Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home


Chapter 8: The First 72 Hours

Topics:  Smart Turkey | Commitment

Smart Turkey

Ready to begin? Will this be smart turkey? In other words, are you keen and wise to core cold turkey recovery insights?

Have you accepted that you're dealing with real drug addiction in every sense, involving the need to reclaim the same brain dopamine pathways as the recovering alcoholic or heroin addict (Chapter 1)?

Have you mastered recovery's sole determining principle, the Law of Addiction (Chapter 2)?

Have you discarded the two most destructive relapse rationalizations: falling for the tease of "just one" or "just once" and the dependency engrained mirage that nicotine relieves stress, when dependency actually inflames it (Chapter 4)?

Have you reviewed other common hazards and pitfalls such as early alcohol use, avoidable blood sugar swings, awareness that your blood caffeine level is about to double, and how extra food can become a replacement crutch (Chapter 6)? If so, you're ready!

Still apprehensive? Relax, it's totally understandable.

The following cold turkey tips are a summary of key recovery insights. After each tip is reference to the chapter where you'll find a more in-depth review.

Summary of Basic Recovery Tips

1. Law of Addiction - "Administration of a drug to an addict will cause re-establishment of chemical dependence upon the addictive substance."

Nicotine addiction is "real" drug addiction. It's every bit as real and permanent as alcoholism. The brain dopamine pathway wanting felt for nicotine is no different than the wanting felt by other drug addicts for their drug.

The same dopamine pathways that make thoughts of ending food use unthinkable have been taken hostage by nicotine. It's their job to make activities that activate this circuitry nearly impossible in the short term to forget or ignore.

It's why withdrawal and recovery are necessary. It's the time needed to get clean and move beyond this brain circuitry's influence. It's why there is no such thing as just one, or just once. Remember, without food we die, without nicotine we thrive. (Chapter 1 and Chapter 2)

2. Measure Victory One Day at a Time - Forget about stopping "forever." It's the biggest psychological bite imaginable. Instead, adopt a do-able "one day at a time" recovery philosophy, or one challenge or hour at a time if needed. (Chapter 5)

3. Record and Carry Your Motivations - Panic is a possibility if suddenly challenged. Rational thinking is suddenly abandoned as the body's fight or flight neuro-chemical response is activated. Your primitive impulsive mind suddenly in control, it can feel like time has slowed to near standstill. Instantly, you've forgotten the reasons that motivated you to want to take back control of your mind and life.

But wait. Just as the situation is feeling hopeless, you recall that you'd made a list of your reasons, and that you have that list with you. You pull it out, begin reading it, and before finished the challenge peaks in intensity and begins to subside. Victory is once again yours! (Chapter 5) (Appendix: Recovery Form)

4. Don't Skip Meals - While still using, you may have thought you were skipping meals but you weren't. Each puff of nicotine acted as a spoon pumping stored fats and sugars into your bloodstream. Why cause low blood sugar to add hunger cravings atop nicotine cravings? Hourly nicotine feedings no longer feeding you stored energy, why invite your inexperience in responding to hunger to add lots of needless extra pounds?

While learning to properly fuel your body again, strive to eat smaller portions of healthy food more frequently, 3-5 times daily. (Chapter 6)

5. Three Days of Natural Juices - If your health and diet allow it, consider drinking extra acidic fruit juice the first three days. Cranberry is excellent. It will both help stabilize your blood sugar level and accelerate nicotine's elimination. (Chapter 6)

6. Stopping for Others - We cannot quit for others. It must be our gift to us. Trying to quit for others creates a natural sense of self-deprivation that's a recipe for relapse. (Chapter 5)

7. Attitude - Strive to embrace your healing, not fight it. Accept the fact that noticing and feeling your healing for a few weeks or months is good and wonderful, a tiny price to pay in reclaiming your freedom, mind and life. Although not mandatory in staying free, a positive and accepting attitude will diminish the anxieties felt, and accelerate letting go and arriving home.

Remember, your use-conditioned and healing subconscious is always listening. Don't be afraid to talk to and encourage it to switch teams and help protect against that first recovery destroying puff, vape, dip or chew.(Chapter 5)

8. Get Rid of All Nicotine - Reflect upon the insanity of an alcoholic in withdrawal keeping a bottle handy. Keeping a stash is begging for relapse. Totally destroy - beyond salvage - all nicotine products. (Chapter 5)

9. Caffeine/Nicotine Interaction - Nicotine doubles the rate by which the body depletes caffeine. Consider a caffeine reduction of up to one-half if troubled by anxieties or poor sleeping. (Chapter 6)

10. Aggressively Extinguish Nicotine Use Cues - Most use cues are extinguished by a single encounter during which the subconscious fails to receive the expected result: nicotine. Subconsciously triggered craves normally peak in intensity within three minutes. But normal cessation time distortion can combine with panic to make minutes feel like hours. Keep a clock handy to maintain honest perspective. Don't hide from your healing and reclaiming life, accelerate it. (Chapter 11)

11. Crave Coping Techniques - Give distraction a try. Engage in slow, deep and deliberate breathing while striving to clear your mind of all needless chatter, while focusing upon your favorite person, place or thing. Another method of physically challenging your brain's focus is to slowly and repeatedly move your eyes horizontally, as far to the left and then as far to the right as possible.

Yet another approach is say your ABCs while associating each letter with your favorite food, person or place. For example, the letter "A" is for grandma's hot apple pie. "B" is for warm buttered biscuits. It's unlikely that you'll ever make it to the challenging letter Q before the episode peaks in intensity and victory is once again yours.

Another tactic is to embrace a crave episode's energy by mentally reaching out inside your mind and wrapping imaginary arms around it. A crave cannot cut us, burn us, shock us or make us bleed. Be brave just once. In your mind, wrap your arms around the crave's anxiety energy. Feel the sensation as its anxiety energy slowly fizzles and dies while within your embrace. Yes, another use cue bites the dust and your healing continues!

Don't forget about taking out and reading your list of reasons for wanting to break free.

And should you find yourself reaching for weight generating extra food to stimulate dopamine flow, reach for zero calorie "aaah" sensations instead: a slow deep breath or, if available, a cool glass of water or a great big hug.(Chapter 11)

12. Early Alcohol Use - Alcohol, an inhibition diminishing substance, is associated with roughly half of all relapses. Be extremely careful with early alcohol use. Endeavor to get your recovery legs under you first.

Once ready, consider drinking at home first without nicotine around, going out with friends but refraining from drinking during the first outing, or spacing drinks further apart or drinking water or juice between drinks. Have an escape plan and a backup, and be fully prepared to quickly deploy both. (Chapter 6)

13. Avoid Crutches - A crutch is any form of reliance that is leaned upon so heavily in supporting recovery that if quickly removed would elevate risk of relapse. For example, it's okay to begin an exercise program. Just don't allow your recovery to become dependent upon it, so that an injury, bad weather or a sudden lack of time leaves you feeling that your healing can't continue.(Chapter 6)

14. Extra Fruit & Veggies - Want to minimize weight gain? Pre-cut, prepare and keep handly healthy fruits and vegetables instead of candies, chips and pastries. Celery and carrots can be used safely as short-term substitutes. A 2012 study found that increased fruit and vegetable consumption can substantially increase 30-day cessation rates. (Chapter 6)

15. No Legitimate Excuse for Relapse - Recognize that nicotine use will not solve any crisis. Fully accept that there is absolutely no legitimate excuse for relapse, including an auto accident, financial crisis, the end of a relationship, job loss, a terrorist attack, a hurricane, the birth of a baby, falling stocks, or the eventual inevitable death of those we love. (Chapter 14)

16. Reward Yourself - Consider using some of the money you no longer spend on nicotine to be nice to you. It's money that truly would have been burned, vaporized, or chewed to pieces. Don't hesitate to splurge and purchase something that you never would otherwise have bought. Give yourself a gift. You've earned it. (Chapter 5)

17. Just One Rule - There is only one recovery rule which if followed provides a 100 percent guarantee of success: no nicotine today! (Chapter 2)

Now, all the smart turkey needs is commitment.

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Published in the USA

Page created November 30, 2016 and last updated June 17, 2018 by John R. Polito