The first thing I want to say is that – in my opinion – addiction to the drug nicotine should not be thought of as a disease. An addiction to nicotine is best described as a condition or an affliction. Self-inflicted? Maybe... that depends on how old you were when you smoked your first cigarette.
I would also like to clarify my statements here by telling you that I am not a doctor and that although I take my doctor's advice – most of the time because I basically don't have a better idea – there have been times when I think – upon looking back – that some doctors have tended to wade into areas they know very little about. Probably because they weren’t trained on any of those types of issues back in medical school. They are really just trained to deal with the symptoms – not the causes.
For years now I have been hearing not just the medical profession (but the psychology profession as well) state that addiction is a disease. I have even spent time with a doctor who claimed that she could prove to me that addiction is a physically quantifiable disease. She showed me all kinds of those photos that looked like MRI readouts in living colour with the different colours indicating – so she said – cranial activity of some kind – usually heat. She would point to this little red area and say, "See, that proves that addiction is a disease."
When I said, "Well I can see that it's a different colour but how do you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it’s the colour for a disease?"
She looks at me like I’m some kind of non-medically trained dummy – which I most definitely am – and says, "Well if it was blue (she might have said green) that would mean that it wasn't stimulated (enough) and therefore it is not a disease. Do you understand?"
"Yeah... sure," I replied. But I was just saying that because I had no idea what else to say and I did not seethe point in going further down that particular road with her on that issue. She could bury me in medical terms that I couldn’t even begin to understand. She also was having nothing to do with my "theories" of addiction which –in her opinion – were wrong.
As I have often mentioned in my First Monday stories, I was addicted to nicotine for 43 years. I tried to quit over70 times during that period and failed every time. But on June 6, 2000, I did it! I smoked my last cigarette. In the course of getting from smoking 25 to 30 cigarettes every day to angrily stomping out my last cigarette and never smoking – or wanting to smoke – another one, I learned a lot of things. Most important of all, I learned not just how to stop smoking, I learned how to quit smoking forever, by totally eliminating my addiction to nicotine, completely.
The key words here are learned and eliminate.
In all the years I was trying to quit and looking to the pharmaceutical industry, the medical industry, the psychology industry along with all the hypnotists, acupuncturists and other zealots –basically anybody who claimed to possess the magic bullet – an easy way to quit smoking – I never heard of anybody approaching quitting smoking as a learnable skill. But when the idea first occurred to me, I figured, "Why not? It makes perfect sense. I had to learn everything else I can do.”
What convinced me even more was the fact that it worked for me.
Was it hard to learn? Nope. In fact, since that fateful day, I have learned that it's much harder to learn how to hit a golf ball or play the piano.
One of the other things that really bothers me about the psychology and pharmacology aspects of addiction is that there is a lot of money to be made by people who exploit the addictive properties of the drug nicotine by selling products to the addicted with absolutely no guarantee (and not much hope) of success. Their "cures" all come with the simple caveat: “You have to be ready to do this. If you are not ready, you will not succeed.” That way, when you fail and start smoking again, they can say, “See… you just weren’t ready. It’s not our fault man. Now go get ready and then come back here with some more money and we’ll try this again.”
They are also prone to giving us misleading information about their products and programs. They say things like, “This product will double your chances for success.” They don’t tell you that their product or program does not have a success rate. It has a failure rate!
According to my data… there are about 50 million smokers in the USA and Canada. That’s about 46 million or so adults over the age of 18 and anywhere between 5 and 7 million young people under the age of 18.
I think these numbers are low – especially when you consider vaping along with the basically unsupervised market that our aboriginal and indigenous brothers control – but even so, that is still a huge market to service and best of all – from the point of view of the people who exploit the addictive properties of the drug nicotine – it’s a market that can’t, “Just say no!”
Of all those smokers – 60% of them are actively trying to quit right now… in other words, over 30,000,000 smokers in the USA and Canada are trying to quit smoking... right now.
The Good News: about 900,000 of them will succeed at quitting and by that, I mean they will never smoke another cigarette or use any other nicotine-based product…ever!
The Bad News: about 29,100,000 will fail! That’s a three percent success rate or more realistically – a ninety-seven per cent failure rate!
The Sad News: the 29,100,000 smokers who are trying to quit right now and will fail, will spend/waste millions even billions of dollars in their futile quest.
Think about that for a second! Over 29 million of the 30 smokers – and other users of nicotine products – who are trying to quit right now, are going to spend all that time and effort trying to accomplish something that will cost them a lot of money – in addition to the huge amount of money they already spend to keep themselves supplied with nicotine– and after all is said and done… they will still end up smoking… or chewing…or taking a pill… or wearing a patch… or “vaping.” The people who exploit the addictive properties of the drug nicotine don’t care which one it is. Their “business mission” is simple: to keep you addicted to nicotine. Why? Because that’s where the money is. There is no money to be made by solving your problem.
In other words, their addicted customers will not have solved their real problem – the fact that they are addicted to nicotine – they will have merely treated some of the symptoms of the problem. But... they are still addicted to nicotine. If you are not in that boat, I am sure you know some people in that same boat today.
The tobacco industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the rest of the people who exploit the addictive properties of the drug nicotine have everything going their way and they are cashing in on that fact… bigtime! The most disturbing part of that scenario is that it is perfectly legal for them to do it thanks to the government and their punish-the-addict-and-reward-the pusher policies.
People have asked me if my learn-how-to-quit-before-you-try-to-quit technique can be applied to other addictions like drugs or alcohol. All I can say about that is, "I don't know. I’ve never done it. But it makes sense that it would. "The problem is that there is not much money to be made by going down the learn-how-to-do-it road. There is more money to be made with a methadone clinic.
What I do know is that I did learn how to eliminate my addiction to nicotine and that – once having done that – quitting smoking was much easier to do.
With those thoughts in mind, here is…
My quit smoking philosophy
A friend of mine – a former professional golfer who now helps young golfers develop their game to a level where they can turn pro – was telling me about a conversation he’d had with a young man on a golf scholarship at a U.S. university who told him that he wanted to turn pro when he finished college.
My friend told him, “No you don’t. What you really want to do is, to make sure you are ready to turn pro when you finish college.”
When I heard him say that the lights went on because I realized that is exactly how you should approach quitting smoking or just about anything else in life that you want to accomplish.
Let’s just say that you decide to set New Year’s Day as your quit smoking date. Most people who do that just decide they’ll quit smoking on that day and then go right back to smoking and wait for the fateful quit-day – but inside you really dread that day – because you know it’s going to be a tough one and you are afraid you won’t get through it without smoking – or vaping.
I can very personally relate to that since all of my quit smoking attempts were exactly like that – except for the last one. I knew that my quit date was coming, and I dreaded it because I knew I was going to go through hell and deep down, I was afraid that I wouldn’t make it.
There would be a lot of stress due to the nicotine withdrawal cravings – plus, I’d spend even more money on a product or program to help me quit and then, after all that time, money and stress, I would still cave in and end up smoking. The only real preparation I ever did was to try and figure out which product or program I was going to use: gum, the patch, hypnosis, the e-cigarette, acupuncture, prescription drugs… maybe laser therapy or one of those smoking cessation clinics?
But…other than trying to figure out which of those products or programs can best help them deal with the cravings; smokers don’t really do too much to get themselves ready to succeed at quitting smoking forever. Why?
Because it never occurs to them to do that and even if it did, smokers don’t really know what to do to get themselves ready to succeed at quitting or… how to do it. We just select the product or program and then go right on smoking in fearful anticipation of the looming quit date – all the while hoping like crazy that this time, the product or program we selected for this particular attempt would provide the magic bullet that every smoker is looking for... the easy way out.
Don’t get me wrong here, these products or programs can be helpful… very helpful – if you use one that is right for you, and you have properly prepared yourself to make it work for you.
But… they cannot do the job for you. You have to do that… and that’s what my book How To Quit Smoking and Save Your Life will do for you – show you how to get yourself ready for your big day… the day you smoke your last cigarette – or take your last hit on a vape pen… ever.
So then… your personal quit-smoking philosophy should go something like this…
Instead of saying, “I am going to quit smoking on New Year’s Day,” you say… “On New Year’s Day, I am going to begin to get myself 100% ready to succeed at quitting smoking and totally eliminate my addiction to nicotine... forever!”
That will set you on a different course… one that will lead you to the next question, “What is it that I need to do in order to get myself ready to succeed at quitting smoking forever?”
And now you are on your way… because that’s the question you really need to ask yourself if you want to put the odds against your success at quitting smoking – or getting nicotine out of your life – forever… in your favor. So do yourself – or someone you love – a huge favour, learn how to eliminate your addiction to nicotine and then… do it!
F.Y.I: My book How To Quit Smoking and Save Your Life is available at The Book Keeper right here in Sarnia.