Recovery and Confidence Moving Forward


When someone quits smoking, the body may have a difficult time adjusting to the absence of thousands of chemicals found in cigarette smoke. Each individual reacts to recovery or “withdrawal” symptoms in a different way. Some ex-smokers can smoke their last cigarette and never miss smoking or experience any discomfort. However, other smokers may experience a wide variety of unpleasant physical and mental symptoms. There is really no way to predict the degree of withdrawal symptoms to expect, since it does not seem to be dependent on the amount of cigarettes smoked, years of smoking or any other personal characteristic. The recovery symptoms listed below are the most commonly reported reasons for their occurrence and possible ways to reduce them.

  • Irritability

Perhaps the most commonly reported withdrawal symptom is irritability, being short tempered or grouchiness. Internal and external stress caused by quitting smoking is bound to upset the temperament of almost any smoker. Smokers should try to forewarn family and friends of this difficult time and ask for support and understanding for this temporary period. If possible, try to avoid stressful events, situations or other problems that might only make matters worse.

  • Lack of Concentration

Quitting smoking often occupies the mind of the new ex-smoker to such an extent that he or she is unable to concentrate on daily activities. Again, this is only a temporary condition and the ex-smoker should try to avoid complicated tasks or time consuming projects for the first few days after quitting.

  • Depression

Whether it is conscious or unconscious, smokers often view giving up cigarettes as a loss in their life and often may feel depressed or go through a period of mourning. To counteract this depression, the new ex-smoker should focus on the benefits of not smoking. Quitting smoking is actually gaining back your health and energy, rather than giving up something important.

  • Cough

Many ex-smokers will initially experience and increase in coughing. Although this may seem to be a negative sign, it is actually a positive sign that the lungs are beginning to rid themselves of accumulated mucus and tar. Cough drops may be helpful in easing this symptom.

  • Sleeplessness

One of the many benefits of quitting smoking is a healthier, more energetic body. Activity can be comfortably increased and there is a decreased need for sleep. If sleeplessness is a problem, try taking deep breaths and doing muscle relaxation exercises before going to bed.

  • Constipation

When cigarette use is eliminated, intestinal movements may decrease because of the absence of nicotine, which acts as a stimulant on the body. Drinking lots of water and eating a high fiber diet can help to overcome this problem.

  • Dizziness

The absence of carbon monoxide and resulting increase in the oxygen carrying ability of the lungs means that the body is taking in more oxygen than usual. When occasional dizziness is a problem, sit down and relax for a minute or two until it passes.

  • Hunger

Food often tastes better to the new ex-smoker because the taste buds are no longer numbed by tobacco smoke. Ex-smokers often substitute food for cigarettes and the result is a significant increase in foods or frequent tooth brushing to satisfy the need to have something in your mouth.

  • Mouth Soreness

Chemical adjustments in the mouth may cause a small percentage of ex-smokers to suffer from minor mouth irritations. These sores or blisters should heal quickly, but the ex-smoker can see their physician or dentist if the problem persists.

  • Bad Taste in the Mouth

Ex-smoker’s improved sense of taste may detect a bad taste in the mouth that is a result of smoking. Mouthwash, salt water rinses or extra vitamin C may help to remedy the situation.

  • Tiredness

Resisting the urges to smoke can be tiring and emotionally draining for some smokers. If lack of energy or lethargy is a problem, take short naps when possible and avoid strenuous work if possible.

These withdrawal symptoms are only a selection of the more common ones reported by ex-smokers. If you are experiencing other unusual or unexplainable symptoms, do not be alarmed. This is just your body’s way of making the adjustment form smoker to non-smoker. Most withdrawal symptoms are most severe during the first three or four days after quitting and will decrease in severity over the next few weeks. Again, some smokers have no withdrawal symptoms and others have symptoms which may last for over a month. If these withdrawal symptoms still persist after more than one or two months, it may be wise to see your physician. In rare cases, cigarette smoking may have masked actual physical ailments or conditions. 

People using nicotine gum or nicotine skin patches may not experience strong physical withdrawal symptoms. While receiving treatment, they may focus on the psychological cues and triggers to smoke. At the end of treatment, they prepare to be nicotine free.

Confidence Test

  1. Positive that you would not be able to resist the urge.
  2. Quite sure you would not be able to resist the urge.
  3. You might not be able to resist the urge to smoke
  4. You’re not sure whether you would resist.
  5. You might be able to resist the urge to smoke.
  6. You most likely would be able to resist the urge.
  7. You positively would resist the urge to smoke.

Below is a list of several situations in which people often smoke. Read each statement carefully. Then, using the scale above, rate your confidence in your ability to resist the urge to smoke if the situation would arise in the future.

  1. When you feel impatient.
  2. When you are waiting for someone or something.
  3. When you feel frustrated.
  4. When you are worried.
  5. When you want something in your mouth.
  6. When you want to cheer up.
  7. When you want to keep yourself busy.
  8. When you are trying to pass time.
  9. When someone offers you a cigarette.
  10. When you are drinking an alcoholic beverage.
  11. When you are drinking coffee or tea.
  12. When you feel uncomfortable.
  13. When you are embarrassed.
  14. When you are in a situation in which you feel smoking is a part of your self image.
  15. When you want to reward yourself for completing a task.
  16. When you want to relax.
  17. When you find a pack of your previous brand of cigarettes.
  18. When you are out with friends who smoke.
  19. When you realize you have gained weight.
  20. Using the same scale as above, how confident are you that you will not be smoking a year from now?