It wasn't easy looking in the mirror and at last seeing a true drug addict looking back. I felt as if I was surrendering, that after all those failed attempts, I'd lost. I felt like a total and complete failure. But as horrible as that moment was, it was the most liberating event in my life.
It was then and there that I no longer needed the long list of lies I'd invented to try to explain my captivity, my need for that next fix.
Yes, there were countless times during my thirty years of bondage where I'd told myself that I was hooked. But not until then, after one last failed attempt in early 1999, did it hit me.
Like alcoholism, my addiction was not only real but permanent. A bottom of the barrel appalling admission, I felt like crying. I'd just been slapped hard by truth. Why had it taken so long? Truth was, I was no different than the meth, crack or heroin addict.
Dr. M.A.H. Russell, a psychiatrist and addiction researcher at London's Institute of Psychiatry had me pegged in 1974:
"There is little doubt that if it were not for nicotine in tobacco smoke, people would be little more inclined to smoke than they are to blow bubbles or to light sparklers."
"Cigarette-smoking is probably the most addictive and dependence-producing form of object-specific self-administered gratification known to man."
Over the years, millions of nicotine addicts have tried proving Dr. Russell wrong. In January 2003, a Miami based company, the Vector Group Ltd., began marketing a nicotine-free cigarette called Quest in seven northeastern U.S. states.
A novelty item, thousands of smokers rushed out to purchase their first pack of nicotine-free smokes. But locating any smoker who returned to purchase a second pack proved nearly impossible.
We would no more smoke nicotine-free cigarettes than we'd smoke dried leaves from the backyard. Hello! My name is John and I'm a comfortably recovered nicotine addict.
It is not normal for humans to light things they place between their lips on fire and then intentionally suck the fire's smoke deep into their lungs. Nor is it normal to chew or suck a highly toxic non-edible plant, hour after hour, day after day, year after year.
We rationalized irrational behavior because of the neuro-chemical relief from wanting it generated. What we didn't realize that each use reinforced future wanting by creation of yet another high definition use memory.
Cuddling up to the warm, cozy rationalization that, at worst, all we have is some "nasty little habit" serves the tobacco industry well. While habits can be manipulated, modified, toyed with and controlled, nicotine addiction is all or nothing.
And if mind games have you buying into the e-cigarette industry marketing fiction that nicotine-free vaping equals freedom, think again. Prior to e-cigs, smokers could quit by gradual weaning schemes too. Still, like trying to find a successful nicotine gum quitter who didn't end up hooked on the cure, success was rare.
Now, I'm working with e-cig users who were able to successfully wean themselves down to vaping nicotine-free juice, only to discover that they can't stop vaping.
Although no on point research as yet, not only are all of their vaping use cues intact and demanding that they vape during all situations where they previously inhaled nicotine, their brain dopamine pathways have grown accustomed to the swift arrival of vaporised sugar.
The neo-nicotine industry knows that so long as its "adult free-choice" marketing continues to brainwash addicts into believing that they're in full control, that ignorance is likely to continue handing the industry its hard earned money until the day ignorance dies.
Regardless of the delivery device or method used to introduce nicotine into the bloodstream, fully accepting that our addiction is as real and permanent as alcoholism greatly simplifies the rules of recovery. In fact, there's really only one.
Chapter 2 reviews the only rule. It's called the "Law of Addiction."