it on your fridge or computer screen.
For example, instead of “When the time is right, I will give up for good. If I feel like going back to smoking or drinking now, maybe now isn’t the right time to give up”.
you might try
“Whenever I give up, its going to require that I have the skill of persisting through moments when I feel like going back to my old patterns. Now is a good time to practice that skill and build it up”.
Write down your balanced thought responses before you need them. If you’re avoiding preparing balanced thought responses because it feels difficult, realize that it will only be more difficult to try to do it in moments when your commitment is wavering. Find someone to help you if need be.
Situation cues are very powerful. If you always smoke or drink at Thursday night poker night then don’t arrive at poker night in a hurried, stressed out state. You’ll need some reserves of self regulatory capacity, so have a relaxed day before you go. Plan a relaxed day, or plan a way of relaxing before a known high risk situation.
Practice smoke/drink refusal.
Practice what you’re going to say before you need to say it. Say the words out loud.
I know someone who decided to tell friends she was doing a month long cleanse involving only drinking on 3 days out the week to explain why she wasn’t drinking some nights (she was trying to reduce her drinking rather than giving up entirely). This gave her enough time to firmly establish her new behaviour before she needed to give any further explanations to other people.
If you’re thinking “Telling people I’m not smoking/drinking will be awkward. No one believes any more that I will give up for good”.
you could try instead
“It might feel awkward but I can cope with a little bit of awkwardness. The awkward feelings won’t last long, and my health and well-being is important.”