Recovery from Nicotine Addiction: Myths vs. Facts

Close up of Hispanic woman breaking cigarette
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Most of us have had quit attempts that we thought of as an event; a task that we could complete within a few weeks, or a month at most. Then, when the urge to smoke persisted beyond what we felt was reasonable, we despaired of ever feeling comfortable without cigarettes and started smoking again.

While the worst of nicotine withdrawal is over within a matter of weeks, release from the habitual / emotional side of smoking comes more slowly.

Smoking cessation is a process, not an event.


Let's look at some common misconceptions about quitting tobacco that can hinder your chances for success.

Myth: It's too late for me to quit smoking. The damage is done.
Fact: It's never too late to quit smoking.

Bluntly put, the only time it's too late to quit smoking is when you're six feet under. When you stop smoking, the benefits begin with 20 minutes of your last cigarette, and continue to grow for years. The human body is incredibly resilient, and while not all smoking-related damage can be undone, much healing can and will occur.

Psychologically, you'll have a better outlook once you've healed from nicotine addiction. Most of us spend years tied to cigarettes.  We desperately want to stop, but time goes by, making us feel weak, powerless and beaten down.  This causes a slow destruction of self-esteem, usually so gradual we don't realize what's happening.

 It's no wonder that so many long-term smokers suffer from anxiety and depression.

Quitting tobacco will empower you much more than you can imagine.  Once grasped, most people refuse to let go of the freedom that comes from taking back the control that addiction stole.

Myth: I can smoke one cigarette and maintain my quit program.
Fact: There is no such thing as just one cigarette.

For the vast majority of smokers, re-introducing nicotine after quitting leads back to full-time smoking. There is no such thing as just one cigarette for a nicotine addict. Smoking, even as little as a few puffs on a cigarette, is enough to awaken the beast within. And sadly, people who relapse often spend years trying to get a foothold with smoking cessation once again.

If you want to boot nicotine addiction out of your life for good, live the philosophy of N.O.P.E. - Not One Puff Ever.

Myth: Relapse can happen without warning.
Fact: Relapse never happens without warning.

The road to relapse always starts in our minds. Unhealthy thoughts of smoking are normal as we move through recovery from nicotine addiction, but left unchecked, they can spell trouble. It has been said that humans have upwards of 60,000 thoughts on a daily basis.

You'd probably be surprised to know that much of what we tell ourselves is negative and self-defeating. We're often our own worst critics.

Listen in on your thoughts and correct those that are counterproductive immediately. Don't give them a chance to fester and gain momentum. It doesn't matter whether you believe the correction - your mind is taking note, and that's all that matters.  Correcting faulty thinking will help to keep you in the driver's seat with your quit program.

Myth: I'll always miss smoking.
Fact: True freedom is a state of mind.

We all have the ability to make changes in our thinking that will bring lasting release from nicotine addiction.

People who miss smoking years later have not let go of the emotional associations they had with smoking, and usually think of it in a fond, nostalgic,or romantic light. They might even tell themselves subconsciously (or consciously) that quitting was a sacrifice. They quit smoking because they had to, but they loved smoking.

That kind of faulty thinking will keep the seeds of addiction alive, ready to take the root again when the opportunity presents itself. But make no mistake, it is their thoughts that hold them prisoner, not cigarettes.

Have you ever had a relationship go sour because of a change in attitude on your part? A shift occurs in your perception, and once your mind turns that corner, there's no going back. It is similar with the mental side of addiction.

Once we get clear of the physical need for cigarettes, what is left is an emotional relationship with smoking, much of which is based on ritual. The habit of smoking is powerful, but reprogrammable. Add some education about nicotine addiction and support from people who are going through what you are to your quit program. It will make all the difference in helping you permanently free yourself of the desire to smoke.

Keep yourself in the present moments of today, and be grateful for each and every smoke-free day you complete. Be patient with yourself and think of time as one of your quit buddies. The more of it you put between yourself and that last cigarette you smoked, the stronger you'll become.

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