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Addiction – Smoke when you see a hippo

Science always tries to define biological phenomena as if to isolate the scientific terminologies from the human body itself. An increase in the level of ‘x’ chemical will produce ‘y’ substance in the body, which produces an electric sensation in ‘z’ nerve. A decrease in the volume of that same chemical will cause drowsiness and nausea and a labrat gets addicted to chemical ‘x’. Something seems to be missing in these explanations, something that connects the chemicals, the sensations and the human being.

I have been addicted to cigarette smoking for a long time and I want to talk about this habit because so many of us are affected by it. Some of us want to quit but cant, some don’t want to quit and say ‘what will I do if I quit smoking ’ or ‘how do I kill time’ or ‘this is not the age to quit – ill quit at 50’ all different reasons, some don’t even care and keep on smoking.

People give different reason when asked why they smoke- it gives a feeling of satisfaction, contentment, relaxation, soothes a tensed mind etc; but when carefully thought, it does none of them. Quite unlikely, but smoking can just be –
1. A valid reason to kill time
2. A way to tell oneself that a mere cigarette is not going to kill him/her; he/she is much stronger than that.
3. A way to show frustration towards the uncertain nature of death. If “god” announced that the only way a person could die was by smoking cigarettes, every single person would quit at that very moment and not even think about cigarettes, not at least till their late sixties.

The real reason for smoking is just jumbled up data that don’t make sense, and it doesn’t even have to. I believe the reason is stored in our mind like this – Smoking IS coffee IS 30 minutes after you wake up IS frustration IS full stomach IS matchsticks IS after each meal IS excitement IS alcoholic drinks IS fire IS on the way to work and so on. For our mind, a reason doesn’t need to make sense if it doesn’t have to. It just associates different objects and fakes to have provided a valid reason. This is not always true; the mind has provided so many logic, techniques, ideas without which we would still be using stones to make a fire. The mind tricks us by providing fake reasons only when a ‘superpower’ emotion is in function, in our case the ‘craving for cigarettes’, greed and lust.

Say a guy, who smokes a cigarette every day at 8 am in the morning on his way to work, wakes up late one day at 8:30. It shouldn’t surprise him if he wakes up and starts feeling frustrated for no reason, wants to drink coffee till his stomach is full, smells alcohol around his fireplace, and realizes that the song he was murmuring was actually from the ad of some cigarette company.

Most of the things we do are always controlled by a ‘superpower’ feeling/emotion, which plays its tricks in the background never showing its true face. Be it love, anger, greed, hatred, addiction, sympathy, pride etc making us do stupid things for fake reasons provided and yet the reasons seem to be so perfect, because those superpowers know they don’t need a reason, they will find or create reasons to feed themselves. They don’t have any social, religious or any other kind of restrictions that tell them if something is good or bad. If they are there, they will do their act. Some of these ‘superpowers’ like love, sympathy in some cases – maybe good; and some are bad; but I believe if something comes out of compulsion and not careful reasoning, it can be considered bad.

Say a guy who lost his handicapped younger brother in a car accident gives money to a crippled beggar, in this case the superpower ‘love’ and ‘sympathy’ is active when he sees the beggar limping and it relates to his beloved brother. But the same superpower can make him commit suicide if he is driving a minivan, has an accident and his wife looses her legs in that accident. A pretty exaggerated story from some movie maybe, but the point is, the same superpower can result in contradictory actions because they are not supported by valid reasoning.

A smoker gets addicted to smoking if he starts smoking more each day, not because of the increase in the number of sticks per day but because he/she will start relating smoking to so many other things. Say a smoker develops a habit of smoking when he is very happy and excited; but then he can get excited for so many reasons – say after winning a football match after months of practice. Then smoking starts getting related to football and he will start smoking even when he looses a match and then slowly every time he looses on anything he starts to smoke and the circle goes on expanding. We keep feeding the superpower like this and the superpower starts finding ways for us to feed it.

So if somebody really wants to quit, he/she has to stop feeding the superpower. If you have a compulsion to smoke everyday at 1:30 after your lunch, stop that and smoke at 2 30, next day before the meal, just randomize the timing making sure that you don’t smoke at specific timings e.g. coffee-breaks etc. If you smoke every time you see a dog, stop that and smoke when you see a cat. Next day don’t smoke when you see a dog or a cat but when you see a hippopotamus. If you have a habit of smoking 10 sticks per day, go on and smoke 20, but not at the same time of the day as before, not after some specific event, not before it and not during any specific everyday-event. Just don’t let the superpower play its attachment trick to fool you.

The first few days might surprise you with the realization of how attached you are with the timings rather than cigarette itself. If all goes well the number of sticks you take per day should be reduced within a week or two, and more importantly the craving for a cigarette should decrease dramatically. This hasn’t been tested practically, though it seems correct theoretically, but anyone who is thinking of quitting cigarettes and wants to try this, let me know how helpful it is. Cheers.