Rationalizations for Smoking

How to Overcome Junkie Thinking

Thoughts of smoking can creep in and throw you off balance if you're not prepared for them. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons people break down and light up that first cigarette is due to junkie thinking. How do you defeat those tempting thoughts to have just one? Understanding how your mind tries to negotiate while withdrawing from nicotine addiction is an important first step. Most, if not all quitters experience those urges to give in and smoke, especially during the first few months. Addiction doesn't let go without throwing some mental chatter and bargaining our way. As one of our forum members, Gaylene said so well:

'A good way to think of them(thoughts of smoking) is---ElNico is dying. These urges are him struggling to get you to feed him. The longer he goes without being fed the dimmer his voice will get. He will starve to death. As he gets weaker, the strength he is losing is being transferred to you. You are gaining strength each time you are successful at not smoking. If you were to light up, ElNico would smile his evil smile and say, "I tricked her into feeding me, so now I'm gonna be in charge again!" Don't let this happen.'

Knowing what to expect and seeing urges as a part of the healing which is taking place within you will keep you in control. The following list of common rationalizations and their responses may sound familiar. Chances are you'll identify with some of these statements. Stay ahead of the game by arming yourself with knowledge, and preserve the freedom you've worked so hard to achieve.

Common Rationalizations*

Rationalization: I'm under a lot of stress, and smoking relaxes me.
Your body is used to nicotine, so you naturally feel more relaxed when you give your body a substance upon which it has grown dependent. But nicotine really is a stimulant; it raises your heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline level. Most ex-smokers feel much less nervous just a few weeks after quitting.

Rationalization: Smoking makes me more effective in my work.

Response: Trouble concentrating can be a short-term symptom of quitting, but smoking actually deprives your brain of oxygen.

Rationalization: I've already cut down to a safe level.

Response: Cutting down is a good first step, but there's a big difference in the benefits to you between smoking a little and not smoking at all. Besides, smokers who cut back often inhale more often and more deeply to maintain their nicotine intake. Also, carbon monoxide intake often increases with a switch to low-tar cigarettes.

Rationalization: It's too hard to quit. I don't have the willpower.

Response: Quitting and staying away from cigarettes is hard, but it's not impossible. More than 3 million Americans quit every year. It's important for you to remember that many people have had to try more than once, and try more than one method, before they became ex-smokers, but they have done it, and so can you.

Rationalization: I'm worried about gaining weight.

Response: Most smokers who gain more than 5 - 10 pounds are eating more. Gaining weight isn't inevitable. There are things you can do to help keep your weight stable.

Rationalization: I don't know what to do with my hands.

Response: That's a common complaint among ex-smokers.

You can keep your hands busy in other ways; it's just a matter of getting used to the change of not holding a cigarette. Try holding something else, such as a pencil, paper clip, or marble. Practice simply keeping your hands clasped together. If you're at home, think of all the things you wish you had time to do, make a list, and consult the list for alternatives to smoking whenever your hands feel restless. Take a look at this list of 101 Things to Do Instead of Smoking for more ideas.

Rationalization: Sometimes I have an almost irresistible urge to have a cigarette.

Response: This is a common feeling, especially within the first 1-3 weeks. The longer you're off cigarettes, the more your urges probably will come at times when you smoked before, such as when you're drinking coffee or alcohol or are at a cocktail party where other people are smoking. These are high-risk situations, and you can help yourself by avoiding them whenever possible. If you can't avoid them, you can try to visualize in advance how you'll handle the desire for a cigarette if it arises in those situations.

Rationalization: I blew it. I smoked a cigarette.

Response: Smoking one or a few cigarettes doesn't mean you've "blown it." It does mean that you have to strengthen your determination to quit and try again--harder. Don't forget that you got through several days, perhaps even weeks or months, without a cigarette. This shows that you don't need cigarettes and that you can be a successful quitter.

*Adapted from Clinical Opportunities for Smoking Intervention-A Guide for the Busy Physician. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. NIH Pub. No. 86-2178. August 1986




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  • you will be twice as likely to die of a stroke

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