Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How To Quit Smoking & Other Addictions?

In 1995 when I was pursuing Hotel Management at IHM, Chennai, a new young F&B Services lecturer during his introductions mentioned that he was a smoker. After his eloquent spiel, he encouraged that we ask him questions. Without a second thought I asked him why he smoked. As soon as I had done with my question, I realized the folly. The whole class was laughing, not sure whether at his position or at my mindlessness.

Anyway, he took it well and explained how smoking increases the nicotine level in the body and with time when the levels come down, there is a desire to smoke again and maintain the levels. And thus the addiction.

Soon after that I picked up smoking. From 1995 till about 2000, I smoked. Of course, I was never a heavy smoker.

Then on January 1, 2001, I decided to quit. It was no resolution. It was just a desire to quit. And I did. For a pretty long time. Then suddenly one fine day, I lit a stick in 2006. Since then I have had a discontinuous relationship with tobacco.

Do you suffer from an addiction - smoking or drugs or a relationship? Relationship? In my opinion, loss of a loved one or a break up, can cause similar and probably more stress than withdrawal from other forms of addiction.

How do we overcome addictions?

I am no expert either in medicine or psychology but I have experience to share. And I know that this is not a holistic view.

Here are my "two cents" on the subject. In my opinion, the major contributor to addiction is the periodicity and frequency. If you are a smoker, one would understand this better. In my case, the smoking was always at certain points. Here is how my day burned. At 10 am soon after reaching the office, then at around 11.30 during a tea break, the essential post-lunch smoke, evening tea break and, finally, at the end of office hours. It was clockwork.

Interestingly, I never have had the urge to smoke on holidays or when I am at home. If my professor was right the nicotine levels should have reduced and thereby increasing my urge to smoke.

So this is my hypothesis. It is not necessarily the nicotine or any other chemical as the case might me. More important is to become aware of the "habit". More than anything else, the withdrawal symptom sets due to abstinence.

The most grueling aspect of kicking an addiction is to actually go through it. The disruption of pattern causes stress and emotional suffering. Often we are not adept at handling such situations even if we have undergone such experiences in the past. As I said, I am no expert on addiction but I find an experience recounted by Dan Ariely very relevant. In the video you will hear about Dan talking about an injection that he had to take to counter a liver problem. Not necessarily the same scenario but in  my opinion reward substitution is an effective way to manage addictions. If you are not a braveheart, then a diversion may help deal with the misery.

Of course, time is the biggest healer. Perseverance and patience helps.