I was responding to another person when I learned something about this quitting process. Yes, even after 3 years. So I pass it on. Some of this is directly quoted from what I said to her.
It was hard for every single one of us long-term quitters too to quit. I went through months wondering when the easy part came? I mean, there WAS supposed to be an easy part, right? And then I learned, gradually, that it doesn't all of a sudden become easy. You don't awaken one morning and discover the hard part's over SLAP BANG THANK YOU MA'AM! No. (Somehow, in my naivete', I thought that would be the case.) But you may have an easy couple of hours. And then a few days later, an easy couple more. And then you'll start to have whole days that are easy. Maybe only a couple in the first month, then a couple more and a couple more....
The point is, which I suddenly realized after over three years being quit is: it doesn't SUDDENLY become easy. This may be obvious to most, but it wasn't to me. There isn't a magic gate you pass through to the "easy side." You can't say to someone that after the first three days it becomes easy, nor after "hell week," nor after the first month celebration. For that's not the truth of this process. Easier, emphasis on the er, yes. But not momentously easy.
Oh, yes, for some it may be. For some, they put the cigarettes down and that's it. They never never look back. And God bless 'em. If you're one of those, then you obviously don't need to be reading a thing in Relapse Traps. I wish I were one. But I'm not. And I can only relate my own experience here. So don't take it for the gospel truth, 'cause there is no such thing when it comes to the individual quitting process. There IS no gospel truth. Well, except the gospel truth of never putting another cigarette in your mouth again. That IS a gospel truth if you want to be free forever.
But I digress.
So, my point here is that there IS no magic moment when it all turns suddenly EASY. It's like losing a loved one. You go along and the first weeks, months are horrible. You constantly think about them and you grieve. And you wonder if the ache, the sorrow, will EVER go away. And then day by day the ache is a little less. And you're surprised when you've gone through a whole day without thinking about them. And so guiltily relieved that you haven't. And then the next day you hit a moment in the day when you feel like that first hour after they died. And it's hits you full force again.
The quitting process is the same. There is no door where there's a CRAVINGS STOP HERE sign on one side. So don't be lured into thinking that. Always keep your guard up. And stay outta the traps.
Reply by Francine on July 16, 2009 at 5:46am
Thanks for your wisdom, Giulia. I appreciate that the ex's on here with the longer quits share their thoughts and pass on what did or didn't work for them and give newbies like us the advice and help the work thru the tough spots.
Giulia Permalink Reply by Giulia on July 16, 2009 at 9:12am
Just doin' what was done for me....
barbara Permalink Reply by barbara on July 16, 2009 at 9:28am
THANK YOU GIULIA, so many times we look for the day when it is easy and that day never comes, it is easier, but never easy enough to let your gaurd down, this is what all needs to know so they will not think they have failed, you never fail as long as you do not take another puff
Giulia Permalink Reply by Giulia on July 16, 2009 at 9:46am
It's amazing, isn't it how one little puff can turn the tables on a long-term quit. And then most of us go FOR YEARS before quitting again. Because working up to day one is THAT hard. That's why it's so important to protect our quits.
Cindy Wilson Permalink Reply by Cindy Wilson on July 16, 2009 at 11:19am
I know I did, for another ten years and COPD and some serious health problems. I thoughtI was over smoking, but I wasn't and now I watch and know that it just takes that one time...
Giulia Permalink Reply by Giulia on July 16, 2009 at 12:01pm
Scary, isn't it? Yeah. Fear is a great motivator to stay quit!
MLynne Permalink Reply by MLynne on July 18, 2009 at 3:28pm
Thanks for this post, Guilia. I'm 30 days quit and still having frequent strong cravings (and I'm using Chantix). Intellectually I know it can't be nicotine (although it was mentioned to me that women tend to store more nicotine in body fat, so maybe it is!) but the urges sure feel physical to me. I'm not tempted to smoke to relieve them -- I'm very proud of my quit and will protect it like a lioness! But I admit I've been wondering when the "easy day" would finally arrive. The thought of having these urges for the rest of my life depresses me, but I find encouragement in your post that they won't be a daily thing or even a weekly thing, only that they never completely go away. It must be much like recovering from alcoholism: you don't want to be a drinker again, but you miss having a drink.
Giulia Permalink Reply by Giulia on July 18, 2009 at 5:25pm
On the brighter side, remember too, that the longer you are smoke free, the less potent the cravings, and the much more easily brushed off. You also get to the point where you can think about a cigarette without wanting one. And when you discover that, it's a real blessing. I don't know if Pavlov ever did any experiments to see how long it took to Untrain a dog. Once a connection has been made in the brain, I imagine it takes a while to erase it. We're just so programmed in our smoking habits, and like Pavlov's dogs, we salivate for a cigarette when the conditioned response hits us. We have to learn to Undo the conditioning. From my own experience, it's a heck of a lot easier to become conditioned, than the reverse.
My urges used to hit me in the gut area, like a gnawing or empty feeling similar to hunger. Is that what you mean by physical?
Don't think in terms of having cravings for the rest of your life. That IS a depressing thought. Think of it like having an itch every once in a while, not like an eternal case of poison ivy! lol
MLynne Permalink Reply by MLynne on July 19, 2009 at 4:26pm
LOL, Guilia...Poison ivy...good comparison. You also described the craving feeling --gnawing or empty -- perfectly. I feel it in the back of my throat and in the diaphragm area. I've only had two today! Hooray! And the best part is I had a work-related function to attend today that lasted two hours and not once did I start to get panicky about how soon I could leave and have a cigarette. And if my hours were paragraphs and cigarettes were periods, I'm beginning to not feel like a run-on sentence anymore because I'm learning to use other punctuation marks...LOL...You hit it on the head, because it is conditioning. We learned to do it, and we can learn to undo it.
Giulia Permalink Reply by Giulia on July 20, 2009 at 9:35am
Love the paragraph/period/run on sentence analogy!
Cris Permalink Reply by Cris on July 25, 2009 at 2:16am
Thanks for sharing! I love the, "gut area, like a gnawing or empty feeling similar to hunger." That is exactly how I feel but unable to express it into words!
Debra Adams Permalink Reply by Debra Adams on July 22, 2009 at 3:36pm
This post was very helpful to me. I am approaching 4 months, and I admit...get a little discouraging feeling sometimes because I feel like I'm not where I "should be" in terms of my feelings. Mostly proud and confident....but when my emotions run high those old messages try to sneak back into my head. But when you give the analogy regarding grief, then it makes sense, and I feel better about it,...knowing it does take time and patience. Thank you for the wise words....
Reply by Giulia on July 23, 2009 at 1:13pm
Glad you found it helpful, Debra. You sure should feel proud and confident. You've gone further than you ever have before. But living is a process, a journey that changes all the time. And quitting is the same thing. Emotions come and go, from high to low and back again. So we all have to learn how to maintain our smokefreedom through thick and thin, in better and in worse times.
Jennie Permalink Reply by Jennie on September 9, 2009 at 9:38pm
I love this post. I didn't realize until I read this that I had been asking former smokers the same thing, when does it get easy? They can't answer that for me. Every one is different and the amount of time it took someone to not struggle every hour of everyday is not going to reflect how long it will take me. I'm so glad you equated it to the death of a loved one. I can't get my friends to understand that I am going through an actual grieving process. To me it feels like a divorce, because the cigarettes are still in my grasp I can have one if I want but I choose not to. It is very helpful to have people on this site that have succeeded for years. It is very encouraging and helps me see that it is possible to become an ex and stay an ex.
RJ Permalink Reply by RJ on September 16, 2009 at 3:26pm
Amen, no magic moment, just one day at a time, and never take another puff, it will get easier, and peace will come. RJ
Patricia Permalink Reply by Patricia on October 6, 2009 at 12:06pm
Thanks for writing that. I am struggling today and the suffering itsself seems like it is my fault. That now I am tortured for no real reason. That even I am betraying myself and there is no right answer. ANd I am doing the "right" thing. Like so many times in the past when I did do what was the best choice or the least dramatic or the one that didn't bother anybody.
I am angry. I hurt. I want the people I care about to care about me and they do not. I am alone. It is like there are the people that are there for others and the people that are there for those who are there for others and right now I am out of the loop for like decades. And this is just day six? It is not ok to call and talk because because because and there is another reason why today I am alone, alone and now the one dependable ally, the reason that from time to time someone would stop and say hellp and I am cutting myself off of that one comfort? How did that end up sounding like the good idea? If I get clean like really really clean and the substance that I have now removed from my equation the rewards are I swell good, have more money, have better breathing and the toruture that I am feeling is about doing nothing. (?) It is day six and I have been awake for like over five hours and I am miserable here. AHHHGGGRRRRRRRRRRRR
Giulia Permalink Reply by Giulia on October 6, 2009 at 5:43pm
Ahhhggrrrrrr! Yes. I feel your PAIN!!! Believe me, this pain is nothing compared to the emotional pain of not breathing because you have some lung disease. 'Cause that pain is forever. When you feel weak, go check out what some people had to get to before they became smoke free. The inhalers, the oxygen 24/7, the meds, the.... Go read what they have to say on this site. It should help strengthen your resolve.
The torture you are feeling just tells you how deep your addiction is. You have to hold on. There is only one way to beat this and that is to take it one craving at a time and to continue to fight each and every urge as it comes. I used to think of them in sets of waves. They told me a craving would only last three minutes. Yeah. But then another one would hit a minute later. What was THAT all about. They didn't tell me about THAT. So I perceived them as sets of waves. Because I understand (from surfers) that they come in sets. So a set of cravings can be a group one right after the other. But then there's a pause, a rest. A thankful rest from the torture. And then another set comes rolling in.
You have to learn how to ride the waves, is all. Sometimes you get trounced and half drowned, and sometimes you just soar over the top of them. It's what it is. Accept it. Hear what I just said: ACCEPT IT. Let go, and just accept what you have to go through to be free. Those of us have have long term quits had to do just that. And I was one who didn't even want to quit. And I have an addictive personality. But I accepted whatever it was I had to go through. And so far...I'm still free.
Hope you will be too.
Patricia Permalink Reply by Patricia on October 6, 2009 at 8:47pm
I am so discouraged. The idea of rolling a ball uphill for years is just not what I was hoping for here.
Giulia Permalink Reply by Giulia on October 6, 2009 at 9:31pm
Oh, don't be discouraged. The rolling ball is different for everyone. My "take" on quitting is not the same as other's. Find the one that works for you, not that one that depresses you. I don't mean to depress you. It's just what's true for ME. And that may not be so for you. For those who share my experience, it helps. If it doesn't help you - ignore it. That's what this site is all about. Or any quitting smoking site. Take what works and toss the rest. Find the words from those that empower your quit. Not those that depress you.
The ball gets lighter as you go along. It does. But to say there's no ball, or that the ball rolling ends...well, I just can't in all honesty say that. What you're hoping for may be an immediate end to any cravings. To any discomfort. And THAT is not possible. Sorry. Facts of the quitting life. No matter what your "take" may be. It's a powerful drug and a powerful addiction. The cravings decrease with time. And for some they disappear entirely.
Don't dwell in the well...