Chapter 9 focuses upon the time needed by the brain to re-adjust its equilibrium or homeostasis to again functioning without nicotine.
Nicotine caused both activation and deactivation of nicotinic-type acetylcholine receptors. Animal studies suggest that a significant increase in the number of receptors (up-regulation) may have occurred in as many as 11 different brain regions.
Brain healing is at the mercy of the patience necessary to allow time to restore natural sensitivities. If allowed, it will work around-the-clock returning neurotransmitter receptor counts and sensitivities to normal.
As explained, the pace of healing is amazingly fast. Within three days, the mind and body become nicotine-free and we move beyond peak withdrawal.
While the vast majority of physical re-adjustments are generally recognized as being complete within the first two weeks, recent studies suggest that some symptoms, primarily related to neuron sensitivity restoration and emotions, may persist for 3-4 weeks.
Aside from the brain, the body needs time for its physiology to adjust to again functioning without nicotine and all other chemicals introduced by our method of delivery. As it does, the withdrawal symptoms experienced may be none, few, some or many.
Although Chapter 9 provides a detailed list and discussion of possible withdrawal symptoms, I strongly encourage you to skip it. That's right. Don't read it. If needed, it'll be there.
Such lists have a tendency to transform a sensation that may have been barely noticeable into a full-blown concern. FFN-TJH's primary goal is to destroy fears, not foster them.
Since 1999 our online support sites at Freedom and Turkeyville have worked with thousands navigating recovery. While most report heightened anxieties and emotional challenges, many experience almost no noticeable physical symptoms whatsoever.
Also, don't confuse the time needed for the mind to adapt to functioning without nicotine's influence, with the time needed for deep tissue healing and purging of tobacco tars. As suggested by the recovery timetable at the end of this chapter, it takes significant time to fully expel toxins and carcinogens and heal from their assaults.
Although chemical in nature, a long and intense relationship is ending. For most, it was the most dependable relationship we'd ever known.
Even if our fix was bummed or borrowed and the flavor of the brand was horrible, even if the cigarette was damp, slightly torn, broken and in need of repair, even if the gum was rock hard, the dip stale, or the butt from an ashtray, the nicotine was always there.
Never once did nicotine let us down in providing temporary relief from urges and wanting.
Once inside our bloodstream, within seconds we experienced replenishment: nicotine's stimulation of our nervous system accompanied by satisfaction of our mind's latest cycle of need.
But now that's all behind us. It's over, finished, done. And as with ending any long-term relationship we must navigate the sense of loss emotions flowing from it.
Denial, anger, bargaining and depression are normal emotional phases associated with any significant loss. Navigating each brings us closer to the final phase marking completion of emotional recovery (Chapter 10), acceptance.
Nicotine's two-hour half-life compelled us to select replenishment times, situations and patterns. While you may not have recognized the patterns, your subconscious was expert in doing so.
When did you replenish? Upon waking each morning, entering the bathroom, before or after a meal, in the yard or garage, while traveling, surrounding work, around friends, while drinking, on the telephone, before bed, when happy, sad, stressed or mad?
Whether or not aware of our use patterns, our subconscious recorded the times, places, circumstances and emotions during which nicotine replenishment occurred. Those situations became conditioned use cues, alerting our subconscious that it was time for more.
Encountering a use cue would trigger a gentle urge feeding time reminder. Usually it wasn't noticed and normally we simply obeyed. But if not and we delayed too long, anxiety alarms may have sounded, triggering a full-blown crave episode.
Subconscious recovery (Chapter 11) is about meeting, greeting and extinguishing each conditioned use cue. The subconscious mind does not plot, plan or conspire. It simply reacts to input.If we say "no" during what's normally a less than 3 minute crave episode (which time distortion may cause to feel far longer), in most instances a single encounter will sever and break the nicotine use association, extinguishing the cue that caused it.
Wee are rewarded each time we extinguish a cue with the return of another aspect of a nicotine-free life. That's right, crave episodes are good not bad. It's how we take back life, just one time, place, person, activity or emotion at a time.
Chapter 11 explores a host of crave coping techniques. For now, understand that: (1) there is no force or circumstance on planet earth that can compel us to introduce nicotine into our bloodstream; (2) we will always be able to handle up to three minutes of wanting anxiety; and (3) the reward at the end of each episode, extinguishing and silencing another use cue, is worth vastly more than the price of enduring it.
By far, normally the easiest yet longest layer of recovery is reclaiming normal everyday thinking.
Unlike a less than three-minute subconscious crave episode, the conscious mind can fixate upon a thought of wanting to use for as long as we are able to maintain concentration and focus. How long can you keep your mind focused upon your favorite food? Look at a clock and give it a try. Can you taste it? Does it make your mouth water? Are you feeling an urge?
Now think about your favorite nicotine use rationalization. What was your primary use justification?
Conscious recovery is the period of time needed for new nicotine-free memories to gather, overwrite or suppress all the durable dopamine pathway memories documenting how wanting was briefly satisfied by using more. It's the time needed to move beyond their conscious tease.
Conscious recovery is very much within our ability to accelerate. For example, it isn't necessary to wait for old nicotine use memories to gradually fade away in order to alter their impact upon us.
It's done by seeing our pile of old wanting satisfaction memories for the truth they reflect; that each memory was created by an actively feeding addict in varying degrees of need of more.
It's also accomplished by a willingness to let go of our use rationalizations. This is done by grabbing hold of each use justification, exposing it to honest light, and recasting it using truth.
Chapter 12 (Conscious Recovery) is about using logic, reason and science to accelerate this final phase of recovery. As seen in Chapter 4 (Rationalizations), some use rationalizations can be laughed away. Others require a bit more distance from active dependency before honesty and clarity of thought allow us to appreciate the truth and let go. And there may be one or more which seem harder to move beyond.
Contrary to nicotine industry marketing, there was only one reason we didn't stop using long, long ago. Our new addiction quickly conditioned us to expect anxiety, irritability, anger and depression to begin building if we waited too long between feedings.
We didn't continue using because we liked it. We did so because we didn't like what happened when we didn't.