Avoiding Triggers

Subconscious use cue extinguishment

Avoiding Triggers

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

29 Mar 2005, 21:22 #1

Many years ago I had a man named Mark (not his real name) join one of my smoking clinics. Mark came to me on the first day of the clinic and told me how he had recently added an addition on to his house and one of the rooms he added was a home office. Mark lived in a suburb about 20 miles from his office in downtown Chicago. Mark had the luxury that he didn't really need to go to his downtown office much and could do most of his work from home. He was nervous though because his home office was more than just his office--it was also his smoking sanctuary. Mark had small kids who were allergic to smoke and his wife didn't want Mark smoking around the kids. Since the kids were never allowed in the office anyway, Mark agreed only to smoke in that one room of the house. The office had in essence become his smoking room. He had only had the home office a short period of time now but the relationship seemed deeply ingrained.

When Mark was telling me about the new home office smoking room he confided in me that he was really scared to go into the room for he was sure it would be too powerful of a trigger and cause him to smoke. I told him he should go into the room quickly to overcome the fear but he said he just wanted to give it a few days before he attempted it. I figured I would let it go, thinking it would actually be good for Mark to get the additional experiences of driving to the city and working with other people proving to himself that he could deal with the outside world and still maintain his quit.

Mark never brought up the home office smoking room again during the clinic and I had basically forgotten about it too. Mark completed the clinic and sounded great at graduation. I figured he was on his way to a complete smoke free life.

A couple of months after the clinic was over I was following up Mark's group on a Saturday morning. Actually I had talked to him numerous times over the two month period but this conversation took an interesting twist. While on the phone Mark had said something about his office downtown and for the first time since I met Mark I remembered his concerns about his home office. I asked him if he was still going downtown much or mostly working out of his home office now. All of a sudden there was an awkward silence on the phone. Mark kind of hemmed and hawed for a while and said, "Well, this is kind of embarrassing to admit be I actually haven't gone into the home office yet."

I quickly said, "Mark, are you telling me that you have been driving 20 miles to and from work every day for two months because you are afraid that if you go into your home office you are going to smoke." He said yes, but it was worth it. He loved not smoking. Not smoking was great. So while driving 40 miles a day was a tad inconvenient, it was worth the effort since it was helping him to save his life.

I agreed it would be worth driving 40 miles every day if it were necessary in order to sustain a quit and thus saving his health and his life. The problem was that it was not necessary--Mark could work in his home office and just not smoke. To that Mark replied that the association was just too strong and his quit was just to valuable.

I asked Mark if he had a phone in the room in question to which he replied, "Of course I have a phone, it's my office." I said, "Mark, I want you to go into that room and call me back at this number." Now it took some real effort for me to persuade Mark to go into the room and to call me back. He was scared for he was totally convinced that being in that room was going to undercut his quit but Mark eventually goes into his office and places the call.

So I start a conversation of small talk with Mark, making a point of checking the clock at the beginning of the call. I knew some of Mark's family members and friends, and I started asking him questions about these people and making a real concerted effort of never broaching the topic of smoking once. Now I know most of you reader here have only gotten to know me from my writings and have never seen me live and talking but I can assure you that if you talk to any of my family members or friends, or especially to my clinic graduates, they will all attest that I can talk for hours on end even though I have nothing really important to say. I purposely engaged Mark into a half hour conversation consisting of absolutely nothing important--just small talk.

A half an hour into the conversation of small talk I abruptly blurted out, "Hey Mark, you have been in your home office now for 30 minutes. Have you thought about a cigarette once." Mark started laughing. He realized what I had done, getting him into the room and talking his ear off just to show him that he could be in the room and on the phone and not need to smoke. I think Mark instantly realized that his fears were unfounded.

I saw Mark last year, for the first time in probably fifteen or twenty years. He had now been smoke free for over a quarter of a century. We didn't really talk about smoking issues much either. It was no longer an issue in Mark's life. I just did my obligatory warning about never getting overly complacent, pointing out to him that over the past four years I had two people who were once 35 year ex-smokers who lost their quits. He was still well aware of what we taught in the clinic and was still totally committed to never take another puff.

As most people who read here have probably noticed, they have started saving lots of money since they have quit smoking. I suspect Mark had also saved a small fortune. This may not have been the case if we had not had our little conversation that Saturday morning. For if we had not talked that day Mark may have been driving an extra 200 miles a week, plus paying for parking for a quarter of a century. I don't even want to try to do the math of what these additional expenses would have cost. The fact is that they would have been totally unnecessary. When a person goes 25 years smoke free he proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything he was able to do as a smoker he can now do as an ex-smoker. This is a crucial lesson for all to learn.

Putting off facing certain activities triggers will likely prolong the stress, anxieties and fears that you will not be able to overcome the specific situation without relapse. All people who quit must realize that all you did as a smoker you can do as an ex-smoker too. All it takes is proving it to yourself one situation at a time. You can continue to live your life and get through all events with your quit intact as long as you always remember to stick with your personal commitment to never take another puff!


Edited August 13, 2012 to add following related video:

Last edited by Joel on 13 Aug 2012, 19:50, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:12

30 Mar 2005, 02:27 #2

Hi Joel...I want to thank you for bring this thread up...Like I have said to newbies...You and the other managers have brought up things dealing with our addiction just at the right time...I will have been quit 3 months tomorrow...My husband and I are going on vacation in a few weeks...To Puerto Rico...we go there every few years ...sometimes every year for a few weeks..You see, my husband is originally from PR...so when we got married in the early 70's we bought a time share on the water...right nest to the El San Juan Hotel and casino...I have never been there as a non-smoker...I used to spend hours at the beach or pool with a book and smoke...and then spend hours at the casino at night doing the same...Since this is the first time I am going as an ex-smoker it scares me to death that the trigger will be overwheming or I will be miserable trying to fight cravings all the time ..To read this thread, although I am still fearful, I'm hoping that my fears will be unfounded...Thanks for the thread...now I can relax knowing that my fears are probably alot worse than any trriggers that may occur.

If anyone has any suggestions of any particular articles I should print and take...Please let me know!!

Pam :) 89 days nic free and lovin' it

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:58

03 Jun 2005, 01:19 #3

One of the things I am most proud of is that I confronted all of my triggers head on.

Of course, I do have a very confrontational personality.Image

And believe you me, EVERYTHING was a trigger.

I think the coffee & driving triggers were the hardest to deal w/, but they were also the first to be eliminated. Everything else was pretty easy from there.

Chevet' - Free and Healing for Nine Months, Twelve Days, 16 Hours and 36 Minutes, while extending my life expectancy 79 Days and 15 Hours, by avoiding the use of 5734 nicotine delivery devices that would have cost me $1,523.01.

Crystal View1.ffn
Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:03

06 Jun 2005, 08:55 #4

Thanks Joel, your post took the anxiety I was having about posting a concern I have. Something inside said, "you shouldn't have to ask that!" But, I would like to hear from you and from any FREE folks if they have experienced a successful solution to my question below. Tonight, I was talking to my Mom. She is 83 years old. When she was 39, she quit a 2 pack a day habit and has never gone back! She is a GREAT support for me. She asked how I was doing. I am doing GREAT! Gosh, I LOVE BEING FREE !! She heard a "but", though. She encouraged me to post the question out here because she is SURE that there are others who experience the SAME sticky point!

I do still have a couple of "sticky" points. I can "live life" without nicotine and there is one sticky point for which I have not come up with a real solution. It is when I arrive home from work. That smoke somehow marked the end of my workday and the beginning for my "own time". It doesn't matter when I get home. I could be do many errands and get home late. There is still a sticky point. I live alone, so it is me, myself and I here. I have very few (compared to even a couple of months ago) cravings, I can "do life" pretty darn well! I can be home, off work or whatever, and be busy and OK. This arriving home time (30 minutes or so) is still a stickler. I have tried a diet coke. I have tried a low fat food snack but that is not a good solution for me. Replacing any of my smoking with food makes me gain weight and that makes me very unhappy.

I would love to hear from my FREEDOM family on this!

Thanks everyone. Katie

Katie - After 40 Years! Free and Healing for Seven Months, Eighteen Days, 11 Hours and 41 Minutes, while extending my life expectancy 13 Days and 15 Hours, by avoiding the use of 3935 nicotine delivery devices that would have cost me $794.59.

Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:01

06 Jun 2005, 09:46 #5

Wow Katie! Great and honest post. I suppose we all have had (or have) a particularly tough trigger area to overcome. Yours seems to be the "end of the work day, time to have a nice rewarding smoke without any time/space restrictions" kind of trigger. I had that same smoke many, many times at the end of work, getting off the employee bus, walking through the employee parking lot to my car, firing up that end of the work day smoke. It was one of those "ahhhhh" smokes, one of the few times during the day where smoking was actually "pleasurable" more or less.

The funny thing is, for me anyway, that particular smoke was really never missed by me. Like I said, we all have "favorite" trigger smokes to overcome. There's always good and bad things to every scenario. Since you live alone, you don't have anyone to encourage you and congratulate you on your magnificent quit as you arrive home (that's bad) but also since you live alone you don't have anyone harassing you on being late and wondering where you were and telling you about financial problems, physical problems, emotional problems, etc. to add to your stress levels (that's good, I guess).

The bottom line I suppose is to recognize you are going to have those triggers. Advice? Well, I'd start by congratulating myself on a most awesome 7 month quit. Then, I'd go out for a walk. I'd try to wrap my mind around the concept that I'm not "giving up" something but I'm getting rid of a horrible thing. I'd read here some more. I'd read Nicotine addiction 101 and Some new findings on nicotine addiction to understand my addiction better. I'd be very proud of myself for my quit so far and be patient for that final push to comfort. I wouldn't worry about trying to replace that "aaahhh" feeling. I'd just be glad that I had the education I needed to help me NTAP. Enjoy your freedom, revel in it! Good luck to you Katie.
Steve 1 year, 23 days.
Last edited by ZZRSteve GOLD on 31 Oct 2012, 21:10, edited 3 times in total.

kattatonic1 gold4
Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

06 Jun 2005, 10:30 #6

Hi Katie,

It's me. That is, she is me, the one who knows what you are sticky about! I too live alone. I too had the end-of-day smoke to switch out of business mode. It was a biggie ~HUGE~ because I "trained" myself to last all afternoon without a cigarette! So as you know by now, that means that I spent every business day afternoon for several years doing into withdrawal. (Yeeha! Those days are over!) I thought I would never pass that time of day without thinking about a smoke. How wrong I was. It might have been one of the stickiest, but it did indeed go away. Now, I have no idea exactly what I do at that precise moment in my day because I replaced it with nothing. You'll have to exercise a little more faith that like all the others you conquered, this trigger is the same, just stickier. (Excellent way to express it, by the way.)

Plan B until it un-sticks? If it really is driving you around the bend, I recommend brushing your teeth slowly and thoroughly, or drinking a tall glass of water with real lemon -- both are really good for you and very unlikely to become crutches.

Keep up that great quit, Katie! I know I'll be reading sooner or later that you don't remember the last time you were bugged by that sticky trigger.

YQS Kay (Gold)

JoeJFree Gold
Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

06 Jun 2005, 10:37 #7

Hi Katie,

Steve gave you great answer. I agree, certain combinations of circumstance, location, time of day, etc. will still trigger a thought of smoking. I also smoked for 40 years, roughly 80% of my living breathing life. When I say "Triggers, I've got a Million of 'Em - Ha cha cha cha (hear Jimmy Durante)" I'm being humorous but I'm also not kidding. You also have a lot of nicotine feeding cues to recondition and reprogram. You can do it, no trigger can withstand honest inspection and introspection.
Introspection was hinted at my Steve as well when he rightly said to change giving up thinking to getting rid something undesirable belief. Here is another mindset observation that I hope will help you get past your 'sticking point' I'm in my personal space comfort zone 'habit' trigger. You mention you Mom overcame a 2 pack a day 'habit' 44 years ago. Nether your Mom or you have overcome a HABIT. We are addicts in recovery. We fed our addiction lots when it was convenient and denied ourselves a dose when it was not convenient or allowed, even to the point of withdrawal. You smoked as soon as you got home because you were able to without restriction and desired to raise your nicotine blood serum level to as high a level as you could tolerate. When you take the behavior apart more precisely for yourself you will gain control over yet another facet of why you did what you did in your former life as an addict.
Katie, I often tell myself when a trigger surfaces,"yeah I know I always smoked here / now - but I Don't HAVE TO any more. I'm Free cause Nicotine is no longer in me. And you are too.

Sorry for the long-winded response. Hope I helped.

joejFree for 145 days cause I broke the Cycle of Addiction and got the nicotine out of me so I could become 'just me'. It's why I choose to NTAP!
Last edited by JoeJFree Gold on 31 Oct 2012, 21:09, edited 1 time in total.

Starshinegrl Gold
Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:00

06 Jun 2005, 16:33 #8

Hi Katie,

I think your Mom is a very wise woman. Image How else would you get an answer if you didn't post it?

The others have given you great food for thought already. I was just thinking of Recognizing needs and I want "something"... there will be something else that you really want when you come back home from work ... it is just a matter of finding out what it might be!

You are doing great. Wishing you another good nicotine free day!

192 days and a bit
Last edited by Starshinegrl Gold on 31 Oct 2012, 21:11, edited 1 time in total.

Crystal View1.ffn
Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:03

10 Jun 2005, 09:20 #9

Thank you all so much for the gift of your wisdom. I read these on Morning. I had an "epiphany" as I got ready for work. Steve, you said, "I wouldn't worry about trying to replace that "aaahhh" feeling" Image And Kay, you said "I replaced it with nothing." Image So, the thought came to my mind, "don't replace it with anything!" Wow, I knew that somewhere in my heart. This particular sticky point, though, I had "replaced" it with some"thing". SO! Monday, when I came home from work, I changed my routine. Image Without going into boring details, it worked beautifully. I did not feel any pressure, I felt "free". I have been so busy the rest of the week, I did not have to do that "changed" routine again yet. But, now I have it in my "tool kit" !

Joe, you said, "You can do it, no trigger can withstand honest inspection and introspection." Image Man, that is one beautiful statement! It is beautiful because it is so peacefully true. All thoughts of the "past", viewed through the truth, are so easy to "put on" with all this education and knowledge.

Gitte, you said, "there will be something else that you really want when you come back home from work ... it is just a matter of finding out what it might be! " Image Wow, I am tucking this away in my heart. I KNOW I will find that place, I know it!

Thanks for the support, the links, the wisdom. Wow, am I glad to be free. I will remember, not one puff! NTAP! Image

Sal GOLD.ffn
Joined: 16 Jan 2003, 08:00

24 Mar 2006, 07:26 #10

Putting off facing certain activities triggers will likely prolong the stress, anxieties and fears that you will not be able to overcome the specific situation without relapse.

All people who quit must realize that all you did as a smoker you can do as an ex-smoker too. All it takes is proving it to yourself one situation at a time.

You can continue to live your life and get through all events with your quit intact as long as you always remember to stick with your personal commitment to never take another puff!