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Will Nicotine Withdrawal Ever End?

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Updated April 08, 2014

Will Nicotine Withdrawal Ever End?
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Question: Will Nicotine Withdrawal Ever End?

"I quit in January and it is now late March. I used nicotine gum which got me through the worst part of it. Just like every other time I've tried to quit smoking though, once I'm into the 3rd or 4th month, feelings of nicotine withdrawal return and are so intense that I start smoking again. Nicotine withdrawal doesn't get better, it seems to intensify!

My doctor just says to suck it up. I've asked for medicinal help, a tranquilizer or whatever and was flatly refused saying I'm already "over the hump" and that this is all mental and not physical. WRONG!!! I don't want to smoke but I can't live with myself like this."

Answer: The time period around the 3rd month smoke-free is hard for a lot of folks -- so much so that there is a term associated with it -- 'The Icky Threes'.

The nicotine is out of your system, but it can sure feel like it isn't. This is because the mind can conjure up very real physical sensations to match the feelings we're experiencing.

So, while your craving a smoke is based in your thoughts, your body is reacting with sensations that are identical to nicotine withdrawal. Your stomach is in a knot, muscles are tensed, etc. It is important to understand this distinction, and to know that, while it is intense and uncomfortable, it is a normal part of the healing process and won't last forever. Work your way through it without smoking and it will pass.

Smoking Cessation is a Process, Not an Event

Most of us quit smoking thinking that we'll be done with cessation in a matter of weeks or a couple of months at most. In reality though, it takes the better part of a year to get through all of the daily and seasonal activities in our lives that trigger the urge to smoke. That is not to say that you'll be miserable like you are now for the entire first year -- you won't. However, it is likely that you'll come up against situations that will trigger smoking thoughts here and there.

I was eight months into my first smoke-free year and doing well when I was hit with a strong urge to take a smoke break while painting a room in the house. This is a summer activity for me and was the first time I'd done it since quitting the previous fall. I hadn't had a craving for a cigarette in months and the intensity of the urge shocked me. I was uncomfortable that day, but by the time I'd worked my way through the first day of painting smoke-free, the urge was gone for good.

Most of us smoked for many years and learned to associate just about everything in our lives with cigarettes. Anger, boredom, fatigue, hunger, sadness...literally every activity and emotion are triggers for us to smoke.

It takes time to undo those associations -- but surprisingly little, when compared to the amount of time we smoked. A year smoke-free will remove the majority of the negative programing, so stick with it. There IS light -- a lot of it -- at the end of this tunnel. What you are experiencing is not failure at quitting, but the growth pains of recovery.

If you haven't looked in on the support forum here at About.com Smoking Cessation, please do. It is extremely helpful to read about how others are coping with cessation and take advantage of the advice of those who have gotten through the tough times successfully. You can lurk and read, or register (free) to join in the conversations.

Take your quit one day at a time and be patient. The freedom you're moving toward is worth every bit of work it takes to achieve.

 

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