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 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 the associations you have between smoking and all of your life threads. Over time, 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.
Once you quit smoking, the job becomes one of unraveling those smoking threads, or associations, one by one.
How does that happen? And how long does it take?
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 daily events that trigger the urge to smoke by choosing something other than smoking when the urge surfaces.
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.
Seasonal Smoking Triggers
Some smoking triggers are seasonal in nature and can create strong smoking urges months into your quit program. For instance, you may have stopped 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 in the dirt the following spring.
Thoughts of smoking related to the seasonal activities may hit you with an intensity you haven’t felt in months. Don’t worry. You’re not backsliding. Your mind is just processing old associations. Once you make your way through the trigger smoke-free, it will let go for good and you can move on.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice is a necessary part of recovery from nicotine addiction. There is no getting around it, so try to relax and let time help you. You built your smoking habit through years of practice, and now you must build the nonsmoking you the same way. The more practice you put between yourself and that last cigarette you smoked, the stronger you’ll become.
True Freedom is a State of Mind
There’s another step in finding permanent freedom from nicotine addiction that is just as important as practice and time. It involves your attitude.
You might know an ex-smoker who says they’ll always miss smoking, even though they haven’t had a puff in 20 years.
That’s a frightening thing to hear, but there’s a reason why they are in that position, and it is something you can remedy for yourself. People who reminisce about how great smoking was and how much they loved smoking never changed what cigarettes meant to them.
As smokers, most of us do think we love smoking, but the truth is that we love the relief we feel when a dwindling nicotine level is replenished in our bodies. Nicotine withdrawal starts as soon as we stub out a cigarette, and that physical need to ease the discomfort becomes linked to the activities we’re involved in at the time. This happens numerous times each day and over time, our minds come to believe that smoking is a necessary component in leading a fulfilled life.
We think life will be dull without cigarettes, when in reality, we are associating physical addiction with pleasure.
When we quit, that unhealthy and inaccurate mindset must be reprogrammed if we are to break those links for good. We can abstain from smoking forever, but if we don’t do the work to change how we feel about cigarettes, we can miss smoking forever too.
Adopting a New Mindset
As the saying goes…knowledge is power, and it’s the truth when it comes to recovering from nicotine addiction.
We all know that smoking is bad for us, but most active smokers do all they can to avoid reading about it if at all possible. Start seeking out information and research on how smoking harms us, and do it often. It will open your eyes, but more importantly, it will help you start to change the relationship you have with cigarettes. Once you do that, the mental chains of this addiction will begin to break down for good.
Next, find an online smoking cessation support group. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a group support kind of person or not, because it’s not necessary to participate to benefit from it. Go in and read how other new ex-smokers are coping and you’ll come away with your resolve strengthened. Give it a try and you’ll see.
A Word from Verywell
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.
Seek support and above all, be patient with yourself. Allow as much time as you need to heal from nicotine addiction. There is no set formula for recovery. We are all unique in how we move through the process.
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 lasting release from this killer addiction.
If you want to change your life, change your mind.