Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home


Chapter 8: The First 72 Hours

Topics:  Smart Turkey | Commitment

Genuine Commitment

Commitment Defined

Commitment is to decide, to pledge and then do. It's about creating a loyal memory muscle that continues working when the justifications for beginning are no longer illuminated by the spotlight of the mind.

Unfortunately, far too many nicotine addicts play pretend quitting games, millions upon millions until too late. Their reasons are many.

It allows them to make-believe that they're working on the problem, that it's being addressed. "I'll do better next time!" It buys their psyche and self-esteem temporary peace of mind. "Well, at least I tried."

And let's face it, a pretend or half-hearted attempt can briefly help get that pestering friend or loved one off your back. The more firey and temperamental the quitting charade, the longer it silences well-intended nagging.

Sham quitting can be part of a half-baked scheme to qualify for cheaper insurance, to win a bet, land a job, or even earn a date with a non-smoker. Such motives are often gift wrapped in substitute nicotine delivery weaning games. There, as many of us learned, such games quickly grow old or give birth to additional recovery hurdles.

And then there are attempts driven by growing awareness of the horrific damage being done within: gradually diminishing abilities, a nagging cough, artery blockage, that first root canal or pulled tooth, bronchitis, an A1C warning of approaching type 2 diabetes, an x-ray suggesting early emphysema, or one of a hundred other dependency related health scares.

A little fear can be a good thing. But when it's our sole motivation, like holding our breath, we can only remain afraid for so long. In that the body's ability to mend after quitting gradually erodes most health concerns, relapse is often just a matter of time.

The common thread with farce cessation is a lack of commitment.

"Well, maybe I'm not ready to commit just yet"? Oh, you're plenty ready, as evidenced by you reading these words.

Still, it takes more than being ready to move commitment beyond the starting line. It's discombobulating thinking about the temporary discomfort associated with getting serious about saying "no" to your prision bars, to the thousands of old wanting satisfaction memories that keep teasing an addict back. And the thought of quitting forever can be disturbing, "That's my last puff, vape, dip or chew ever!"

Would we question wearing a cast for the 6-8 weeks needed to heal a broken bone? Be honest, is your addiction and the need for recovery any less real than an untreated broken bone?

Are you curious about meeting the real yet forgotten you? (Chapter 3). All memory of the beauty of being free was long ago buried by nicotine's repeated activation of your brain's priorities enforcer. The only path home is to make accomplishment that circuitry's new priority. And that happens when we muster and merge the moxie to say "no" with real commitment.

Commitment's Degree and Duration

Fact: just one puff and up to half of dopamine pathway receptors become occupied by nicotine.[1] Like the alcoholic, heroin or meth addict, we can't cheat or fool the design of brain circuitry that's been permanently compromised by nicotine.

Thus, recovery is all or nothing.

And now for great news. While the degree of commitment required is 100 percent, commitment's duration can be as short as circumstances dictate: an hour, that next challenge, or just one day at a time.

Better yet, commitment gradually becomes effortless.[2] Imagine entire days, weeks, months or even years without once wanting to smoke, dip, vape or chew. Like learning to crawl and stand before walking and running, return of a calm and quiet mind awaits you.

Even the uneducated successful ex-user usually falls in love with being free. It occurs dispite continuing to harbor false beliefs such as nicotine being a stress-buster (Chapter 4) or that they liked or loved using (Chapter 4).

How do we know? Because relapse studies teach us that 90 percent who stop for 90 days are still not smoking at 6 months.[3]

Why? Because being free grows on you. Because pre-quitting dread, fears and anxieties evolve into like or even love. Because nicotine addiction is captivity that reinforces with every use.

Only when we muster the courage to take that first baby step toward arresting our dependency's endless need-feed cycle can truth begin taking root.

Still, if just starting out, the huge bite thought of quitting forever can feel overwhelming.

The great news is that the more effortless, easy and comfortable recovery grows, the more valued and cherished being free becomes. And it isn't long before a "one day at a time" mindset finds itself embracing thoughts of forever, of never, ever using again.

Although my mentor Joel Spitzer conducted more than 350 two-week stop smoking clinics, he quickly discovered a number of durable truths. He noticed that within two weeks, nearly all participants were beginning to savor growing periods of calm, that, for the most part, pre-cessation fears had melted away.

So, it's no accident that most of Joel's clinic follow-up reinforcement letters and all of his more than 400 YouTube videos end by reminding us that when it comes to successful quitting, "it's a matter of finally making and sticking to a personal commitment to Never Take Another Puff" (NTAP).[4]

Early Commitment's Mindset

The first few days of an educated recovery are a cakewalk for some, seriously challenging for others, and easier than expected for most.

Although it sounds strange, within reason, everything felt during the up to 72 hours needed to purge the body of nicotine and move beyond peak withdrawal is beneficial and good, not bad.

What more honest signs of healing could there be? Does it make sense to fear healing? Why resist taking back our mind? Why fight coming home? Why fear returning to entire days where we never once want to use?

Like getting through three days of the flu or six weeks of wearing a cast, why not strive to get as comfortable as possible being temporarily uncomfortable? As Chief Dan George says, "endeavor to persevere." And do so with class, dignity and style.

Should you ever feel your commitment beginning to wane be sure to review the commitment reinforcement resources outlined in Chapter 5. Most important among them, be sure to review your list of reasons for wanting to be clean and free.

The balance of FFN-TJH details four layers of recovery: (1) physical (Chapter 9), (2) emotional (Chapter 10), (3) subconscious (Chapter 11), and (4) conscious (Chapter 12). It closes with chapters on homecoming (Chapter 13) and how to avoid complacency & relapse (Chapter 14).

Again, there was always only one rule. It's that lapse equals relapse, that one equals all, that just one hit of nicotine and the mind will re-activate thousands of old nicotine use memories that will place using yet again on, a par with that next meal.

Just that first brave step, yes you can.

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1. Brody AL et al, Cigarette smoking saturates brain alpha 4 beta 2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, Archives of General Psychiatry, August 2006, Volume 63(8), Pages 907-915.
2. Freedom, Tell a newbie how many seconds a day you still want a cigarette, (read more than 800 support group responses to this 2001 question posed by Joel Spitzer).
3.Gilpin EA, Pierce JP, Farkas AJ, Duration of smoking abstinence and success in quitting, The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, April 16, 1997, Volume 89(8), Pages 572-576.
4. YouTube, Joel Spitzer's Stop Smoking Video Library,

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