Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home


Chapter 4: Use Rationalizations

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Inventing Use Rationalizations

A college student looking at her cigarette as if she didn't smoke.

What if you truly believed that there was absolutely nothing good about spending the balance of life as nicotine's slave? Nothing!

No sense of loss, imagine being totally unafraid to let go entirely of your chemical relationship to nicotine. Willing to let go, imagine recovery involving far fewer fear driven anxieties than during any prior attempt. Instead of fighting coming home, imagine welcoming, embracing, within two weeks starting to like, and within 90 days beginning to love being free.

This chapter will aid you in recognizing, analyzing and destroying common use justifications, but only if that's your desire. And I hope it is. Imagine how much easier letting go would be if totally convinced that you were leaving absolutely nothing of value behind.

How many times did we tell ourselves that we needed to use nicotine because we were happy or sad, to stimulate or relax us, to accompany a thrill or because we were bored, to help us concentrate or to take our mind off things, or because we were around other smokers or alone and lonely?

To "rationalize" is to attempt to explain or justify our actions or beliefs, often with little or no regard for truth. We invented a reason as to why this was the perfect time to use for nearly every situation imaginable.

Rationalizations are defense mechanisms for making threatening conduct non-threatening. They are a means by which we attempt to justify or make tolerable feelings, behaviors and motives that would otherwise be intolerable.[108]

Rationalizations are often personal and compelling. While a young smoker, I looked upon my chain-smoking mother with her emphysema-riddled lungs and non-stop cough and rationalized to myself, "I'm still young, far younger than she is." "I haven't hurt myself yet, so it's still safe for me to smoke, at least for now."

Little did I then appreciate that I was already just as addicted as mom. I also couldn't foresee how emphysema would so weaken her that it would diminish her cancer treatment options, and that she'd die just two years after her own mother's death.

It's normal to think that plenty of time remains to get serious about breaking free. It's logical to think that we'll get serious at the first sign of a serious tobacco related health concern. Unfortunately, when truth slaps such rationalizations hard, we simply invent new ones.

What percentage of the roughly half of U.S. adult smokers who'll lose an average of 13 to 14 years of life will ride the "there's still time" rationalization until it collides with "it's too late now" hopelessness? How many will journey from "I'll stop soon" to "you have to die of something"?

Will seriousness arrive once the doctor diagnoses you with your first smoking related disease, once you are told that you have chronic bronchitis or emphysema? If an oral user, will that first precancerous leukoplakia or that first root canal be enough? If slave to vaping, will diagnoses of adult onset diabetes or circulatory disease be the stimulus you needed? Probably not.

The problem is, while fear can and often does motivate action, it has little sustaining power. We can only remain afraid for so long before growing numb to it.

A 2002 study found that only 22% of lung cancer patients who attempted to stop smoking by enrolling in the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center were smoke-free six months after the program.[109]

Picture the birth of hundreds of additional use rationalizations between "I'm still young" and "It's too late." Imagine each being invented by a mind that knows amazingly little about nicotine or recovery from it.

Imagine being the user who always justifies today's nicotine purchase (always only a single day's supply) by promising yourself that tomorrow you'll stop. Alternatively, imagine being the user who always purchases a multiple days' supply, inviting the rationalization that now isn't the right time to stop because your remaining supply would go to waste.

Tobacco industry marketing is intelligently designed to support the addict's need for alternative use explanations.

Reflect on e-cig "freedom" marketing that keeps users happy and chained by constantly reminding them about the far crueler master who previously owned them; the overlord who eventually kills half of his slaves.

Pleasure, taste, a 2 for 1 sale, improved menthol, a coupon, your store's new "come to where the flavor is" sign, a fantastic price on cartons, U.S. tobacco companies spend at least $14 billion annually to keep users convinced that they use their products for every reason imaginable, except the truth.

They use them because they must. Theydo so because tonic dopamine declines and anxieties rise when they don't. Stated another way, the neo-nicotine addiction industry spends billions each year to keep you brainwashed and believing that there's value in using, to make you fear letting go.

Even the names of most brands, a name repeated each time we purchased more, burned into our brain a sense that we'd lose something if we stopped. Think about the emotional sense of loss in breaking strong self-identity ties to such brand names as:

Alpine, Apple Jack, Apollo, Basic, Beech Nut, Belair, Belmont, Best Value, Big Mountain, Black Owl, Blu, Bond, Bucks, Buglar, Cambridge, Camel, Cannon Ball, Capital, Captain Black, Champion, Chesterfield, Class A, Copenhagen, Cleopatra, Cloud 9, Cougar, Dark Horse, Derby, Eagle, Eclipse, Envy, Focus, Gold Coast, Gold River, Golden Gate, Grand Prix, Green Smoke, Grizzly, Half & Half, Halo, Husky, Jade, Kayak, Kent, King Edward, Kiss, Kodiak, Kool, Knights, L & M, Lady, Lark, Liberty, Lucky Strike, Main Street, Marlboro, Marshal, Maverick, Merit, Mild Seven, Misty, Monarch, Montecristo, More, Mustang, Natural American Spirit, Newport, Njoy, Now, Palace, Paladin, Parliament, Passion, Passport, Peachy, Players, Pride, Prince, Prince Albert's, Pure Natural, Pyramid, Quality, Rave, Red Man, Red River, Rich, Riviera, Romeo y Julieta, Rooster, Rosebud, Rosetta, Samson, Satin, Savannah, Signature, Silver Creek, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sky Dancer, Sonic, South Beach Smoke, Southern Harvest, Sport, Springwater, Style, Sundance, Swisher Sweets, Tempo, Top, Tourney, Triumph, True, USA Gold, Vantage, Velvet, Viceroy, Virginia Slims, Vogue, Wave, White Cloud, Wild Geese, Wildfire, Wildhorse, Wind, Windsail, Winston, Workhorse, Yours and Zig Zag.

Clearly, the industry fully understands chemical dependency upon nicotine and intentionally plays upon the wanting within in helping keep users hooked.

And our lack of dependency understanding made us rather inventive when trying to explain our continuing need to feed. Let's look at a few common use rationalizations that were bred and fueled by our lack of understanding.

As we review the top use rationalizations, notice that there are three basic types: (1) alternative use explanations that aid in denying dependency; (2) rationalizations that minimize the costs and harms of use; and (3) recovery avoidance or relapse justifications.

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108. Online Medical Dictionary, Rationalization, Department of Medical Oncology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, July 2, 2008.
109. Sanderson CL, et al, Tobacco use outcomes among patients with lung cancer treated for nicotine dependence, Journal of Clinical Psychology, August 2002, Vol. 20, Issue 16, Pages 3461-3469.

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Page created June 16, 2015 and last updated June 16, 2015 by John R. Polito