The following is from Chapter 11 of Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home.
Let's take a look at additional coping techniques.
Embracing crave episodes - Upon sensing danger, our survival instincts tell us to either prepare to stand and fight or get ready to run. What approach will you use? Upon encountering a crave episode will you duck and run, or turn and fight? While the objective is clear - to not use nicotine - our natural instincts on how best to achieve that objective may not be the easiest path to travel.
Can we hide from cravings or will they find us? Can we runaway or will they catch us? It's the same with going toe to toe in battle, isn't it? Can we beat-up craves and make them surrender or cry uncle? Can we scare them away?
Encountering and extinguishing use cues is how we mend, heal, repair and reclaim a nicotine dependent subconscious mind. It's how we destroy use expectations and take back life. While nicotine is a natural poison, what about craves? Can a crave that lasts a couple of minutes destroy tissues, clog arteries and cause a heart attack or stroke, promote cancer, or contribute to early dementia?
Will a crave cut us, make us bleed or send us to the emergency room? Can it physically harm us? If not, then why fear it, why run, why hide?
How much of the anxiety associated with recovery is self-induced? Nearly all.
So, why agonize over the anticipated arrival of that next crave? Once it does arrive, why immediately begin feeding our mind additional anxieties that only fuel the fire?
Let's not kid ourselves. The anxiety associated with a craving for nicotine is as real as the eyes reading these words. And fear of anxiety hides solutions.
While fully capable of mentally embracing a crave episode's anxiety energy, few have ever done so. Instead, what we feel is a tremendously inflated experience fueled by anticipation, driven by fear, and possibly tense due to a history of prior relapse.
Try this, just once. Instead of inviting your body's fight or flight response to inflame the situation, when the next crave arrives, stop, be brave, drop your guard, take slow deep deliberate breaths and in your mind imagine reaching out and wrapping your arms around the crave's anxiety energy.
It won't harm or hurt you. It's normal to be afraid but be brave for just one moment.
Continue wrapping yourself around the episode while fully embracing it. Continue taking slow deep breaths as you clear your mind of all chatter, worries, fears and thoughts so that you can sense and appreciate the episode's level of raw anxiety.
Touch it, sense it, hug it hard. Doing so will not make it any more intense than it otherwise would have been. You're witnessing a moment of beauty, the most profound subconscious healing you've ever allowed your conscious mind to touch.
Yes, there is anxiety. But possibly for the first time ever, it's not being fed and fueled by you.
Now, feel as the crave episode's energy peak and then begin to gradually subside. You've won! You've reclaimed another aspect of life. And you did so by way of courage not dread, by a hug, not hiding. You've seen that the greatest challenge presented by natural recovery cannot hurt you. Only we can do that. Embrace recovery don't fear it. There's a special person waiting down the road. Your birthright, it's a long lost friend you'll come to know, savor, enjoy and love.
Distraction coping - Far less courageous, distraction is any mental exercise or physical activity that occupies the conscious mind long enough to allow challenge to pass.
Alphabet or counting association schemes demand some degree of focus and concentration. They provide an instant means of occupying the mind. An alphabet association scheme can be as simple as going through the alphabet while trying to associate each letter with a person, place, animal or food.
Take food for example. The letter "A" is for grandma's hot apple pie. "B" is for a nice crispy piece of bacon. "C" is for a rich and moist chocolate cake. I challenge you to try and get to the challenging letter "Q" before three minutes pass and challenge subsides.
Physical distraction possibilities include turning to your favorite non-nicotine activity, a brief period of physical exercise or something as simple as brushing your teeth. Activities such as screaming into a pillow, squeezing a tree or biting your lip are available should you ever feel a need to vent. The pillow won't scream back, I doubt you'll hurt the tree and your lip will heal.
Relaxation coping - Embracing crave episodes is one means of increasing relaxation by preventing the addition of self-induced anxieties. Meditation is another tool for navigating a cue induced crave episode.Most forms of meditation use breathing and focus as a means to foster inner peace and tranquility. Research confirms their ability to calm anxieties.
Try this. Comfortably sit in a chair or on the floor. Straighten yet relax your spine. Near the level of your naval, lay one hand in the palm of the other with thumbs slightly touching. Gently close your eyes.
Now allow your breathing to slow and deepen. Calm and settle your mind by focusing exclusively upon the feelings and sensations of breathing. Focus entirely upon that next breath. Feel the cool air entering your nostrils, and its warmth as you slowly exhale.
When a thought arises don't chase it but instead breathe it away. Continue focusing upon each breath. As challenge subsides, allow yourself to become increasingly aware of your surroundings as you slowly open your eyes.Instead of focusing upon breathing, other forms of meditation, such as panic attack coping or mindfulness based stress reduction, encourage exclusive focus upon your favorite color, person or that "special place."
We also should mention laughter. Research shows that laughter activates various muscle groups for a few seconds each, which immediately after the laugh leads to general muscle relaxation, which can last up to 45 minutes.
Laughter also induces sporadic deep breathing. There's also evidence suggesting that among those with a sense of humor, that laughter and smiling may result in diminished anxiety and stress. Remember, this is conditioning that you created. It's now commanding relapse, the introduction of nicotine back into your body. Why not give laughter's calming effects a try. What's there to lose?
Analytical coping - Here, moments of challenge are spent focusing upon and analyzing the situation. Embracing a crave episode fits nicely here too.
So does pulling out and reviewing your list of reasons for commencing recovery. Also consider reviewing them when not feeling challenged, so as to help keep your motivational batteries fully charged.What cue triggered the episode? While we can't know for certain, what's your best guess? What activity, emotion, person, place or time will you likely be awarded once this episode passes?
Look at a clock and time the episode. How long did it take before its anxieties peaked? Is that shorter or longer than your last challenge? How long had it been since your last significant challenge?Consider keeping a crave episode log. They make interesting reading. Like medical records, they allow us to quickly look back and see how far we've come. A log can prove valuable while waiting for the final recovery layer to pass, conscious recovery. It's here that the pace of noticeable change will naturally begin to slow.
Oral coping - Oral coping is a form of crutch substitution. It is capable of itself fostering use conditioning which results in continuing crutch use long after all challenge has ended. Using food as an oral crutch can obviously add extra pounds.
All oral coping strategies should be avoided, especially any that imitates use or the handling of any object that imitates your nicotine delivery device.
Imitating any addiction related behavior helps maintain that behavior, delays suppression of old use memories, invites use fixation, prolongs recovery and thus elevates risk of relapse.
If you find yourself reaching for something more substantial than a toothpick or toothbrush, make sure it isn't fattening, that will always be available within seconds, and something you'd be able to do anywhere and anytime for years to come. As Joel suggest, about the only thing that meets that definition is slow deep breathing, which passes air through the mouth.
Consider eating healthy if having difficulty avoiding reaching for extra food. Can you eat an entire apple in 3 minutes? If so, that's 80 calories and 4 grams of fiber.
Five asparagus spears are 20 calories, one medium sized stalk of broccoli is 50, a seven inch carrot is 40 calories, one-sixth of a medium head of cauliflower or two medium stalks of celery total 25 calories, a medium cucumber is 45 calories, a medium orange 80, one medium peach is 40 calories, seven radishes total 20, eight medium strawberries are 70, and one medium tomato is 35 calories.