I quit smoking years ago by using nicotine chewing gum.Unfortunately, I got addicted to the gum instead. I chewed the gum for years. Three weeks ago, I went cold turkey and stopped using the gum.It wasn't as hard as I thought. After a couple of days, I was fine. Until yesterday.. . Suddenly, I am having terrible nicotine fits, three weeks after having last ingested nicotine. Is it all psychological, or could the nicotine have lingered in my body this loNicotine leaves your body very quickly. The half-life (the time it takes for one half of a substance to be excreted from the body), is about 2 to 4 hours for nicotine, so the it is totally out of your body within a few days but nicotine leaves an imprint in your brain. Your brain will always "remember" being flooded with nicotine.
Nicotine affects the part of the brain that scans, analyzes and interprets your environment. After quitting, the “First time doing xxx” without a cigarette/gum can trigger an intense craving. Most likely what happened for you to get a sudden nicotine fit, was that there was something in your environment and this is the first time you have either been in this situation or had these thoughts or emotions without using nicotine.
Plan ahead for those “First times”. The first time in a bar, going over to a smoking buddy’s house, being in an airport, on vacation. Often you won’t consciously know what the environmental trigger is but a craving will seem to come from “out of the blue” but it is probably unconsciously related to something in your environment.
Often it can be masking a strong emotion. The emotion triggered the survival part of your brain which has always associated the situation or emotion with nicotine. So while the nicotine is out of your body, your brain "thinks" that being without nicotine is a matter of survival. Which is why strong cravings feel like:, "I'm going to die or go crazy if I don't (use nicotine)".
The following is from "Tips to Win at Quitting". Although the text says, "smoking", substitute "gum" or "nicotine use" as appropriate:
Identify early warning signs. What thoughts, feelings or actions might lead to back to smoking?
· “I can control smoking”.
· “Nobody’s going to know”.
· “One won’t hurt”.
· “I don’t have any other way to relieve my stress”.
· “I can’t have a good time without smoking”.
· “It’s my only vice left”.
How can you reframe these types of thoughts or what can you say instead?
IIdentify high risk situations. You are most likely to relapse in situations you are not prepared for. The situations or emotions may be so infrequent; it would be hard to foresee all possibilities.
· Review your tobacco use record for certain places or people where you are mostly to smoke.
· Do you live in a state that still allows smoking in restaurants and bars where the combination of alcohol, being around other smokers and having a good time can led to a relapse.
· Do you live in a state that has banned public smoking, how will you handle when traveling to another state where smoking is allowed? Or your annual vacation that has in the past always included your cigarettes?
· Other smokers might try to sabotage your success. Practice saying “no”.
· Avoid social situations if you might be tempted to smoke.
· If you’re at a social event, and feel tempted, leave and protect yourself from caving in to “just having one”.
· Do you still go out to the “butt hut” or the smoking area on your work breaks or with your smoking buddies?
· If you have quit and then relapsed before, what caused you to pick up that first cigarette? Have a plan to do something different when this situation comes up again.
· Continue to develop, practice, and improve new coping techniques to deal with stress and negative emotions.
Your ICE plan for those “out of the blue” cravings that comes up should include answers to these questions:
· What can you say to yourself?
· How can you change your behavior to avoid smoking?
· Who can you call who will help you? Identify your social support and have their phone number available.
· Where is a safe place for you to be?
· What tips on your action plan helped in similar situations?
· Cigarettes smoked out of habit, require a change in behavior. Cigarettes smoked for emotional reasons, require a change in thinking.
· Write down the answers to these questions in your notebook, so you can read back your ICE plan when you need to.