I've been seeing many new members and even some members in NML and beyond struggling with NOPE (Not One Puff Ever). Sometimes the finality of that saying puts a big red sign in front of some. The final end to something that we've been really doing for most of our lives.
As some of you notice I have periods where I'll post every single day rather than every third or so day. That is my time where I'm struggling with something, trying to find answers to something, why I'm reacting the way that I am. I like to gather my thoughts, do my research, and then post some observations I'm made of myself and what I've found.
I remember in January of this year panicking thinking I'm not going to be able to do this. How could I ever imagine myself without a cigarette. The first 30 days I yelled, grumbled, slept, on at least 10 times a day saying gawd, I could really go for a cigarette right now. Saying it out loud and at times rather loudly helped me validate that yes, I wanted one, but I really don't need one. I wanted one so badly because my brain was telling me that I had to have one. I don't need one to survive, live my life. It's not necessary to thrive.
Then periodically we do the bargaining game every once in a while. Oh, one won't hurt you. All I need is a few hits off of that and I can show myself that I have it under control. Well, you know what, I reflected back on when I was trying to cut back on my smoking back in December. That would last for 3 days and I'd find anything and everything to get me frustrated or angry (the two evil twins) and I'd be right back to smoking at least a half a pack a day. Because believe it or not by that time, I couldn't smoke any more than that. That seemed to satisfy my need. In the beginning of January, I was down to 3 to 4 cigarettes a day, very seldom 5 and it was just becoming a chore. That got me to thinking why.
You see many of you do not take the time to read the articles on here or even go to the internet and find articles that are straightforward that explain nicotine addiction. I know, I know. There's so many articles out there that cite percentages and statistics and cryptic messages and jargon that someone with no medical background could understand. They do have quite a few articles on here that are pretty straightforward, short and to the point. Smoking is that addiction that gives you the dopamine fix. We are the pleasure junkies. We're looking for something to make us feel good or relax us, to calm us. I wish they had a name for it, like nicoholic or something. Those things are everywhere, the grocery stores, the gas stations just as alcohol is. Years back alcohol was only available in liquor stores and bars.
When people think of addiction, they think of drug addicts and alcoholics. Well, the two major contributors to that is alcohol and nicotine. They've got a term for someone addicted to alcohol and all kinds of studies for why you become addicted and why it's so hard to quit. I've been searching for a few days to find a study using PET scans to understand the workings of the brain of a nonsmoker and a smoker. Here's the only study that I found that was, I thought, informative:
From Promises Treatment Program: In January 2012, research published in the journal Science Translational Medicine showed evidence that pleasure associated with drinking alcohol is caused by endorphins being released to areas of the brain called the nucleus accumbens and the orbitofrontal cortex. Endorphins are small proteins with opiate-like effects that are produced naturally in the brain.
Using PET imaging, researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) studied 25 subjects. Thirteen individuals drank heavily and 12 drank moderately. Regardless of the amount the study subjects drank, researchers detected endorphins being released in the brain in response to alcohol consumption. However, there was a more pronounced effect in heavy drinkers. The amount of endorphins being released in the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex was linked to a higher degree of feeling intoxicated. “This indicates that the brains of heavy or problem drinkers are changed in a way that makes them more likely to find alcohol pleasant, and may be a clue to how problem drinking develops in the first place,” said Jennifer Mitchell, PhD, clinical project director at the Gallo Center and an adjunct assistant professor of neurology at UCSF.
Endorphins and dopamine are neurotransmitters. According to Sam Moss, BA neuroscience: Dopamine and the endorphins tend to be found in different areas of the brain, and tend to be associated with different behaviors and functions. The common conception of Dopamine and Endorphins as 'feel good' chemicals is really more wrong than it is right. Simply (but inaccurately) put: dopamine tends to be involved in reinforcing behavior. So if you do something that your brain is programmed to 'like' like drink some soda in a specific place repeatedly you may get a small release of dopamine when you are near that place. This is not ging to be something that you are going to feel, but rather a signal that is going to subtly influence your behavior in the future like perhaps cause you to spend more time in that place and buy a soda when you are there. But in reality the way these chemicals work is WAY more nuanced and subtle than this, and I only partially understand these things.
Now, the reason for this very long drawn out blog is because now I understand my setback of sorts. I had this happen to me when I saw that butt on the porch. That split second of I wonder what that would taste like. I threw it out. But it bothered me for a week afterwards. Why did it stick with me? Again finding a butt on my steps left by a friend which for some unknown reason I picked up and placed in my windowsill. That first instance I was almost obsessing about that cigarette and then no more than two or so months later it comes around again. I purposely didn't throw that cigarette out for a few days. Did I purposely wanted to test myself? Almost had to prove to myself that I did it? Now, is that the addictive behavior? Was I reinforcing my quit? You know how I reinforced my quit? I remember what that cigarette tasted like. It tasted just like an ashtray smells. How in heck did I believe I was enjoying that?
So in closing, give yourself that 2 hours or even a half a day. Let those little taste buds rejuvenate themselves. Really concentrate when you light up. Inhale just a little bit. Now, stop for a second, give your taste buds a second to register that. Doesn't that taste like an ashtray smells? How could you even say you enjoy that? Do you feel it burn as it goes down your throat into your lungs? How can you say you want that? Print yourself off a calendar with 30 days on it. Cross off each day when you conquer being smoke-free. If you can't do it cold turkey, get the patch. If the patch doesn't work, call your doctor. They will be thrilled to help you. Keep trying until you find something that works for you. Because what works for you may not work for the next person, but don't stop trying to find it. Sometimes this can be hit and miss. Sometimes you try one thing, it doesn't work. You try another, it doesn't work. BUT you tried this, and you're off and running.
This is not hopeless. This is not an insurmountable task. This is doable if you are willing to commit to it. It's individualized. It doesn't magically get better in exactly 130 days. Some it gets better before. Some it gets better after. This is a lifelong task that you've been performing and rewarding yourself for years. Be patient with yourself. Give it 30 days one day at a time. When that's over, give it 30 more days one day at a time and so on. If it's easier for you to give it 2 weeks at a time, then fine. Only you can figure that out. You're going to learn so much about yourself. Some have more emotional ties to smoking that others. I'm a firm believer now that smoking replaces our insecurities in general. Listen I'm too old to be insecure anymore. I am what I am. I made it this far and that's all that counts. So you get out there and get going..............