Beat Addiction

I promised to write an article about smoking after I had managed to stay off cigarettes for one year. Just in time, after the majority of New Year resolutions have faltered and smokers now having to pursue their addiction in front of bars and restaurants. And an addiction it is (at least for many smokers), even if they say, “I would give up tomorrow, if I wanted to.” Yeah!

Smoking is the socially most accepted addiction, although the consequences of smoking are often dire, and the chances to stay clean probably are as good or bad as for any addict. Depending on the individual study and the motivation of the smokers, relapse rates after one year are between 70 and 95%. Of those who succeed for two years 20% will start to smoke again. Thus, I’ll never be out of the woods and knowing that, hopefully, will be my best protection. It will be a single cigarette deciding about success or failure.

Addiction is like parts of your brain are running on autopilot with the override button being hidden away somewhere. It took me 16 years to find that button and on many days I still have to press it. This means that on most days I still get the urge to smoke a cigarette, emerging from somewhere and lasting for seconds or being more bothersome. And this is what somebody who wants to give up smoking has to be prepared for.

You are not an ex-smoker because you have used some patches, acupuncture or pills; you are an ex-smoker because you are prepared to use the override button for a long time – any time. Of course everybody is different, thus has different needs, but anti-smoking campaigns although generally giving good advice, regularly underestimate the power the addiction still exerts over the brain.

You cannot avoid situations forever where you might start to smoke again. You have to focus on what you want, which is not smoking. Therefore it helps to replace the satisfaction that you gained through smoking with arguments not to smoke and to think of them to gain satisfaction out of not smoking. (Initially I felt triumphant not to have to enter the tobacco shop, facing their grumpy staff!) It also helps not to think of never being able to smoke again.

Members of AA always thinks of today only, which I always found a bit ridiculous, but it helps tremendously. We employ this strategy of not thinking ahead frequently, e.g. nobody learns a language sitting in front of the books, thinking that he has to know all that. No, we learn chapter by chapter.

How do you get that far that you have to worry about staying a non-smoker? Some sort of aid helps to ease the initial withdrawal symptoms! Set a date, let people know and have somebody to turn to or to stop with together. Do exercise or other activities to take your mind of smoking and don’t give up when you had a weak moment. Just don’t expect a quick cure.

Thus I would like to invite everybody, who wants to know more about stopping smoking or has questions about it, to a meeting on Saturday 26th February at 11 am in our surgery.

Most smokers die a premature death. Smoking causes or contributes to: stroke, macular degeneration (blindness), cataract, gum disease, cancer of the lips, nose, mouth, throat, gullet, lungs, bladder, pancreas, kidneys, cervix, aging of the skin, heart attack, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, worsening of asthma, chronic rhinitis (blocked nose), high blood pressure, gangrene, kidney failure, impotence, decreased fertility, tiredness and headache.

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