Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is Smoking a Habit or an Addiction?

Cut that out!
Is smoking cigarettes just a habit or is it truly an addiction?  When you want to stop smoking, why is it so often referred to as "kicking the habit?"  People tell you, "you gotta kick the habit!"  When you google "kick the habit" the results are all about smoking.

The Cliff Clavin in me is always curious about where phrases like this come from!  Answers.com says that the phrase Kick The Habit originated in the late 19th Century as a reference to withdrawals from opiate addiction.  Back in the day you could get Opium, think predecessor to Heroin, and Laudanum, (think liquid opium) legally and easily from the local Chinatown or corner drugstore.  Ah, the good ol' 1800's!  So, for those of you not privy to withdrawal from Opium and Laudanum, myself included, thank God, when you're in the throws of withdrawal, your nervous system is all whacked out and you may have involuntary spasms and seizures which could result in you kicking.  Now the word habit is something else entirely.  Originally habit was used to refer to appearance or dress.  Like a nun, she wears a habit.  Now somewhere in the 1880's the word evolved from something you have "on" in the physical world to something emotionally driven.  Like sipping laudanum or drinking whiskey.  Victorian etiquette never likes to call a spade a spade.  Plus, "addiction" as we know it today really wasn't used until the early 1900's so when you were addicted to something, people would say you have the "habit."  Interesting, no?  Especially when many people believe it is easier to get off the opiates than then cigarettes.

So on to the inspiration behind this blog.  From the Napoleon Hill Thought for the day:  

"Human faults are like garden weeds. They grow without cultivation and soon take over the place if they are not thinned out."

"Habits are formed so slowly that most of us don't realize what is happening until the habits are too strongly entrenched to be broken. Seldom can one pattern of behavior be eliminated without replacing it with another. It has been said that nature abhors a vacuum and will always find something to fill a void. The best way to thin out the "weeds," or faults in your character, is to identify those traits with which you are dissatisfied and replace them with their positive counterparts. If you have a tendency to lose your temper, for example, find a replacement for your anger. Neutralize it with a positive expression or affirmation, such as, "No one can make me angry unless I let them. I will not let anyone else control my emotions." 

What's your habit?
This goes for puffing on small cylindrical objects as well.  While starting out as an occasional activity, smoking very often leads to a habitual behavior and before you know a physical addiction begins to develop.  No, duh!  Right?  So enough of the obvious and on to the more subtle, finer points...

In How to Stop Smoking Without Killing Anyone, I make a very specific distinction between quitting and stopping.  One is comprehensible to the addict and the other is not.  So with that in mind, what do you think is easier to deal with?  A habit or an addiction?  Psychologically, I'm going to go with habit.  What do you need to do to break a habit?  Well habits have a 30-40 day incubation time.  They also have a trigger.  Something that sets them off.  More often then not, the trigger lies deep in the subconscious.  Your luxury as a human being is the ability to recognize when the trigger is acting up by ways of a craving.  Breaking the habit means riding out the craving.  It does not mean you have to go to therapy to sort out why you've got this bad habit.  Obviously, knowing your history will help in the process and add motivation, but the simple action of decision is the most powerful tool in your arsenal to not smoke.  When you go to the addiction side, it reverts back to a physical need for something.  Not a want.  Wants you can manage.  Needs must be met.  Semantics?  Yes, but words are incredibly powerful.  Try this...  don't think of a pink elephant.  See?  Look what I made you do!  

Let me sum this up by quoting Wayne Dyer.  "Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change."  

So now you want to stop smoking.  Are you addicted or do you just have a bad habit.  If you try to quit, you will soon find that you're addicted.  If you just stop, you will find yourself shedding a very bad habit.

For more on semantics, humor and direction, pick up a copy of How To Stop Smoking Without Killing Anyone.  Available now on Amazon.com or if you'd like to take a look at the Forward and Chapter 1: Stop Trying to Quit, you can do so over on www.stopdontquit.com.

Have a question or comment?  Leave it below!  As always this is your blog too, I welcome the discourse.