Smoking as an Addiction

One in a series on addictions. You can see my different writings on the topic here.

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I had my first cigarette when I was eight or nine years old and was addicted to smoking from the age of 14 on up. I used to smoke three packs of cigarettes per day. I have quit smoking 5 times, once for fourteen years. I quit this last time fifteen years ago.

In my fantasies, I enjoyed smoking. In reality, I coughed in the mornings and all day long. As the cost of cigarettes increased I resented the money I spent. As an addict, I gave up the power of choice and spent money on cigarettes that I actually wanted for other areas of my life. I burned holes in my clothes, and I was forever chasing the elusive pleasure of that first cigarette.

Frequently you hear smokers talk about wanting to quit smoking. I personally do not know one smoker who actually wants to continue smoking. If you are a person for whom smoking is simply a bad habit, you simply need to find the smoking cessation program that matches your usual and natural way of doing things.

There are many approaches to quitting smoking. You can purchase over the counter products, go to your physician for assistance with prescription medications, use programs at your local medical group, contact the American Heart Association, or Google the American Cancer Society. All these approaches have value and work for people.

If, however, when you honestly want to stop smoking, you find that you cannot, we will talk about the addiction model as it applies to your inability to quit.

If you are addicted to smoking, you will find that the normal approaches to quitting will not work for you long term. You can quit. And quit again. And then quit once more. The problem is staying cigarette free. For the true addict, there will always be one more tempting situation. And eventually, once more justification to pick up smoking again.

The disease model, instead, suggests that you have a high risk for addiction to the chemical nicotine based upon your personal heredity. Instead of a bad habit, you have an allergy to the nicotine that causes you to feel better when you smoke. This is an abnormal reaction compared to many other smokers. Some people have a bad habit, others are addicted.

The story of how I started smoking after fifteen years of not smoking illustrates many aspects of addiction. My late husband was in hospice care at home. This means I stayed home to take care of him twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. My windows were open to the cool spring and summer air California air. Open windows unknowingly left me vulnerable to the second-hand smoke of my neighbor. My neighbor, who only smoked outdoors on her property directly underneath my windows. This exposed me to the chemicals related to addiction.

I began to think of smoking. Dream about smoking. My hand would lift up as if I had a cigarette in it.

Enter the fact of tolerance.  Her second-hand smoke was impacting me as if I was smoking myself. And tolerance meant that after a time, I needed more and more of my drug of choice to reach the same effect. Eventually, I gave in and bought cigarettes for myself which led to the progression of consequences.

One day, I began coughing, choking, and having trouble breathing. Finally, I was smoking like I did when I quit the last time.

And social consequences: People don’t like it when you smoke around them and they are rather vocal about it. You cannot smoke in their homes, at work, or even most places. You are required to stand outside in the rain, sleet, snow and heat.

Now there is denial. Denial is a mental defense against reality. It’s both the way you protect yourself from harm and the way you prevent yourself from solving your problems. For me, this took a form of defiance.

“I can smoke if I want to”, I thought.

“There are worse things I could be doing!

“After all, I have just lost my husband!”

I justified my behavior.

And then there was the flying in the face of all evidence to the contrary, “I can handle this. I can smoke and quit.”

Finishing with the whistling in the dark defense, “One day I’ll quit.”

These days there are 12-step programs for most addictive behaviors. Smoking is one of these. You can visit Nicotine Anonymous. They have face-to-face, internet and telephone meetings available to anyone. They have a program for living without cigarettes.

Once you’ve learned to live without your drug of choice, Recovery Wellness Coaching can help. This type of coaching will help you focus on the rest of your life, your goals, dreams, and plans.

Contact me to grow your life:

Email: agentledrlaura@mail.com

Telephone: (615) 464-3791

Available by Skype and Conference Call.

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

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