I'm addicted to smoking. How can I stop?

I'm planning to have baby, so I have to quit smoking - but it's hard. Sometimes it's not a physical need, it's mental.

I cannot help myself from thinking about smoking. What can I do to get rid of this addiction?

Rebecca Duellman
Rebecca Duellman
MA, Applied Psychology, Specializing in Forensic Psychology issues.

Hi. Good for you in planning ahead to do what's healthiest for your baby (and yourself). That's a great first step! It's also good that you are able to identify that it's not always a physical need that's driving the addiction.

For the next steps, I would suggest trying to figure out when the psychological cravings for a cigarette occur. The psychological (or mental) cravings are usually based out of habit, such as having a cigarette after a meal. And if you're consciously trying to quit, you'll find the craving starts with simply thinking about having a cigarette, then usually moves on to thinking about how good it made you feel, etc., etc. Well, if I'm on a diet and I continue to let myself think about the ice cream sitting in the freezer, eventually I'll give in and eat it.

You're going to have thoughts about smoking a cigarette. That's normal and, for the most part, out of your control. But you choose whether or not to CONTINUE thinking and dwelling about it after that initial thought. That's what you would have to work on changing. When you have that initial thought, acknowledge it ("Ok, I kind of want a cigarette now."), but then change the thoughts that typically follow. Distract yourself, think about something else, do something else, whatever it takes to get your mind off of that cigarette.

I've suggested to clients before that they should plan these scenarios out ahead of time so they already know what they're going to do when the time comes. Write down when you usually have the craving for a cigarette and then write down new thoughts or things to do to get your mind off of it. Eventually, it will become easier and easier to brush off that initial thought until you no longer have it.

Best of luck, and you have a really great motivator to quit - your baby!

Richie (Yerachmiel)  Donowitz
Richie (Yerachmiel) Donowitz
Experienced - Compassionate- Measurable Results

Hopefully you feel you have the time to follow this procedure.

1. For a week - log when you smoke - time, place and activity

2. Plan on cutting back 10% for a week.Cut out the easiest times.

3.Next change the times and and activities for 3 days - consider water or candy or gum if it is very tough. 

4. Cut another 10% each week until you are done. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

It is very good news that you realize the risks of smoking cigarettes while pregnant and are willing to stop.

Thinking about smoking is a typical and frequent reaction to being without the substance.

Be creative with what you know about yourself to distract you when this psychological urge comes up.  

My suggestions are to imagine smoking if you find this would relieve the sense of wanting to smoke.

Or, do the opposite and remind yourself of all the good reasons to not smoke.

Also, since you're planning pregnancy then ask your partner for ideas on how to make the psychological feeling to want to smoke, feel less intense.

Another suggestion is that your partner is your texting buddy to stop smoking.   With AA groups, a sponsor is always available for the alcoholic who feels distress about the urge to drink.   

Having a trusted and caring person to tell about your problem helps in many situations.  Maybe it will help you to stop smoking.

Good luck!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC, CCTP
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC, CCTP
I tailor my therapeutic approach to each client's strengths and goals

Quitting smoking can be difficult. It's also true that there is part that is sometimes a physical need and a part that is often connected to emotions in some way. From the way that you wrote this, it sounds like you may have been able to stop smoking physically, but still have cravings.

One thing you can do is talk with your primary care physician or OB/GYN about whether there is anything that you can take to help with the cravings. Sometimes that can very helpful.

As far as the more emotional or mental piece, these things come to mind:

  • Sometimes a crucial part is looking at the habit of smoking and seeing what else you can do to keep your mind and hands busy. There are sometimes toys, like those available at Office Playground, that may help to keep you physically occupied.
  • There can also be changes or additions to your routine because I imagine that smoking took up a great deal of your time. Maybe when you have the temptation to get up and go to have a cigarette, you could have several other things that you can get up and do instead. The list is endless, but a few examples could be doing some physical exercise (with the permission of your doctor) just for a couple minutes because that could help with the craving as well, completing a puzzle, learning a new activity that requires using your hands (painting or knitting, perhaps).
  • Another piece of quitting smoking is often linked to anxiety or other emotional changes, perhaps irritability. Depending on what it is that you may be feeling,  learning other strategies to use can be helpful as well.
  • This can all be quite overwhelming and a very big life change. I would recommend that if things do not become easier for you, consider talking with a therapist. Then you could not only have some more strategies or ideas directly related to you, but you could have very direct support for what you are trying to do.

I give you a lot of credit!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal, as if you want to hurt or kill yourself or someone else, or are in crisis, call 800-273-8255 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), call 911, or proceed to your local emergency room.

It can be challenging to quite anything once we set our mind to it.  We often crave the things more that we know we can not or should not have.  With that being said I would encourage you to become aware of the chemical dependency part that cigarettes have on your brain and your body.  Then make yourself aware of the mental part the habit part.  Often times people will engage in smoking again just from the mere social aspect of it.  Make yourself aware of these and devise a plan of the things you will do instead of going out on smoke breaks, or the ritual of smoking in the car on on the back porch.  There are plenty of support groups out there to help with this as well.  Smoking cessation is a good resource.  

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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