As real addicts in every sense, many of us engaged in pretend quitting games. I certainly did. It allowed me the piece of mind that I was working on the problem, that it was simply a matter of time, that someday I'd discover the key to success.
Like the recovering alcoholic's hidden bottle, clear and convincing evidence of gamesmanship includes keeping nicotine handy after stopping.
The rationalizing addict has a number of available justifications. We could pretend that we forgot about our stash, that it wasn't a stash but simply an oversight, or it was our emergency backup, just in case the moment became to big to handle. We could also play power games, that we needed to keep nicotine available in order to prove that we were stronger than our addiction and in full control.
The "stronger" tactic makes as much sense as someone on suicide watch carrying a loaded gun, while fighting the urge to pull the trigger. Some insist on carrying their nicotine with them, while others knowingly keep delivery within quick and easy reach.
We will never be stronger than nicotine. Brains over bronze, we don't need to be. Our #1 weapon has always been our intelligence but only if put to work.
Feeling a need to tempt and toy with dependency rooted impulsiveness, in order to claim victory over it, is rooted in a natural desire to at last prevail over years and years of yearnings endured by a chemically dependent mind.
But with moments of significant stress a normal part of life, it's a formula for failure. Why treat quick access to nicotine as though a life jacket? It's a jacket, but more like a straightjacket that restrains and enslaves, not saves.
The smart move is to destroy all remaining nicotine. Whether in the pocket of a coat hanging in a closet, in a drawer, your other purse, hidden in the yard, on the balcony, in the garage, in a vehicle, under a seat, or at work, destroy it. And don't forget to empty the ashtrays too.
Keeping nicotine delivery handy is contrary to learning to live without it. Isn't it time to give "serious" a try? Check for cigarettes or a tin that may have fallen under furniture, beneath a cushion or under a car seat.
Throw out all old nicotine replacement products (gums, patches, lozenges, spray and inhaler), all pipes, pipe cleaners, roll-your-own supplies and equipment, all papers, pen type e-cigs, tanks, mods, extra juice, coils or chargers, and any smokeless tobacco, spittoons, any cigars and that oh so special Cuban cigar cutter too.
Getting rid of all nicotine may buy you precious seconds during challenging moments. With cue triggered crave episodes peaking within three minutes, a few seconds of delay may be all that's needed to begin sensing anxieties peak and then start easing off.
"Don't ever forget how cigarettes once controlled your behaviors and beliefs," reminds Joel. "When you stopped smoking you admitted cigarettes controlled you. You were literally afraid that one puff could put you back. That was not an irrational fear. One puff today will lead to the same tragic results as it would have the day you quit."
"Cigarettes were stronger than you before, and, if given the chance, will be stronger than you again, warns Joel. "If you want to show you are now in control, do it by admitting you can function without having cigarettes as a worthless and dangerous crutch."
You'll do just fine, even if your employment requires you to be near or handle nicotine products, or if you live with someone who insists upon leaving their cigarettes, e-cigs, cigars, dip, chew or NRT lying around. It simply means that you'll extinguish those use cues quicker than most.
Mind games involving conscious temptation are very much within our ability to control. Be smart. Don't just break remaining cigarettes in two, as being done by the woman in the above photo. Crush, throw-out or flush all remaining nicotine beyond your ability to straighten, repair, tape, filter, scoop up, or otherwise reclaim it.
Doing so is a way of proclaiming that this time is different, that the time for games is over, that at last I'm serious about coming home and seeing what it's like to experience the real me!