The Fear of Quitting Smoking and a Magic Method of Overcoming It
It’s not about smoking fewer cigarettes from time to time or using nicotine substitutes.
If you’re reading this article you are probably a smoker that decided to quit smoking as a new year’s resolution. Maybe you have a cigarette between your lips at this moment and you have not even realized. If that’s how it is, congratulations: You have just realized that you are addicted to nicotine. But this article is not more words about the numerous risks to physical health of smoking; we will not offer you alarming figures of the annual deaths worldwide due to addiction, neither will we try to encourage you to begin a smoke-free life. Instead we want to talk about the huge fear of quitting and offer you a free solution that does not even require willpower or an agonizing period of abstinence.
The only foolproof and permanent way of quitting smoking is not to smoke, and everybody knows that. The problem that all smokers face is that moment when a terrifying abyss opens up once they’ve stubbed out their last cigarette. It is like that scene in the Jim Jarmusch film Coffee and Cigarettes in which Iggy Pop and Tom Waits (in the role of ex-smokers) decide to smoke their “last cigarette” together, “for old time’s sake.” As all smokers know, that last cigarette after quitting smoking is the first in a new chain of addiction.
But where did the chain start?
Let’s think for a moment that all tastes are an acquired taste. We all had our first chocolate, our first sip of milk, and as we grew up, our first kiss, our first sip of wine, our first book, our first cigarette… It is likely that at first we didn’t like it, and with time and practice it became a part of us. The problem with tobacco, more than with any other drug, is that the psychological addiction is so subtle that smokers have forgotten what life is like without tobacco, and the prospect of a tobacco-free life terrifies them.
Doctors discourage smoking during pregnancy for a good reason: nobody is born a smoker. You could say that nobody is born a flyer either, and therefore we should forbid airplanes. The problem is that tobacco use for ritual purposes (from which the conquerors of the Americas took the habit) has become the main perversion with which this toxin in small doses can become medicinal; the use which we give tobacco, in our time, only preserves the administering of the toxin without promoting the other shamanic properties associated with its use in pre-Columbus societies.
One way or another, one day we decide to inhale the smoke of that first cigarette and we continue to do so. Each one of us does so for different reasons and which can be summarized in a few lines: peer pressure, the desire to look adult, family tradition, as a challenge to authority, “boredom,” the search for relaxation, concentration, etc. If you have tried to give up smoking before, you already know that tobacco stimulates the circulatory system and, rather than relaxing you, it excites you. Neither does smoking serve as a magical remedy for overcoming stress; by accelerating your pulse it makes you more prone to stress.
At the end of the day, smoking is a narcissistic and selfish pursuit: something that we do by and for ourselves, even though in the process we convert our loved ones (including our children) into passive smokers.
Some of the arguments often used by smokers are: I only smoke after eating / after sex / when I’m stressed / when I’m relaxed / before or after a long journey / to clarify my ideas / to reduce stress.
But isn’t it surprising that there are people who can do all this without having to smoke?
After a night’s partying or after a stressful period, all smokers (who have smoked like there’s no tomorrow) have planned to quit smoking. The first cigarette of the day after, with a sticky mouth, a throat with sewer breath and the teeth yellow with tar, will not be pleasurable. But the truth is that none of the cigarettes that you have smoked in your life have been pleasurable: the secret of the cigarette is that it creates a malaise while temporarily mitigating it. Tobacco in itself does not produce pleasure: it is always associated with something else.
All that we have said here has been dealt with simply and humorously in the book The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr. Carr was not a doctor or a therapist but a former smoker who smoked up to 100 cigarettes a day and suddenly stopped, from one day to the next, by unraveling the complex brainwashing that advertising and movies have ingrained into society.
If you’re considering quitting smoking as a new year’s resolution (either to improve your health, save a considerable amount of money or because you genuinely want to test your own limits), you can download Carr’s book here, light a cigarette (seriously) and prepare to take a trip toward your motives for smoking: you will find that even the fear of quitting smoking is part of the system of the slavery of conscience that advertising thrusts upon us.
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