First the bad news. I'm having some fairly significant cravings. Nothing like the early days, but nothing I can just brush aside either. Unfortunately, I will have to interrupt my day briefly to take care of it by taking a walk, and maybe some light exercise. I am confident that will work because.... the good news..... I just realized that is what worked 6 days ago when last I had a crave! That's a record breaking 6 days! Previous consecutive streak was 3 days.
I know, I'm a little behind a lot of you guys with around 100 days. But I'm catching up fast!
I joined EX four weeks into my quit. It was at a moment of crisis when I was about to go buy a pack of cigarettes if someone couldn’t talk me down. Ellen ( elvan) and a few others quite literally saved me that day. All the elders gave me links to tons a reading material, and I eagerly consumed it all, over the next week or so.
I loved most of it because it made so much sense to me, and really clicked. But one thing that bothered me was all the acronyms (NOPE, SINAO, NEF, etc.). I had failed in many previous quit attempts, and in my mind, I was pretty sure it was because I had been relying on gimmicks (like prescriptions and NRTs) to do the quit for me. This time I was serious. I was quitting Cold Turkey, and needed serious advice, not cutesy, gimmicky acronyms to get me thru the day.
Then I had a period with multiple waves of craving. I’d used all the tools in my toolbox, and nothing was working like it used to. You know that saying, “There are no atheists in a fox hole?” Well, I started chanting every acronym on this site over and over again like I was a friggin Gregorian Monk! I had two favorites. One was SINAO, although I changed it slightly to, “Since Smoking Is Not An Option, What Else?” That got me thru many craves. The other I made up myself. Everyone here kept praising me for teeny milestones. At first I thought it was kind of hokey, but it sure made me feel good nonetheless. So, every night as I was falling asleep, almost in disbelief that I survived another day, I rewarded myself by saying, “Yay me! (YM)” It’s silly, but many times when I was tempted to ‘quit my quit’, the thought of me not being able to say “Yay me” later, stopped me. Last night, I said it at the end of my 100th day.
Last night I got back from a weekend that I thought would be one long trigger that would induce major nicotine craves for 2 ½ days. It didn't quite happen that way.
I went to a summer camp in the Hocking Hills of Ohio from 3rd grade to 12th grade as a camper, was a counselor for the next 5 years, and have gone on retreats and rented cabins with family and friends there every year since. I started smoking there when I was quite young. Two of my failed quits, failed while I was there. When I’m there, I can’t indulge my workaholicism, so I have way more time to smoke, and I usually do. I have strong memories of smoking while watching sunrises and sunsets over the lake, sneaking behind the dining hall to smoke after meals, etc. If ever there was a place I associated with smoking, this was it. I was very nervous last week the closer it got time to leave for this weekend. Since I knew that access to my EX lifeline would be limited (cell/internet reception is terrible there), I stocked up on gum and candies that I haven’t needed to use in weeks, and I copied several motivational sayings on my iPhone Notes. And then…. I didn’t need any of that. Went thru the entire weekend without an urge. I even saw a couple of old smoking friends who were still smoking, and nothing. The weekend was so much fun, and was capped off by my being ecstatic when I went to bed Sunday realizing I was crave free!
And then… I woke up this morning in a deep depression, and have had pretty bad cravings since. Kind of ironic. I had assumed the weekend would be really hard, followed by a Monday morning that was back to my new (almost) normal crave free day. I thought being at camp would make me want to smoke, when now, it is being away from camp that has me depressed and wanting a cigarette.
Back in 2011, some old camp counselor friends and I decided to bring back an old tradition that had died off at camp back in the late 1980’s. We would always end the summer camp in August with a music festival on a hillside with music performed by the current and recent camp staff. When we brought it back 6 years ago, we invited old staff from every decade since the 1960’s. It has become the highlight of my year since then. It is the number one thing I look forward to from September to August each year. Unfortunately, attendance has dropped every year to the point where we decided to skip next year for sure, and maybe the year after. We heard a lot of comments about how hard it is to attend every year for people. So while I agree with the decision, it makes me very sad. Normally, I would be waking up this morning with great anticipation of next year’s event. Now I feel like I have nothing to look forward to
I went 84 days in a row craving nicotine. Some days the cravings were really strong, and others not that bad, but still there. I never understood when people here talked about physical withdrawal vs mental. That the physical supposedly ends after 3 days and then becomes mental. My cravings have all been very physical for 84 days. The best I can describe them, is like a vacuum in my upper chest that aches to be filled. It is a very physical sensation, not mental.
However, from the very first day, I have never wanted a cigarette. My need for nicotine was so strong, what I really wanted was a couple pieces of nicotine gum to chew fast. That is the fastest way to get the nicotine into your system. I didn’t want to wait for the slow delivering cigarette. (By the way, I quit Cold Turkey. I haven’t had a piece of nicotine gum in probably 6-7 years. But I remember the sensation well.)
Then, on Day 85, everything changed. My craves completely disappeared. I felt normal for the first time in months. The next 2 days were the same. I knew it wouldn’t last, and sure enough, today my crave came back. But very different this time. And kind of scary. My physical crave sensation is back, but at a much duller level. For the first time, I have what I would call a mental craving. I’m practically obsessing about how good a cigarette would be. I feel like I’m missing everything about it. From pulling one out of the pack, rolling it in my fingers, lighting it up, taking that first long draw…. You get the idea. I’m romanticizing it in my head. My wife asked me to run to the store for a couple things we needed for dinner. I told her I didn’t trust myself to go alone, so she came with me.
I’ve been on this site long enough that none of this is surprising to me. And, not to worry, my quittitude and resolve are strong. Even though I asked my wife to come with me, I don’t think I’d have the guts to buy a pack. I would feel like the world was watching me (my guilty conscience ). Just felt the need to write this down. And I feel better already.
I don’t know if there will ever be a day I don’t even think about it (I like coming on this site 2-3 times a day), but yesterday was the first day I had no craving at all. I never even reached for a phantom cigarette, or reach for my trusty coffee stir straw to chew on. I’ve had some days (even string of days) that were relatively pleasant. And I was very grateful for them. But they were only comparatively pleasant if you know what I mean.
This NML has been very hard for me. I love all the support I’m getting, but I’ve been bothered all along that I’m not doing as well as others I see, and wondering if something is wrong with me. When jbliesmer posted about her breakthrough at day 60 something, I was so happy for her and hopeful for me since I quit a week after her. But then I entered the 70’s and then the 80’s and no relief was in sight. Since I quit 86 days ago, I have not had one crave-free day. The first week I had the typical physical withdrawal symptoms everyone gets. At the time, they were awful and I hated them. But looking back, they seem quaint compared to the over-whelming waves of craving I’ve had in NML. And even when I didn’t have one of those all-day, or several hour craves, I would still wake up every morning with a very strong physical crave that lasted at least an hour or two. Which is very strange because I never smoked for an hour after I got up, so waking up shouldn’t be a trigger. It has gotten so that I dread going to bed at night, because I’m afraid of waking up in the morning. I was now convinced that this was my new normal. There must be something different about me, and I am just resigned to being a sort of miserable ex-smoker the rest of my life.
Then yesterday happened! I noticed right away when I woke up that I had no crave. I couldn’t believe it. I even tried to make one come on by mentally imagining myself smoking, and nothing. I made a mental note to myself to be prepared, because it was certainly coming, and it would probably be a real doozy since I was getting this break. But then my day happened. Work, family, and friends happened. Just plain normal stuff happened. I did check in on the site a few times, but the actual thought of smoking (or wanting to) never occurred. When I went to bed last night, I still couldn’t believe it! And like the morning, I tried to see if I could make a crave come. Didn’t happen. Still going strong today!