The Passing Craving Episode

It lasted five minutes and felt like 20 years.

Sometimes we give in to the urge, especially for that oh so holy first cigarette of the day, other times we get the urge to smoke and something gets in the way, an important phone call perhaps, long enough for the urge to pass. A craving episode is thus: The oftentimes overwhelming urge to smoke that is quite difficult to ignore, it can last anywhere from three to five minutes. It is the monkey starting to feel the sense of impending doom, panic. Those episodes can have internal and external triggers and vary in frequency, so they can happen once every hour or three times every 30 minutes, no two smokers will have the exact same triggers nor the same frequency. What we know for sure is that the episodes do pass and the more ingrained the habit to smoke, the harder it is to resist the overwhelming urge. This is why we start with such low time limits, in order to build tolerance and resistance to the urge. For every craving episode we resist, even if we give in halfway there is no shame, we grow a little bit stronger and our power to say no increases. The monkey is being tamed. It is important to remember that the craving episode will come to pass if we smoke and it will surely come to pass if we don’t smoke. The craving episode will come to pass, as surely as the scorching midday sun will come to set.

It takes around three to five minutes for a craving episode to pass from the moment we feel it coming. The craving episode will come to pass regardless if we smoke or not. We don’t constantly crave cigarettes because there are other things our minds need to focus on, such as paying bills and the plot to our favorite TV show, the cat’s litter box. All those things that add up to what we call life fit neatly in between our cigarette breaks. We may start thinking intensely about smoking when we are deprived of it, such as on an airplane ride, and that is not the same thing as the physical craving episode. Constantly thinking about smoking is an intellectual endeavor. Constantly thinking about smoking will occasionally trigger craving episodes and will amplify their power over the monkey. We think about smoking, we aren’t allowed to smoke, we fear, we obsess, we despair, then we crave, we break down and finally we give in and find ourselves running to the closest smoking area of the airport and puff as if our lives depended on it totally forgetting to collect our luggage. This is the power of deprivation. There is no more dangerous and cunning monkey than the deprived monkey. How many times has the monkey considered puffing in the airplane bathroom? How many times does it visualize a Mission Impossible smoke alarm bypass operation? All this trouble and pain on a two hour flight.

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