We do this blog every Monday to offer encouragement to those in No Man’s Land -- months 2-3-4 of a quit, give or take a couple of weeks and to those who have not yet made it to the 6% Club. This community has chosen to put a big, bright spotlight on NML – we’ve chased away the shadows, taken away the mystery, and put a lot of effort into bringing people in NML together. Because we understand that quitting isn’t over in a month.
Everyone who goes through NML blazes a trail for those that follow. You are not alone on this journey, and you never will be!
This week’s topic: Life After NML
The first month of a quit is exciting, but it’s also emotional and exhausting. In No Man’s Land, you learn how to get back to living your life, to find your “new normal,” and fend off the occasional surprise craving. By the time you reach the end of NML, day 130 or so, you’re feeling pretty good!
What’s next, you might wonder? We always say that quitting is a journey, not an event, so what should you expect once you crest the NML hill and see the road in front of you?
For the rest of your first year, and to an extent your second year, you will need to be prepared for a few more seasonal triggers and life events that may create high stress and emotion. These triggers can be even more surprising because overall you hardly ever think of smoking anymore.
As smokers, we smoked in response to everything, good and bad. It should not surprise us that triggers we have not experienced yet will remind us of smoking. When you first see the autumn leaves fall, the first snow, the spring rains, the first summer barbeque, these are seasonal triggers you may not have experienced in your first 130 days.
The emotional triggers include Christmas, Thanksgiving, moving, loss of a job, death of a pet, death of a family member. And let’s not forget the “happy” triggers too – birthdays, New Year’s Eve, vacations. These events can call up both good and bad memories, and lead to old behaviors we thought were behind us.
Here’s the good news. You already know how to deal with this – the same way you dealt with cravings and smoking memories early in your quit. It’s no different. You already know what to do – kick it to the curb with NOPE – and as long as NOPE is your immediate and automatic response, whether the surprise hits you at 6-months, 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years, the result will always be the same – a continued smoke-free life.
As Dale says, as long as you use your tools and remember smoking only leads to more smoking, you will be fine.
So here’s to life after NML, and all the amazing smoke-free days to come!