What a topic we have for you! It may not seem like there’s that much to think about when setting a quit date but quit dates certainly do have a special meaning. We’ll talk about why high-quality quit-date goal setting is important, what things to think about why the quality of quit day is important , what to do before quitting, what to do on your quit date, and then why you should celebrate your quality of goal setting. It doesn’t matter what substance you struggle with. It could be alcohol, opioids, prescription medications, tobacco, nicotine dependence, etc. being prepared for quitting can make a massive difference and the quality of goal setting matters.
Why Setting a quit date and quitting is important
Having a quit plan is important because it shows that you are thinking critically and strategically about how you want to proceed in the recovery process. One stage of change is called the preparation stage and setting a quit date is part of that. No matter how many program quit attempts you’ve had your quit day should be on your terms, not someone else’s. This reason a behavioral intervention doesn’t always work is because someone else is choosing for you which means a lot of different variables come into play. You want to choose your quit day with confidence so that your chances of success are high.
Studies have shown evidence that when you don’t have a plan or you just wing things then your chances for success greatly diminish. Tobacco quit lines for example, encourage the caller to tailor their smoking cessation approach around their specific quit date. Another example is the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Their smoking cessation approaches have a heavy focus on a person setting a specific day they want to quit. A study published in US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health used the Logistic Regression Model and scored the quality of quit-day goal setting among callers of smoking cessation quitlines, and found that those callers who scored higher were more likely to make an in-program quit attempt and had a higher quit rate. By setting a date, you can take the time leading up to that date to properly prepare and yes, there are many things to prepare for and to think about.
The date that you set will be a date that you will remember forever, this will be your anniversary date – sort of like getting married. You commit to something different, commit to a new beginning and you will celebrate this every year for the rest of your life. Of course you must be prepared for obstacles to happen along the way. Your prediction is just that; assuming things will align as you progress.
Now don’t just look at the calendar and pick a random date. There are many things to think about before choosing that date.
What things to think about when setting a quit date
First of all, high-quality quit-date goal setting will depend entirely on your physical dependence and quality of goal setting. If your detox and withdrawal won’t be as bad you might be able to push through certain things. Whereas, if you’re going to have a detox or withdrawal that puts you out for days it’s important to take that time and not try to push yourself through any situation really.
If you are detoxing from alcohol or benzos, or barbiturates , if you are a pregnant woman or if you have any medical conditions such as heart disease, you’ll need to have a medically monitored detox and sometimes you don’t get a choice on that date – it might be chosen for you. Talk to your health care provider if this is you.
Alcohol is a suppressant and lowers the function of the central nervous system. When you withdraw from alcohol the central nervous system tries to adjust, oftentimes overcompensating causing what is called Alcohol withdrawal syndrome AWS. Lots of things can happen when withdrawing from alcohol like seizures, low electrolytes can lead to a heart attack, low levels of phosphate can lead to coma and ketoacidosis can also be fatal.
Benzos and barbiturates are also central nervous system depressants, and if someone is physically dependent and stops cold turkey, they may experience a grand mal seizure which can be fatal.
If you are detoxing from alcohol, benzos or barbiturates/benzos it might also be an option to taper down so high quality goal setting should include this as you won’t be safe until you are completely off those substances. If you are detoxing from alcohol or barbiturates and you have a physical dependence please talk to your doctor as your health and safety is the most important.
On the other hand if you are a binge drinker and your body is used to going days without drinking alcohol, high-quality quit-date goal setting should still include staying cautious and if you start to feel any sort of physical withdrawals, contact your doctor ASAP.
So with all that being said, let’s talk about what to think about:
First off, when you’re looking at your calendar, think about important events that might be coming up. Are you wanting to quit and have a good amount of sober time before that event or if the event is in the near future you may want to think about waiting until it’s over; maybe it’s a family birthday or reunion, maybe you have a big project at work or school, a wedding, whatever it is be sure to include this in your high-quality quit-date goal setting because you don’t want to be withdrawing or going through detox during that time. If those events are pretty far out, try and set your quit plan sooner than later – because you’re here and you really don’t want to drag this out any longer than you have to. I usually recommend you start your quit-date goal setting within the next 30 days. Your entire plan is dependent on high-quality goal setting. You don’t want it to be today but you need to take some time to prepare. For some people they can fully prepare to quit quickly so maybe this weekend would be a good day for abrupt quitting and for others it may take a week or so.
Other things to think about – depending on the severity of your withdrawal and detox is whether or not you’ll be able to take time off work or school or other obligations you may have. Maybe you’re a parent – can you find a babysitter for a few days while you go through this? If you work, can you use vacation or sick time? Again this depends on the severity of what you’re going through. If it’s a mild detox or withdrawal you might be able to get away with just taking it easy but if you’re withdrawing from something like opioids then you may not be even semi functional and will need to have a few days with no commitments. From there you can mark your calendar or use any quit date tool to set your day.
Don’t go all out
I hear this all the time. People tend to think that because they know their quit-date goal setting is coming up they want to have a blow out, a party, whatever it is before but I’m here to tell you that’s a bad idea. It will only make your detox and withdrawal worse.
The best thing you can do is to start tapering down immediately. Try to use less today then you did yesterday and this goes for any substance: nicotine dependence, opioids, cocaine, alcohol, etc. Then the next day slightly less and continue to do that until it’s your actual quit day. You don’t want your withdrawals to be so horrible that you feel like you can’t do it. You want your withdrawals to be manageable or for some, non-existent. The disease model of addiction shows that addiction isn’t just lack of willpower, it changes the brain dramatically so just like people with health conditions like diabetes wouldn’t binge on sugar right before getting healthy or people with heart disease should not go out and eat high fat foods before heart surgery, you should not binge on any substance right before either. Remember, the quality of goal setting is really what makes the difference.
Don’t binge, don’t splurge, start cutting back today and you won’t regret the day of your quit day. I know that quitting is also like grieving. You will have a period of time, probably starting now where you will be grieving your old life. Even if it was horrible in the end, it’s still going to be gone and just know that’s a normal part of the process. This is why a lot of people want to have a one last time where they think they can enjoy that experience like they used to but there’s a reason you are here now and just know that no matter how much you think you need that experience for closure, it’s not worth it in the end. I have had clients do this and then not be able to follow through with their quit-date goal setting; they end up pushing it out or not starting at all.
And also, if your addiction is ruining things in your life, including health conditions, having a blow out won’t make those things any better and in fact it might make them worse so think about the effects it could have. You don’t want to do that to yourself, the people around you. You have commitments in your life and goals so don’t take that for granted. Think of today as a starting point leading up to the first day of the rest of your life. You can do this.
What to do before your quit date
Okay so now you’ve set a date or you know you will be setting a date to quit soon. But what do you do between now and then? The quality of goal setting here must be high.
For starters, think about who you can tell. Think carefully about this because you want to tell people who are supportive of you but also people who you know you don’t want to let down. The more you hype it up the better your chances. Don’t be cautious but rather confident and proud. Like ya, hey I’m quitting next Tuesday and that’s that.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Depending on who knows about your addiction, reach out – ask for a babysitter, ask for time off work, ask for someone to come check on you during this time. If you think you can’t do it alone, ask for company.
Next, you’ll want to start getting rid of things that will trigger you. Are there things around your house? Maybe alcohol, paraphernalia, and so on. Have a plan on how you’re going to get rid of drugs or alcohol by your quit date – will you pour the alcohol down the drain? Flush the drugs, etc? Triggers are inevitable so having a plan to reduce common triggers will help.
Stock up on healthy foods, snacks and plenty of water. The last thing you’ll want to do is go to the store and have to buy something while you’re withdrawing.
Stock up on entertainment – keep yourself busy with movies, books, and so on.
Ask someone to hold onto your money for a few days starting on your quit date. As the first few days are pretty rough it’s important to eliminate anything that might cause you to want to relapse. By not having money, you won’t be able to get the drugs or alcohol you’ll want to get.
Take advantage of online tools, even a quit date tool. There are many app-based interventions out there to choose from.
And last, clean your home and catch up on household chores. Having a clean space which includes things like clean sheets, towels, and so on can really make a difference. You’ll feel less stressed and more refreshed when your environment is not cluttered.
If you’re not sure where to start with cleaning, start with the kitchen and bathroom and see where that takes you. Make sure all your dishes are done, you have a clean countertop and old food has been thrown out of the fridge.
Make sure your bathroom is clean, spend some time scrubbing the toilet, the sink and the tub. And then if you have time to do the rest of the house go for it – it’s important to have clean floors so run the vacuum or mop if you can.
I know everyone isn’t a cleaner especially if you are about to detox so if that’s you and you can swing it, maybe hire someone to help. It can be really nice to have someone to clean for you for a few hours right before your quit day. Having a clean space going into this can be quite nice and then you’ll feel less pressured or worried about household chores after. The quality of goal setting here is high but you can do this.
The First Day – Your Quitting Experience
Everyone’s quit-date goal setting is going to be a different experience. There are many addictive substances out there; nicotine dependence, marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, etc. For some, your quit-date goal setting might be having to start detox, cessation treatment or cessation medications. For others, it might be just another normal day. Regardless. you should be prepared for triggers. One common approach for a tobacco user is to put carrot sticks, celery sticks and even cinnamon sticks out so when they feel tobacco or smoking triggers they use those to keep your hands busy. Non-alcoholic beer could be another way to prepare yourself. Make sure you stay hydrated so have a glass of water available. But on your quit date, wherever you are, it’s important to really give yourself some props. Do a lot of self reflection and be really proud of yourself. Getting here wasn’t easy and it won’t be easy going forward but for day one, you should take some time to do something nice for yourself. If you have the budget, then do something like treat yourself to a nice massage or go out for a nice meal. If you are detoxing you can still feel terrible but proud of yourself at the same time. I know some of you won’t be able to leave to do something nice so just try to do something nice at home. Give your body permission to relax; maybe go to the movies or binge watch a new TV show. Make this special and one you’ll never forget. It’s the first day of the rest of your life.
It’s not going to be easy going forward, physically, mentally and emotionally but at least for this day, you can rest and relax, catch up on some sleep and get prepared to start the next chapter of your life.
So all the hype about setting a quit date is important because it’s such a significant day. It’s not like a birthday or a holiday where you just celebrate for no other reason than being alive, this is a day to celebrate because you’ve gathered up the confidence, courage, strength and ultimate preparation to give it your all. Therefore, from here on out, it’s important to celebrate milestones no matter how big or small. For starters – celebrate your 24 hour milestone! I mean, let’s face it. How many people say they’re going to quit and can’t even make it a day. Then celebrate your weekly and monthly milestone and forever and ever you will be celebrating your yearly milestone. I mean how cool is it going to be when you make it to ten years! Just by being here right now, you are setting yourself up for such great success. Your quitting experience should be joyous. If at any point during your journey you feel something isn’t right be sure to follow-up with your doctor. Happy celebrating!
Studies have shown evidence that setting a quit date is an important part of any recovery program. If you are struggling with any substance; alcohol, nicotine dependence, tobacco, prescription medication, cocaine, marijuana, etc. and want to stop please check out Live Rehab. A lot of our students have made many program quit attempts as most traditional programs like in-patient, out-patient, nicotine replacement therapy, tobacco smoking cessation approaches, pharmacotherapy interventions, nicotine patches, caller to a tobacco quitline, coaching, etc. are not unique to the individual. Quit rates and abrupt smoking cessation in adults don’t have a high cessation outcome. It is your decision and your decision only so be sure the interventions you are using are unique to you. There are many dependent variables that come into play which is why you want to choose a program with confidence. The quality of goal setting makes a huge difference especially when combined with using a quit date tool and will increase your likelihood of success.
Brady BR, Nair US, Gerald JK, Yuan NP, Krupski LA, Thomson CA. Higher quality quit-date goal setting enhances quit attempts among quitline caller. Tob Prev Cessat. 2019;5:20. Published 2019 Jun 6. doi:10.18332/tpc/109537