Nothing’s Straightforward About Smoking
I’ve never smoked a day in my life. So, you’d wonder why I’m so concerned about quitting smoking. I’ll try to explain.
A few times a week, I give a friend a lift, so he can actually go buy cigarettes. I sense you raising a brow. Some people would say I’m a thorough hypocrite, knowing cigarette smoking is unhealthy. Yet, here I am assisting a friend in the purchase of those same cigarettes. My mother thinks I’m this side of a pimp for doing what I do. And I imagine, in a court of law, I’d be charged with aiding and abetting. Case closed.
In my defence, for one, I do it out of kindness. Plus, whether or not I give him a lift won’t make much of a difference. I know he’d find a way. But when I do give him a lift, periodically, I casually offer comments about the dangers of smoking. Every now and then, I ask if he’ll ever go on the patch to help him quit. I receive one of those “Yes, but” responses. He acknowledges the dangers of smoking to his health, making comments like, “You wouldn’t want to see my lungs.” Yet, so far it hasn’t provided much of a push to convince him to stop.
You see, if anything, I’m guilty of one of the worst, albeit common, offences—the näive belief that friends or family can actually convince a smoker to quit. We all know it rarely works. Yet, many of us, myself included, persist. For me, I’m unfortunately not the sort to easily give up. So, it really is important to know how hard it is to really quit?
The Allure of a Cigarette
Well, there are some biological things going on, for one. Cigarettes may be readily accessible, but we can’t ignore the fact they are also very addictive. It wasn’t always known. For a while, smoking was certainly regarded as a bad habit. But it was not considered to be addictive. However, nowadays, the world is well aware that cigarette smoking is indeed addictive and nicotine is our villain.
It’s addictive for a reason. Apparently, upon inhaling, the nicotine is absorbed in the smoker’s lungs. The blood is speedily delivered to the brain, with the nicotine level quickly rising Nicotine, once it’s entered our bodies, it releases dopamine. The result is feelings of pleasure and a generally improved mood. It does all this in under half a minute. Who’d say no? Nicotine’s addictiveness is along the lines of drugs that can commonly involve jail time—opoids, alcohol and cocaine. It’s just as bad.
It’s not too surprising for people to seek the soothing feelings offered by nicotine. The problem is that the more someone smokes, the more nicotine they need to feel better. It’s a vicious circle. Some of the worst diseases are at the end of nicotine’s apparent glittery neon rainbow—cancer, heart disease, lung diseases, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The latter includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture does it?
Deciding to Quit
Faced with this harsh reality, it makes sense that many smokers are seeking to quit their dreaded habit. If we go online, we can find numerous tips and hints smokers can use to give up the habit. Actually learning to buck the habit is an immense challenge. Yet, I know of people who have been able to quit, cold turkey. My mother told me how my grandfather was a heavy smoker. He did it.
In his more elder years, he’d been to his doctor complaining of heart problems. His doctor told him to hold up his hand. There were five fingers evenly spread. His doctor then said, in no uncertain terms, that’s how much longer you’ll have to live if you don’t quit. Five years. So, with that dire warning, my grandfather didn’t smoke another cigarette.
I have another friend whose daughter had gone to the doctor for some ailment. The doctor had then informed my friend that it was his cigarettes that were the source of her difficulties. With that declaration, his smoking days ended.
What is Required to Quit
Motivation undergirded by fear. That seems to provide sufficient drive to make a change. But that seems too simple. I dare say, given adequate fear, we can move mountains. Still, nicotine is a tricky drug and once it has a smoker in its clutches, it’s very difficult to turn one’s back on it.
All the methods available are sound. However, from the perspective of a non-smoker, I’d sense the first and most vital step is to simply ask ourselves—do I really want to quit smoking? Do I really believe the risks to my life if I were to continue? Do I truly accept how my life would benefit if I were to stop smoking?
Maybe part of the reason it is so hard to quit, given the tips available to help clear the path, is partially because part of the smoker really doesn’t want to quit. This may be the first and most critical step. I dare say it’s a question a smoker needs to regularly ask themselves.
The Challenge Ahead
It’s baffling to me because I confess I regard smoking as a long-term suicide. We’re all fairly sure where it’s going to lead. Naturally, there’s a part of me drawing a conclusion this person clearly doesn’t love themselves. It may certainly be the case sometimes.
But it’s not so simple. If a smoker is still enjoying their habit, we know how nicotine, by it’s very nature, provides a pleasurable feeling. Remember dopamine. So, A., they’re not even thinking about the future and the consequences of what they’re doing. And B., Why on earth would someone want to give that up? Thus, a smoker must wholeheartedly want to quit, so as to avoid such inducements.
It’s not an easy task, to say the least. Those of you who are smokers need to look deep into your hearts to determine if you really want to quit. And fair enough to those who don’t want to bother. For them, the appeal of the chemical brew cannot be rejected. But know the potential consequences. People like my grandfather and the other friend I mentioned, they were faced with death and the consequences they could already feel. There is no better deterrent than the threat of death.
But we all know of horror stories where smoking invariably played a starring role in diminishing health. I’ve already listed some of the diseases that feature in the autumn years of smoking. Unfortunately, some pay the ultimate price. I knew someone who died at 65 following a decision to quit smoking that came too late. After quitting, he eventually developed lung cancer, an illness that despite a valiant fight, inevitably took his life.
The Final Decision
As a non-smoker, I dare say I’ll never truly understand the feeling leading to that audible sigh of relief after a smoker’s first inhale. Such utter relief. But I get it. I know the delightful feel nicotine releases. Still, there’s something a smoker must conquer. For, the other thing I know for certain is smoking is not healthy and will inevitably lead to a life of challenges. For some, it might just end their life.
The person to whom I give a lift I’m hoping will one day decide to buck the habit. All I can do is comment here and there. It’ll be up to him to look deep into his heart to find his answer. Life’s worth so much. Why give it away? But that’s going to his choice.