Three Things Only Smokers Can Relate To

“For thy sake, tobacco, I would do anything but die” (Charles Lamb 1775-1834)

Disclaimer:  I am a former smoker, however, remember all too well what smoking felt like.  There are certain distinct patterns and feelings that only a current smoker or former smoker can relate to.  

I write about those things only to bridge the understanding, and to assure the smoker that there is indeed amazing life after quitting.  

I have been in your shoes.  I feel your pain.  I am your people, only now I work to help people quit, but I come to the party with the understanding that there are several complicated factors in play with each smoker that I meet.  

Here are just a few of the things that only smokers and former smokers really understand:

 

  1.      The First Cigarette of the Day Gives You a Feeling Like No Other

That first deep drag from a lit cigarette is most wonderful.  Indescribable really, and so quickly clears the fogginess of sleep.  The nicotine surges into the lungs and you can almost feel it rush to the brain where it stimulates the release of dopamine, the feel-good chemical in our brain.

That one deep drag increases the heartbeat and blood pressure, giving us a feeling of alertness and calm at the same time.   Even as I try to explain this feeling in words, I really can’t do it justice – it’s like a big giant relaxing AAAHHH, with an “I feel good” rush on top.  Add in coffee, and you’ve got what is perceived as your reward for getting up in the morning. Never-smokers (those who have never smoked), just don’t understand how pleasurable this feeling is.

  1.      The Fear of Change is Real – For All Humans, Whether Smokers or Not

Smoking rates are shrinking, however, the minority of those who continue to smoke find smoking useful to them in various ways, subconscious or otherwise.  Cigarettes are like a seductive mistress – they draw us in, yet bring up feelings of self-judgment and guilt.

They break up the busy tedious day into manageable units of pleasurable anticipation. They give us a sense of belonging and comfort when we are lonely and depressed. They are our most accessible opiate, quieting uneasiness, soothing stress, dulling pain, providing focus, both sedating and exciting, depending on the intensity and number of inhalations.  It is the very reasons we smoke that create fear of what life would be like without cigarettes, in every smoker who considers reducing or quitting.

There is no doubt that much of what we think about smoking comes from our subconscious, however, the mind shift required to get over that way of thinking is just as intense for smokers as it would be for never-smokers who want to give up chocolate or sugar, or who know they should exercise more.  Change is never easy – no matter what that change entails.

  1.      Cut the Disdain and Judgement, and Replace it with a Little Understanding and Compassion

We live in a time when everyone has an opinion about what everyone else is doing, and they are not afraid to share – as if their opinion is the only one that really matters.  Smokers feel the glares, and the judgment whether real or imagined.   We all want to feel loved, and to live our best life, but that can mean very different things to different people.  Allow all people, smokers included, to discover what that best life means to them, and how to obtain it.  At the end of the day, the only opinion that really matters is your own.

If we were to all just worry about ourselves, and about those in our care, the world would be a much lovelier place.  Unless they are requested, keep your opinions to yourself!

There needs to be a better understanding of the psychological draw of smoking. A 15-year study done by the University of Pittsburgh suggests that nicotine also enhances the pleasure smokers get from their surroundings when they smoke and creates a psychological link between the enhanced experience and cigarettes. The interesting thing is that if nicotine is removed from the tobacco, and given to these same smokers, their interest in continuing to smoke is gone within a week.

Psychologically, nicotine joins other such addictive drugs as heroin and cocaine-and even basic needs like food and water in the category of primary reinforcers. These reinforcers drive people to engage in and repeat behaviors that result in achieving the desired feelings.

Without discounting nicotine as a powerful primary reinforcer, this research proposes that nicotine also amplifies the satisfaction smokers get from their environment, from the smell of cigarette smoke to drinking in a favorite bar. This second action of nicotine is known as a reinforcement enhancing the effect. Smokers associate the heightened enjoyment with cigarettes and continue smoking to recapture that sensation.

In summary, there is a lot more going on in the mind of a smoker than one might think.  The physical addiction to the nicotine is very real, but it is much more complicated than that.  There are a lot of psychological factors at play as well.  

We need to allow smokers the space to uncover this for themselves and to work on ways to change those patterns and feelings. Smokers want some space to work it out – to figure out what they really need, in their own time.

ARE YOU READY? To Successfully Quit Smoking, To Regain Control of Your Health and Life using Proven Strategies that Really Work?

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Cheers to A Healthier You in 2018!!

 

With Love, Janice Burgess- Quit Coach

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