Mind Matters: Smoking is one of the hardest addictive habits to break
Mankind has struggled with addictions since the beginning of time.
Even the most primitive societies have used and abused addictive substances. Our culture is no exception and scores of chemicals with addictive potential are available. Of these, smoking has been reported as the most difficult habit to break.
Numerous aids to quitting cigarettes are available, beginning with the now well-known nicotine patch. The patch allows for gradual withdrawal from nicotine during the first weeks without cigarettes. Often the patch is combined with an antidepressant known as Zyban, that helps by suppressing the appetite center in the brain, from which cravings originate. Another name for this drug is Wellbutrin, used to treat depression. Various cognitive programs and support groups are also available for assistance with the daily, often minute by minute struggle to overcome the craving for another "sickarette." Smoking cessation programs are offered locally. More support can be found on the In ternet at www.quitnet.com
Why is it so difficult to quit smoking? For one, nicotine is very addictive. Also, smoking permeates every aspect of life, so becomes an integral part of almost every activity. Smokers use cigarettes to wake up; with coffee and alcohol; to celebrate, relax, tame anger and emotional pain, dull the appetite, finish a meal. Not only does smoking accompany a majority of a day's tasks, it is in itself a ritual. As one quitter said, "Everything in my life is related to smoking." Therefore smokers must give up a ritual that has infiltrated many daily activities; they are also faced with loss of an addictive chemical that creates very pleasant physical and psychological effects.
Because of the tendency to use smoking as an emotion stuffer, quitters frequently experience unexpected emotional side effects in addition to the cravings of withdrawal. Quitters have described mood swings, sometimes in rapid cycles of happy to sad to depressed and/or anxious. If a smoker has for years used cigarettes to calm down in the aftermath of every conflict, it stands to reason that angry feelings are going to present a problem.
Any negative or positive emotions that have been regularly squelched with smoke will appear in magnified form. New coping tools must be developed, skills that may never have been learned. Hence support groups that offer a forum for sharing and problem solving greatly assist in achieving freedom from a difficult habit.
Not every smoker experiences the same degree of difficulty in quitting. Some are more addicted than others.
Some smokers never become truly addicted and can take or leave cigarettes. Quitting is easier for them. Probably chain smokers and long-term smokers find it most difficult, as for them cigarettes occupy a greater portion of daily life.
Those of us who have never smoked and abhor the faintest whiff of a cigarette's air pollution, difficult as it may be, should try to be compassionate toward would-be and actual quitters. The battle to stop can seem like a war, so strong is the craving for some individuals. Although it's natural to lose patience with those who fail, the intention begins from within and only when the smoker is ready. Support and positive feedback from loved ones provide the best motivation to quit.
A few are unable to find the inner determination to succeed, but success in quitting is on the rise. Ideally we will achieve a totally smoke free society in our generation.