What You Need to Know About Craving When You Quit Smoking
Anatomy of a Craving
You want to quit smoking cigarettes, but you also know that there is one major, seemingly insurmountable obstacle: the craving to smoke one more cigarette. The craving is a very real, persistent, and powerful obstacle that can determine the success or failure of the behavioral change.
To a non-smoker, it appears as an illusion. To a smoker, the craving is as real as the screen in front of you. The first three days of quitting are often the toughest. The craving will rear its ugly head throughout the day. It can be triggered by almost anything: locations where you smoked; images of cigarettes; the smell of burning tobacco; an emotional trigger or any amount of stress – anything.
On the positive side, cravings last for a relatively short period of time and are a direct result of the release and deprivation of nicotine in your body. If you get passed the first three days, then you are closer to quitting than you ever thought was possible.
What does a craving feel like?
When you have a craving, it feels like something is clawing at your chest from the inside. All thoughts lead to the one thing that you must absolutely do – smoke a cigarette. It doesn’t matter whether you are broke and can’t afford a cigarette or if you know how bad it is for your health to smoke. These thoughts become negative and obsolete when you’re looking through the eyes of a craving.
Your brain will go into overdrive and come up with all kinds of reasons to satiate yourself. Even at the most basic level, a cigarette craving is akin to not eating for a few days. Every thought and each feeling that arise will tell you to have just one. During a craving, you will see how truly intelligent and manipulative your own mind can be. It is quite a sight to behold and an immensely useful learning experience.
How long do cigarette cravings last?
A cigarette craving can last from less than a minute to several hours. It depends on many different factors such as the time of your last cigarette, how often you generally smoke, the kind of state that you’re in during the moment of craving.
Within the first three days after your last cigarette, cravings can be a banal need to smoke a cigarette to a violent, impassioned desire to fill your lungs with burnt tobacco. It goes without saying, but the latter moments are some of the toughest.
After these three days, the strength of the cravings subside and become more infrequent. You get better at managing the cravings as time goes on. And then at some point – approximately 90 days after kicking the habit, the cravings will mostly disappear.
How can you deal with a craving?
There are many different ways to manage a cigarette craving. Here are a few suggestions to help you combat a cigarette craving:
You can go to the gym or exercise.
You can eat hard candy (i.e. lollipops), especially for those of you with an oral fixation.
You can write in a journal the thoughts and feelings that are coming to you as the craving occurs. You can drink a lot of water (but not so much that you over hydrate).
You can pick up a new hobby or finish reading that book sitting on your desk from six months ago. You can call a friend (but don’t overdo it because it can be annoying).
You can take a cold shower.
You can find some new, healthy habit that replaces the need to smoke cigarettes.
There are many things that you can do to help in those moments when the cravings have you on your knees begging for mercy.
For those that have already begun the journey, kudos and hang in there! For those that are considering it, be strong, be brave. You can do it if you put your mind to it.