Why You Crave Cigarettes Months After Quitting

It is unnerving to have smoking thoughts and urges resurface months after quitting. However, this can be expected as you recover from nicotine addiction. While the nicotine will be long gone from your body, you may have cravings for a cigarette that feel just like nicotine withdrawal. Learn why you have them and how you can make it through this period.

Tips to relieve smoking cessation cravings
Verywell / Cindy Chung

When Cravings Start

The 3-month mark is a notoriously bad time for people quitting tobacco, so much so that there is a term for it coined by ex-smokers known as "the icky threes." There are three tricky time periods during the first year of smoking cessation that many folks stumble over—3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months.

At the 3-month mark, people will often experience an emotional letdown. The excitement of quitting will have passed, but you will still be dealing with the psychological aftermath of nicotine addiction.

You'll still be thinking about smoking, often to the point where the cravings become all-consuming. It can leave you feeling edgy and sad. You may even wonder if you'll always be doomed to feel this way.

Where Cravings Come From

It's not surprising if you're experiencing cravings to smoke that remind you of nicotine withdrawal. Your mind has a powerful influence on your body, and a strong focus on thoughts of smoking can bring on some very real physical reactions. Sensations like tension in the throat, neck, and stomach, as well as headaches and tremors, can mimic the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

Although the symptoms can be the same, don't confuse cigarette cravings with nicotine withdrawal. Withdrawal is ultimately biological; cravings are psychological.

It is important to consciously acknowledge to yourself that the origin of your discomfort is in your mind and that nicotine is not playing a part in this scenario. Taking stock of what is behind your urge to smoke is a first step in regaining control over errant thoughts that can lead to trouble.

Remind yourself that you're doing the work now to change the mental responses you have to smoke triggers, and with practice, those thoughts (and the urges that come with them) will fade away.

How to Relieve Cravings

As you did during the first days of smoking cessation, use the distraction to help you get your mind off smoking. Be proactive and deal with each craving as it comes up. The good news is that this is a phase in the recovery process that almost everyone goes through. It will pass as long as you don't smoke.

Managing these bumpy days and months into your smoking cessation will be much easier when your batteries are fully charged.

Find activities that relax and rejuvenate you. Good nutrition and regular sleep can help ease your tension. Daily exercise, even a short walk, can improve your mood and energy levels.

If you're spiraling downward, take it as a cue to treat yourself with kid gloves and spoil yourself a little. Don't think of it as being selfish—think of it as good therapy, because that's just what it is.

Promise yourself that you'll dedicate the entire first year of smoking cessation to healing from nicotine addiction—all of it. It takes that long to work your way through the many activities in daily life that you associate with smoking on one level or another.

Think of time and patience as your two best quit buddies. If you can relax and let time pass, it will help you heal. Time really is a wonderful tool for changing your life—as long as you can be patient enough to let it do its work.

A Word From Verywell

Don't fear the ups and downs that come with quitting smoking. Cravings to smoke are not signs of impending failure, they are signs that you are healing from both the physical addiction you have to nicotine and the psychological associations you have with smoking as well.

Keep your eye on the prize and do the work it takes to quit successfully. The rewards are outstanding and you'll love the person you become without the chains of this killer habit weighing you down. Believe in yourself and you can free yourself.

It is important to remind yourself that although you're feeling raw and unhappy right now, all of this discomfort will pass if you just keep applying yourself to the task at hand one simple day at a time.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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Article Sources
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