Smoking: Additional reasons why it’s SO hard to quit
Wednesday, February 8, 2017 56 Comments
NOT what you think this post is going to be about!
by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Another post in the Walking A Mile in Another’s Shoes Series
A relatively new study on nicotine and self medication (linked below in the Related Content) prompted me to revisit the topic of smoking.
Why do so many of us continue to do it?
WHY does it seem to be so difficult to put those smokes down — despite the black-box warnings that now come on every pack sold in the USA?
Science rings in
The link between self-medication and smoking really isn’t news to me, by the way, but some scientific validation is always reassuring.
An article I published early-ish in 2013 can be found HERE – where I discussed the relationship between nicotine’s psycho-stimulation, the brain, and the concept of “core benefits.”
For those of you who enjoy a bit of sarcasm with your information, it’s written in a rah-ther snarky tone toward the self-righteous – who, because of the way the brain responds, actually make it more difficult for people who need to quit with their nags and nudges.
Even if you don’t, you’ve probably never come across this particular point of view anywhere else as an explanation for why it can be such a struggle to quit — especially for those of us who are card-carrying members of Alphabet City.
I’ll give you just a little preview of what I mean by “snarky” below
(along with Cliff Notes™ of most of the info, for those of you with more interest than time).
HOLD YOUR HORSES!!
Sit on your hands if you must, but do your dead-level best to hear me out before you make it your business to burn up the keyboard telling me what I already know, okay?
I PROMISE YOU I have already heard everything
you are going to find it difficult not to flame at me.
There is not a literate human being in the United States (or the world) who hasn’t been made aware of every single argument you might attempt to burn into the retinas of every smoky throated human within any circle of influence you are able to tie down, shout down, argue down or otherwise pontificate toward.
NOW – can you listen for once? I’m not going to force you to inhale. I’m not even trying to change your mind. I would like to OPEN it a crack, however.
If you sincerely want to protect your friends and loved ones while you rid the world of the deleterious effects of all that nasty second-hand smoke, wouldn’t it make some sense to understand WHY your arguments continue to fall on deaf ears?
Unless you truly believe that saying the same thing for the two million and twenty-second time is going to suddenly make a difference —
or unless you don’t really care whether people stop smoking
or not as long as you get to rant and rave about it
— wouldn’t it make some sense to listen for a moment to WHY some of the people are still smoking?
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It would be facile and disingenuous to argue that logic faults were the only reason your arguments don’t seem to make much of a difference to those cold, inconsiderate, indifferent and rude barely-human beings who insist on puffing on your planet.
It IS one reason why those human smoke-stacks
find you easy to dismiss, however.
Some of you quote statistics with abandon, seemingly concerned by the risks to the smoker as you point out how inconsiderate it is to loved-ones they would leave behind for them to deliberately court death in a manner over which they could – and so should – exert some control.
You explain these risks over your cell phone while you drive home from wherever you’ve been.
Do you realize that what you are doing – using a cell phone while you are driving – is statistically more likely to result in death or disaster to self and others than first or second-hand smoke?
But you are the exception who can handle it safely, right? And you have a good reason to drive, dial and dialogue, of course. So that makes it okay in your case, you explain.
It also makes it logically inconsistent, thus your “don’t smoke” arguments easily dismissed.
Some of you drink, then drive. Ditto.
Explanations that might help you get what you want
Since arguments from the general to the specific AND the specific to the general are rampant in the “Why Do Smokers Continue to Smoke” rants that populate the internet (logic faults, both), let’s get into a few new specifics.
@Lady Banana – if you REALLY want him to quit, stop making him wrong.
Unless, of course, what you want more is an excuse to punish him for ever having started to begin with — or for not listening to you about something else that you can’t attack directly.
ANY make-wrong will make it all the more difficult for him to quit, but at least then there would be some kind of logic to the vociferous censure.
- You probably mean well, but make-wrong (judgment)
activates oppositional behavior that no amount of logic
can overcome. It hijacks the Amygdala!
- That’s one big answer to your question, why “so many fail to quit.”
- Brain science.
Do ANY of you “just say NO” don’t-smoke advocates honestly believe there is anything you can say that will be NEW to a smoker?
Its not about information and its not about logic.
- It’s about stress and struggle and “expensive” coping mechanisms.
- Breaking a habit is HARD.
- Overcoming an addiction is harder.
For quit smoking success, smokers need sympathy, understanding and SUPPORT for the behaviors you and the smoker BOTH would like to see increased.
“See if you can give up just one more of your cigarettes every day this week”
“How ’bout a quick massage instead of picking up cigs again?”
“Wait TEN more minutes, I KNOW you can do it!”
They do NOT need judgment and censure for the behaviors you want stopped,
coupled with another fear-mongering lecture.
I promise, they’re already afraid – mostly of failure in their own eyes.
NOT so New Paradigms of Motivation
Motivational science long ago moved beyond
“motivating away from” to “motivating toward”
— letting go of “the stick” to embrace “the carrot” — because:
- that’s the way the brain rewires
- that’s how resolve is strengthened, and
- THAT’s how bad habits are broken.
People smoke to cope with negative emotions. Life gives them enough of those moments – counselors and doctors and loved ones don’t do ANYBODY any favors by upping the emotional ante.
The beatings will stop when motivation increases!!
Pretty silly, thought about that way, yes?
Beating a horse to get him to run might work initially, but it won’t work forever.
And it makes for a mean horse!
- Beaten horses rush for relief — in this case, a cigarette.
- Logic will be discounted and your smokers will turn a deaf ear to ALL of your statistics. After all, not EVERYONE who smokes dies (cognitive dissonance avoidance at it’s finest).
Try something different
The “negative reinforcement” approach will never-never-never encourage long-term results as reliably as baby-stepped, really-no-kidding SUPPORT.
Save all your “wonderful reasons” to keep kids and young adults from ever starting in the first place!
But be careful with your language and tone so that you don’t activate THEIR oppositional behavior either — especially likely with teens!
Nix the judgment if you’re more concerned about a smoker’s physical health (and your own!) than being right.
Every source of energy has costs and benefits. If the benefit is central to quality of life (or perceived to be central), we can identify that particular practice as a core benefit.
We are “hard wired” for survival.
Danger is danger. Our brains don’t distinguish well between a physical threat and a psychological threat. Any attempt at “behavior modification” (nagging or coaching) which ignores the realities of the victim/sufferer’s life will be ineffectual — not to mention annoying, if not down-right cruel.
For all of us, along with life itself, sanity is a core benefit that is primary.
Being able to organize our thoughts is a prerequisite to feeling like we are sane; “intentional attending” is a prerequisite for cognitive organization.
For people who find themselves unable to focus their minds without what we’ll refer to as an “adrenalin boost,” the benefit of suddenly being able to think clearly will always seem to outweigh any cost
You are fighting an impossible battle to get them to give up the benefit unless you can eliminate or significantly reduce the danger underneath the need for the benefit: lack of cognitive focus.
About Self Medication
Distinction: Addiction vs. bad habit vs. self-medication
People who have Executive Functional Struggles can sometimes demonstrate behaviors that confuse novice ADD Coaches, thinking that what they’re hearing belongs in the realm of addiction when, in fact, something else is going on. The distinction is essential, because the approach to solution is different.
The question that illuminates the difference is this one:
is the “substance abuse” one that takes the person away from life or toward it?
Addictions usually have an escapist quality to them — life is more exciting when they’re jazzed, or less frenetic or unhappy when they’re chemically calmed.
In other words, there is something wrong with LIFE that the substance helps them manage. Or so the [lack of] thinking goes.
Attempts at self medication are different at their base, and we see a lot of it in the ADD/EFD world.
Stimulation for FOCUS
Without going into a long explanation of receptor cites and neuro-chemical efficacy,
stimulants focus the brain.
ADD/EFDers frequently stumble upon stimulants (caffeine & nicotine in particular, sometimes others) because the neurochemical “boost” makes them feel calmer and more able to focus with intentionality, sustain focus, and shift focus at will, NOT because they are experiencing a “kick” that makes life more exciting.
NOBODY is suggesting you go along with any substance abuse, by the way,
regardless of the reason for it.
The purpose of the distinction is that if you are dealing with the “bad habit” of self-medicating, solving the primary problem (i.e., giving the “abuser” another way to achieve the primary benefit that the “habit” was developed to manage) is the quickest way to open the space for the person to cut down on the caffeine, kick the cigarette habit, etc. — even if it has slipped over the addiction line.
Make sense? Good! But there’s more, so stay with me here.
EVEN when many ADD/EFDers find their way to effective medication, they may still find it difficult to give up the cigarettes (or the caffeine). HOW COME? Delivery on demand.
It’s easier to explain the dynamic in terms of the difference between those of us who rely on nature’s own insulin pump and diabetics who must take shots.
For those of us lucky enough to have a healthy insulin metabolism, our bodies deliver insulin on demand. We eat something that needs to be metabolized and our body helps us out. We don’t eat, no additional insulin is required, so none is pumped.
For diabetics, the balance must be
self-monitored and self-adjusted.
Unless they eat exactly the same balance of calories, from exactly the same food groups (at exactly the same time of day, relative to their schedule), the shot they give themselves in the morning is a good guesstimate of what they need, but really no more than that.
They frequently must adjust throughout the day: administer another shot of insulin, or quickly gobble a handful of M&Ms.
Similar with Stimulants
Life is not even and predictable – so medication delivery, EVEN when appropriately titrated, can only be a good guesstimate of what we need to drive our brains.
If our politicians weren’t so focused on protecting addicts from themselves that the drug laws didn’t make it tough for those of us taking controlled medications to remain stable, we wouldn’t need to boost functioning with additional substances like nicotine and caffeine.
For example, in addition to a lower baseline long-acting formulation, our doctors might prescribe a variety of dosages in fast acting tablets that we could use in much the same manner that my sister managed her diabetes with supplemental insulin.
- When our functional needs were lower, we’d take less.
- When life bumped up, we could bump up our medication to help us manage.
- AS IT IS, we must medicate for optimal functioning across-the-board on an average day.
How many of YOUR days are average?
As a result, many of us “boost” with a stimulating substance like caffeine or nicotine. Some, like me, are as aware of our own functional needs as my sister was aware of her metabolic needs. Others aren’t really conscious of what they’re doing, they just know that it helps.
The same dynamic applies to most human beings
Most of us drink coffee, tea, colas, or energy drinks, and few of us are aware that what we are “boosting” is cognitive ability.
But we sure know when we need a cup of coffee — or a cigarette!
So, when you’re asking somebody to get along without the “crutch” that helps them function – even if they aren’t aware of what it’s helping – you are dealing in the territory of Core Benefit.
For many smokers, giving up cigarettes is possible ONLY once life settles down to a manageable roar.
Those of you whose bodies, metaphorically, “pump” what you need to drive your own brains can’t understand what it’s like for the rest of us, any more than I could really understand what my sister had to deal with as a diabetic.
But I believed her when she said she needed to stop what we were doing to go buy some M&Ms or rush home for a shot.
And because I believed her, I was able to help her come up with some “think it through” strategies that gave us a lot more outings that were not interrupted.
MY POINT is that a little “listening from belief” support from you might help the smokers in your life kick the habit. In any case, it might lower your annoyance with them, and theirs with your “nagging,” so that they might be willing to keep their habit out of your lungs. It’s worth a shot!
Now that I’ve given you another reason why it might be hard to quit, don’t think I’m letting anybody off the hook. STAY TUNED for some quitting help – which actually means building the non-smoking habit. (Meanwhile, check out some of the suggestions linked below)
BUT RIGHT NOW, immediately on the heels of learning that Senate Republican “leaders” sold out an entire country of children when they confirmed Betsy DeVoss as Secretary of Education, I’m going out to find several stiff drinks and a pack of cigarettes!
SHAME on you ‘Penc -il for simply filling in the box,
casting the tie-breaking vote for her confirmation!
I was previously unwilling to believe that Cabinet positions could be bought – and now that I have clear evidence that they can, I really don’t care how much longer I live in this country anymore.
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Related Links here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
- Understanding the link between anxiety & self-harm
- Oppositional Rising and ODD
- Shame on Shoulds
- The Dynamics of Attending
From the Walking A Mile in Another’s Shoes Series of Articles
- ADD Empathy – 101: ADDvice for non-ADDers
- Lessons from the TBI Community
- The Top Ten Stupid Questions from the ADD Clue-Free
- Another ADD mile with Kludgy Technology
Related Articles ’round the ‘net
- How nicotine acts on the brains of schizophrenic patients (study)
- How to Quit Smoking (actually useful!)
- Sally Cronin’s A-Z: Smoking and Lung Cancer
- How to Deal with a Smoking Habit (sans make-wrong)
- How to Support Someone When They Decide to Quit Smoking
- 29 Things ONLY a Person Who’s Quitting Smoking Would Understand (funny!)
- Best Quit Smoking Videos of 2016 – Healthline
- Factors Affecting Quitting Smoking
How to quit smoking in 2017
- Mindfulness to Quit Smoking
- medicalnewstoday: Upping the Fruits & Veggies May Help In Smokers Quit
- How you can Stop Smoking With Hypnosis Strategies
- It’s Never Too Late to Quit Smoking, Study Finds
- Quitting smoking, even after 60, may boost longevity – CBS News
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