Date With Destiny
2005-07-03 17:58:48 (UTC)

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Do you know what your mistake was? No, it was not smoking
that first cigarette. You may be surprised to find that
most of your nonsmoking friends have tried it at some
point, and they are better off for knowing the truth of
the things. Your mistake was in smoking the next one, and
the next, and the next. If you had left well enough alone
when you discovered how sickening they were, all would
have been fine. But no, you were stubborn, and intent on
getting it right. On seeing what the big deal was. Great
use of the ol` willpower, buddy!

Somewhere early on, you got it `right.` Learned to suck in
enough that it `worked`, but not so much that you gagged
or felt sick over it. That was the beginning of the
trouble, though you never noticed it, and though to this
day you still don`t know what `worked` meant. But your
brain sure did. It saw a poison entering your body - one
more poisonous than even arsenic or strychnine - and set
off alarm bells. It dumped adrenaline into your body to
help you escape from the danger. Meanwhile, you noticed no
such danger. You were doing something you had done many
times already, and now noticed that it gave you a rush! If
you had recognized the fear you should have been in, you
never would have become addicted. You would have dropped
the thing right then, like all of your nonsmoking friends,
and that would have been that.

But it kept getting worse. Right then, you did something
even more dangerous: You took a breath of fresh, clean
air. That allowed your brain to realize that it was out of
danger. That was dangerous because it flipped a switch in
one of the most ancient parts of your brain. A situation
of `Life Threat` followed by `All Clear` causes the
release of a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. Great
stuff, it makes you feel simply wonderful. If you`ve ever
just squeaked through something, then had an
uncontrollable, unexplainable, ear-to-ear smile and the
desire to laugh, you`ve felt it. It`s like a doggie
biscuit for your brain. `Good dog`, it tells you. `If you
want more of this, remember what you just did.` It`s the
brains` way of reinforcing memories of things important to
our survival. It was meant for spearing tigers, dodging
bullets, and things of that nature. Now, what you were
supposed to remember was taking that breath of fresh,
clean air. But you do that all the time, so it didn`t seem
like something worth remembering. Instead you remembered
the more obvious thing - the smoking.

If at that moment, you had taken a straight-to-the-lungs,
no-mixing-in-air drag, you would have been poisoned enough
to notice, and that would have been the end of it. Of
course, you probably would have turned green and puked,
like so many of your nonsmoking friends did that first
time. Instead, you took in a third, carefully modulated
breath of smoke, and got that rush, and that good feeling
again. And again, you connected it to the smoke, rather
than to the fresh, clean air. That happened a few times
with that smoke, and a few more with the next. Soon, it
was happening with every one, and became so much a part of
everyday life that you almost never noticed it happening.
It was never all that big a deal anyway - just a subtle
little something. A little blast for a little poison. But
your brain sure noticed. Its` most ancient bits, those
critical to your survival, were telling you that this was
good. Well, it wasn`t actually saying that, but that is
how you interpreted `good dog` when it said so.


You started to try out your new smoking talent in
situations similar to the first ones. What do you know,
`Good dog` every time there, too. Then you tried smoking
when you saw that other smokers did. `Good dog`. Then, in
situations similar to those. `Good Dog`. You were smoking
more and more often, in all sorts of situations. `Good
dog.` Every single time, it was the right thing for the
situation, because each time, you heard `Good Dog.` No
rushes anymore, because your body had become accustomed to
being continuously overstimulated, and rather than have
your heart explode, had chosen instead to adjust a few of
it`s natural systems to compensate. So now, it was just
that little whisper with each puff: `Good dog.` Your most
basic survival mechanism telling you this several times
each cigarette, perhaps a hundred times a day. The
connections formed. `Smoking is good for stress.`` Smoking
improves my mood.` `Smoking is fun with friends, when
drinking, when talking on the phone, when using the
computer.` None of it was true. Smoking just seemed `Good`
without actually improving anything. The `what`s` and
`why`s` were left to your rational mind to make sense of.
Close enough, right?

Well, wrong. Because then disaster struck. And you didn`t
even notice. What happened? You were not allowed to smoke.
Not permanently, but because you were with someone you
were hiding your little secret from. Or maybe you were
someplace where smoking wasn`t acceptable. Perhaps, you
simply ran out. Whatever the reason, you ran into a
situation that you had associated with smoking, and could
not. When your survival mechanism noticed this, it got
scared. You knew how you were supposed to deal with this
situation - by smoking, for you had learned your lessons
well - yet you couldn`t. Yipes! Now what to do? Instant

Stress and smoking just became linked. Each of the little
symptoms of stress, from dry mouth to tightness in the
chest to headache. Anxiety to confusion. Each in turn
became associated with the need to smoke to `cure` it. Of
course, smoking never had anything to do to help any of
these symptoms. All it could do was relieve the anxiety of
not being able to smoke, and so reduce the symptoms caused
by that particular problem. But the connection was made.
Whenever stressed by say, running late to an appointment,
you thought `a smoke will help this`, and your survival
mechanism bumped up the stress levels until you could
answer the call. Once you took in smoke - the instant it
hit your lungs - the body sounded the `all clear` and
removed that bit of stress related to the smoking delay.
The part from missing the appointment remained, but all
you noticed was the improvement. Unfortunately, symptoms
don`t come with nametags.

Still, it kept getting worse. Language is underrated in
it`s importance to the way we think and feel about a
thing. You associated this feeling of `needing` to smoke
with `wanting` to smoke. It was a necessary
rationalization. Your higher mind was constantly being
bombarded with the negatives of smoking. You heard about
it being bad for you health, and `addictive`, though that
certainly wasn`t your problem. People whose opinions you
cared about didn`t like smoking. And yet you had become
absolutely convinced (Good dog!) that it was something
that you needed to do. The only way to make sense of it
was to conclude that you must `want` to smoke - the
alternative was to believe yourself to be deluded, and
that`s a tough thing to wrap your brain around. Worse, you
named that want a `craving.` That little shorthand did no
end of harm to your psyche.

But still, you haven`t reached bottom. One too many
mornings, the lungs hurt more than you can ignore. One too
many evenings, you coughed yourself to sleep. Getting up
from a chair got you winded. Friends and loved ones lost
their health to this `good` thing. Finally, your senses
get the better of you: You decide to quit! Great decision!
But in your state, there`s a problem. If you had somehow
`just quit` - say, shipwrecked on an island without a 7-
11, things would have worked out. If you had somehow
noticed that you simply weren`t getting anything out of
them and decided that you wanted to quit, the quit would
have been an annoyance, but not a particular difficulty.
It`s the way most people quit. We`re the hard cases. We
still believed that we `wanted` to smoke, maybe even
`needed` to smoke, but knew that we had to quit.


That caused us all sorts of problems, as it set into
motion an internal struggle of titanic proportion. Our
most basic survival mechanism was being threatened with
the loss of the thing it had come to regard as essential
to daily - make that hourly - survival. Damn right we got
scared. Anxiety? Too soft a word. Panic? pretty darn
close. We may as well have announced that from this
moment, oxygen was no longer part of the plan. No, even
that would not have been so bad, since the survival
mechanism doesn`t really understand the word `oxygen.`
Pesky ubiquity again.

Scared, and how. You read it several times a day on the Q -
scared to quit, even though we know we should be more
afraid of smoking. Ironic - because the fear of smoking
was the cause of the fear of quitting. Panic.
Anxiety...Yep, here comes our old friend, Stress. Of
course, we`re not calling it that - if we were, we`d take
a nice bubble bath and a cup of tea, and move on. No, we
call that `craving` now. And when we can`t satisfy that
`craving`, our Survivor cranks things up a notch, just to
make sure we know that there`s a problem and BETTER be
finding a way out soon. So, more stress, er, `craving.`
Yeah, that`s helpful. Soon it gets bad enough to take on
physical manifestations, and we find a new name -
`withdrawal.` But we`re not done making things hard on
ourselves, not just yet. We have these `cravings`, but
decide that we`re not `allowed` to think that way. Now,
Survivor doesn`t like that idea at all - refusing to even
think about our own survival? That`s a fight. Against a
perfectly matched opponent - you. Rational and instinctual
sides fighting one another for your very survival. Think
this might be stressful? And that causes more.... Yep,
Now, let`s take another path. Instead of discussing what
did happen (or what is happening) let`s discuss a best-
case (or at least better-case) scenario. We ditch the
words `craving` and `withdrawal`. We notice that we have
symptoms, and we have the thought that a smoke would help
them. Having done a bit of reasoned research, we know that
these are the symptoms of stress, and attempt to handle
them by deep breathing, relaxation, and distraction. We
note with irony that these are the exact things we had
been doing for decades, only with this damn cigarette
hanging out of our lips. All along, we had been giving it
credit for all of our hard work. Worse yet, we`ve learned
that nicotine is first and foremost a stimulant, and was
exactly the thing we did NOT need to help us relax.

Now, we`re getting somewhere. For the first time in
decades, we`re actually helping the situation, instead of
making it worse. And we`re on a roll. Checking on
quantitative research rather than asking a bunch of
addicts what they think, we see that smoking doesn`t have
any way to address stress. Or moods. Or make us the
slightest bit sexy. Or make food the slightest bit better.
Thinking of it, we can`t remember the last time we enjoyed
a `buzz`, or for that matter, had the idea of smoking
because it sounded like an enjoyable thing to do. No, it
always was something that it was `time` to do. Something
that we needed to do.

In no time, the curtain of mistaken perceptions falls.
Things get massively easier when instead of fighting, we
recognize that the `smoking is good` thoughts are simply
errors. Sure, some go easier than others. Occasionally, it
is hard to remember that all we are feeling is a stress we
are creating by fighting it. Some of the `good` thoughts
are so real, and so deeply engrained that they can be
quite annoying. But one by one, as we get through life`s
situations without smoking, we reprogram our Survivor to
recognize the error. But while the false perceptions were
built up slowly, they come down much faster. Once the
original error of any particular kind is disproved to our
minds, all the others based on it fall along with it. The
tremendous weight of this burden we`ve been carrying is
lifted. Life is not only less stressful than when
quitting - it`s less stressful than when smoking!

And better still, for those who have known the hardship
and perhaps even failure of quits based on fear, strength,
and willpower. This thing gets amazingly easy in a very
short period of time. Sure, there are still some
discomforts. Most of those are still stress - even if our
understanding and execution were perfect, change of this
magnitude is still scary. But now we know how to handle
it, having learned that we really knew how all along. We
stop believing that we used smoking to `stuff` emotions,
because smoke has nothing to stuff them into. We just
walked away from things for a few moments, and it so
happened that a cigarette was nearby, so we gave it the
credit. We can still deal with things by walking away for
a few minutes if we so choose. Stress melts away as we see
that the quitting process causes an emotional upheaval
from a strictly chemical standpoint, and we shouldn`t
assume any of this is `how we really are.`

Suddenly, you realize that you were engaging in more false
perceptions as you made your prior quit attempts. Physical
symptoms do not mean physical addiction. And physical
addiction does not necessarily mean physical symptoms, at
least not as you always understood it. You recognize that
your body was under the long-term influence of a powerful
stimulant and depressant, and removing that will require a
bit of readjustment to the old cruise control. You`ll be
sleepy feeling for a few days, and odd euphoric-
disconnected feelings will come and go for a bit. A
handful of extra headaches, perhaps. Nothing to fuss over,
and certainly no risk to `the quit`. Especially now that
you have begun to realize the possibilities of life on
`the other side.`

Occasionally, we get moody or irritable, and depression
visits us now and then. But we`re expecting this, knowing
that it is yet another symptom of chronic stress. This
time, we don`t mistake it for `missing our buddies`. We
don`t assume that this is the way we are as folks who
don`t smoke. We don`t overeat to satisfy false cravings,
we drink water and eat fresh foods to help maintain
healthy weight and help manage other symptoms.

The mind is nothing if not consistent. Occasionally, we
reminisce smoking as if it is something we enjoyed and
deeply miss. As long as we recognize the error and don`t
fight the thought, it is gone without incident. And more:
If we pay attention to it rather than reacting to it, an
amazing thing happens. We notice that imagining actually
doing it (as in smoking `dreams`) tastes and feels
terrible, physically and emotionally. And if we probe the
memories further, we notice that this wasn`t actually the
way we thought of them when we were smoking - after all,
that was when we chose to quit. Just a silly, misplaced
bit of rationalization that has lost it`s home. Soon
enough, that stops happening, too.

Indeed, when you stop believing that smoking has a way to
benefit your life, cravings cannot exist. Symptoms, sure,
but cravings need that belief to exist. The knowledge that
smoking is deadly becomes irrelevant in light of the fact
that you no longer have a reason to want to smoke.
Willpower, strength, determination, and `wanting it more
than you want to smoke` suddenly reveal themselves as the
painful, dangerous tactics that they truly are. All these
thought processes do is reinforce the addiction, by
convincing the quitter that this thing indeed does have
power over them. It does not. Addiction, in the final
analysis, is only a set of mistaken perceptions about the
value of smoking. Yes, you will remember smoking, that is
probably permanent. But as long as you remember the more-
recent truths that quitting revealed, it won`t matter at

At the end, it is still only the consciously formed belief
that `a smoke will improve things` that makes cravings
(desires, smoking thoughts, etc) possible. And absent
cravings, smoking simply cannot occur. Any consciously
formed belief, no matter how deeply ingrained or firmly
held, can be changed. All that is required is acceptance
of the possibility and the effort to make it happen.


Some of you are thinking I made all of this up. You forget
that I am a CPA, and give me far too much credit for
imagination, and not nearly enough for research. The ideas
are hardly new - Alan Carr (`The Easy Way to Stop
Smoking`) touches briefly on the concepts, though he
believes it more `brainwashing` than real. Neil Casey
(`The Nicotine Trick`) follows a slightly different
chemical pathway into the problem, and a more
psychological rather than rational approach to getting

Every factual item in this can be verified from a variety
of sources on the Internet. Much of it came from this link
and its related chapters:

Here`s another:
(Try to find an item on this list that is not usually
called either `craving` or `withdrawal`. Conversely, find
one `craving` or `withdrawal` that is not on this list of
symptoms caused by stress. You can`t - they`re the same
things. By the way, an excellent resource for learning the
basics of stress management in a non-smoking way.)

So, why haven`t you heard it before? In part, because you
didn`t look hard enough. In part, because all of the `I
will always be an addict` noise from certain quitting
cults actively fights off the possibility of real,
permanent improvement. Don`t get me wrong - I have very
much respect for the good that they do accomplish, as
clean and miserable is better than smoke-filled and
miserable. Too bad that their insistence that permanent
recovery is impossible makes it impossible. I wish they
would stick to the original intention of the quote: `I
will always consider myself an addict, if that`s what it
takes to keep from being an addict.` Far too much misery
has come from that little bit of shorthand.

Other reasons: Addicts are the only ones that could
possibly understand the process, while at the same time
the addiction prevents them from seeing it. Ex-addicts
can`t see it, because mostly they follow the `just quit`
strategy. That works well, and time away from smoking
clears out most of the errant perceptions for most folks.
Unfortunately, for most of them the possibility of
realization comes too late to be of use, so it is let to
drop. Only those in continuing support groups like this
rare, wonderful spot are reliably available to spread the
good news. Unfortunately, folks still struggling with
their `Survivor` often shout them down. But listen
closely - tiny bits of the truth are in each of us.
Listening in this forum is where I found the seeds.

To be sure, you can find `scientific studies` that produce
opposite conclusions. First, many are done with
preconceptions of the nature and results of addiction.
Second, science is great at recognizing connections, but
not so good at recognizing which is cause and which
effect, or if both are effect of a larger cause. Finally,
science is a vast field, even when studying the human
animal. Each researcher has his or her own area of
expertise. For any of them to describe the causes and
solutions to addiction is like trying to describe
Beethoven`s Fifth Symphony by talking about the shape of
an oboe reed.

Still not convinced? Consider some of the following

My father, a three-pack, forty-year smoker, gave it up
with no more difficulty than stopping nail biting, once he
decided that they no longer had anything he wanted. I had
it excruciatingly miserable several times, then `got it`,
and had a breezy time of things. Clearly, it`s not a
physical thing that is the real difficulty. There are far
more stories like these than of people who `crave
forever.` You just have to decide which you are going to
listen to.

Many people who quit permanently do so with relative ease.
Those that do almost universally note a change in attitude
that led them to success. This cannot be explained in
organic terms. Changing the attitudes about what smoking
provides is the only way this works.

This dopamine response and resulting addiction has been
demonstrated in amphetamines, barbituates, narcotics,
stimulants, depressants, and even organic solvents.There
is no chemical similarity to these things. And yet, these
are each supposed to be creating the exact same `rewiring`
of the brain? It seems to me that the similarity these
chemicals share is that they are something that the body
can recognize as a poison, yet the rational mind can
dismiss as (relatively) safe.

We all know that smoking is highly addictive. But nicotine
ingested via chew or snuff is somewhat less so - addicting
fewer people who try it, and being somewhat easier to quit
than smoking. However, smokers who later switch to chew or
snuff have a tougher time quitting. All the while, these
users recieve multiples of the dosage that smokers do. The
trick is that they do not receive the quick burst that a
smoker does. So by the time their internal `alarm bells`
have gone off, the other symptoms of overdose (nausea,
rapid heart-beat, and so on) have occured, so the rational
and instinctual minds are operating under the same
perceptions - this stuff is dangerous.

You are not addicted, you are only deluded. Sure, you want
to call yourself addicted, because that gives you an
excuse. No, not to smoke, because as we have seen, smoking
is irrelevant to happiness. You want Addiction as an
excuse to avoid the hard work of change. To avoid the fear
of what a different life might mean. To stay in misery, to
avoid becoming too happy all at once. Who knows what might
come of that!
Lose your delusions. Give up your addictions. Drop your
fears. Excise your excuses. Who knows? Along the way, you
may find you don`t have an interest in smoking.

Sorry, just having fun with you there. You were indeed
very, very addicted. It`s just that addiction is nothing
like what you assumed it was.

~~~~~~~~END OF MANIFESTO~~~~~~~~~~~