Do you believe in addiction? More to the point, do you believe that you are an addict? The answer to this question is super-important. Not for me; for you and for your chances of success at getting quit and staying that way.
Have you tried to quit so many times, in so many ways, that you just don’t know what to do any more? Have you tried all the different programs, pills, patches, potions, and plans? Do you feel like there’s no hope for you? Like the addiction is too strong for you to control?
Does it ever seem like you’re not even conscious of buying cigarettes? Do you quit and stay quit for a week, or a month, and then something suddenly clicks and you’re smoking again before you realize what you’re doing?
If you’re anything like me, you used to use smoking to cover up a lot of “stuff”: as a smoker, there were a lot of issues I never had to deal with, because if they threatened to surface, I could always just smoke them away (in other words, I could always just bury them by getting a fix).
In the early days of my quit, I used to write about how I was “digging deep”, and I encouraged other people to do the same; to look for those issues that we used to cover up with the smokescreen, take them out and look at them in the light of day, and decide what we wanted to do with them before they had a chance to sabotage our quits.
Why dig? Read on to find out…
When I was smoking, I’d light up a cigarette at the first sign of any strong emotion, whether it was positive or negative. I think it was my way of emulating a stereotype (the “strong, silent type”) that I learned in my childhood (think of James Dean in “Rebel Without A Cause” or Bogie in “Casablanca” or John Wayne in pretty much anything).
The “smokescreen” gave me something to hide behind so I didn’t have to let anyone else know what was going on inside, and I think that, eventually, it got so good at hiding what was going on inside that it even hid it from me. I remember many times getting into confrontations — especially in relationships — and storming away, lighting up, stuffing whatever it was I was feeling behind the smokescreen and pretending that it really didn’t matter.
Of course, this didn’t actually work…
In 1988, the Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett Koop, released a report entitled, “The Health Consequences of Smoking: Nicotine Addiction”. This report concluded that nicotine is just as addictive as heroin or cocaine.
Naturally, Big Tobacco denied that nicotine was addictive at all – even going so far as to have their top executives testify to that effect during Congressional hearings in 1994 – yet their own internal documents (which they were forced to release as part of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998) show that they clearly recognized the addictive nature of their product.