Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home


Chapter 4: Use Rationalizations

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"I like it." "I love it."

College student with a cigarette holder seeming to like or even love smoking

Think hard. What, if anything, do you love about smoking, vaping or about using smokeless tobacco or NRT?

If a smoker, what's so wonderful that we were willing to ever so gradually destroy these bodies, creating 50/50 odds of departing earth 13 to 14 years early? If an oral tobacco user, how much love does it take to permanently expose your mouth to unadulterated tobacco's 2,550 chemicals? If slave to vaping, what's it like to pretend that use consequences aren't coming?

As dependent users we lived a constant struggle to maintain a narrow range of nicotine in our bloodstream, so as to remain in our nicotine-normal zone of comfort. Each time our blood serum nicotine level fell below our minimum limit, our tonic dopamine level declined and we starting sensing the onset of urges and wanting.

Ever declining reserves, we grew tense, anxious, irritable and depressed, and the only path to immediate relief was more nicotine. Once replenished, we were left totally convinced that we "enjoyed smoking," "liked chewing," "relished vaping," or "loved our snus."

On the other end, we had to be cautious not to use too much and exceed our upper limit of tolerance, or risk suffering varying degrees of nicotine poisoning. Early symptoms can include feeling sick, nauseous and dizzy.

As Joel notes, being a successful user is like being an accomplished tightrope walker, constantly maintaining a balance between these two painful extremes of too much or too little.[119]

According to Philip Michels, PhD, a USC School of Medicine professor and cessation facilitator, it is normal for us to look to our own behavior in order to obtain clues about our attitudes and beliefs. We tend to draw conclusions about what we must like, by watching what we see ourselves doing. Such self-analysis goes like this:

Logical Yet False Reasoning
I don't do things I don't like to do.
I smoke lots and lots of cigarettes.
Thus, I must really love smoking.

Ignorance is bliss. Now let's look at how informed analysis might flow:

Logical & True Reasoning
I don't do things I don't like to do.
I smoke lots and lots of cigarettes.
Each puff destroys more of my body.
I'm actually slowly killing myself.
I've learned nicotine is highly addictive.
I've tried breaking free but failed.
Thus, I'm probably a "real" drug addict.

The most compelling argument supporting like or love revolves around the undeniable dopamine "aaah" wanting relief sensation that arrives following replenishment. However, even here the rationalization relies heavily upon selective memory.

When valuing replenishment, is it fair to ignore the urges and anxieties that preceded our "aaah" relief sensation? If we had waited longer prior to using, wouldn't every wanting relief sensation have had a corresponding anxiety and depression riddled low preceding it? Tanking up early and often allowed us to avoid the downside.

Still, most nicotine addicts know that "WHERE ARE MY CIGARETTES?" feeling, and the emotions that accompany the "I need a nicotine fix ... AND NOW" feeling!!!

At Joel's clinics he identifies the two pack-a-day smokers who insist that they smoke because of the "good cigarettes" or because they "like" smoking.

"First I ask them to tell me which cigarettes stand out in their mind as being really great cigarettes on any given day. Usually they will offer up the first one or two they have when they wake up, the ones after meals and maybe one or two others that they have on certain breaks."

Joel watches as they try to think of other good ones but none seem to come to mind.[120]

"I simply point out that we have a mathematical problem occurring here. They have come up with five to seven good cigarettes yet they are smoking forty or more cigarettes a day. Where are those other cigarettes?"

As Joel points out, a few were smoked and tasted nasty while others were marginal but as soon as they were snuffed out they can't even be recalled. "So here we have a few good cigarettes, a few lousy cigarettes and a whole bunch of what now seem to be insignificant cigarettes."

As Joel notes, while there may be some good ones, they have to be accompanied by all of the mediocre and miserable ones, and when it comes down to it, "all of them, even the good ones, are killing them."

Regarding the few identified as "good cigarettes," Joel poses a follow-up question.

"How much do you like smoking? Do you like smoking more than you like something like, oh, I don't know, something like maybe ... breathing?"

If we say we "like smoking" are we also saying we like the morning phlegm in our lungs and the need for water for a "horribly dry throat"? What about the nasty taste it leaves in our mouth and how it makes foods taste bland? If a pack-a-day smoker, do we like devoting an hour and a half each day to feeding our addiction?

What about often feeling hurried, the dirty brown film on the inside of the car windshield, rush hour anxieties depleting nicotine reserves quicker, being unable to smoke while at work, attempting to run and being left with a throbbing heart that wants to explode, or standing in line to buy more nicotine, are we saying we like those things too?[121]

How can we claim to like or love something when we have no legitimate basis for comparison?

If no longer able to remember and explain what it felt like to reside inside our mind before nicotine took control, if we cannot recall the calm and quiet mind we once called home, then what basis exists for asserting that we love using nicotine more than we miss the pre-nicotine us?

How can we talk about love if we cannot remember who we were before climbing aboard an endless roller-coaster ride of nicotine-dopamine-adrenaline highs and lows?

As real drug addicts in every sense, with blind obedience to the wanting within, "what's love got to do with it"?

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119. Spitzer, J, "I smoke because I like smoking," an article in Joel's free PDF book Never Take Another Puff,
120. Spitzer, J, "I smoke because I like smoking" February 21, 2001,
121. Spitzer, J, "Boy, do I miss smoking!" March 9, 2001.

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