Relapse includes not just fully falling back into the addiction again, but also having just one cigarette. Why so strict? Because for an ex-smoker, one cigarette is all it takes to become addicted to smoking. Unfortunately, there are plenty of pitfalls out there, plenty of things and events that can cause you to relapse.
Part of the key to preventing relapse is knowledge—an understanding and anticipation of the causes. The following offers some causes for relapse and suggested methods of prevention:
- Celebrations: Holiday parties like New Year’s Eve or Independence Day
- Prevention: Make a list of the upcoming celebrations, and write down at least one step you will take to avoid relapsing.
- Withdrawals: Symptoms can be so difficult that they cause some to relapse.
- Alcohol: Even a casual after-work happy hour, or an after-dinner smoke can cause you to relapse.
- Prevention: Plain and simple, avoid alcohol at all costs.
- Weight gain: This is a common result of quitting smoking and thus a common reason for relapse.
- Personal tragedy: A death in the family sometimes gives people a sense of self-pity, entitlement or justification to smoke, leading to relapse.
- Prevention: Call on friends and ask them to serve as your personal relapse prevention tool; meaning for the next couple weeks you can call them at any time if you’re craving cigarette.
- Cravings & Triggers: Cravings & triggers can strike out of the blue, months or years after quitting.
- Inadequate Quit Motivation: Perhaps you tried to quit for other people.
- Prevention: Quitting smoking has to be done for you, for yourself. Rededicate yourself to quitting smoking, but this time don’t do it for anyone else but you.
If you do slip or relapse, that’s ok—lick your wounds and consider it an opportunity to safeguard yourself against that particular cause for relapse in the future. Don’t let yourself focus on the slips themselves, or you may find yourself wallowing in self-pity—and that can be just enough reason to light up again.
Bottom line, don’t be devastated if you slip. It happens. The important part isn’t having slipped, it’s how you get back up.