Just One Hour at a Time
Many smokers fail at breaking free because they sell themselves on the lie that the mountain is just too big to climb. Sadly, they've fed their mind such rubbish so long that it believes it as much as their name. Still, it doesn't stop them from trying. Every few years they'll take a few steps, stop and decide that the mountain is still too big.
It isn't that they are too lazy to climb, afraid of heights or lack the desire. It's that most convince themselves that there are just too many steps to take while having almost no insight into how many there actually are. Not only do they not have a map home, they've forgotten who they were.
Buried beneath a pile of nicotine induced dopamine "aaah" "pay attention" memories -- possibly the most high definition memories their mind has ever produced -- they now have very little if any remaining memory of the calm and quiet that occupied their mind before nicotine took control. It's why those first steps into recovery are often taken on faith. But if faith is to survive challenge, it needs to be nourished not starved.
Imagine loving to eat beef but thinking about dinner while picturing yourself having to eat an entire cow (actually a steer). That's about five hundreds pounds of beef. Impossible!
It'd get pretty discouraging rather fast, wouldn't it! But that's how most new quitters think about quitting. They pit their dreams, desires and faith against the biggest mental meal imaginable -- "FOREVER" -- that success can only be achieved by quitting forever.
Sitting down and eating 500 pounds of beef truly is impossible. Navigating the up to 72 hours it takes for your body to become nicotine free and for withdrawal to peak in intensity isn't just possible, it has already been done by the hundreds of millions of now comfortable ex-smokers who walked this path before you.
How does one consume 500 pounds of beef? One steak at a time. How do you navigate the most challenging period of nicotine detox and withdrawal, the first three days? One hour and challenge at a time!
As for beef, the average American consumes about 60 pounds of beef per year and thus consumes an entire steer once every 9 years. But forget 9 years. As with finishing a fine meal, celebrate each hour of freedom and healing for the full and complete victory it reflects.
We smokers are impatient people. We want results now! But it isn't our fault. Our minds have been conditioned by our addiction to expect immediate relief from the anxiety of early withdrawal. Smoking nicotine was quick and dependable. Within 8 to 10 seconds of that first puff nicotine we could actually feel it arrive in our brain as that "aaah" replenishment sensation was felt.
Every two hours the amount of nicotine remaining in our blood was cut by half. Within 20 to 30 minutes we would again sense our blood nicotine level falling to the point that minor discomfort (an urge) arrived and we'd again obtain almost immediate relief as new nicotine laden smoke was sucked into crying lungs.
A pack-a-day smoker repeats this cycle of obtaining immediate relief about 7,300 times a year. Yes, we nicotine addicts are impatient people when it comes to bringing an abrupt halt to the symptoms of withdrawal. But then we have good reason to be, as years of drug use conditioned us.
Those successful at recovery all learned to control their impatience by ignoring the size of the cow and height of the mountain as they continue taking just one bite and step at a time.
All lengthy tasks in life require baby steps in order to finish what we've started. We can't build a beautiful wall with just one brick, receive a new baby after a month of pregnancy, obtain a college degree after just one class, or cook a delicious holiday dinner in seconds.
Imagine getting half the meal cooked and then leaving the kitchen or building half a wall and walking away. Going the distance in life is normal. Swimming half way across the river and stopping is not.
Do you dream of being free? Is there any doubt in your mind that you can stop smoking for just one hour? If so, you already have the building blocks needed to break nicotine's grip upon your mind and life, but only if you fully accept the Law of Addiction, that just one powerful puff, dip or chew of nicotine and relapse is all but assured.
Not only has nicotine taken your brain's reward pathways hostage, it has rewired those pathways by growing millions of extra nicotinic type acetylcholine receptors in at least 11 different regions. They call it up-regulation and it's related to an addiction concept known as tolerance, the gradually increasing need over the years to use more nicotine in order to achieve the same effect.
Recovery is about restoring brain neuron receptor sensitivities. But just one puff and up to 50% of dopamine pathway receptors become occupied by nicotine.
Most who attempt cheating when quitting walk away feeling like they've gotten away with it. They will soon experience the fact that they cannot cheat a nicotine compromised brain. It won't be long before they find their brain wanting, plotting to obtain or even begging for more.
Recovery crave episodes are good and necessary not bad, and there is a prize at the end. It's how conditioned use cues are extinguished. Navigating a triggering use cue can return to you a time, place, person or activity during which you expected a new supply of nicotine.
Discovering how to remain as comfortable as possible being temporarily uncomfortable is how we take back our life.
While no subconscious crave episode lasts longer than three minutes, time distortion during recovery is as real as your name. Also, should you panic and activate your body's fight or flight response, 3 minutes can slow to near standstill and feel more like 3 hours. So be sure and look at a clock. Keep your eye on the path but try not to look ahead. Do your best to savor your healing not dread it.
It doesn't have to be difficult and if you'll allow your dreams to flood your mind you may even find joy in it. The hour could be flat and level or it might be bumpy. Your subconscious mind might sense your calmness and dreams and relax along with you, or sense fear and begin issuing forth anxiety command that beg you to throw in the towel.
Either way it's just one hour, and so is the hour that follows. See each hour of freedom as the full and complete victory that it is. Slowly they'll build and within 72 hours your blood will be nicotine-free and your mind will have no choice but to begin sensing what it's going to be like taking a long overdue rest. The endless lifetime chemical cycle of nicotine, dopamine and adrenaline highs and lows has ended.
With each passing hour you'll move closer and closer to that moment when the underlying current of anxieties (if any) begin easing off. Be sure and get plenty of rest as a tired mind is easier to betray.
Also sip on natural fruit juice the first three days: cranberry is excellent. It will both help stabilize your blood sugar and accelerate elimination of the alkaloid nicotine from your bloodstream.
And don't skip any meals. Each puff of nicotine fed you by activating your body's fight or flight response, which pumped stored fats and sugars into your bloodstream. You may need to learn to spread your normal daily calorie intake out more evenly over your entire day. If you try skipping meals after ending all nicotine use you'll experience wild blood sugar swings and concentration difficulties that can making recovery miserable.
Also, if you were a big caffeine drinker you need to know that nicotine doubled the rate at which caffeine was depleted by your body (203%). If you were not a big caffeine user you have nothing to worry about. But if a heavy user (greater than 750mg) or having difficulty sleeping, you'd be well advised to reduce your normal caffeine intake by up to one-half.
Some of us have spent a large part of our life learning to be good little nicotine addicts. Although it's not realistic for us to expect to learn to be a good little ex-smokers overnight, it is realistic to deeply believe that the next few minutes are entirely doable!
You deserve to see what it's like being "you" again. If you don't remember what it was like inside your mind prior to nicotine taking control, don't feel alone. Believe in your dreams and believe in you.
Don't be afraid as you're leaving nothing behind. Recovery is about discovering that everything you did while enslaved you can do as well or better once free. Baby steps to glory. Freedom is your birthright and there's only one rule: no nicotine today. The next few minutes are doable and there's only one rule if followed provides a 100% guarantees of success - just one hour at a time, no nicotine today!
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long,
John R. Polito
Nicotine Cessation Educator
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