(Forget who the authors were so cannot make an attribution, but found these articles helpful through the first few months of my Quit.)
When Thoughts Seem Worse than Urges
The urges that happen weeks or months after your initial quit can catch you more off-guard than the urges encountered during the first few days. When you had an urge at 10am on the day you quit smoking, it was no big deal. You likely had one twenty minutes earlier. In fact, the first few days if you went too long without an urge, you would think something were wrong. In essence, it was chronic.
When you start to get more time under your belt as a non-smoker, the triggers become more sporadic. At first they are separated by minutes, then hours, eventually days and weeks. But they still happen. It's important to remember, when triggers occur after a long period of time, they may catch you off guard. When you stop having chronic urges, you don't have the opportunity to maintain your resolve. Now, when a trigger hits, you may find it harder to remember the reasons for quitting and techniques for countering the urge.
Long-Term Urges Explained
Any urge for cigarettes that occur at this point in your Quit are reactions to conditioned triggers. You are doing or experiencing something for the first time without smoking. You may be going to a bar, a wedding, or boarding a plane. You may be seeing someone, or being in a place where you always had a cigarette in the past. It may be caused by something you hear, or even an old familiar aroma. The sense of smell is a powerful mechanism for triggering old emotional feelings.
So, if you find yourself wanting a cigarette, look around and determine why in this particular setting you have smoking on your mind. Once you understand the desire is being triggered by a reaction to an insignificant form of stimuli, you can just say "no" to the cigarette without further problem. All you need to do is understand what triggered the thought. The urge will pass. The next time you encounter a similar situation you will not even think of a cigarette. You will have learned how to face another experience as a non-smoker.
Smoking cessation is a learned experience. Every time you overcome a trigger you overcome another obstacle that threatens your status as a non-smoker. As time goes by, you will run out of obstacles and comfortably go through life a happier and healthier person.
Why do I still have Urges?
For the benefit of newbies wondering if they will ever stop wanting a cigarette, I thought I would elaborate on the concept of "urges" that happen weeks, months, or even years into a Quit. When we say an urge hits after a significant time of being smoke-free, it is important to note this kind of urge is fundamentally different from the physical urges experienced during initial withdrawal. Those urges were physiological cravings--the body demanding nicotine to alleviate a drug-withdrawal state. The urges that happen down-the-road are really just thought triggers; for lack of a better term, fond memories.
Other times you may have thoughts of "I used to smoke when I did this." It's not a desire for a cigarette, but a feeling that your timing or ritual is off. Sometimes the thought may take the form of a feeling that you are supposed to be doing something right now, but you do not know what it is. Then you realize you used to smoke in this situation. Again, it is not that you want or need a cigarette in these situations, just that the routine feels like something is missing.
Years into a quit, most ex-smokers will go for days, weeks, and months without a thought-triggered urge. Even bad days that seem to be filled with desires, when you think about it are actually days in which you went 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 50 seconds without a thought-trigger. Because you had one thought about smoking, you distort reality and think it occupied a great deal of time. In fact, it didn't. Quitting really does get easier and easier.