All addictions are about pain management. We don’t see an alcoholic lying down in the gutter because he is celebrating the magical wonder of life, he is drinking to drown his emotional pain and the physical pain of last night’s hangover with alcohol. For the monkey, physical pain is preferable to emotional or existential pain, and no pain at all is the most preferable state of being. The shopaholic is not buying lots of shoes because she really needs 300 pairs of shoes, she’s numbing her emotional pain with the thrill of the new pair of shoes. The gambler is not looking for the big win that will solve all his financial troubles, he is looking for the big escape from repressed painful emotions, because no amount of winnings can heal the denied and repressed emotional pain. Addiction, such as smoking or drinking, is about managing emotional pain by repressing and denying it. If the addict has numbed the emotion enough to not feel it, then it becomes easier to deny as if it was not there. Smoking a cigarette is an effective way of suppressing feelings and emotions, if it wasn’t, no one in the world would be smoking. Smoking, besides numbing emotions, can also generate feelings, such as feeling relaxed and feeling “cool” and also a feeling of calm and relaxation can be generated with the help of smoking. The sense of calm and relaxation is only a pseudo (fake) sense of calm and relaxation, it is a pseudo sense of calm not a genuine sense of calm, it is a phony sense of relaxation. The relaxing feeling comes from stilling the nicotine abstinence and withdrawal, and from the calming familiarity of the smoking habit, just like a child that feels safe when she gets to hug her favorite teddy bear. No matter how soft and cuddly the toy is, it doesn’t measure up to the real sense of calm and relaxation of mommy’s hugs and kisses. The teddy bear’s hug is a pseudo hug, mommy’s hug is a genuine hug.
Anything familiar is calming no matter how harmful it is to us, a child’s favourite blanket is comforting and calming despite being filled with bedbugs. With the power of addiction we are able to temporarily repress painful emotions and replace them with pleasant feelings. The buzz of drinking beer feels good, it feels good to put on a pair of new shoes, and it feels really good to win some at the gambling table. It feels good to take a drag and inhale deep enough to dissolve all the stress from a hard day’s work. The monkey with its limited perception is learning associations. The monkey will associate drinking with the nice buzz feeling, although it will not associate the hangover with the alcohol, because the hangover does not happen in the now of drinking, it happens of in the now of waking up the next day. The monkey will rather associate the hangover with stopping drinking or the party ending, and will remedy the hangover with more drinking. The calm and relaxation comes over the monkey with the first drag of the cigarette and so it makes the connection, smoking equals calm and relaxation. In fact, the calm and relaxation are just the sudden shift of focus from pain to the nicotine high, like a magic trick. The long term effects don’t happen in the now, they happen later so the monkey does not make the connection. The monkey learns instantly and often for a lifetime not to touch a hot stove because the negative consequences, pain, happen in the now. When someone is smoking while hooked up to an oxygen tube we can be sure that the monkey is not tamed and the connection between smoking and disease was not established in the mind. The monkey doesn’t fathom how smoking can cause disease because when smoking the thousands of cigarettes in the past, disease did not happened. The monkey doesn’t connect smoking with disease.