When most people hear the word “addiction”, the first thoughts are addiction to alcohol or drugs. These are not new. There are other serious addictions, however, that aren’t as much in the forefront such as compulsive gambling, sex addition, and food disorders. Even shopping has become known as an addiction. So why do we call smoking a bad habit when it is probably one of the most powerful addictions a person could suffer. (For the purpose of this article, smoking is defined in terms of cigarette (nicotine) as opposed to smoking other illegal drugs.)
I am probably the worst type of person to talk about smoking. Yes, I am an ex-smoker. If you are a smoker today, please read on and give it a shot. If you are an ex-smoker, I think you will appreciate what I’m writing and if you have never smoked…you do not know how lucky you are! The rooms of recovery are full of alcoholics and drug addicts who have kicked their addiction but the areas outside of these rooms are full of these same folk who are still killing themselves. I was one of them.
A neuroscientist from USC, Dr. Bechara says, “If you would have asked me 40 years ago if smoking is an addiction, I would have said no. We didn’t know smoking was harmful then. But now we know it is harmful. Addiction is about persisting in a behavior despite knowledge of negative consequences.” Without calling it by name, Bechara is saying that smoking, like other addictions is insanity! We know the consequences and do it anyway. Another interesting concept was that addicts had been long screened for aberrant behavior but not smokers. Addiction in terms of visible consequences separated smokers from other addicts. There is an immediate harm if I have a drink but the results are harder to quantify if I have a smoke.
People who do not have addictions like alcohol or drugs and smoke would probably never consider themselves addicts. I never thought I was addicted to nicotine until I understood what addiction was. Smoking was like drinking. I was obsessed by it. I hated to go places that either didn’t permit me to smoke (which happened more and more) or places where I couldn’t smoke when I wanted. I would feel that panic when I would realize that I didn’t have enough cigarettes to last me until the next day. The Surgeon General’s warnings meant nothing. The rising price of cigarettes meant nothing. My excuses were, “I enjoy smoking.” “It relaxes me.” “I can stop whenever I want.” “I might try to quit soon.” Do any of these sound familiar to you?
Smoking cessation is difficult. I do not want to go through it again…ever! I know today that if I had even one little inhale, I would buy a pack, then a carton and I would be off to the races--not any different than taking a little sip of wine. If you are recently sober and smoke, I would not recommend stopping the smokes now. I waited about two years after I stopped drinking. I knew I needed the crutch at the time. And then one day I realized that cigarettes were as binding as any other addiction and if I worked the steps to stop drinking, why wouldn’t they work with smoking? I had tried stopping about 100 times. I used the patch, I went to classes, and I even had hypnosis but nothing worked. Why not? I truly believe because all of these were external and the change had to come from within me.
I had to work Step One because I was addicted and damn powerless. I picked a quit day that meant something to me (that’s what all of the experts tell you to do). I decided to use the patch. And then I prayed and prayed. I prayed in the car, at home, at work, everywhere I could possibly pray because the triggers were everywhere. I found an online support group and made sure I visited a couple of times a day. Day after day; literally, one day at a time—one hour at a time and before long the obsession was gone. I used the Steps that I use on a daily basis like Steps Three, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve. It was difficult but it got easier. I was also fortunate to have a few others in the fellowship quit about the same time. We would talk about it and almost be giddy with excitement that we could finally quit!
People are funny about smoking. After I stopped smoking I was at a party with a few folks I hadn’t seen since my real partying days. One of them asked why I wasn’t drinking and I said, “I quit.” His response was, “Why would you do something like that?” Before I answered his question, I added, “I stopped smoking, also.” With that he and the others around him gave me the “atta girl” and “Congratulations. That’s great.” Personally, I was a little annoyed because being sober was such a big part of my life but I realized what many people feel about smoking.
I hope I am not sounding righteous. That is never my intent. I only know that when we used or drank we were killing ourselves a little bit at a time. Smoking IS an addiction. It kills. If you are in recovery you know how hard getting sober was. I am not going to lie when I say that to stop smoking was extremely difficult. I had the toolkit required to stop. You have the toolkit required to stop. Haven’t you said to someone, “If I could stop drinking/drugging you can too?” I say these words to you, “If I could stop smoking you can too?” Smoking IS an addiction. Kicking this addiction will make trudging the road of Happy Destiny a lot healthier and a lot happier!
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
“Like” Grateful Recovery on Facebook. Kathy L. is the author of “The Intervention Book”, (Conari Press)