Is it bad to quit cold turkey? Is it a huge mistake to quit cold turkey? We will not judge the method right out, although it will certainly seem that we are trying to downgrade it in comparison to something else. Something better? When we compare an old worn out coat ready to be thrown away with a brand new coat fresh from the shop, the natural tendency is to view the old coat in an unfavorable light compared to the new coat. Sure, we can make a compelling case for the years of service rendered by the old coat, there is emotional value in having owned it for so long and it becoming almost a part of us. None of those appeals will make the old coat compare to the new coat, the new coat serves the purpose of keeping out the cold while the old one does not. It is cold, harsh and rational. The truth doesn’t choose to hurt us, in reality we choose to get hurt by the truth. The old coat is simply obsolete and when we look at the relapse rate of the cold turkey method, even with the help of NRP, at around 90% (we are being generous here by rounding the numbers down rather than up to include any error margin, the rate is closer to 97% than 90%) we are unable to come to any other conclusion than that the cold turkey method is obsolete. A success rate of ca 5% is a success rate none the less and that is the reason the cold turkey method endures. We cling so hard to the cold turkey method because we imagine that there are no alternatives and we hope to belong to the 5% success cases. For a long time there weren’t any alternatives to the cold turkey method.
There are pros and cons to the cold turkey method. Let us explore. One of the way too many reasons that the cold turkey method fails to cure the addiction to smoking and cigarettes is the pain and discomfort of withdrawal associated with the sudden cessation of the smoking habit. This, when combined with the progressive surge of emotions that were being suppressed and hardly balanced or managed, by the smoking habit and nicotine ingestion, combined with the mental disorientation caused by the sudden loss of a habit that for many of us smokers is so ingrained in the subconscious mind, that it is in fact life defining, is simply too traumatic. We’d rather give a public speech or face death, than let go of the only reliable source of relief we know. Too much change has taken place at once and we feel the panic. What better cure for panic than suppression with the familiar and proven method of smoking? The method of smoking has proven to work very well for the monkey in dealing with painful emotions. Quitting smoking is all about facing difficult emotions. For every occasion the monkey has felt painful emotions the cigarette has done the job without fail. We don’t know who we are any longer when we quit. At a time when we especially need that sense of safety and security in knowing who we are to guard us against the emotional storms that were stirred by the quitting attempt. Smoking becomes over time a huge part of who we identify ourselves as, too big a part of ourselves to give up with a fight.To the monkey this is a life and death struggle. We fear losing ourselves more than anything else, even to the point of risking our lives in order to keep our sense of self intact. To quit smoking is to symbolically cut off a limb or abandon a loved one, we can’t go through with it because we fear the loss and the overwhelming pain. The monkey fears the loss because it associates the loss with the fear of death. We are asking the monkey to abandon its insurance against pain, we are asking the monkey to surrender to pain and to die. To the monkey pain is a warning system designed to motivate it to avoid death. When we cut ourselves we can realize that those pain signals are signals that cells are dying and we need to do everything we can to stop the death process, we take care of our wound, clean it and bandage it to stop the death process. Emotional pain is the death of the old self and differs in that we don’t literally die, we die metaphorically. The old self is dying, the monkey instinctively fears this death, and only the conscious mind can welcome it by conquering the fear of it. When the old self is dead, a new self will rise in its place and so the cycle of spiritual growth is complete. The monkey hangs on to the tree branch that is smoking because it is terrified of death, it even fears the fear of death, it is unable to differentiate between the metaphorical death and the physical death, and reacts with panic and clings harder to the smoking tree branch, it smokes more than before. The monkey refuses to let go of the branch no matter how hot the tree of smoking burns. It needs to let go in order to be saved and this is where taming the monkey comes in. When we earn the monkey’s trust, it will jump off the smoking tree into the safety of the non-smoking tree. We need to motivate the monkey to make a leap of faith onto the tree of non-smoking before the burning tree collapses (the lungs collapse after being burned by the tar) and psychical death results. Metaphorically put, the tree is to life on earth, what the lung is to the body. The lung is basically an inverted tree, if we think about it.