I have quit smoking. But I'm still a smoker.
Alcoholics call themselves alcoholics even if they have not had a drink in years. Fortunately smoking does not leave such a lasting and dire impression on one's life, if one can manage to quit at all. Nonetheless I will not consider myself an ex-smoker for another ten months. I've heard that you have to wait a year after you've quit smoking before you can officially give yourself that moniker, and before you can (legally) check the non-smoker block on questionnaires, medical evaluations and insurance forms. It's not been a year yet. At the time of this writeup, it has been exactly fifty days. Still more than 300 days away from being a full-fledged non-smoker. And I still get cravings.
The majority of that time has been very comfortable. More comfortable than I've been in a long time, in fact. The first week, however, was a living hell, and I became very well acquainted with cravings on a more personal level than I ever thought possible.
As of right now - since I'm past the physical addiction - I get the cravings in my head. They're becoming less intense, and less frequent, but I still get them. I find myself polishing off a delicious meal, and scanning the table for a pack of cigarettes, which once would have been there. This leaves a gaping hole in the ritual - a very prominent feeling that something is missing or incomplete. It's definately not tangible, and you can't point to where that craving is. It's like when you leave home to go to work or to the grocery store, and you get the feeling that you're forgetting something. It is very much like that.
Psychological addiction is less intense than physical addiction, but it lasts so damn much longer, and is that much more unpleasant.
All those years that I smoked, I never gave it much though. I never once questioned why I would want a cigarette, and I never pushed past wanting one before I went and got one. Consequently, I'm not sure that my withdrawal cravings were the same, but I would imagine that they are. When you want a cigarette, that is the first little mini-withdrawal symptom. I didn't feel any tingling or itching, or anything so obvious. It hit me right in the chest - where all the magic was happening.
The closest I can come to describing the actual physical sensation of wanting a cigarette, nay, needing a cigarette, is hunger. That's not exactly right, but it's the nearest mark I can hit that everyone can relate to. Instead of hunger in my gut, it's a hunger in my chest. It was very distressing.
To complete the hunger analogy - after about the third day of no smoking, my heart started to beat erratically. Nothing to call a doctor about, but enough to scare the living shit out of me before I realized what it was. I equated this with when your stomach rumbles. You know how you can feel your stomach preparing for a good grumble that you know will be heard by everyone in the building - my chest would feel like that, then Gurgle! my heart would play the drum solo to Rat Salad on my ribs.
Quitters wouldn't be so ornery if the withdrawal wasn't so unpleasant.