Romancing the Smoke

Has this happened to you? You quit, and you were going along really strong for the first 3 weeks, or even 3 months, and then you found that the urge to smoke got stronger and stronger?

At that point, did you start missing that first cigarette of the day, or how having a smoke could really calm you down when you were under stress? Did you start to think, “Hey, I’ve got this thing under control; maybe I can just have one cigarette now and then…”?

How did that work out for you?

If you’re like me, you ended up going back to smoking as much as (or more than) you had been smoking when you quit, and you did it within a few days of having “just this one.”

This happened to me too many times to count, and I think it’s because after you’ve been quit a certain length of time, you start to forget what it was really like when you were smoking “full-time”. You forget the cough, you forget how much it cost, you forget the cold days when you had to go stand outside and shiver while you fed your addiction.

Accentuate the Positive…

In other words, you forget all the actual negatives of being a smoker and you “remember” the false positives: for instance, how great that first smoke of the day tasted, or how smoking relieved your stress, or any one of a number of lies we told ourselves to justify continuing to smoke.

Admit it: deep down, you know the truth; that first cigarette of the day tasted like crap, just like all the others. And the only stress that smoking ever relieved was the stress that smoking caused in the first place.

Reality Check

The real reason you smoked was to feed your addiction to nicotine, but as soon as you put out a cigarette, the level of nicotine in your system would start to fall, causing your inner junkie to stress about getting the next fix, and the level of stress would increase as the level of nicotine in your system decreased, until you relieved the stress by smoking and the cycle would start all over again.

That cycle is a huge part of what kept you hooked for so long.

Think About It

Think about it: if smoking really relieved stress (by which I mean “normal” stress; stress that wasn’t caused by smoking in the first place), why don’t non-smokers think of reaching for a cigarette when they’re under stress?

If you spend a little time thinking about it, you can shoot down all the other lies you used to tell yourself as smokers just as easily. Suffice it to say that we told ourselves (and others) those lies to justify continuing to smoke, and we repeated those lies (and others repeated those lies to us) so often that, after we quit, we look back and start to believe that the lies were true, and the reality was false. This is part of human nature, and part of the nature of addiction.

Romancing the Smoke

It’s a phenomenon I call "romancing the smoke", and it leads to more relapses than any ten other causes combined.

Don’t kid yourself: there really aren’t any positives to miss about smoking, and you can’t take one back; you have to take them all back.

Write it Down

This is why it’s so helpful to keep a journal as you’re preparing to quit and after you actually do: you can write down what it’s really like to be a practicing addict, all the reasons why you hate being one, and all the reasons why you want to quit. After you quit, you can write down all your struggles (and, more importantly, all your little victories) to remind you of what it took to get free.

Then, when you start romancing the smoke, you can go back and re-read your journal for a little reality check: a reminder of what it was really like, and why you never want to go back there.

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