The American Cancer Society is marking the 36th Great American Smokeout on November 17, and countless Americans will wake up with the good intentions to quit smoking forever. Yet the decision to stop smoking is often the easiest part. People are quite surprised by the physical and emotional changes that will occur in themselves throughout their journey to lead a life without nicotine.
"Everyone is different when it comes to the symptoms they will experience when they are trying to kick a nicotine addiction," explains Dr. Roger Handtke, a family practice physician on staff at both Pinnacle Hospital and Franciscan St. Anthony Hospital in Crown Point. "For some, nicotine patches are quite effective. For others, a drug such as Wellbutrin can help with emotional changes. No matter what the symptoms might be, it's important to pick a day of the week to quit and go with it. If it doesn't work, try again."
Because despite how long someone has smoked, eliminating nicotine in the body can always improve one's health. In fact, studies show that within six years of quitting, nearly all of the nicotine and tar can be eliminated from the lungs. Of course, quitting takes not only commitment from the smokers themselves, but also from their support system of family and friends. And since withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from 45 days to 6 months, having a plan for after the cigarettes are gone is essential.
Addiction counselor Stephen Lanterman of New Leaf Resources in Lansing offers the following suggestions:
• Set up a phone tree filled with understanding, supporting people whom you can turn to when you are going through a rough time.
• Write yourself a small letter reminding yourself why you wanted to quit in the first place.
• Utilize thought blocking techniques, essentially visualizing how good it's going to feel when you quit smoking and become a healthier individual.
"Many people simply underestimate the emotions and difficulties one might go through while they quit smoking," Lanterman says. "But with a strong support system, you can do it."