Recognizing needs is a great post by our quit brother OBob. It discusses the way that a smoker--or a learning ex-smoker--will mistake cravings for food, water, sleep, relaxation, etc., for nicotine cravings.
I was thinking about a different aspect of this same problem: there will be urges to do other things that you always thought were caused by the urge for a smoke, that weren't. Actually they caused themselves, and you became convinced that smoking caused them.
For example: as a smoker I would always leave the house not long after getting up. I always thought that the imperative pushing me out the door was that I needed to go somewhere, away from my family, where I could smoke in peace. I could barely wait to walk those six blocks to campus, sit down on the wall, and have that first heart-pounding, coughing smoke of the day. But after I quit smoking I continued to want to leave the house right after breakfast. Even if there's nowhere I really have to go, I will walk downtown or something. It turns out that I didn't want to leave the house because I wanted to smoke; I just wanted to leave the house and not feel cooped up. That urge was never caused by cigarettes. The difference now is that I'm leaving because I really want to, not because I have to to maintain my nicotine levels.
Or:It took me months to figure this one out. When I was smoking and I'd get freaked out and nervous about something, my throat would have this brief little clutching-spasm. That along with many other bodily sensations was the signal for me to have a cigarette. (Actually I'd suck down two or three, one right after the other, if I was feeling nervous. How disgusting.) After I quit, when I'd get nervous, my throat would seize up in the exact same way. It really bothered me; I thought it was my body asking for a cigarette. After a long time I figured it out: that feeling is just something my body does when I'm nervous. It has nothing to do with cigarettes. It never did. The difference now is that when I'm nervous, I have all the available actions at my command to make myself less nervous, but I don't have to take the extra step of maintaining my plummeting nicotine levels.
Or:How about relaxing in the evening? "When I get done today I'm gonna have a beer or two, settle in with a movie/book, and smoke all the cigarettes I want to for hours and hours and no one can stop me hahahahaha." Was this you? It sure was me. Smoking was, like, my FAVORITE part of relaxing. It was what made relaxing seem worthwhile to me. For a lot of us, the prospect of getting dressed down by the boss or fighting with our spouse without a smoke pales in comparison to the scariness of going out with friends for an evening of fun, without a smoke. But quickly, you learn that your body and mind want to relax, even without cigarettes. Cigarettes don't make fun fun, they are just necessary for an active addict to feel okay. Fun makes fun fun. The difference now is that I can have fun in smoking atmospheres, or also in non-smoking atmospheres. I have a choice.
I just wanted to point out to new people that in quitting smoking you are going to learn a whole lot of things about yourself that you didn't know. A lot of you may feel concerned that somehow you won't be as much "yourself" without smoking; you feel that smoking was an important part of your self-image. I felt like that at first. I think you will find that every single one of the things that you think made smoking help you be you....are just you. They never needed the cigarettes at all. You just thought they did.
I am so happy to be sharing another smoke-free day with all of you.
1 year, 1 week, 3 days.