How I’m Staying Cigarette-Free

It’s been over a year since I quit smoking, but the cravings still come.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve been having intense cigarette cravings all day. I quit smoking over a year ago, and it seems like I should be well past the point of cravings. Nonetheless, from nearly the moment I woke up this morning, I’ve been thinking about having a smoke.

I think these feelings stemmed from stress. I got laid off a couple of months ago, and I’ve been at a bit of a standstill in life as I try to decide what I want to do next. My stress got worse this week over some random, unrelated paperwork that isn’t particularly consequential but has been a pain to complete.

Then, when I got up this morning, my mind was in a bit of a haze. I suspect it’s allergy-related, but it reminds me of how I felt when I first quit smoking. I couldn’t help but think “maybe if I have a cigarette it’ll clear my mind.”

The cravings haven’t been constant, but they have been consistent. About once an hour I suddenly start thinking about going to buy a pack, risking all the progress that I’ve made over this past year. Even as I write this, there’s a part of me that still badly wants to drive to the gas station for cigarettes.

How I Resist Cravings

Fortunately, I’ve learned plenty of techniques for resisting cigarettes over the past year. Even though these cravings are strong, I’m confident that I’ll get through them.

My normal go-to when I feel cigarette cravings is running. Going for a run, even a short one, almost always gets the cravings out of my mind. Typically, it leaves me in a good mood for the rest of the day, and I won’t even think about cigarettes again.

Unluckily for me, it’s been absolutely pouring all day. Every time I check my phone there’s a new flash flood warning with a red alert to stay indoors. That means that the easy fix of going for a run isn’t an option.

Instead, I’ve focused on visualization techniques. I’m trying to be honest with myself about what would happen if I gave in to these cravings and bought a pack of cigarettes. I know that I wouldn’t stop with just one cigarette. I’d almost definitely smoke the entire pack.

I can imagine how I’d try to resist going through them too quickly. I’d probably smoke a few tonight, and a few more tomorrow. Then I’d feel disgusted with myself, and cut up the cigarettes before throwing them in the trash. (If I didn’t cut them up, I’d surely dig them out of the trash later.)

After that, I’d likely struggle not to buy another pack. I’d tell myself that since I had already smoked a few, I might as well smoke a few more. I’d talk myself into going back to smoking “just for a month” or “just until I start a new job.”

Soon, I’d be right back where I started, smoking a pack every day. The next time that I wanted to quit, it would be just as hard as ever. I might spend years trying to quit again before I finally managed to pull it off.

If this all sounds suspiciously specific, it’s because it is exactly what’s happened to me several times before. I know how I react when I give in to cravings because of all my previous failed attempts to quit.

This time, I’m dedicated to staying quit for good. I’m determined not to give in, and never to believe that it would be “just one cigarette.”

Instead of repeating my failures, I’m finally learning from them.

Written by

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more.

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