Nearly every new member at EX eventually gets around to asking the same two questions: "How long does it take to get over smoking?" and "When will I stop thinking about cigarettes?"
Every Elder here will automatically tell you the same thing: "It takes as long as it takes."
I know, I know...it seems like a vague answer, but because every EXmate is different, the answer is gonna vary from person to person. That's just the way it is. But, here's the core truth that applies to all of us, when you dig down to the root: It does get better, and it will get better...and it will take as long as it takes for you.
You still want a number, though, right? A specific day? Something to strive for? Well, that's the truly amazing thing about your quit: You get to discover what your number is! Somewhere, someday, at some milestone in your journey, you're going to realize that you've crossed a critical balance, the one that separates "working my quit" to "living my truth". It's a point of no turning back, and you do have one waiting for you...but only you can stay strong enough, long enough, to discover your own number. And, you have to.
So, you wanna know what my number is? Okay, I have two...
The first one was Day 60. That's the day I used my last nicotine lozenge. My NRT had run its course, and the prescribed treatment was over. No more self-medicating. I confess, letting go of the crutch felt scary, but when you decide to use an NRT, then you also decide to have this second "quit within a quit". I knew this, and I accepted it. So, yeah, I was kinda edgy on Days 60 and 61...but I never lost sight of the faith that I was doing the right thing to save my life. I knew the drug was finally out of my body...and I was so proud!
The truly critical moment for me, though, came on Day 120. For whatever reason (or, more likely, combination of reasons), the "Nicodemon" ambushed me with a scorching-hot crave. The chemical/emotional surge inside my head forced me to stop in my tracks, and to weep just a bit (yeah, I admit it) as I "surfed the urge" for nearly an hour. Yep, you heard me right - a whole hour. I remember clinching my fists and snarling, "All day, baby! I can push back all...day...long!" And, I wouldn't trade that victory for anything else in the world.
In many ways, that episode was my "point of no turning back". I didn't see the fight coming, but I was ready to beat it back when it showed up. Since that day, I've had the faith and conviction that the balance of power was forever tipped in my favor.
You wanna know why I didn't smoke that day? On Day 120? Because, at the beginning of my quit, I vowed to myself, to my Mentors, to my Quit Buddy, and to this entire community that I would openly accept anything I needed to go through in order to save my life. I swore it. For the first time ever in a new quit, I pledged to embrace the worst days, in order to cherish the best days.
And here I am at Day 1,459.
Finally, you wanna know if I still think about cigarettes. The answer is, "Yes, how could I not? I smoked for 28 years; I can't permanently forget them."
But, here's my deeper truth: I don't glorify them, I don't fixate on them.
Here, you'll get a kick out of this next paragraph...
Cigarettes are like that incredibly intense and fiery - yet utterly stupid! - relationship I got tangled up in in the early 2000s: The thrills were spicy, for sure, but the drama was...yikes! This dragged on for nearly two years until I threw that sexy obnoxiousness out my house! Hahaha! I don't miss that cray-cray, and I'd never want it back. Ooooh, to this day, I do sometimes remember all the va-va-voom, of course...but I'm thankful all the whack-a-doodle nonsense is over and gone.
So, please, dear Newbies, know this: There may be flashbacks and particular urges that seem romantic, and intoxicating, and ravenous, and downright lusty...but, ultimately it's all just toxic brain junk. It really is. All of it. Cigarettes never solved anything. They never were worth it, and smoking won't ever be worth it again. So, feel anything that you need to feel in order to work through your quit. Feel the joy! Acknowledge any discomfort! Accept both! You're entitled to remember and reflect...but you're not ever entitled to smoke over it.
Stay strong! Keep the faith! And, keep workin' your quit until you find your own truth for yourself!