Smoking triggers

Recently someone mentioned to me how when she had been off smoking for a week she was hit with a major urge while in the ice cream isle of her supermarket. Not only was it strong, but it lasted longer than most of the urges she had in the days prior to this event. This is the explanation I gave her as to why the thought was triggered and the reason for the longer than average duration. It helps explains a little further about smoking patterns.

My explanation:

There is a reason the ice cream aisle might have triggered the urge to smoke. The ice cream aisle was likely one of the last items you shopped for since you didn’t want it to melt. As a smoker, the half-life of nicotine is 20 to 30 minutes, meaning after this time period you would always be in a slight state of withdrawal. You were never allowed to smoke in the store, so by the time you would leave, lighting up would be an automatic response. You may always have had a tough time though even before leaving. You would likely be in a hurry to check out and exit by the time you hit that aisle for you may have already been in withdrawal.

If you had not shopped for ice cream since you quit, the first time would probably be an automatic trigger. If not then, as soon as you would leave the store it probably would have done it. Other situations which will also trigger this way is when you first leave a movie theatre, library, or non-smokers homes who you have visited in the past and never smoked at.

It’s kind of funny, it’s the places some people try to escape to the first week they quit smoking, places they never could smoke. What they fail to recognize sometimes though is they have to leave those places. They better understand that these times will be powerful triggers.

It is important to do these things though to break the triggers. Time doesn’t teach you how not to smoke, experience does. The more things you experience and the sooner, the more you recognize that there is life after smoking.

Don’t let it get you down, acknowledge the crave, recognize you don’t want to be a smoker and congratulate yourself for overcoming another trigger. Oh yeah, enjoy the ice cream and when finished with the same sized helping you would have had when you were still a smoker (don’t increase quantity even if it does taste better, calories you know), go for a short walk and think to yourself that no matter how many triggers occur like this, you will Never Take Another Puff!

 Joel

 Some further clarification:

The kind of trigger talked about here is not just when going out to different places though, home based activities will have the same reaction. Any activity that takes over 20 minutes would eventually get tied into smoking. Mowing the lawn, laundry, using the bathroom, paying bills, talking on the phone, basically, anything that took time very likely became a smoking based activity or had built in smoking breaks associated with them. The first time encountering any of these activities after cessation would be a powerful trigger.

But again, the only way to break these associations is by encountering them the first times, and overcoming them. After a few repeated episodes, not smoking will become the habit for the event. Again, not by time passing but rather by repeated experience. But my closing statement above still applies to them. No matter what triggers occur, all that you need to do to overcome it and learn a new experience as an ex-smoker is to Never Take Another Puff!

Additional commentary from the Freedom from Nicotine board:

Sometimes the triggers don’t make so much sense, at least not on the surface. The trick is just to always have your guard up, being prepared daily for anything. For no matter how long you are off smoking, triggers can and will occur.

Sometimes triggers will be obvious and easy to identify, like running into an old friend who is a chain smoker and you always smoked with them in the past. Sometimes they will be less obvious though, like when it is an old friend who has always been a non-smoker. Whenever you were with them in the past, you too would never smoke because they were around. So why would they make you think of a cigarette?

Well, before you would ever go to see them, you would smoke a few extra cigarettes just to be able to stay with them a little longer. Or more likely, the trigger wouldn’t happen when you first see them, but rather as soon as they would leave. More accurately, it would hit as soon as you were out of their line of vision. In the past, that is when you would instantly light up. Even though you never smoked in their presence, you were still a smoker when with them. This association will last until these initial first encounters with them breaking the pattern and mindset that you are a smoker in this particular circumstance.

As more and more time passes, experiences like this become more sporadic. But keep focused daily. When you wake up say today is another day you will not smoke. So if these rare occurrences happen, you are ready. And again at the end of the day congratulate yourself for another victorious day without smoking.

Hang in there and don’t let the triggers get you. Make each one just another learning experience. The lesson, no matter what triggers a thought, to beat it, Never Take Another Puff!

Related resources:

Resources related to facing or avoiding triggers