Monday, December 1, 2008

Is Cigarette Smoking an Addiction?

If you think smoking cigarettes is an addiction, you’re right. If you think smoking cigarettes is not an addiction… well, you’re right, too. Whatever your subconscious mind believes to be true becomes, by definition, your belief system... your reality... your personal truth.

For years the tobacco companies and drug companies, both of which have a financial stake in perpetuating the idea that smoking is an addiction tougher to beat than heroin, have repeatedly sent the message that smokers are addicted to cigarettes. Obviously, if you think smoking cigarettes is an addiction it will be far more difficult for you to quit than if you think it is just a habit that can be changed as easily as switching from scrambled eggs for breakfast to oatmeal.

While it may feel uncomfortable to change one’s behaviors, especially at first, most new behaviors will start to feel familiar and comfortable and attain the status of habit within 21 days. The discomfort in changing a habit derives from the fact that your brain and nervous system sense that something is amiss when you try out a new behavior.

Even a simple behavior change, such as shaking hands with your left hand instead of your right, will feel odd the first few times you do it. The feeling of strangeness from doing something different may feel like withdrawal when it is really the nervous system’s alarm bell signaling a deviation from “normal” behavior.

People who smoke cigarettes may think they have a physical addiction because they feel irritable when they stop smoking. The nicotine in the cigarette causes smokers to feel edgy and stressed, a sensation that is relieved momentarily when the smoker has another cigarette. The smoker mistakenly believes the cigarette has relaxed him, when in reality it has just returned him to a physiological state that non-smokers enjoy all the time.

Breathing deeply, taking a brisk walk and eating carrot or licorice sticks are effective ways to distract one’s self from feelings of edginess whenever the urge to smoke occurs. Such urges seldom last for more than a few minutes, another sign that cigarettes are a psychological habit versus a physical addiction.

What is interesting is that most smokers can go for hours without smoking a cigarette if they are absorbed in a task, a phenomenon that would not be true if they were physically addicted. They can even sleep through the night without waking up to have a “fix.”

Believing that smoking is a habit that can be changed makes becoming a permanent non-smoker far easier than believing it is an addiction from which one will have to suffer withdrawal symptoms. Whether one uses hypnotherapy or another means to become a permanent non-smoker, this single change in one’s belief system is a critical factor to enjoying a successful outcome.