Food For Thought

I started smoking at around age 13 and by 16 was up to a pack a day. I quit around December 1997, having smoked a pack or more a day for approximately 45 years.

During that time, I “quit” several times; sometimes for a week or two and once for 6 months. And when I [temporarily] wasn’t smoking, I was still a smoker – the equivalent to an alcoholic “dry drunk”. I particularly missed having a cigarette with my coffee & cognac after supper.

In late 1997, I woke up one morning and found that smoking was ego-dystonic. I never smoked again. I never again had any craving or withdrawal symptoms. It was as if I’d never smoked (except for the COPD).

While I do not discount or deny physical dependency on various drugs, I am convinced that addiction is primarily a psychological issue or at least has a major psychological component which enables it. A change in mental state changes everything.

I had an alcoholic friend who’d go on the wagon for months at at time before relapsing. He was in and out of various programs for years, without being cured. I once had the following conversation with him:

Me: You can stand up at AA and say, “I’m Joe and I’m an alcoholic”
Joe: Sure. I can and I do.
Me: Can you say, “I’m Joe and I’m 88 years old”?
Joe: Why would I say that? It’s not true.
Me: But even knowing it’s not true, you COULD say it.
Joe: Yeah, I could.
Me: Could you say, “I’m Joe and I molest little children”?
Joe: God no! I could never say that! I’m not a child molester!
Me: What’s the difference between “I’m 88” and “I molest children”

While Joe could say “I’m 88”, knowing it was a lie, he could not bring himself to utter the words, “I’m a child molester”, even knowing it was also a lie.

I told him, “When you feel the same way about saying you’re an alcoholic as you do about saying you’re a child molester. you won’t be an alcoholic any more”.

We all have mental images of ourselves, the sort of people we are. Even at great risk, we may refuse to do something that doesn’t match that self-image or go to great effort to do something that confirms that self-image. The point is, it’s the belief – the mental process of having that self-image – which influences or even controls our behavior.

To this day, I have no idea how/why smoking became ego-dystonic to me. I wish I knew – I could bottle it and get rich, as well as perhaps doing the world a favor. And get rid of some of my other bad habits. 😀