Monday, August 17, 2009

On Addiction...

A week ago I decided to quit smoking. Last Thursday, I filled my Champix prescription and on Friday, rifled through the bag of stop-smoking goodies that the doctor gave me. A toothbrush, a pack of gum, a toy...954 brochures. Yesterday, I opened the pharmacy bag and looked at the Champix pills.

This morning, I ripped the cellophane off a new pack of smokes, took a drag, and settled back to read the literature.

"Studies show," one pamphlet says, "that nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine." I wonder if that tidbit of trivia is supposed to make me feel better or worse about my decision.

I'm relieved to discover that I'm not supposed to quit until 10 to 14 days into the pills. When I take the first dose, I'm to set my quit date and announce it to the world. In the meantime, I'm to do thinking exercises, write down why I smoke, why I want to quit, what the advantages are to each. How, through alternate means, I can achieve the advantages of smoking. (Advantages like relieving tension, waking up in the morning, feeling pleasure.)

I butt out, fill my coffee mug, and light another cigarette.

I come up with the idea of blogging a diary about my quitting efforts, like: 'Day #1: finally opened the Champix and swallowed the pill.' The catch is, I'm soon going on a three week vacation, far from any Internet connection. 'Perhaps,' I think to myself, 'I can delay quitting until I get back.'

I'm enough of a veteran quitter to know, however, that it isn't my muses whispering inspiration to me, it's the sinister chuckle of the nicotine demons...

Young people,if you are thinking of smoking or have started smoking, let me tell you about the Nicotine Demons. It's they who plant the idea in your brain that you're not addicted--you can quit anytime you want to. And when you decide to quit to prove your theory and find yourself lighting up yet one more, it's they who convince you that you didn't really want to quit and therefore, your theory about not being addicted is correct. You can quit anytime--provided you want to.

Yes, the Nicotine Demons. They cleverly disguise their voices as your own thoughts.

I re-read the brochure.... "Studies show that nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine." How can that be? From what I know about those illicit drugs, they deliver a much more intense rush of pleasure than a simple cigarette. I can't see myself raising funds for cigarettes by becoming a prostitute or robbing little old ladies. I certainly wouldn't abandoned my children for the pleasure of a puff. On the other hand, cigarettes are legal and available. What if they weren't?

No, cigarettes don't give you a flush of pleasure. Don't deliver a 'high' to fly you over top of your troubles. Nicotine Demons work their magic in a much craftier manner than that.

In nature, two organisms that bind together for the mutual benefit of both (like lichen which is a fungi and algae), are considered to have a 'symbiotic' relationship. If one organism eventually kills the other, it's called a 'parasitic' relationship. Nicotine bears the face of a willing symbiotic partner--but it is actually a parasite.

The Nicotine Demons invite you to believe that you are in control, that nicotine is your willing slave. If you want to relax, a puff will help you relax. If you want to wake up, it will give you energy. If you want some alone time, it will join you as a silent partner. If you want to socialize, it will boost your partying skills. It will tell you, if you're old, that you look much younger with a cigarette in hand. If you're an adolescent, it will tell you a billow of blue smoke about your head makes you look strong and independent.

Nicotine has even been proven to ease depression. It's an all-purpose drug--except it will kill you in the end.

I finger the card of Champix pills. What if I slither into the blackness of depression? What if I gain weight? What if I don't succeed? What if....

I drop the pills back into the bag. I can't tell which thoughts are mine and which are the disguised voices of the demons.

Eileen Schuh,
Canadian writer

for more smoking trivia, visit my website


Cheryl Tardif said...

Eileen, this is a wonderfully brave post and an extremely honest look into the powerful addiction of smoking. I commend you on writing it.

I can't wait until you post that you've taken that first pill and set your quit date. You can do it!!

Eileen Schuh: said...

Welcome to my quit team, Cheryl!

Unknown said...

bravo to you on quitting. i've been a smoker on and off too. it's damn hard to quit. i also have good friends and have hired recovering addicts. everyone deserves that chance. xo