No Smoking
November 15, 2010 12:43 PM   Subscribe

The smoking devil is working me. Why now? What to do?

I am about four months into my quit and suddenly I am getting strong cravings to smoke after I thought the worst of the cravings were behind me. I am rationalizing why I shouldn't do it -- I absolutely know I shouldn't do it and have all the reasons written down -- but I am worried I'm headed for a weak moment where I will light up. Could it be because I finished the Chantix therapy recently. Should I ask my doctor to prescribe more? Is this physical or psychological? This is bothering the heck out of me. I feel so much better since quitting. I DO NOT WANT TO SMOKE! but the demon is trying to wear me down. I am reminded that I am an addict. Any advice is appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like it's time for a replacement 'habit.' When you catch that crave,

Do ten jumping jacks. (Or do jumping jacks until you're out of breath.)
Have a piece of sugar-free gum. Or suck on some hard candy.
Snap the rubber band on your wrist a few times. Or until it hurts.
Write two haiku, or three limericks.
Sketch the monster that best represents your craving.
Pull out that Susan B. Anthony and call heads ten or twenty times. Roll it on your knuckles a bit too.

If it's the nicotine rush that you're craving then yeah get back on the prescription. But if you're over that and still get cravings look for something amusing and repeatable (that isn't somehow bad for you or worse than smoking—no heroin!) that you can get in the habit of doing for five-ten minutes. It's a great opportunity to develop a pocket trick or two, or jump-start creativity, or get something accomplished, ya know?
posted by carsonb at 12:50 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I "quit" a good number of times before I really quit for good (at least in the sense of really not having cravings at all any more), which was more than five years ago now. Here are some things to keep in mind that have helped me:

A lot of people suggest there is some sort of pattern in terms of how cravings manifest, like 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, etc. I'm not sure I buy it but anything to give yourself a "hump" to get over, mentally.

If you do have a cigarette next week (next month, tomorrow, whatever), you don't have to have two. The biggest thing that people do to themselves when they are trying to quit is to throw it all away once they have one lapse. A lapse doesn't have to be giving up, it can just be...a lapse.

As the alcoholics say, it's one day at a time. Don't think about if you will smoke, when you will smoke, worry about right now. Are you not smoking? Great!

And like carsonb suggests get some replacement habits.

This is all a mind game at a certain point. It's all about the here and now, and all about not giving up, every moment, regardless of what happens. You don't quit smoking (or accomplish anything, for that matter), by all of a sudden making a big announcement and doing great for a week; you quit (or accomplish anything) by persistence, minute by minute, day by day, month by month, year by year.

You can do it!
posted by dubitable at 1:03 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you do have a cigarette next week (next month, tomorrow, whatever), you don't have to have two. The biggest thing that people do to themselves when they are trying to quit is to throw it all away once they have one lapse. A lapse doesn't have to be giving up, it can just be...a lapse.

By the way, I want to emphasize that I'm not saying it's okay to have one; I just mean that, if you do have one, don't use it as an excuse to become a smoker again. Remember that you are a non-smoker and that cigarette you just had was disgusting and you don't like smoking and you don't smoke.
posted by dubitable at 1:05 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you have kids (and I am an alumnus of this wonderful club) or ever plan to have kids that they will be more likely to either

A) pick up the habit themselves,
B) suffer some (measurable or not depending what medical professionals you ask) detrimental health hits,
C) detest smoking/smokers (including you).

I fell a bit into B and alot into C. Luckily never into A.

If you don't have kids you're down to "I'm only hurting myself and wasting money for no tangible benefits". Fail on both parts.

Good luck.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:06 PM on November 15, 2010

I'm not suggesting you start nicotine again, but if things become way overwhelming, why not get a pack of nicorette. Keep one in your pocket, keep a couple in your car, keep a couple at home.

Think of them as if they were credit cards with 95% daily compounded apr.
posted by TheBones at 1:12 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Stop the little game you are playing in your head right now.

Just realize: you will always want one. At some point you will think you've really licked it, maybe after ten years. But another time will probably come after that when you will crave one yet again.

Quitting is not a magic event that happens at one moment. It is an endless series of decisions not to have one, and being present enough to make the right call. You can totally do it. All you have to do to stay clean is to not smoke.
posted by quarterframer at 1:20 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've just completed 5 years with no smoking.

I've tried to quit many times in the past. With and without aid (patch). The successful one was with no aid. The incentive was to be able enjoy my years after 55 years of age (I am currently 41). At 36, smoking took away the quality of life, and I could not imagine how it would be after a certain age, say 55. So I did it. I think you need a very good incentive (something to look for in the future, your kids or whatever).

About 4 months after I quit, I got the cravings similar to those you're going through. In my case two things were at play: (1) I felt very good physically, and (2) accomplishing 4 months without smoking gave me the (false) confidence that I could quit again if I started smoking again. But this juncture was already familiar to me; that had happened to me during an earlier attempt at quitting. So, this time I didn't fall for it. I started to train for a marathon instead (marathon didn't happen due to ankle injury but I was able to run 12-15 miles regularly during the training). I am still active and in pretty good shape physically, which would not have been possible had I not quit. I am so happy that I quit. Still, there are times that I miss smoking (and I suspect I will always miss it) but the pros overwhelmingly outweigh the cons.

Another thing that might help is to read about the strategies employed by the tobacco industry to keep us addicted, which makes you really mad. It may give you additional incentive to not go back (it helped me at times).

Best of luck to you.
posted by eebs at 1:40 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't find a replacement, just don't smoke or take any nicoteen into your system. Decide to stop using it and don't question your decision.

It's mental the discomfort you are feeling. I'm at 23 weeks (tomorrow) since I stopped cold turkey.

The replacement will just undermine your decision to stop. It reinforces the idea that you need something, that you can't operate without something that comes in a pack, something that "fills the void"... there's no void.

Really think about it.

Why do you need to do it?

You don't.

Why do you want to do it?

You don't.

Why are you torturing yourself over it then? Just accept whatever temporary discomfort you're feeling as a symptom of your physical and mental recovery. It doesn't mean you are slipping. You were dependent for some time on a drug... cut yourself some slack if you find it hard sometimes being independent.
posted by ServSci at 1:44 PM on November 15, 2010

These cravings are completely mental. Don't let your brain sabotage you. What I found in the first six months or so is that it takes a while to uncover all the triggers.

Most of your smoking triggers are obvious. Coffee, drinking, after a meal. But there are a lot of other ones, buried deep inside your mind.

Whenever you feel a craving, stop and rewind the last ten minutes or so. What happened? What had you been doing? What had you been thinking?

Once you identify the trigger, you can isolate it in your mind as just that - a trigger. It's not a monster out to get you, it's just one more thing to put in that Big Box Of Not Smoking.
posted by ErikaB at 1:54 PM on November 15, 2010

I wanted to add that, like eebs, exercise has helped me a lot. I don't know about you, but I just really don't want to smoke at all if I'm going to be exercising or if I've recently exercised. So the more I exercise the easier this is. I now have a intense, frequent exercise habit, and I feel great.

Also, like quarterframer says, cravings don't go away. I know I said in my first post that I don't have cravings any more, and for the vast majority of the time that's true—but, I still get them once in a while if I'm at a party and tons of people are smoking and it just pleasant. I don't expect that feeling will ever go away, honestly. But what has gotten a lot easier is the ability to quickly push it away. Part of it is rejecting it over, and over, and over, and part of it is just how much the balance has shifted from the desire to smoke to the desire to maintain the achievements I've made so far. But it never goes away.

Anyways, I'll stop posting now...but I want to reiterate, you really can do it! Stick with it. All of us responding know it's hard, but if we can do it you can too.
posted by dubitable at 1:59 PM on November 15, 2010

This is totally natural. This is absolutely apocryphal and pretty woo-woo by any measure, but I once heard that quitting smoking difficulties go in threes: 3 hours, 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, yadda yadda. I notice in myself (currently quitting for the last time I hope), that I actually start to feel "healthy enough," that a smoke would be OK as a reward. This is a lie, of course. The only way to quit is to not smoke. You don't get to be a social smoker anymore, or even play "just the tip" in trying it once. You already know how that story ends: you like smoking! Duh.
posted by rhizome at 2:16 PM on November 15, 2010

Is it possible that you're giving it more significance than it deserves? That by worrying about it and wondering where it comes from and freaking out a little bit - those are in a way reinforcing those thoughts? The more serious you think something is, the more it is to you.

I'm not saying it's not real or not worth paying attention to - but I would try pausing, noting the condition, and then letting it go. You made the choice to stop, and so you have stopped - and so you will stay stopped. From time to time you may still get the urge to smoke - but you can recognize it for what it is, a temporary craving, and let it go. Nothing can make you start again, or slip up.

I know this is tough - but I want you to put your mind into a place where you have already quit and are not going back, it's just not something you do. You don't yell at annoying people in restaurants, for example, because you just don't do that. Put this there, in the well I want to but I don't, agghh.

Also, Altoids. And water. You'll make it through okay. It took me so many times, but finally it stuck and I am done!
posted by mrs. taters at 2:20 PM on November 15, 2010

It's like an old lover... sometimes you'll want to go back. But you don't.
posted by PersonAndSalt at 2:45 PM on November 15, 2010

Four months is always when I caved in and went back to smoking. There's a chance you already have. No matter.

Ride it out. That thing that you might have read at some point or another in your research pertaining to quitting smoking -- about "sitting" with the craving (in a meditative way) -- Do that right NOW.

Sit with it. Feel it. Take notes, even. Consider it an experiment. Observe this craving as though it's something completely outside of you - a sensation, an unpleasant one. And once you've taken the time to see it this way it will dissolve.

Not that it won't come back, it probably will. But it will be less and less over time. And each time observe it. Take notes. Feel it. But do not smoke.
posted by marimeko at 2:46 PM on November 15, 2010

My willpower is next to non-existent, but I think the key to my 12 years of not smoking is that I made myself HATE smoking, really, really detest every single aspect of it. The smell, the health risks, the cost, its hold over me, everything.

I tried to reinforce this every time I was tempted, by channelling the withdrawal-induced rage into hatred of what caused it and seems to have done the trick.

On the downside, I'm now one of that sort of militant ex-smokers and have also missed out on a few snogs here and there.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 3:23 PM on November 15, 2010

If you can get some yukky old cigarette butts, put them in a small glass jar with a lid (don't smoke to get the butts!). Then next time you have a fierce craving, take out the jar, unscrew the lid and have a whiff. I'm betting it will smell so nasty to you that it will make the urge to smoke go away. This has worked for a couple of people I know who did what you did .. quit for awhile and then started jonesing a few months later.

Good luck. You can do this. You ARE doing it.
posted by Kangaroo at 3:32 PM on November 15, 2010

Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking. This is your chance to enjoy the rest of your life!
posted by fantasticninety at 3:33 PM on November 15, 2010

Sometimes you just gotta stare down that fucking beast. If you don't pick one up, you can't smoke it !
posted by lobstah at 3:50 PM on November 15, 2010

YES! This is what happened to me!


[I did this ten years ago. Instead of giving in, I did the stairs at work. Eleven flights. Mild heart attack. Never wanted to even see an effing cigarette again. I guess it worked.]
posted by Drasher at 4:54 PM on November 15, 2010

By now your physical cravings are over. For me at this point, the triggers to smoke were all emotional/psychological, and so are yours. I don't know how difficult your quit was, but the idea of having to quit again would be a big deterrent for me. Don't give it too much significance, though: we all go through the craving and the rationalizations. The addict within will make any excuse to get you to smoke again. Don't believe everything you think. ;) Also: you have experienced freedom for the last four months! Think of what that means! No whitewashing the difficulty of the task here; it's HARD, but YOU CAN DO IT. You've already been doing it! I'm rooting for you.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 5:12 PM on November 15, 2010

Are you anywhere near Boston? A $65 2-hour session with The Mad Russian might help. Did for me...13 months ago.
posted by mds35 at 5:27 PM on November 15, 2010

PS: Congrats! 4 months is a great success. You can do it.
posted by mds35 at 5:28 PM on November 15, 2010

I quit cold turkey many years ago. The "nicotine fiend" (as I named it) would pop up at the oddest times. This went on and off for a year or so. What helped me through was thinking back to how hellish the first were and how I'd have to go through that all over again if I started smoking again and then had to quit agin.

Good luck to you!
posted by elmay at 7:50 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am coming up on three years (after an almost 20 year, 2 pack a day habit - with a 2 year almost successful break in there). Oh I feel you so hard.

One thing that worked for me (obviously YMMV) was that when I felt a craving, I would snap a rubberband around my wrist. It helped and made me more mindful of things.

Good luck and congrats! This is one of the best things you could have done for yourself!
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:31 AM on November 16, 2010

I haven't smoked in nearly 6 1/2 years. Before that, I quit for 2 years and then started smoking again after just having a couple of cigarettes at a party. So, I suggest that that makes me a nicotine addict. Just remember that you started smoking by having just one cigarette. I actually found it quite comforting to know that I cannot have a single cigarette, it means that avenue is closed to me. So, like others have said, just take it one craving at a time. I found the words "maybe later" enormously helpful, as the craving will most likely be gone later. I also found that these cravings go in ever increasing waves: every hour, every day, every week, every month, until they basically go away, or they come so infrequently that they're sort of laughable.
posted by ob at 9:11 AM on November 16, 2010

I've never smoked, but my friend who's trying to quit just bought an electronic cigarette. It's awesome. Delicious flavors -- with or without nicotine -- delivered via water vapor. Like a mini smokeless hookah. I kinda want one now.

Anyway, one of those might help ease the cravings.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:51 AM on November 16, 2010

You can do it!

One thing that I remembered reading here a while ago, and which I'm struggling to remind myself of now that I'm 2.5 months into being an ex-smoker, is that for many of us, cigarettes are an escape. Stressed? Smoke. Bored/irritated/drunk at a party? Step out for a cig. What you have to remember is that it's still okay to excuse yourself from situations for a breather.

Personally, this has really helped me for the drinking/smoking trigger, and usually I just need a couple minutes in the bathroom or outside doing some deep breathing (one good thing that you actually might not be doing enough of, now that you're not smoking) to re-center and get over the craving.

And dude, HUGE accomplishment. You haven't smoked for a THIRD of a YEAR!!!!!
posted by stellaluna at 12:55 PM on November 16, 2010

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