Smoking is a subconscious approach to managing all emotions. Feeling stressed? Have a cigarette. Feeling sad? Have a cigarette. Feeling slightly too excited? Have a cigarette. Feeling anything that is beyond the comfortable limited range of non-emotions? Have a cigarette. Every time we smoke a cigarette, we ease the emotional pain and we reinforce the pattern of smoking deep down in our subconscious mind. The monkey is wide awake and is learning how to avoid painful emotions. The painful emotions trigger the habit and we reinforce the habit every time we give in and light up. Over time the conscious mind is no longer involved and the smoking habit is essentially automated. We can only feel guilty as we light another cigarette despite our best intentions not to. Light up and feel guilt or feel guilt and light up. The habit is now a trigger for painful emotions such as guilt and shame. The habit has been established, just like the habit of driving and the habit of brushing the teeth, and the presence of the conscious mind is no longer required. Life is mysterious on so many levels that we simply can’t encompass it all with our minds. When we meditate on it, we discover that smoking now triggers the emotions it was supposed to suppress in the first place. The habit is so ingrained and automated to such a degree that it no longer needs emotions to trigger it, it has become the trigger of the emotions it was supposed to suppress. Smoking triggers the feelings of guilt that smoking helps us escape. The irrational cycle is complete. The monkey senses this dilemma and solves it in the way that worked in the past, smoke and smoke some more. Life is mysterious indeed.
Just as the sight of a snake will trigger a fear response in the monkey, the cigarette will trigger the stress feeling it is supposed to suppress. We have become accustomed to numbing our feelings and any emotion triggers the habit and the habit in turn triggers the emotions, we are stuck in emotional purgatory. If there was a hell on earth, this is it. This is being human, we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. We are now staring into the abyss and the abyss is staring right back at us. The monkey panics and wrestles control from us. The monkey binges to alleviate the emotional overwhelm. The monkey prefers to deal the agony of nicotine overdose than deal with existential agony.
Next to breathing, which hardly qualifies as a habit let alone an unhealthy habit, there are very few activities that we human beings can compulsively engage in ten to sixty times a day, every day, regardless of circumstances, such as changing weather or a corporate merger gone awry, and not suffer severe adverse health effects. Not even hard-core drinking comes close to the number of cigarettes we smoke, not even eating. Surely we can eat more than sixty fries a day, every day, and in order for them to come close to smoking we need to eat each fry as an individual meal and carry with us at all times a 20-pack of fresh fried fries. How about having twenty to sixty full meals every day or drinking twenty to sixty beers every day? How about building twenty to sixty model ships every day? How long will it take for the body to break down? How long will it take for the mind to break down? How long before that fat piles up in the veins? How long before the liver gives up? And how long before the eyes start to bleed from the sheer effort of concentrating on the tiny details of model ship building?