The Progression of the Smoking Habit

The progression of the smoking habit.

The monkey, out of frustration, will keep going in the face of adversary (the pain of inhaling smoke into the lungs) to get to the sweet reward, the nicotine high. As our nerves get accustomed to the discomfort of smoking, less pain signals are sent to our brains and the erroneous belief that smoking isn’t harmful is reinforced. We are able to logically list a number of negative health effects of smoking, while the monkey sees none of the effects taking place because they are progressing so slowly that it is unable to observe them happen. The few pain signals that come through to the brain or the few warning signals that something is not right, such as heavier breathing and shortness of breath, are eclipsed by the pleasure of the nicotine high. Addiction is a progressive disease (or condition depending on who is trying to define it for what purpose) and our addiction is progressing for every drag we take. The monkey wants more, and ironically the more cigarettes we smoke the less relief we get.

The nervous system will over time become desensitized to nicotine and the lungs will become desensitized to tar, just as our muscles at the gym will become desensitized to lighter weights. If we were to pour down into our lungs in one gulf, the amount of tar that has slowly built up for during our smoking years, we would be able to feel the sheer weight of pain the tar burn will cause. If we were to flush down our veins that amount of nicotine we have ingested over the years, we would instantly die. The brain has become accustomed to the signals of discomfort, to the pain of layers of tar, and to burned-out nerve endings. Just like the hand got accustomed to cold water the body has become accustomed to a state of dis-ease, because it happened slowly over time. We will have intense cravings if we quit smoking cold turkey right now, and after 20 years of not smoking our cravings will not be as intense as they would be now. Our body and mind change and adapt with the passage of time to the condition of not smoking. When we break free from the smoking habit, the tar that got collected in the lungs will finally come back up with mucous and the nerve endings that we severed with nicotine will start to repair, over time.

Let us imagine that we are looking forward to running a marathon in twelve weeks. We go out for the first practice run and find that we are in no condition to run a marathon. Furthermore we happen to catch a cold and are lying in bed with an intense fever and are feeling exhausted. As we can see, our present sick bedridden self will not be able to perform at the marathon and will repulse at the mere thought of running. We are in no condition for running a marathon and we are not even in the condition to take an easy a jog around the block. With four-dimensional thinking, adding change over time to our equation, we know that we can, with practice and a positive attitude, be ready for the marathon on time, because we know that our effort will pay off over time and that our future selves will be prepared, even though we are completely unprepared at the present time. We can apply the marathon training metaphor to non-smoking. We practice non-smoking daily until we are strong enough to do the non-smoking marathon.

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