First posted on Feb 8th, 2010.
Went to the lab today, and realised when part way there I had forgotten both my tobacco and Electrofag. I didn’t go back for them.
Well, I was only likely to be out for six or seven hours. I’ve lasted longer than that without smoking, on trains and at airports where flights were delayed.
Guess what? I didn’t collapse into a gibbering heap, I didn’t trek the mile and a half to the nearest shop, I wasn’t constantly distracted and funnily enough, didn’t think about smoking at all. When I came home I had a smoke – after I’d made a cup of tea to go with it. No, I wasn’t scrabbling through the door for a ‘fix’. I had a nice cup of tea, a smoke, and came over all Zen but without the motorcycle maintenance part.
Smoking is an addiction, we are told. I’m not addicted. I don’t climb the walls at airports when told that the flight is delayed by hours. I just buy a magazine and find a seat. On train journeys, where it’s impossible to smoke even when you have changes of train because the platforms are smokeless too, I don’t take bites out of other passengers or ask if I can chew their nails because I’ve finished mine. I don’t use patches or gum because they are vile and pointless. I don’t count the seconds until the next smoking-permitted zone. I just don’t think about it.
I used to. I used to deliberately seek out trains with smoking carriages and grab a seat in there. I used to take the opportunity to smoke on the platform when changing trains. That was when I believed I was addicted. Now I know I’m not, smoking is a hobby I enjoy but if I don’t have time or can’t indulge, I simply don’t. It’s not a problem.
I refuse to give it up. I enjoy it. Risks? Sure, but there are risks in everything. I like whisky, there are risks in that. I love espresso, which probably explains those periodic sleep problems. I like fizzy pop and that could kill me even faster than smoking or alcohol, apparently. Minimum pricing and warnings on soft drinks, here we come.
Every day I work with deadly bacteria I know about, mixed in with faecal material which might contain dangerous bacteria I don’t know about. Don’t worry about me taking the long-term smoking risk. I have stuff in the lab that could kill me in a week. Tell me I risk being ill in a decade or more and I’ll laugh at you. I risk being ill tomorrow, when I start the Campylobacter and Salmonella comparison experiment in chicken shit.
Who tells smokers they are addicted and can’t stop any time they please? Anti-smokers. ASH. The makers of patches and gum. The NHS. Most have a vested interest in making sure you stop as directed by them, so they make a profit. Every ex-smoker I know has simply stopped. Just like that. They decided they weren’t enjoying it any more and stopped doing it. I only know two who tried to stop with patches, not because they wanted to but because of medical pressure to do so, and both of them are back on the tobacco now. Both believe themselves addicted. They are not.
Is it possible? Can people be convinced of something that’s just not true, to the point where they will have real physical effects in response? Oh, all the time. Currently, many people believe they are food intolerant. I can think of one who scrutinises every packet of everything for the word ‘lactose’ – but he drinks milk. With no ill effect. Yet if he eats something and subsequently finds there was lactose in it, he’ll get physically sick. If he doesn’t know there was lactose in it (yes, I tested him. I’m evil that way, and have a source of food grade lactose too) he is fine. I still haven’t told him about the milk.
Keep telling people they are addicted to something and they will believe it. They will show withdrawal symptoms when they are deprived of it. Smoking, computer games, anything. If they realise that the addiction is false and it’s just a bunch of folk trying to make money out of addiction-breaking drugs (now there’s an oxymoron) then they can stop and start as they please. There are certainly addictive substances out there that don’t follow this rule, such as antidepressants, but I’ll bet there aren’t many.
But then, if they don’t believe they are addicted, they’re not paying for the drugs to fix it.
If nicotine is addictive, as we are told, then patches and gum reinforce the addiction rather than cure it. You don’t lose an addiction by taking the same substance in a different way. They are not meant to cure it, of course. They are simply there to reinforce the idea that smokers are addicted and cannot live without nicotine for more than a few minutes.
The whole idea is that smokers will fail to quit with these things and will try again and again. ASH depends on the number of smokers staying constant which is why they keep smoking in the news, even though advertising is banned and shops can’t even display the new plain grey packs. The Pharmers then milk the herd for cash with patches and gum that won’t work while ASH keep the guilt trip going by saying that if you don’t switch to the NRT, you’re a baby killer. As long as you believe you’re addicted, there’s no way out.
Electrofag threatened to mess up this nice little earner. That’s why they want it stopped.
The truth is, if you smoke, you’re not really addicted. You have been conditioned to believe that so you’ll buy into the ‘quit smoking’ money machine. You’ll buy patches for the airport departures lounge and you’ll feel relaxed because you think the nicotine is essential to your life. It’s not. You can get exactly the same effect with a Band-aid if you believe it has nicotine in it.
Breaking the conditioning can be hard, depending on how you see it. If you’re a deep-rooted cynic like me, who takes nothing at face value and assumes anyone who stands to profit from what they say is lying by default, you’ve probably already done it. The more trusting your personality, the deeper that conditioning goes. If you’re naturally trusting, believe people are intrinsically good and wouldn’t lie to you about life and death matters, it’ll be very hard to break out of the pretend addiction you’ve been conned into. It can be done. Just keep trying.
I am quite sure some Righteous, or one of those they have conned, will be along shortly to insist that we are in fact all raving addicts. Ignore them, their job is to reinforce the conditioning. Most of them don’t even realise that. They’ve been conditioned too.
Righteous are good at such techniques. They once convinced most of the world that any woman living alone with a cat and a parsley plant was in league with Satan, and went around charging people to have them killed. They have convinced almost everyone that the surge in lung cancer observed in 1950s London was entirely due to smoking, even though smoking had been around for several hundred years by then. They have convinced most of the world that paying money will have a beneficial effect on the environment. I mean, come on. If you take a flight somewhere, you burn fuel. Paying more for the flight does not burn less fuel. Yet the preferred method for combating climate change is to demand money. The planes will fly anyway, but with fewer passengers because it’s priced out of more and more people’s range. Net effect of that on the burning fuel… trivial. The weight of you and your luggage is as nothing to the weight of the plane.
It is in the interests of ASH, the Pharmers and the NHS to convince smokers they are addicted. Nobody wants to be considered an addict. It’s nobody’s career of choice. So we have different types of smokers. Some know they’re not addicted and will smoke for the pleasure of it, but only when they have the time to enjoy it properly. We used to spend such time in pubs, but no longer. I would not allow smoking in my lab even if it were possible to do so. Putting anything in your mouth in that place risks something rather more immediate than anything attributed to smoking. No hand-to-mouth actions in there – no eating, no drinking, no smoking and no nosepicking. I wash my hands before I go to the bathroom. When I stop for a break and a coffee, there’s a little communal room to have it in but nobody uses it. We all take our coffee outside and have a smoke with it. That’s relaxation time.
I don’t have to go outside every five minutes to smoke. As today, I don’t have to go out at all. If the opportunity for a five-minute break arises, I’ll have a smoke. if I’m too busy, I won’t. If it’s raining, I’ll get Electrofag out. Sometimes I don’t bother, just have a quick espresso and get back to work.
Those who feel cravings are the ones who think they are addicted. Well I smoke the same stuff and if I’m not addicted, neither are they. The difference is that they believe they are. So strongly are they convinced that they will suffer real physical effects if they try to stop. And they will try to stop because they are convinced it’s an addiction, but that same conviction will mean they will fail, time and again. They will keep trying the patches and the gum which contain the substance they think they are addicted to, therefore they are never actually free of it and so will remain convinced of their addiction permanently.
And so they will hand money to the Pharmers for a very long time.
Someone I worked with once surprised me by buying a pack of 20 in the pub and smoking the lot that night. Back then we could smoke in the common room as well as the pub, and I’d never seen this guy smoke. Next day, in the common room, I offered him a cigarette. He declined. Turns out that he liked a smoke when he was out for a boozy session, but at no other time. Liked a smoke? The bugger was chainsmoking that night and was totally non-smoking the next morning. It took a long time for it to dawn on me what that meant. He wasn’t addicted and he knew it. He could smoke like a chimney when he felt like it and not smoke for weeks in between.
Once I realised that, my own conditioning just snapped. Since then I have been to day-long meetings with clients who still don’t know I smoke. Taking the train from Aberdeen to London no longer holds any terrors for me. I didn’t need to get a seat in the smoking carriage. If it was quiet, fine, but if it was busy I’d sit somewhere else. The loss of the smoking carriage didn’t hurt, but it enraged me because of the loss of the option. Banning smoking on platforms didn’t hurt, but the sheer pettiness and downright stupidity of it rankled.
Banning smoking in pubs, where I went for relaxation with a drink and a smoke, hurt. The destruction of my favourite combination of vices was a huge blow. Not because of the deprivation of smoking – I can still go outside (for now) – but because I went there to relax, not play some kind of bloody musical chairs game with the drink inside and the smoke outside. It’s like having tea and coffee in the village hall, but the coffee is on one side of the room and you can’t take biscuits there, while the biscuits are on the other side of the room and you can’t take the coffee over there. If you nonsmokers want to get an idea of what the smoking ban feels like, set up a coffee and biscuits session like that.
If you can break the conditioning, you will find smoking much more enjoyable. You will no longer feel that it’s something you have to do. Instead, it’s something you want to do. When you don’t want to, you’ll have no problem forgetting all about it. If you aren’t enjoying it any more, you can just stop. Just like that. No patches, no gum, no nothing. If you decide to start again one day, you can do so in the knowledge that any time you get fed up, you can just stop again, just like that.
I read Allan Carr’s book on stopping, a long time ago. He nearly had it, but not quite. His method could help those who wanted to stop without any drugs at all and with no withdrawal symptoms. He still thought of it as an addiction but a very mild one, easily broken.
It’s not an addiction at all. It’s a psychosomatic effect brought on by continuously hearing ‘You are an addict and you cannot stop without buying this stuff from us’. It’s Righteous conditioning. Very profitable Righteous conditioning.
Think of that ‘Matrix’ scene with the bald kid and the bendy spoon. To paraphrase – Don’t try to break the addiction. That would be impossible. Only try to realise the truth. There is no addiction. It’s all just a massive con.
I will continue to smoke as long as I enjoy it. If the day comes when I don’t, I will stop. Just like that. I will continue to smoke Electrofag as long as it amuses me and as long as it infuriates the Righteous, and it does both of those things very well indeed.
You can tell me I’m addicted if you wish. It won’t work now. I can’t be reconditioned now that I know…
…there is no spoon.