On Habit, Addictions and How to quit Smoking;

Habit is a routine of behaviour or action repeated regularly which tends to occur automatically without thinking. Habit can be good as well as bad. While a good habit is welcome and can be continued, a bad habit should be discontinued.

Habit versus addiction. These two words, often used in the same manner are actually quite different. The difference is that while habits can be both positive and negative, addictions are basically negative and hence described as chronic and persistent behaviour a person continues to do despite its negative consequences. An addiction negatively affects a person health, relationships, employment and life overall.

Common Addictions      Some common addictions are smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling, video and cell phone games and so on. There are many more interesting and slightly more uncommon addictions such as on line shopping , checking e-mail 20 times a day  in the name of productivity , keeping cell phone in silent mode not to be disturbed  yet checking it every few minutes, checking whatsapp every few minutes and so on. These are in their own way extremely dangerous.

Is internet an addiction? As per psychologists, it is not so much an addiction as it is a recognizable major problem.  (Now what is the difference between both I fail to understand). It definitely is an addiction according to me. In fact studies have been carried out that internet addicts spend up to 11 hours on internet every day and compulsive internet use affects 6 to 14% of all internet users.

What is the most addictive and common addiction. It has to be smoking. Generally most smokers start at early and impressionable age with the belief/confidence that it will be 1 cigarette a few times a year or so on special occasions. Soon it becomes 1 in every 3-4 days. Then it becomes 3-4 cigarettes in 1 day, increases further to one pack a day and so on.

Why is smoking so addictive. Both the body and mind needs it. It becomes a physical as well as a mental need. Cigarettes have Nicotine which provides a temporary high which is addictive. One misses it, and starts craving for it. Nicotine travels quicky to the brain and provides temporary feelings such as of relaxation, decrease of stress, mood elevation and so on. Hence the mind and body want it again and again.

Interestingly too one doesn’t need an occasion to smoke. One can smoke when happy. One smokes when sad. One smokes after dinner or after lunch or after breakfast or before all three. One can smoke while waiting for lunch or waiting for a taxi. Further with every cigarette one smokes one develops a subconscious associative reason which increases the addiction itself .

Is quitting cigarette smoking possible. Yes it is.    However the 1st thing one has to recognise is that it is amazingly difficult. As pointed out by my friend Sambeet Dash Mark Twain had famously said “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because i have done it thousands of times”. This reflects how difficult it is and how easy it is to restart after one has quit. People have been known to restart smoking one hour after they have given up. They have been known to restart (incredible though it sounds) as much as 3 to 5 years after they have quit. It takes only a few seconds of weakness to restart smoking. The stimulus could be anything. It could be meeting an old friend after few months or years, a good dinner, tension before a presentation, or happiness at a good presentation, or even passing a cigarette shop from which one had bought cigarettes years back. I repeat, it could be anything. That indeed is how strong an addiction cigarette smoking is and how varied the stimulus could be to restart.

Should one stop smoking? This is a no-brainer. Yes, one should, there is no doubt about it. One will gain in immense ways. Money, time and most important health are the most important immediate benefits.

How to Stop. Some say that one can start some other alternative tobacco to help tide over the uneasy days of withdrawal symptoms. I believe this is a futile idea in itself and I say a capital NO to this. It may even result in one having a second addiction.

Some say the best way to quit is by a gradual decrease in smoking.from say 10 cigarettes a day to 5 and 3 and maybe 1 and then quit.   This too I believe is not possible. It will take only 1 day of “stress” or “happiness” in which one will smoke more to go back to the original number of cigarettes a day.

Others say that one should not buy packet of cigarettes and buy only loose cigarettes as the extra effort will ultimately result in decreasing and finally quitting smoking. I beg to differ. The smoker’s mind will adjust itself. One fine day the boss will be upset when you are missing when he is looking for you as you have gone out to buy a loose cigarette. The result is one is back to buying and keeping a pack and back to increase in smoking to original level, thereby back to square one. No?

What then is the way? I firmly believe that the only way is to suddenly quit smoking, Cold Turkey as it is called. Yes, the effect will be unpleasant but has more chances of success, in my firm opinion.

What happens when one stops smoking with the cold turkey method. The first two days are tough as one has the worst withdrawal symptoms in these two days. Thereafter too for the 1st week or two one continues to have withdrawal symptoms as the body and mind craves for its regular nicotine requirement. After 2 weeks or so something interesting happens. One develops an irritating cough, which continues throughout the day and night too. This is because something called cilia which had been killed by earlier years of smoking starts regenerating. They are like tiny brooms and start sweeping the accumulated tar, causing an extremely irritating cough. This is also the period when one is vulnerable, since one feels that when one was smoking there was no cough but now there is, after quitting smoking. Hence many restart smoking at this time, and one is back to square one.

However if one can have the will power to withstand the two months or so of cough then suddenly one day something miraculous happens. The cough vanishes. One starts breathing better, sense of smell improves, one enjoys the flavour of food better, bad/stale breath vanishes, one’s skin improves and there are many more positive developments. One has become an ex-smoker.

Why am I writing all this. Because I have gone through everything  written above. My sincere advice to you friends is that never start smoking. Say No the first time, every time. If you are a smoker, then stop suddenly, Cold turkey method. Have the will power to go through the 2 months of discomfort to emerge a different person altogether. I had it. I can happily say that I am an ex-smoker and i am sure I will remain one.

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8 thoughts on “On Habit, Addictions and How to quit Smoking;

  1. Good read Ritesh. Seen in retrospect, we make a conscious choice to master a habit till we realise how enslaved we are to it. But then its too late. Next leg of struggle starts to unlearn it. Chalo. Life is all about learning and unlearning.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good write up Ritesh. Seems very genuine as you penned down your experience . It’s never too late to kick off any bad habit or addiction as you say. Wish more people can do it. Especially my dada.

    Liked by 1 person

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