Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Do the cravings (for nicotine) ever stop?

A. has been quit for 6 months yet she still gets cravings just as strong as the first day she quit. She asks,

"Will it ever get better or will it a battle forever?"
You need to stay vigilant and work on changing your self talk. When a craving comes up--if you keep saying--"this is just like day one" and questioning if it will ever get better--that thought process can lead you back. Instead reframe it to: "I've made it 6 months and most of the time, it is easier but since I'm still having craving, maybe there is something more to learn about my addiction to nicotine." Then see if you can trace back your thoughts to what trigger it in the beginning. After 6 months, it's probably not a "habit" cigarette but one that is attached to strong emotions, (positive or negative) and/or stress. 
This is an activity from my book  How To Win at Quitting Smoking:

Activity: Five steps to train your brain to think of smoking in a different way.

You need to recondition your brain to stop the automatic thoughts that nicotine has planted. It takes time. If you only change your behavior and not your thinking, you may relapse or turn to something else such as food.
Write these five steps down on a card and carry them with you. Whenever a craving comes up use these steps to change what you tell yourself when you think about smoking or have a craving. You can use these steps when you first quit and at any time in the future:
1. “I’m having a desire to smoke right now.” Having a desire to smoke is normal and the craving will go away whether or not you smoke. Just let it run its course.
2. “I can smoke at any time, I’m not deprived.” Nobody is taking your cigarettes away from you. It is your choice and you are working towards what you really want and it’s not the cigarette. Remember what smoking is depriving you of that is more important: money, health, freedom.
3. “I’m a puff away from a pack a day.” It’s easy to fall into the trap of having “just one”. Do not kid yourself.
4. “Right now I have a choice to make for myself. Either I give in to this temporary discomfort and go back to the constant misery of smoking, or I can accept this temporary discomfort and work through it for (. . . name one of your Benefits of Becoming Smoke-Free).”
5. “At this moment, I willingly accept this temporary discomfort because I want (. . . then list your Benefits of Becoming Smoke-Free).” Focus on what you truly want.

You always have a choice! When a craving comes up, you will always have two choices:
• You work through it and remain smoke-free, or
• You slip and smoke a cigarette. 
If you choose the latter, again you have two choices:
• You resolve to remain smoke-free and learn from the slip, or
• You blame yourself, beat yourself up, feel guilty and smoke another cigarette.
If you choose the latter, your next two choices are:
• You renew your resolve to become smoke-free and start anew, or
• You relapse and become a smoker again. Realize you need to work on your motivation, make changes in your Action Plan and/or set another Quit Date when you’re ready.
You can choose to see a slip as a failure or as a learning experience. You can choose to let the events of your life control you, or you can take control of your life. The choices you make are determined by who you think you are, and the benefits and expectations you bring to the situation.

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