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Want to stop smoking? There's only one rule.

by John R. Polito, Editor WhyQuit.com

Looking for the key quit smoking tip?  There was always only one rule, no nicotine today!A three pack-a-day smoker, I'd spent 30 years trying to quit smoking and falling flat on my face. And then it happened. After one last failed attempt, at last I admitted the truth. I was a real drug addict in every sense, and it was as real and permanent as alcoholism. Although I didn't then realize it, that was the most liberating moment of my entire life.

Why? Because I no longer needed the long list of lies I'd invented to explain why I'd smoke that next cigarette. Stress, flavor, pleasure, boredom, taste, because my friends smoked, because of my job, they were all lies. I didn't smoke because I liked smoking. I smoked because I had to. I smoked because I didn't like what happened when I didn't smoke: the onset of the anxieties of early withdrawal.

Since 1988 the Surgeon General has told us that smoking nicotine is as addictive as heroin. The biggest tobacco company's website shouts that, "Philip Morris USA agrees with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking is addictive." Canadian cigarette pack smoking addiction warning.Today, Canadian cigarette packs scream the message, "WARNING cigarettes are highly addictive - studies have shown that tobacco can be harder to quit than heroin or cocaine."

So why had I taken so long to admit who I was, a "real" drug addict? I've since learned that it's called denial and it's normal. But admitting real addiction will likely save you from smoking yourself to death. Why? Because it makes quitting's rules amazingly simple.

Like that first sip triggering the alcoholic's full relapse, nicotine addicts only have one rule, just one puff of nicotine when trying to quit and your brain will soon be begging for more. In fact, just one puff and within ten seconds up to 50% of our brain's nicotinic receptors will become occupied by nicotine molecules. We may think we've gotten away with a puff but it won't be long before our brain is urging us to smoke more.

When quitting, our blood becomes 100% nicotine free within 72 hours and withdrawal peaks in intensity. It's then that surgery is complete and true healing begins. Although no crave episode will last longer than 3 minutes, time distortion can make the minutes feel like hours so be sure and look at a clock. Be sure not to skip meals for at least the first 3 days and if possible drink extra natural fruit juice as it will help eliminate nicotine from your system quicker.

But most important of all, repeat to yourself:
"I am a real drug addict. I do not smoke for flavor or taste. There are zero taste buds inside my lungs. I smoke because my brain became addicted to nicotine and grew millions of extra nicotinic receptors. When I quit, withdrawal will peak within 3 days. Within 3 weeks my brain will reduce the number of nicotinic receptors and restore natural sensitivities. Within 3 weeks I will awaken to the fact that nicotine addiction is about living a lie, that everything I did while its slave can be done as well as or better without it. But as the calm and comfort inside my mind grows, I must never allow myself to forget that I can not kill my addiction but only arrest it. Just one puff of nicotine and full relapse will follow, as my brain will soon be begging for more. I'm coming home to real me and there's only one quitting rule, no nicotine today!"

Peak withdrawal can be behind you within 72 hours. Baby steps, take things just one hour and challenge at a time. All we can control are the next few minutes and each is entirely do-able! Just one rule, no nicotine today.

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Written November 19, 2009 and updated June 7, 2015 by John R. Polito