Playing the Brain
Over the last few blog entries, we explored ways of approaching how to choose your first vaping set-up or Starter Kit, tackled strategies to picking your first juice(s) and also setting yourself up with an emergency backup system or Plan B.
You’re probably really excited about giving this vaping business a go but before rushing into things it’s worth giving a bit of thought about giving your first week of vaping a higher chance of success if you want to ditch tobacco completely for real. After all, we want to give up the tobacco, right?
You are going to have a bit of wrestle with nicotine cravings and if you’ve planned this well you’ve ordered a bottle of Unflavoured Nicotine* at 100mg base strength in 100ml of PG solution from somewhere overseas (usually the USA or NZ).
One of the many things I learnt during my many attempts to quit smoking over the years is that you’re quitting more than the nicotine. The cravings and sheer willpower required to give up tobacco cold turkey can end up in a never-ending circle of internal brain arguments with the voices in your head loud, front and centre and yapping away like two demented psycho monks…light one up, no! you’re doing well…light one up..nooo, you’re doing well… over and over again till you want to lash out in some uncharacteristic manner you didn’t know you possess. This battle is tough and sadly, will affect your relationships and your capacity to function in a normal manner. For me, it was THAT bad. Patches and other methods of quitting didn’t work for me because I ended up with the same internal arguments. Just easier to start smoking again.
We’ll have none of that and this is where vaping helps in not only reducing this mind-numbing internal argument because for me, at least, it never became a difficult hurdle to jump over once I started vaping.
I did perform something…a game, if you like and played one over my brain using things I learnt from training my dog where I would reward it with treats during training, tricks in learning to play the guitar and building up muscle memory and dabbling in working my way out of other bad habits using rewards.
Your brain functions using a lot of reward based associations. Cigarettes work not only with nicotine being addictive but many many other chemicals that re-enforce and rewards certain parts of the brain with pleasurable gifts. Over the years your brain sends out craving signals based on those associations linked to certain activities. With tobacco, waking up and before sleeping is the panic chemical loading up sessions. During the day you might go by the clock, completing a task, reaching a particular goal or after a meal. Rewards build associations. We’re creatures of habits and tobacco has an instant gratification aspect to it that’s hard to kill.
We’re going to perform a switcheroo. We’re going to do this quickly & cleverly and I reckon this will work for you too. We’re going to make it so when you crave, you’ll be thinking of a delicious vape and not the smelly cigarette.
It’s going to take a moment of self-awareness and reflection here. You’re going to take note and be honest about what your smoking routine is.
Mine looked something like this,
Wake up and make a coffee, if I did that first without lighting up a ciggie I was allowed an extra one
Have a few ciggies with my coffee. Sometimes I would have four ciggies by shower time
Quickly get dressed. Have one in the car on the way to work
Park car and have one on the way to Bus Stop…have another one getting off the bus
Get to work…log on, answer all the morning e-mails perform a few tasks. 10 am ciggie, 11 am, 12.30 pm lunchtime, ciggie after lunch meal etc etc
I made a note of when I usually want to have a ciggie. Many a time I would have one and not really be craving one. I was that bad! One of my fave ciggies was after work and I would stand next to that bin, watching people rush by the sort of jealous they weren’t addicted to tobacco but at the same time feeling superior because I was un-rushed and relaxed. A seagull or two will fly down near me thinking I have food…that’s the bird’s brain associations
These were all associations my brain had with tobacco. Not a pretty picture was it.
That is what we have to beat. We’re going to do that with vaping. Even if at first you’re going to think, geeze, I’m hitting this vape really hard or..I feel a bit weird puffing on this. This is the real battle. Years and years of associations and guilty pleasures.
Let’s just focus on the associations and cast a critical thought on them for a bit. It’s a tough opponent but we have a pretty hard hitting weapon with our starter kit.
It’s is going to be critical that you try and do this from the first day you choose to vape instead of smoking tobacco. I can’t emphasise this enough. Pick your day…this is it.
Vape the same way and times you used to smoke in every way. The first day might be a bit scary but assessing the first day I concluded that it wasn’t really as hard as I thought it would be. The second day was easier. I kept the same routine. By the end of the fourth day, I noticed that if and when I did get a craving I looked for my vape and not the last remnants of tobacco I had in a pouch sitting beside my coffee machine. By the end of the week, that pouch was in the bin and I haven’t had a cigarette since. That was 9 months ago.
The beauty of playing the brain like this is that you don’t have to avoid the things in life you enjoyed. I didn’t avoid going to the pub, I didn’t avoid other smokers, I went to gigs, the footy, the movies and ate out. I did everything I normally would. Including laughing again without breaking down into a coughing fit and gasp!! Dancing! On the other hand, I’ve had to go through a couple of stressful moments like putting my poochy friend Cooper down and a few other stressful situations.
You might be thinking, geeze Charles..that’s a bit of a hard detailed overthinking approach! Yep, it was. I really wanted this to work and I have since found out many a successful new vaper did this without thinking about it.
Some new vapers weaned off the ciggies gradually or dual used and while this might work I think they are building associations still linked with tobacco and may take a little longer to stop smoking tobacco completely or worse the brain playing the vaper that vaping isn’t cutting it. Sneaky Brain!
And that’s about it…. Be aware, build associations, vape is a reward. It’s actually easier than you think.
If your desire is to give up tobacco completely, this may very well be the way to approach it or at least be aware of it.
If you notice other ways I’d like to hear about it. Get in touch through the contact information found on this website.
If this trick worked for you I want to hear about that too.
Cheers folks and don’t forget…drink lots of water while vaping!
* Nicotine: Please check the laws in your state regarding Nicotine, importing and using in vape equipment. Laws are different in each state.