Overcoming the strong nicotine craving – The New York Times

Nicotine patches, gum, and vapes can help satisfy some cravings, but they can’t replace the rituals of smoking a cigarette: being alone outside with an accomplice, the rustling of cellophane and foil when you open a new pack, a heady high. that first drag.

Bruce Holaday, 69, a retired educator from Mill Valley, California, knows the power of nicotine. Over the past five decades, Mr. Holaday reckons he has tried to quit smoking 100 times, often relying on nicotine replacement products. But he invariably returned to his longtime romance with the Marlboro Lights.

His last attempt in August, a cold turkey without nicotine replacement therapy, set off an excruciating craving whirlpool that lasted several months. “It was like a sudden earthquake of desire and need, and then over the next 10 to 15 minutes, these tremors occurred,” he said.

But this time around, Mr. Holaday joined the support group at Stanford Health Care, bringing a powerful social component to his quest. He described the effect as “an unwillingness to let the team down” and said he learned to avoid stressful situations such as watching the news. He found that if he managed to resist the initial pull waves, they invariably subsided.

At the end of June, he turned a year since the last puff.

He gained weight, but no longer chokes on campaigns. And he is sure that he will never return to smoking again.

Asked about the possibility of radical government intervention to force Americans to leave, Mr. Holaday paused and thought about the first puff he took half a century ago as a college freshman. “Without that nicotine rush, I would probably quit and never smoke again,” he said. “It will be tough for smokers, but anything we can do to prevent a new generation of hookers from getting caught is a good thing.”

Robert Chiarito provided reporting from Chicago.