How Not to Quit Smoking

You’ve tried it all — the pills, the patches, the potions — and none of it has worked for you. You’ve begun to think that maybe you’re doomed to be a smoker until it kills you; after all, you’ve followed your family’s urging, your friends’ suggestions, and your doctor’s advice, and you’re still puffing away, even though — when you stop to think about it — you hate every single minute of it.

You wonder,

“What’s wrong with me?”

Has it ever occurred to you that maybe nothing’s wrong with you? If you’re in a strange town, and you ask three different people for directions, and they all give you different directions that don’t get you where you want to go, do you assume that there’s something wrong with you, or that you’re doomed to never get to where you want to go? Probably not; you’d probably assume that you got bad directions from those three people.

And this doesn’t mean that those three people didn’t sincerely want to help you; as a wise man once said, “Sincerity is not the test of truth” (because it’s possible to be sincerely wrong).

“Sincerity is not the test of truth”

A family member may say something like, “If you can’t do it for yourself, at least think of how this is affecting your [mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter]. Do it for them.” As sincere as this urging may be, it’s wrong: your motivation to quit (and stay quit) probably won’t be strong enough if you’re doing it for somebody else.

More importantly, if you try quitting for somebody else, you’re setting yourself up with an automatic excuse to relapse as soon as they do something you don’t like (“How could you do that to me after I quit smoking for you? I’ll show you!”).

“We’re only trying to help…”

Your friends may suggest that you try hypnosis, or acupuncture, or the latest herbal remedy, and they may sincerely believe that whatever they’re suggesting is the just the thing that you’ve been needing to help you “kick the habit”. Once again, the sincerity of their desire to help you can’t change the fact that they’re dead wrong about the nature of what you’re up against: the fact is that you’re addicted to what may be the most addictive substance on the planet (nicotine), and your approach has to be a whole lot more serious than it would be for somebody who’s merely trying to kick a habit.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Your doctor may suggest that you try Nicotine Replacement Therapy (“NRT”) or prescribe the latest “wonder drug” for you; they may even prescribe the wonder drug and suggest that you use NRT along with it in an attempt to increase the odds that you’ll succeed. Without casting any doubt on your doctor’s sincerity, this is also the wrong approach.

Think about it: Can you imagine a doctor prescribing an “alcohol patch”, an “alcohol gum”, or an “alcohol inhaler” to help an alcoholic patient control their addiction to alcohol? Of course not. The idea is ridiculous: the worst thing you can possibly give an alcoholic is alcohol. The method of delivery makes no difference; giving alcohol to an alcoholic will only strengthen their addiction to alcohol, and their addiction will continue to control them. It’s just common sense.

But How Can the Doctor Be Wrong?

Then why in the world would a doctor suggest nicotine patches, gums, or inhalers to help a patient control their addiction to nicotine? One reason might be that they just don’t realize that they’re dealing with an addiction every bit as serious as alcoholism or other drug addictions. Another reason might be that they’re relying on the claims of the pharmaceutical companies that produce the NRTs and other quit smoking products.

The fact is that most doctors receive little to no education on addiction treatment in medical school, and much of the education they do receive is heavily slanted towards “prescriptive” medicine (in other words, their default approach to treatment is to prescribe drugs to alleviate symptoms). So it’s easy to understand why they would be inclined to use this approach.

The problem is it doesn’t work.

What works is acknowledging that you are an addict, accepting your responsibility for being an addict, and choosing not to feed that addiction every time you have the urge to do so.

It’s not easy, but it is simple, and you can do it, too.

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