First, the good news. The risk of relapse declines with the passage of time! While roughly
95% of uneducated smokers who attempt to stop smoking relapse within a year, the relapse
rate declines to just 2 to 4% per year from years 2 to 10, and then falls to less than 1% after
Keep in mind that those rates were generated by ex-users who generally had little
understanding of nicotine dependency and no formal respect for the Law of Addiction. If
obedient to Law our risk of failure remains zero.
But just one powerful hit of nicotine and the addict is back.
While ignorance of the Law is no excuse, the vast, vast most ex-users do not remain exusers because of understanding or respect for the Law, or because of "one puff" relapse rates
seen in studies.
They do so because once home they discover that life without using is vastly better than
While the relapse rate for years 2 though 10 may seem small, when added together the risk
becomes significant. One recent study suggests that as many as 17% who succeed for 1
year may eventually relapse.
These ex-users don't relapse because they dislike being home. They do so because they lose
sight of how they got there, who they are, and the captivity they escaped.
Among educated ex-users there appear to be three primary factors associated with relapse:
(1) a natural suppression of memories of recovery's early challenges,
(2) they rewrite, amend or decide to test the Law and
(3) they pretend that they have a legitimate excuse to break or ignore it.
Should these factors combine with an offer of a free cigar, alcohol use around those still
using or occur in an impulsive-type person, the risk of relapse gets magnified.
Recovery Memory Suppression
It's normal to slowly grow complacent during the months and years after ending nicotine
use. Complacency is fueled by failing memories of daily captivity and the factors that
compelled us to seek freedom.
It's also fueled by an inability to recall the intensity of early withdrawal anxieties, the power
of cue triggered crave episodes or the duration of conscious fixation.
Most of us failed to keep a detailed record of why we commenced recovery or what those
first two weeks were like.
Without a record to remind us, we're forced to rely upon our memory to accurately and
vividly preserve the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But now, the memory
in which we placed our trust has failed us.
It isn't that our memory is bad, faulty or doing anything wrong. In fact, it's working as
designed to preserve in as much detail as possible life's joyful events, while suppressing and
helping us forget life's stressful events, anxieties, trauma and pain.
To do otherwise would make life inside these minds unbearable. In fact, post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) is believed to reflect a breakdown in the mind's ability to forget.
If women were forced to remember the agony and pain of childbirth, most would likely
have only one child. We are each blessed with the ability to forget.
So how does the recovered nicotine addict who failed to record their journey home revive
their passion for freedom and recall liberty's price? If we forget the past are we destined to
repeat it? Not necessarily.
But just as any loving relationship needs nourishment to flourish, we should not take our
recovery for granted or the flame could eventually die, and the fire go out.
It's my goal to protect my freedom until I draw my last breath.
If you feel the same, then we need to nourish our desires. If we do, we win. If not, we risk
complacency allowing nicotine back into our bloodstream. We risk dying as slaves.
Whether daily, monthly or just once a year, our recovery benefits from care. But where do
we turn if our recovery memories have been suppressed and we've kept no record?
Our best resource is probably our brothers and sisters still in bondage. Why not enlist their
help in revitalizing our own memories of active dependency?
Talk to them. Let them know what you seek. Encourage them to be as candid and truthful
Although it may look like they're enjoying their addiction, their primary objective is to stay
one step ahead of insula driven urges and craves.
Tell them the truth about where you now find yourself. Although not always the case, with
most you'll find their responses inspiring. Be kind and sincere. It wasn't long ago that those
were our shoes.
Try hard to recall those first two weeks without nicotine. Think about earlier uneducated
attempts. What were they like? Can you recall your mind begging to be fed? Feel the
anxieties. Were you able to concentrate? How was your sleep?
Did you feel depressed, angry, irritable, frustrated, restless or anxious? Were there rapidly
cycling emotions, irrational thinking or emotional outbursts?
Do you remember these things? Do you remember the price you paid? Do you recall the
reasons you willingly paid it?
If you have access to a computer, go online and visit any of the scores of smoking cessation
support groups. There we'll find thousands of battles being fought, hear a multitude of cries
and watch hundreds struggling for survival as they dream of the calmness and quiet you
now call home.
The newbies you'll see cannot begin to imagine traveling so far that remembering the
turmoil they now feel will someday soon become their greatest challenge of all.
If permitted, send a message to those in need. The most important thing you can tell them is
the truth about why you came. If still in the first few days they may be facing significant
anxieties. Their mind may have them convinced that their emotional storm will never end.
Don't pretend that you can feel their anxiety. Instead give them what they need, the truth.
Let them know that you've traveled so far that it's now difficult to relate.
Tell them how comfortable and complacent you've grown. Describe last week and how
many seconds, if any, that you devoted to thinking about using.
Fear of the unknown is frightening. Teach them what life on Easy Street is like. By aiding
them we aid ourselves.
It may be that complacency has you at a point where thoughts of wanting are again taking
root. But think back. How long had you gone without wanting?
If it is happening, rekindling pride in the amazing journey you once made may silence such
If occurring, I suspect that you've either developed a romantic fixation with using, or failed to let go of one during recovery.
Amending the Law of Addiction
The second complacency factor working against us is a strong, natural desire to want to believe that we've been fully cured, that we can now handle "just one," "just once."
But just one puff, dip or chew and "do not pass go, do not collect $200." Go directly to the addict's prison and surrender your freedom. It isn't that we don't believe the Law. It's probably more a matter of growing to believe that we're the exception to it.
We convince ourselves that we're stronger, smarter or wiser than all addicts who came before us. We amend the law. We put ourselves above it. "Just once, it'll be ok, I can
handle it." "I'm stronger than them." "A little reward, it's been a while, I've earned it."
Such thoughts infect the mind and feed on themselves. Unless interrupted by reason and
truth, our period of healing and freedom may be nearing an end.
If allowed to fester, all our dreams and hard work risk being flushed like a toilet.
Instead of pretending we can handle" just one," such encounters demand truth. Before
reaching the point of throwing it all away we need to be honest about what's about to
If this moment should ever arrive, try telling yourself this before bringing nicotine back into
"My freedom will now end!" "I'm going back." "I can handle all of them, give them
all back to me, my entire addiction, all the trips to the store, the buys, the money, and
the empties." "I want it all back." "Go ahead, slowly harden my arteries and eat my
If a smoker, "fill my world with ash, cover me in that old familiar stench, and let
morning again be for coughing." If an oral user, "take my hair, destroy my teeth, and
put sores back into my mouth."
"Put me back behind bars, make me an outcast, throw away the key and let me die
with my master still circulating in my veins." "I accept my fate" "I'm ready to
It's far easier for the junkie mind to create a one puff, dip or chew exception to the "law"
than to admit the truth.
Instead of picturing just one or once, picture all of them. Try to imagine fitting them into
your mouth all at once. Because day after day, month after month, year after year after year
that's exactly where they'll be going.
"To thine own self be true." You navigated recovery. You paid the price, if any. You
deserve the truth!
If you find yourself attempting to rewrite the Law, stop, think, remember, reflect, read,
revisit, revive and give to others, but most important, be honest with you!
The Perfect Excuse
The final ingredient is an excuse. For many, any excuse will do, even joy! It could be a
reunion with an old buddy who uses, one too many drinks with friends, a wedding, a
graduation, or even a baby's birth and someone handing you a cigar.
Imagine being curious about the new electronic or e-cigarette with its atomization chamber,
smart chip, lithium battery, and cartridge filled with apple, cherry, strawberry, chocolate,
vanilla, coffee, mint or tobacco flavored nicotine.
Imagine watching an e-cigarette instantly vaporize nicotine when sucked and seeing a little
light at the end imitate a real cigarette's heat. What about a chance encounter with a self service display offering two pieces of Nicorette's new Cinnamon Surge," "Fruit Chill" or
"Cappuccino" flavors of nicotine gum for one penny! What about being tempted to
try one of the other new nicotine delivery devices now hitting the streets? It's exactly what
those selling them are hoping will happen.
Imagine being offered the new fully dissolvable tobacco/nicotine toothpicks, sticks, film or
candy flavored orbs.
But joyful or even stupid nicotine relapse is harder to explain to ourselves and to those we
The smart addict waits for the great excuse, the one that will be easy to sell to both
themselves and others. As sick as it may sound, the easiest to sell is probably the death of a
Although everyone we love is destined to die and it will happen sooner or later, for the
reformed addict it's the perfect excuse for relapse. I mean, who can blame us for ingesting
highly addictive drugs upon the death of our mother.
Anyone who does would have to be extremely insensitive or totally heartless! Right?
Wrong! There is no legitimate excuse for relapse.
Losing a job, the end of a relationship, a serious illness, disease, a terrorist attack, financial
problems, a flood, earthquake, hurricane, an auto accident, are all great excuses too - it's
drug time again! The addict is back!
Utterly terrible events will happen in each of our lives. Such is life. Adding full-blown
nicotine relapse to any situation won't fix, correct or undo our underlying concern.
Take a moment now and picture yourself fully navigating the worst nightmare your mind
Sooner or later it will happen. When it does, staying clean and free may be the most
positive factor during this period of darkness.
Remember, we've only traded places with our chemical dependency and the key to the cell
is that one hit of nicotine that will force your brain's survival instincts teacher to teach a
false lesson, and make that lesson nearly impossible in the short term to forget.
As long as we stay on freedom's side of the bars, we are the jailers and our dependency the
There are only two choices. We can complete this temporary period of adjustment and enjoy
comfortable probation for life, or introduce nicotine back into our bloodstream, relapse, and
intentionally inflict cruel and unusual punishment upon these innocent bodies for the
remainder of their time on earth.
If the first choice sounds better - lifetime probation - then we each need only follow one
simple rule ... no nicotine today!