On our first time unit we may use any trick in the book to keep ourselves from smoking that first cigarette. Abstaining from cigarettes is not meant to be painful or punishing and if it does feel painful and punishing, then we need to revise our time unit. It is a strength-building exercise, comparable to lifting weights. We can move along a scale from easy to moderate, to just right, to a bit heavy, to too heavy, to painfully heavy and finally to giving up and trying again the next day. The time limits can also move along a scale from easy, to too short, to just right, to a bit too long, to way too long to we just quit and it hurts and we are lighting up as we speak. One hour abstaining from the first cigarette will feel too long now and after a few weeks one hour will not be felt at all because our strength has grown. From the time we would have lighted up our first cigarette and adding one time unit, we only need to not smoke that cigarette. We may have a beer or two, have a prolonged hot shower, drink excessive amounts of coffee, have sex or we may hit the gym or even meditate, so long we do not smoke it. Also we may not “light a cigarette and not inhale”. No cigars, no Shishas and no vaporizers either, not today.
The time unit can vary from five minutes to an entire waking day. We want enough time for a minimum of one craving episodes to come and pass. We might ask: When is this elusive craving episode going to happen? As smokers, after we get up in the morning and get on with our daily activities we will eventually experience the urge to smoke a cigarette at around the same time every morning. It all depends on our daily routines and the time it takes for the craving episode to make its appearance doesn’t differ from day to day. The monkey relies heavily on routines, this is why we wake up at roughly the same time in the morning and start feeling tired at roughly the same time at night. The first craving episode of the day happens around the time we are used to taking our first cigarette of the day. For some of us the habit of smoking is so ingrained that we smoke the first cigarette just in time for the craving episode or a few moments before it happens that we preempt the episode before it happens. The monkey has tamed the human. It is like eating just before the hunger signals reach the brain. We smoke just before the craving episode starts. What we want to do is to allow the first craving episode of the day to pass and then start smoking. We want to experience the intense urge to smoke without giving in. Our reward in the beginning of the program, when the time limits are relatively low, is to eventually smoke a cigarette and that cigarette will taste good, it will remind us of why we started smoking in the first place, in an irrational way. As our time limits expand and we spend more time free from smoking we will experience the truth about the cigarette: There is nothing rewarding about smoking. We need to find new ways of rewarding ourselves.