You are right, since you never really got nicotine out of your system on those previous attempt you never actually ever relapsed. I have found the terminology people use when referencing NRT "quitting" quite interesting. They are big on still calling the first seven days on NRT **** week. Well if you followed my thoughts earlier this week on "**** week" (see post 13 in the string The Teaching of Conventional Wisdom at Freedom
) you will see that first I don't really agree with the premise of the term "**** week" for most people--and for NRT users the whole concept is quite ridiculous.
They are not going through their peak withdrawal the day they stop smoking and start delivering nicotine via other routes of administration--they are potentially going through the peak withdrawals months later when they finally attempt to get off the product. In the interim they are staying in a moderate form of extended withdrawal, lasting from months if they follow the directions to years or decades if they simply continue on these products for such time periods.
I wouldn't say this is your first attempt at quitting though. Your intent each time slapping on a nicotine patch or buying and chewing a piece of nicotine gum was to quit smoking. I suspect your goal each time was not to transfer nicotine delivery, that your intent was to actually get off all nicotine eventually and that you were just looking for an easier way to do it. But this is where the fallacy of the concept of NRT comes into play--it doesn't make quitting easier--not in the long-run and contrary to popular opinion--it does not increase success but undercuts a person who really may have a true desire to quit.
By the way, for clarity sake, when I am using the term popular opinion here I am not only speaking of non-professional opinions--most professional groups, organizations and the people often considered the leading experts in smoking cessation will advocate the merits of NRT. It is hard for the average person to disregard advice that seems to come from so many people and respected organizations.
It is essential though for people who really want to quit to finally listen to their own instincts or, at least to listen to long-term successful quitters in their real world more so than listening to the literature. I often use the following analogy here to explain my views on the topic of NRT's perceived superiority.
Lets say I see a news report that says that a specific pill has been developed that has been proven to prevent colds in 100% of the cases of human trials. Soon it is published in a medical journal. Then another study verifies it. It is now released on a worldwide scale and the popular media proclaims that it is 100% effective. Now every expert in the world comes out and says colds no longer exist--the pill has eradicated them.
The problem is, most people I knew who took this miracle pill still got colds. Worse than that, I took the pill myself and all my friends on the pill with colds kept giving the cold to me. Pretty soon I would dismiss those studies and no matter how many times I see it I would not believe it. Sooner or later you have to believe your eyes, ears, basically, your own instincts more than expert opinion.
I always tell people not to take my word for the limitations of these products, but to go out into their real world and talk to long-term quitters. By long-term quitters, I mean talk to people who are off all nicotine for at least a year longer. Find out how all of these people who have been nicotine free for a minimum of 365 days in a row actually started their quit. These people are always amazed by the results of such real world surveys. In the vast majority of cases they will see that cold-turkey was the initial quit method. The reason for the quit may vary, but the technique will almost always be the same.
Occasionally they may come across an individual who did it by other means like by cutting down or NRT, but they will see that these people are by no means the norm--that for every person they find like this if they do find any at all, there will be multiples of people who went cold-turkey.
Talk to people you know and trust in your real world--family members, friends, co-workers, etc. People you knew when they were smokers, people you knew when they were quitting and people you now know as ex-smokers. People who are off nicotine long-term will usually be more than glad to share how they did it.
Again, I was careful how I worded the previous sentence--"people who are off nicotine," not, "people who are off smoking." People who are currently using NRT will often tout its merits--they are trying to rationalize their results to you as well as to themselves. But again, by the fact that they are still using nicotine or have only been off nicotine a short time, they have not clearly illustrated that they do in fact seem to have the staying power of staying off nicotine over the longer-term.
So if you go through the survey process of people you really know, stick with the criteria of people who are totally nicotine free for a year or longer. You will be amazed at the percentages who went cold turkey, and are now off smoking for a significant period of time because they have never take"n" another puff!
P.S. I had to vary that last line. Many people who quit on their own don't necessarily fully appreciate the concept of one puff equating to relapse. They have not taken one but in essence can still be at risk. The last group I just graduated had four people who were once ex-smokers for longer than a decade--one was actually once off over 20 years before having relapsed. As long as you are talking to your ex-smoking friends, don't assume that you have nothing to offer them information wise because they are off longer than you. You have a deeper understanding of the addiction than most people no longer how long they have been off. You should share that understanding with people you care about to help secure their quits over the longer-term by helping them to understand that to keep this quit going forever means understanding to never take another puff!