Craves episodes: the bigger the better
Although the above crave episode chart reflects averages of quitter data from a specific study of a unique population, it shows two factors common to every recovery: that the number of daily crave episodes (those mini panic attacks) will peak, and that they will then begin to gradually decline. I'd like to focus on the decline.
Nicotine's two-hour half-life inside human blood serum combined with dependency onset (initial neuronal saturation, desensitization and loss of use autonomy) and tolerance (the mind's continuing desensitization to the presence of increasing amounts of nicotine - known as a4b2 receptor count upregulation) to compel each of us to seek regular nicotine replenishment. Without even realizing it, we each selected our own unique nicotine feeding patterns in order to avoid sensing the arrival of urges and anxieties associated with the onset of early nicotine withdrawal.
Unless hiding in a closet or locked up in a hospital room, we had no choice but to meet, greet, defeat and extinguish the bulk of our subconscious mind's normal daily nicotine feeding cues within the first week. The early stream of battles in extinguishing our normal daily primary use cues kept us on our toes, prepared and ready, on a moment's notice to swing into action.
The above graph shows that by the 10th day the average quitter was experiencing just 1.4 crave episodes per day. That translates to less than five minutes of serious challenge. But what about the days that follow? What would be the normal, natural and expected consequences of beginning to go entire days without encountering an un-extinguished crave trigger? What would happen to anticipation, your preparedness, your defenses, battle plans and your recovery guard?
For purposes of discussion only, let's pretend that during days 14, 15 and 16, that although you remained occupied in dealing with highly controllable conscious thoughts about wanting to smoke, that you did not encounter any un-extinguished nicotine feeding cue. Although unlikely that you'd notice, wouldn't it be normal to begin to relax and slowly lower your guard?
And then it happens. On day 17 you encounter a subconscious crave trigger that wasn't part of normal daily life. It catches you totally unprepared, off-guard and surprised. You scramble to muster your defenses but it's as if they too are being swallowed by a fast moving tsunami of rising anxieties. You feel as if you've been sucker-punched hard by the most intense crave ever. It feels endless. Your conscious thinking mind tells you that things are getting worse, not better. The thought of throwing in the towel and giving-up suddenly begins sloshing through a horrified mind.
It is then, when things seem worst, that we need to briefly pause and reflect upon what we're really seeing. Things are not getting worse but better. Think about how long it's been since your last significant challenge and how relaxed you had allowed yourself to become. It's likely that this episode is no more intense than prior craves. But you'd taken off your life jacket and you couldn't quickly locate and put it on. You panicked.
If an event similar should happen to you I'd encourage you to stop, reflect and then celebrate!!! You've reclaimed so many once conditioned aspects of a nicotine dependent life that serious challenges are growing rare. Oh, you'll still encounter remote or possibly even seasonal triggers but with the passing of time they'll grow further apart, shorter in duration and generally less intense.
Try to keep a clock handy as recovery time distortion is very real and a less than three minute episode can feel much longer. None of us will ever be stronger than nicotine but then we don't need to be as it's simply a chemical with an IQ of zero. Trust your dreams to your vastly superior intelligence, your greatest weapon of all.
Still just one guiding principle, a principle that no matter how far we travel or how deep our comfort becomes will always remain our common bond ... no nicotine today, Never Take Another Puff!
John (Gold x6)