Relapses are a common part of change.


October 13, 2021

In any behaviour change – a relapse is common, perhaps especially so with smoking and nicotine. As are the accompanying feelings of failure, disappointment, and frustration. We are all human and make mistakes, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Before we go on, it’s important to know the difference between a lapse and a relapse, which you can check out here.

It’s natural to be disheartened and feel like you’ve ruined it – these feelings just go to show how much you want to quit smoking! Given that it’s a common occurrence, we can actually re-frame the situation and use it to our advantage. The key is to not undermine your self-confidence, instead take the time too investigate why it happened, what triggered the slip? And what can you do to prepare yourself if presented with this trigger again?

Remember this process of behaviour change i.e. from that of a smoker to a non-smoker is never going to be straight forwards and it’s a bit of an experiment– stepping out into the unknown and seeing how we go. So why not use what you’ve learnt through the relapse as an opportunity to learn about yourself. Go gentle on yourself, judging yourself and being harsh is never helpful – so notice when that happens and remember that this is unchartered territory and you’ve just learnt something new instead.

Take the time to look at new coping strategies after identifying the trigger, so you can better prepare for similar situations that may arise in the future. The belief that you have learned something from the slip, means you’re more like to get back on track quickly too – the sooner the better, the less cigarettes that you have ensure the body does not adjust to the nicotine, worse begin to become wanting it.

It’s important to be aware of the thoughts that rationalise and justify smoking – those thoughts that suggest ‘just the one won’t hurt’ –although it seems like one cigarette won’t hurt or de-rail us, usually it’s not the case of stopping at just one. 9 out 10 people in fact start smoking again after having just the one. If those thoughts constantly arise, you can try asking yourself a few counter questions:

What benefits will smoking offer you? Is smoking now worth giving up all of the work you've invested in cessation? Will quitting be any easier the next time around?

This is a good time to reaffirm your motivation, action plan, and commitment to your goals. What were the deeper reasons that got you started in the first place? This energy will help to get started again...good luck!


This short video may be handy for you at this stage: Behaviour Change | Relapse