If your last smoke was at least a few weeks ago, you can take comfort in knowing that the worst is probably behind you.
"Most of the nicotine is cleared out of your body within about two weeks, so you'll have fewer withdrawal symptoms," says Richard Hurt, MD, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and director of its nicotine Dependence Center. However, you'll still have to find ways to fight your cravings. Cravings are short but they can be intense. The longer you're smoke-free, the less powerful and frequent they'll become. "I took up knitting, and any time I wanted a cigarette, I would knit a few rows," says Felicia Foster, of Austin, who quit last spring when she got pregnant. "I made a baby blanket, and all those hours I spent knitting represent all the cigarettes I didn't smoke."
Experts consider the period from six months to five years after your last puff to be the "maintenance phase," during which your confidence will increase and you'll be less tempted to smoke. While you may not have to concentrate as much to prevent a relapse, you should always be on guard for high-risk situations, particularly when you're feeling stressed. It's important to have a plan for what you'll do if you're tempted. "After a day of gardening and yard work when my son was with my ex-husband, the old me would sit on the patio with a beer and a smoke," says Kriste Goad, of Nashville, who quit last June. "The new Kriste says, 'I've come too far to backtrack now!' and I make myself a cup of tea."