Generally, addictions are attributed to illicit/illegal substances. Things that create a reaction in the brain and eventually control your behavior. Many substances are physically addictive, meaning the body forms a dependency on it and trying to stop using the substance results in painful physical, emotional, and mental trauma. Narcotics and opioids are prime examples.
But as we discussed in the last post, sugar is every bit as addictive. It’s not only not illicit or illegal, it is an ingredient in practically every packaged product on the grocery store shelf. You might even call food manufacturers legalized drug dealers. Seems like another industry got in a lot of trouble for doing something similar. Who could that be? Let me see. Oh, yeah, the tobacco industry!
Remember, executives of tobacco companies knew way back in the 1960’s that tobacco, or actually the nicotine in tobacco, was addictive and caused all kinds of illnesses, cancer being the most serious. Not only did they not publish those findings, they manipulated their products to be even more addictive, and thus more deadly.
The food industry has not met the same fate, though they arguably are just as culpable in producing an entire population of addicts.
Everyone knows intellectually that smoking is bad for your health, and yet millions of people the world over still light up every day. They not only can’t stop because of a physical addiction, but most don’t want to stop, which is part of the addictive behavior, as well. For those who try to take steps to kick the addiction, they go through agonizing withdrawal symptoms and pay for expensive medications and treatments. Many simply switch addictions by eating or forming a different habit to avoid the craving for cigarettes.
I’m going to be honest here. I have never seriously smoked. I tried cigarettes a time or two as a teen, but thankfully never developed any kind of affinity for smoking. It didn’t interest me. I didn’t like the taste, smell or feeling of it. So, while I certainly sympathize with tobacco users who want to quit, I cannot offer advice from personal experience.
However, according to many experts there are several steps to take. Let’s consider these as our baby steps to Step 10: Breaking Addictions.
- Know the facts. It doesn’t take a genius to know smoking is bad for your health, but do you really know how serious it is? Educate yourself, and the truth may set you free. The American Cancer Society published the following effects of smoking. This should scare you.
- Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day.
- Smoking causes heart disease, emphysema, acute myeloid leukemia, and cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, lung, stomach, kidney, bladder, pancreas, and cervix.
- Smoking is highly addictive. Nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco.
- Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive.
- When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain – that’s why quitting is so hard.
- Many smokers switch to low tar and light cigarettes rather than quitting because they think low tar and light cigarettes are less harmful. They are not.
- All cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, heart attacks, and premature death – lights, low tar, ultra lights, and naturals. There is no safe cigarette.
- Secondhand smoke kills over 38,000 Americans each year. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Decide to quit. Pick a date and time to quit. Write it on your calendar. Post it on your bathroom mirror.
- Tell your friends and family. Accountability is key in any attempt to change. Supporters can cheer you on when you’re doing good, and pick you up when you fail.
- Destroy all smoking reminders. Throw away all cigarettes, ash trays, lighters, etc. Make it as hard as possible to be tempted.
- Change your habits. Probably many of your cigarettes coincide with other habits, like your morning coffee or while you’re driving or during high stress meetings. How can you change those habits? What can replace the cigarette? Not candy, but maybe something else to keep your hands and mind busy. Avoid places where you know people smoke. Change your smoke break to a walk break, for example
- Get medical help. The physical withdrawal from tobacco is no joke. Talk to your doctor about medical options to help you through the initial withdrawal phase. This isn’t usually a long-term solution to the addiction, but it will help you kick start the process.
- Be positive. Your attitude is directly related to your success. Remind yourself as often as possible that you CAN and WILL quit smoking. Stoke your commitment.
- Persevere. The people who succeed at anything are not the ones who are the strongest, but the ones who don’t quit.
The key to breaking any addiction is to break the addictive behavior – kill the root, so to speak. An addiction to an illegal drug, such as heroin or cocaine, is little different than an addiction to cigarettes, alcohol, or sugar. Social acceptance, notwithstanding. In addition to taking the eight practical steps above, consider counseling to help you identify the mental and emotional bonds that trigger your particular addictive behavior.
There is no shame in getting help.
If you’re serious about improving your health and have stepped your way through the last nine steps of the 12 Steps to a Healthier You Journey, then don’t stop now. Any addiction affects your health – physically, mentally, and emotionally. The good news is ALL addictions can be conquered. You’re in good company if you’re committed to taking Step 10: Breaking Addictions. It may not be the easiest step, but it will have a great impact on your health.
If you have some personal experience in quitting smoking or just want to encourage others facing this challenge, leave a comment below.