i had a crave the other day. oddly enough, it had been so long since i had one that it took me a little while to recognize the feeling for what it was. when i finally identified it, my first thought was "i'm a nicotine addict and i can't feed that addiction even once unless i want to go back to slavery". i chose not to smoke, the crave ended immediately, and i totally forgot about it.
welcome your craves and the opportunity they represent for you to reaffirm your commitment to yourself: by choosing life.
just like that.
i can't tell you how many times i've been faced with that same choice (to smoke or not to smoke); too many to count, certainly. over the course of my thirty-five year addiction to nicotine, the overwhelming majority of the times i was faced with that choice, i responded by choosing to feed the addiction. i responded by choosing to smoke. and those repeated choices strengthened the chains of my addiction.
but sixteen months ago today, i started making a different choice: i started choosing life. i started choosing health. i started choosing strength, self-control, and freedom. i started choosing not to feed the addiction any more. i started choosing not to smoke. no matter what. and those choices started to weaken the chains of my addiction.
for the vast majority of smokers, the bottom line is that we are addicts. and addictions don't go away. as addicts, we really only have one choice; to feed the addiction or not to feed the addiction. you can look at cravings as (sometimes forceful) reminders of that choice; every time you experience a crave, you're given the opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to yourself by choosing life. by choosing not to smoke.
in the beginning of a quit, you're given many such opportunities every day, and every time you choose not to feed your addiction, it makes it easier to make that choice again the next time a crave hits. and as long as you keep choosing not to smoke in response to your cravings, the cravings will start to get less frequent and less intense.
but this can be a mixed blessing; as my experience the other day shows, you can reach a point in your quit where the cravings are so infrequent that you don't even recognize them as such any more. at that point, you may become complacent. you may think you're "cured". that you can "control it".
the thought i had the other day as soon as i recognized that craving was the result of deliberate mental conditioning; from day one of this quit, i've gotten up every morning and written the following words in my quit journal:
i am a nicotine addict.
i cannot afford to feed that addiction.
not even one time.
so, today, i choose not to smoke.
this morning, i wrote those words for the 486th time. and if i'm fortunate enough to wake up tomorrow morning, i intend to write them for the 487th. because i believe that it's this repeated conscious choice, this reminding myself every day (now that i don't have regular cravings to remind me any more) that i'm an addict who can't afford to feed that addiction, that made my reaction the other day possible, and that's made it possible for me to be here today, writing this ramble from the perspective of sixteen continuous months of freedom.
welcome your craves and the opportunity they represent for you to reaffirm your commitment to yourself by choosing life. and develop the habit of repeatedly reaffirming that commitment, even in their absence, so that when they start to fade, you don't need the reminder any more.
choose life! every day!