Think for a moment of your life as a tightly woven piece of fabric. Each thread represents your life events and experiences. And running alongside all of the many “life” threads are threads of a finer gauge. They are so fine in fact, they’re impossible to see with the naked eye. Those threads are your smoking habit, and they’ve become so thoroughly interwoven in the fabric of your life, you find you can’t do anything without thinking about how smoking will fit into it.
The associations that we build up over time between the activities in our lives and smoking are closely knit. Once you quit smoking, your job becomes one of unraveling those smoking threads, or associations, one by one. How does that happen? And how long does it take?
Practice Makes Perfect
Recovery from nicotine addiction is a process of gradual release over time.
Every smoke-free day you complete is teaching you how to live your life without cigarettes. Bit by bit, you’re reprogramming your responses to the daily events that trigger the urge to smoke. The more practice you get, the less cravings will plague you. Over the course of your first smoke-free year, you’ll encounter and have a chance to clear most of the events and situations in your daily life that you associate with smoking.
Some smoking triggers are seasonal in nature and can create strong urges to smoke months into your quit program. For instance, if you quit smoking during the winter and you’re an avid gardener, you could find yourself craving a smoke break the first time you’re out digging dirt the following Spring. Thoughts of smoking may hit you with an intensity you haven’t felt in months. Don’t worry. Once you make your way through the trigger smoke-free, you’ll move on with ease.
The first year is all about firsts…experiencing the many daily events in your life smoke free for the first time. And it’s all about practice. You built your smoking habit through years of practice. Now, build the nonsmoking you the same way. Practice is a necessary part of recovery from nicotine addiction, so try to relax and let time help you. The more of it you put between yourself and that last cigarette you smoked, the stronger you’ll become.
There’s another step in finding permanent freedom from nicotine addiction that is just as important as practice and time. It involves your attitude. I’m sure you’ve heard about people who still struggle years and years after quitting. They’re the ones who say they “still miss smoking” 20 years down the road. That’s a frightening thing to hear, but don’t let it throw you. The reason they are in that position has to do with the fact that they never did the work to change what cigarettes meant to them.
Along with using patience and time to help you reprogram your associations with smoking, you must also alter the way you think about your cigarettes. The path to permanent freedom has to do with changing the relationship you have to smoking, and the way to make that mental shift is through education.
As the saying goes…
Knowledge is Power!
…and it’s the truth when it comes to recovering from nicotine addiction. Educate yourself by reading everything you can find about how tobacco harms us from head to toe. It will open your eyes, but more importantly, it will help you start to change the meaning that cigarettes have for you. Once you do that, the mental chains of this addiction will begin to break down for good. You’ll truly be free, and believe me, it’s a great place to be.
I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever – I will never smoke again. How can I be so sure? I’ve changed what cigarettes mean to me. Tobacco is now synonymous with death and slavery in my mind. Smoking has lost its luster completely.
Be patient with yourself and allow for as much time as you need to heal from this addiction. There is no set formula for recovery; we’re all unique in how we move through the process. Read about nicotine addiction and do the work to change the way you perceive cigarettes. They are instruments of death. They deserve nothing more than your disdain.
Don’t look at quitting tobacco as a sacrifice. You’re not giving up anything of value. Your quit program is a gift. Change your attitude and you’ll find your freedom.
Cessation is doable, and your precious life is worth the work it takes to achieve.