Caring for Our Recovery

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

23 Mar 2005, 22:53 #61

Tearing Down the Wall
by John R. Polito
Nicotine Cessation Educator[/size]

The final phase of nicotine dependency recovery is in either allowing sufficient time to pass so that thoughts of wanting to smoke -- reflecting the mountain of denial garbage we constantly fed ourselves over the years -- gradually fade away and stop haunting and replaying over and over in the mind, or accelerating the process by seeing the arrival of each as a golden opportunity to set the record straight.

Imagine residing inside a mind chemically dependent upon a substance that addiction experts contend may possibly be the most captivating of all. Although it isn't likely that any of us then knew or realized that our brain had physically grown millions upon millions of extra acetylcholine receptors, that it had de-sensitized select critical brain pathways from an endless onslaught of nicotine, or that nicotine was in command and control over the flow of more than 200 of our body's neurochemicals, we didn't't need to know the details.

We'd each already felt the punishing anxieties of waiting too long between nicotine feedings. We knew we'd lost the autonomy to simply turn and walk away. Even though we'd tried to tune it out, we also couldn't't help but hear the dull roar of the endless stream of new study findings telling us that each and every puff not only destroyed more of our body's ability to receive and transport life-giving oxygen, but that with it came a greater accumulation of the 43 carcinogens present in each burning cigarette. We knew that a time-bomb was building in each of us.

Although clinging to the security blanket that all we suffered from was some "nasty little habit," deep down we knew we were hooked solid. So how did our conscious thinking mind cope with the sobering reality that our brain was a slave to its own senseless self-destruction?
Dignity's Denial

How did we look in the mirror each morning and maintain any sense of dignity, self-worth or self-respect while constantly being reminded that we were prisoners to dependency, decay, disease, and that today we'd move closer to completing the act of committing our own chemical suicide? It was easy - we learned to lie.

We each called upon our intelligence and conscious mind to help build a thick protective wall of denial that not only insulated us from the hard cold realities of daily dependency but behind which we could hide when those on the outside felt the need to remind us of who we really were and what we were doing. Our basic tools for building the wall were conscious rationalizations, minimizations and blame transference.

As soon as nicotine's urge commands began telling us that smoking was no longer an optional activity we each found ourselves forced to explain our involuntary obedience to them. Although nicotine's two-hour half-life inside our bloodstream was now the basic clock governing mandatory feeding times, we each became very creative in providing alternative justifications and explanations.

In our pre-dependency days we may have found honest pleasure in experiencing an unearned flood of dopamine accompanied by a nicotine induced rush of adrenaline but once the feedings became mandatory it didn't matter how we felt about them. Choice was no longer an issue. Even if we didn't fully appreciate our new state of permanent chemical captivity, many of us rationalized the situation based upon what we found ourselves doing.
Building Protection

"I don't do things that I don't like to do," we reminded ourselves. "I smoke lots and lots and lots of cigarettes, therefore I must really love smoking," instead of "therefore, I must really be addicted to smoking nicotine." Not only were our "like" and "love" rationalizations easier to swallow, they provided a conscious defense against those encouraging us to stop. Yes, the first bricks in our wall of denial were now being cemented into place, and made thicker with each empty pack.

Some of us hid from our dependency by blaming our chronic tobacco use on what we described as tobacco smoke's wonderful smell or taste. This rationalization brick not only ignored the over 600 flavor additives that the tobacco industry uses to engineer an amazing spectrum of smells and tastes, it ignored the fact that hundreds of other plants, products and people smell good too but we have never once found the need to light any of them on fire and **** them into our lungs in order to complete the experience. But if man ever decides to soak any in nicotine, stand back, as the nicotine addict will likely be burning them soon too.

One brick was our sense that we were each somehow able to control the uncontrollable. Some of us purchased just one pack at a time, playing the endless mind game that tomorrow would always be our last. Some intentionally never made a serious attempt so as to avoid having to admit dependency. Others rationalized that since they only smoked a little more than 5 mg. of nicotine daily (about 5 cigarettes) they were either less addicted than others, somehow better than other smokers, or not addicted at all. And then there are our closest smokers - like my grandmother - who constantly tried to convince us that the cloud of smoke rolling out of the bathroom behind her really wasn't there.

The most fatal control rationalization of all is the fraud of "just one," "just one little puff!" Although a primary maxim of addiction is that "one is always too many and a thousand never enough," instead of picturing all of them and the return of our entire dependency and the endless destructive chain of feeding linked to it, we rationalized countless relapses by lying to ourselves that we were stronger than nicotine and that we could smoke "just one." Why waste time entertaining the repeating thought reflected by this brick when we now know it be a lie?

Each time our wall was pierced we simply added another brick. There was our "you have to die of something" brick, our "there's still plenty of time" brick, and even the rationalization that went as far as to counter tobacco's 50% kill rate by asserting that it really meant that "there is a 50% chance that smoking won't kill me."

We also have all of our "why we smoked" rationalizations. We told ourselves that it made the coffee taste better when in fact it deadened our sense of smell and drowned coffee's flavors in the 4,000 chemicals present in each burning cigarette. There was our "best friend" brick which asserted that a chemical with an I.Q. of zero was most loyal companion we'd ever had, even when smoking it had long ago deprived us of up to one-third of our functional lung capacity.

There was our boredom brick, our appetizer before every meal brick, our after each meal dessert brick, and the brick proclaiming the first cigarette of the day to be one of the best of all. Each such rationalization totally ignored the real clock driving the situation - nicotine's two-hour chemical half-life.

They ignored the fact that the average pack-a-day smoker will receive a command to smoke (an urge) about every thirty minutes regardless of which activity their denial wishes to credit. It ignores the fact that after sleeping through three to four nicotine half-lives we were left with nicotine blood-serum reserve levels that were somewhere down around our socks. Those first daily smokes should have been memorable.

Then there was our alcohol and stress bricks. Living in a world of dependency ignorance, very few of us knew that nicotine is an alkaloid and that both stress and alcohol are acid producing events. Instead of understanding how stress and alcohol can neutralize the body's nicotine reserves we rationalized that smoking reduced our stress and that we liked smoking more when drinking.

Let's not forget our romantic fixation bricks proclaiming that some of our best memories ever were based upon the presence of nicotine, and that somehow the moment or underlying memory would have been less significant if nicotine had not added dopamine and adrenaline to it. Wouldn't honest reflection have us asking how many of life's perfect moments were interrupted by a mandatory need to leave and feed, or by a mind pre-occupied with the need to do so?

And what about our quitting bricks? Pretending that we'd be quitting soon or going so far as to actually set a date would always make today's nicotine fixes far more bearable. When we failed to follow through or relapsed we could always reach for our blame bricks and lay the cause for our defeat upon family members that just couldn't handle the temporary anxieties associated with recovery. We could blame friends, a lack of support, a relationship, stressful times, financial hardship, other smokers, alcohol or even our job.
Natural Erosion or Conscious Intervention?

The only limit upon the bricks within our wall was our imagination. Have you ever noticed just how challenging it really is to coax a smoker out from behind their wall? After years of construction it tends to be a secure and comforting place to hide from those seeking to impose their will upon us.

It is not necessary that any of us set out to consciously dismantle our wall of denial in order to successfully keep our dependency arrested. But what it may help to realize is that the bulk of our "thoughts" of wanting to smoke nicotine are likely a reflection of the very wall that we ourselves created.

As each thought arrives, will spending a bit of time reflecting upon its origin and validity help shorten this temporary period of adjustment called quitting, and diminish the number of excuses available to justify future relapse?

The day and moment is approaching when you'll awaken to an expectation of going your entire day without once wanting to smoke nicotine. Oh, you'll still have thoughts now and then but with decreasing frequency, shorter duration and declining intensity. They'll become the exception, not the rule. It may even get to the point where you'll greet them with a smile as they'll be your only reminder of the amazing journey you've made.

They say that "truth shall set us free" but here at WhyQuit we have an even better guarantee. It is impossible to lose our freedom so long as we refuse to allow nicotine back into our bloodstream. The next few minutes are all that matter and each is entirely doable. There was always only one rule ... no nicotine today ... Never Take Another Puff!
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long!

Last edited by John (Gold) on 16 Feb 2009, 03:19, edited 3 times in total.

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:59

23 Mar 2005, 23:44 #62

Wow. I'm speechless after reading that. You're amazing, John! I daresay that that post should start a new thread.


33 months free

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

15 Sep 2005, 09:02 #63

After 5 months plus I feel quite comfortable in my quit and don't really miss cigarettes. But a post like this reminds me that "Whether it's daily, weekly or monthly, our quit needs care". John, thank you for these wise words.

Ivano - happy to have made this decision and determined to stick to it - one day at a time - forever

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

21 Oct 2005, 21:47 #64

"Instead of saying that you can handle" just one ," a truthful statement would have been "I can handle them all, give them all back to me, my entire addiction, all the ashtrays, the coughs, the smells, I want it all back." It's far easier to create an exception to the "law" than to admit the truth. A one pack a day addiction is 7,300 cigarettes a year. Don't picture smoking just one. Picture smoking 7,300 each and every year. "To thine own self be true." You deserve the truth - you paid the price - you earned it. " - John Polito
joejFree - Nicotine Free and Healing for Nine Months, Ten Days, 23 Hours and 33 Minutes, (283 days)
Reclaiming 24 Days and 15 Hours
7100 nicotine delivery devices not used - $1,425.83 retained earnings.
Last edited by JoeJFree Gold on 16 Feb 2009, 03:18, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:00

10 Nov 2005, 05:41 #65

As a smoker, I always envied my relatives, friends, customers, and everyone else I came into contact with in my life, who quit smoking. As a smoker, I always wondered why people who had quit for any length of time, whether it be a couple of weeks or decades, why anyone would go back to smoking. I always said to myself that if I made it past the first few days without a cigarette, I would never again smoke. I didn't know why I said that, I just know that I didn't want to be a smoker.

At the time though, I never imagined smoking and nicotine as an addiction and when I did, everything began to come together. Now, with that information in hand and with all the information I have learned at Freedom, I have the tools necessary to know why quits are lost and what I need to do to remain nicotine free for life.

Nothing gives me more joy than to see the very people who came to us taking those first few baby steps and then celebrating weeks, a months and then years quit. Read, learn and never take another puff and you will be too. It cannot be stated's a simple as never taking another puff.

after smoking 41 years, almost 6 years free and loving every day of my freedom

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

10 Nov 2005, 06:16 #66

Thanks for bringing this one up today Linda.

It was exactly 10 months ago today that I first looked in on this, at that time, stange and amazing place called Freedom From Tobacco. This string was up on the front page that day.

John's use of images (his many powerful pictures are certainly worth at least a thousand words) really got through to me that day. That was the day I went to my garage and wrote LAST 1/9/2005 on my pack of camel nails. That was the day that I finally knew that I could quit now & forever too!!!

This is one of many graphic images that hit me like a sledghammer. After tripping myself up the next morning I extinguished the last nicotine delivery device I will ever use. It has been getting steadily better each and every day since.

JoeJFree - Day 303 - NTAP!
Last edited by JoeJFree Gold on 16 Feb 2009, 03:24, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

14 Jan 2006, 22:41 #67

We see a goodly number of members using one of their early posts here at Freedom as a tool to record their motivations for quitting. It's a prudent move. You may also want to print a copy and stick it in your pocket. It could be a life-saving coping tool should any moment ever feel stronger than you.

Still just one rule ... no nicotine today, Never Take Another Puff!


Joined: 07 Jan 2009, 19:02

17 Jan 2006, 09:13 #68

I am so proud of myself and Freedom from Tobacco, I will be a year on January 21, 05. I would not have made it without this site. I understand that having pangs for a cigarette have nothing to do with reality. I feel them every day, but when I feel them, I take it as a pat on the back. Life is so much better as a non-smoker!
Last edited by karenelizabethsr on 02 Mar 2009, 22:26, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

13 Jul 2006, 04:08 #69

Excellent article. Though most of the hard work in quitting occurs during the first 72 hours, the longer one is quit, the trickier it can be and this article is an excellent insurnace policy. Remember, cigarettes travel in packs. We cannot just have one puff, one tiny cigarette, ever again.

I've been quit for nine weeks this Thursday, and only have occasional thoughts of having a cigarette but when I do, they are tangible. I know that if I hadn't been educated from this site, I might at these points have thought, what can one cigarette hurt....the longer one is quit, the more the "ahhh" cigarette grows. The antidote is to remember the reality, the coughing, the desperation, the "smoking more, enjoying it less" reality. The image of deseased lungs, the image of the man with a cigarette in his throat because he can't breathe anymore.
And always, the cardinal rule: NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!
Last edited by Flo Babe on 16 Feb 2009, 03:39, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

11 Sep 2006, 00:54 #70

'the "smoking more, enjoying it less" reality' - this is so true; the memory of this alone makes my quit stronger. Is this close to the epitome of addiction I wonder?


Approaching 3 weeks and thereafter Green fields.

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

11 Sep 2006, 22:41 #71

If you have access to a computer, you wont' need a smoker's help. You can go on-line to scores of smoking cessation support groups and find thousands of battles being fought, hear tons of cries and watch hundreds who won't make it through "**** Week" to the hope that lies beyond. Visit as often as possible. Make a few posts to those in need. Share your valuable quit wisdom and give the gift of hope. Most don't know what it's like to be free. Most have few remaining memories of the days before their addiction. Fear of the unknown is frightening. Help them and in doing so help yourself.

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

17 Dec 2006, 00:59 #72

This is a very special article. Many times I have quit smoking, gone to nicotine gum, gone to smoking the vicious circle...

The last time it was my birthday - I had a cigarette to celebrate - I did not need something terrible to happen, I just forgot how revolting cigarettes are. However, I did not stop with just the one revolting cigarette - no I had to go the whole hog back to 6-10 a day, palpitations, feeling guilt, shame.

1. still addicted because I was on nicotine gum

2. Had the excuse

3. Poor memory

A special article, for me. Thank you.


Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:58

10 Feb 2007, 02:44 #73

We all need personal grooming most every day. Our quits are no different. A tweak here, a tweak there or perhaps just a minor attitude adjustment. Your life may just depend on it.

Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:25

31 Mar 2007, 10:58 #74


I printed it. I need to keep this one handy.


Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:19

03 Jan 2008, 18:40 #75

From: John (Gold) (Original

Think about that first week. What was it like? Can you still feel the powerful craves as your body begged and cried to be fed? Can you still feel the pain? Do you see yourself not being able to concentrate, having difficulty sleeping, feeling depressed, angry, irritable, frustrated, restless, with tremendous anxiety, a foggy mind, sweating palms, rapidly cycling emotions, irrational thinking, emotional outbursts or even the shakes? Do you remember these things? Do you remember the price you paid for freedom?

Gosh memories do fade, and wow i did this, i quit!!!

sharon free

I have been quit for 1 Month, 3 Weeks, 4 Days, 38 minutes and 21 seconds (56 days). I have saved £234.18 by not smoking 1,064 cigarettes. I have saved 3 Days, 16 hours and 40 minutes of my life. My Quit Date: 08/11/2007 10:01
Last edited by Sunrise3057 on 16 Feb 2009, 03:36, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: 13 Nov 2008, 14:04

28 Jan 2009, 23:24 #76

I noticed some of the posts on this recovery board have not been viewed by any member since we moved our site. This post had no views yet. Now it is possible that new members are reading the materials at which is great. There are however numerous articles that we had at the old MSN board and now also at this new site that are not at the website. I will try to pop a few up a day for new members, but I do encourage people first joining to to through the boards that we have set up here and read through the articles. The more you read and understand, the more prepared you will be when encountering awkward times such as finding a pack or other kinds of unexpected triggers to stick to your personal commitment to never take another puff. Joel

Joined: 15 Jan 2010, 14:03

22 Jan 2010, 13:23 #77


Almost a year since someone's been to this post, and it was exactly what I needed to read today. Many thanks to you and John for your skillful and caring work. I am free three weeks, and believe I will NTAP...

Best, Gymguy

Joined: 17 Jan 2010, 22:19

28 Jan 2010, 23:14 #78

I am so thankful that this jumped right out at me... I was beginning to feel complacent and free and loving it!  I have been very much at peace and finding myself again in the last couple of days... Dealing with my emotions and the ups and downs of  a normal life, without nicotine and cigarettes.  I don't ever ever want to take these feelings of comfort and serenity for granted!  I don't ever want to forget how it felt being a smoker and in the grips of addiction.  I don't ever want to forget what the first 3days were like without nicotine.  Thank you for this site Joel!

Jen is now - I have been quit for 2 Weeks, 1 Day, 2 hours, 5 minutes and 15 seconds (15 days). I have saved $75.43 by not smoking 301 cigarettes. I have saved 1 Day, 1 hour and 5 minutes of my life. My Quit Date: 1/13/2010 16:10

Joined: 20 Sep 2009, 02:41

31 Jan 2010, 19:03 #79

Thank you for this article.  It just woke me up....again.  I was starting to have those kinds of 'just one' thoughts but I know from a previous lost quit that if I didn't do something to change and stop it, I would soon be smoking again.  This was the first article I found, and it was just what I needed to hear right now. Thank You!


Joined: 17 Aug 2010, 16:35

26 Aug 2010, 15:15 #80

Well, this is one thread I'll definitely be coming back to. Thanks. The black Quit Log I carry has become my constant companion--and I couldn't agree with you more that, ultimately, most failures come down to failure of the memory. My log is filled with not words, but images and charts and visual prompts to help me embed in my brain the vivid memory of everything I felt that led me to that last cigarette.
Last edited by Johnnie on 26 Aug 2010, 17:17, edited 1 time in total.
Gratefully Gold

I escaped from the prison of smoking on August 14, 2010.  
[font]The best revenge is quitting well![/font] 

Joined: 13 Nov 2009, 22:34

05 Jul 2011, 18:09 #81

Thanks, John, for this post, and all its great, inspiring information!  I haven't ingested any nicotine of any kind since Nov 10, 2009, and I've been doing very well in terms of not even thinking about smoking all that much.  Today, though, the desire to smoke hit me like a ton of bricks.  It's very strange, and most unexpected.  But reading your article has made me take a moment to reflect.  No way will I smoke a cigarettte today.  Quitting smoking is like a battle that pops up every once in a while even almost two years after quitting....  I never want to smoke again.  But that desire is still there sometimes, waiting to hit me like a ton of bricks.  I just have to take care of my quit, and never take another puff.