The following excerpts are from "Nicotine Addiction 101" by John R. Polito. It's my go-to recommendation for learning about how we all got addicted to nicotine and understanding why we think we "need" our cigarettes. If you take the time to REALLY learn how nicotine has changed the way your brain works, you will find it easier to step outside of that addiction while you are beating it. You can find the entire article on the homepage of "whyquit.com" in the upper left-hand corner, marked with a little twirling yellow cube. It's not an easy read, but it is SO worth taking the time to read the entire article.
"Most of us became hooked while children or teens. What none of us knew prior to that first hit of nicotine was how extremely addictive smoking it was. Roughly 26% of us started losing control over continued smoking after just 3 to 4 cigarettes, rising to 44% after smoking 5 to 9 cigarettes.
What we didn't then know was that within ten seconds of that very first puff, that up to 50% of our brain's dopamine pathway acetylcholine receptors would became occupied by nicotine, or that prior to finishing that first cigarette that nicotine would saturate almost all of them.
No one told us that once saturated, that continued smoking would cause our receptors to become de-sensitized, which would somehow cause our brain to grow or activate millions of extra receptors, a process known as up-regulation.
Every two hours the amount of nicotine remaining in our bloodstream declined by half (known as nicotine's elimination half-life). At some point in the process, continued stimulation, de-sensitization and up-regulation left our brain wanting and begging for more. An addiction was born as our brain was now wired to function with gradually increasing amounts of nicotine."
"One cigarette per day, then two, then three, the longer we smoked nicotine, the more receptors that became saturated and desensitized, the more grown, and the more nicotine needed to satisfy resulting "want" for replenishment.
Our priorities hijacked, our mental disorder having left us totally convinced that that next nicotine fix is as important as life itself, where do we turn once we awaken and realize that we've been fooled?"
"The good news is that it's all a lie, that drug addiction is about living a lie. It's hard work being an actively feeding drug addict, and comfortable again being you. The good news is that knowledge is power, that we can each grow smarter than our addiction is strong, that full recovery is entirely do-able for all. In fact, today there are more ex-smokers in the U.S. than smokers.
While the first few days may feel like an emotional train wreck, beyond them, with each passing day the challenges grow fewer, generally less intense and shorter in duration. Recovery leads to a calm and quiet mind where addiction chatter and wanting gradually fade into rarity, where the ex-user begins going days, weeks or even months without once wanting for nicotine.
Recovery is good, not bad. It needs to be embraced not feared. The good news is that everything done while under nicotine's influence can be done as well or better without it.
While no cure, there is only one rule that if followed provides a 100% guarantee of success in arresting it -- no nicotine today."
"Each year, more successful ex-users quit cold turkey than by all other methods combined. Their common thread? No nicotine, just one hour, challenge and day at a time. The common element among all who relapsed? A puff of nicotine.
On a conscious level, roughly 70% of daily smokers want to stop. But few understand how and even fewer appreciate that they're dealing with a permanent priorities disorder and disease of the mind. Instead, they invent justifications and rationalizations to explain why they must smoke that next cigarette.
Subconsciously, you've established nicotine use cues. Those cues trigger urges or craves upon encountering a specific time, place, person, situation or emotion during which you've trained your mind to expect a new supply of nicotine. But the catalyst and foundation for both conscious rationalizations and subconscious conditioning is your underlying chemical dependency.
Trapped between nicotine's two-hour elimination half-life and a gradually escalating need to smoke harder or more, the dependent smoker faces five primary recovery hurdles: (1) appreciation for where they now find themselves, (2) reclaiming their hijacked dopamine pathways, (3) breaking and extinguishing smoking cues, (4) abandoning smoking rationalizations, and (5) relapse prevention."
"Successful recovery isn't about strength or weakness. It's about a mental disorder where by chance our dopamine pathway receptors have eight times greater attraction to a nicotine molecule than to the receptor's own neurotransmitter. The first step in coming home and again meeting the real us is emptying the body of nicotine.
It's amazingly fast too. Cut by half every two hours, our mind and body become 100% nicotine-free within 72 hours of ending all use. Extraction complete, peak withdrawal now behind you, true healing can now begin. While receptor sensitivities are quickly restored, down-regulation of the number of receptors to levels seen in never-users may take up to 21 days. But within two to three weeks your now arrested dependency is no longer doing the talking. You're beginning to sense the truth about where you've been."