A Smoker’s Tale: Why Smokers Try, but Can’t Quit
Every smoker plans on quitting someday. And every smoker knows it's tough to kick the butt. As a matter of fact, just smelling smoke or looking at a smoker’s photo is reason enough for would-be quitters to light up ‘just one more’. But if you want to quit smoking, have tried everything possible, and have failed time and again, then you've reached the right place. Today, we speak with a smoker and a psychologist in order to understand why smokers try, but can’t quit.
Copywriter, A R Rahul is a self-confessed active smoker. He smokes 18-20 cigarettes in a day and realizes all the unhealthy factors linked with smoking. In a heart-to-heart conversation with HMU, he throws light on the psychology of a smoker, why he can’t quit or if he plans on quitting ever.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Why can’t you quit smoking cigarettes?
It feels like a ritual. Like brushing teeth. Or taking a bath. Otherwise the morning feels incomplete. Or it's there at the back of the head. That's all. Moreover, if I haven't smoked all night or evening and I smoke in the morning, sometimes my legs get jittery for a few seconds. The buzz, you know. It feels nice and makes me all set for the day. Like if you're in the metro alone you tend to text a lot or read a book. Similarly, smoking is a thing to do. You can call it an idol person's unhealthy passtime. Yes, I am aware of the fact that it is unhealthy.
Why is it difficult to overcome the urge to smoke while drinking?
Maybe it’s psychological, but I feel it gives a faster buzz. Also, I drink socially, so smoking, as it's another thing people do while socializing, becomes an automatic choice.
What makes you think you can never quit?
Smoking quickly becomes a habit. Most people have had phases where they've quit for a week or a month. I haven't been able to that as of now. I hide behind reasons like stress and tell myself that it keeps me awake at night. Like some people get brilliant ideas, once a while, when they are reading their morning newspaper – for me smoking does the same trick. Only psychologically. For the same reason, I like to smoke alone mostly so I can think clearly.
Do you plan on quitting ever?
One day will come when I’ll quit smoking, because one day I’ll need to. Hopefully I'll have the will power then. But today, I smoke with an unforeseen future. Maybe if I see an X ray of my lungs one day, I'll slow down.
And now for a Psychologist’s Take:
Dr. Pulkit Sharma, Clinical Psychologist and Psychoanalytical Therapist at VIMHANS Hospital, Delhi says: When smokers approach me for psychological help to quit smoking, they usually have tried multiple times to give up smoking but failed miserably. It is a false belief that smokers lack motivation and drive to quit. The fact is that even though they are desperate to renounce smoking certain deep-seated psychological reasons compel them to continue it. Often these factors need to be understood and dealt with to enable them to leave smoking. Let us try and understand why smokers try, but can’t quit.
- Smoking is a Form of Self-Medication: Smokers suffer from boredom, emptiness, loneliness and intense emotional states. Many people smoke not because they enjoy it, but because they wish to ease the psychological pain. To quit smoking successfully, this pain has to be addressed and worked through.
- Smoking as Biological Dependence: Once a person gets addicted to smoking, trying to quit it can lead to intense physiological and psychological withdrawal symptoms which prompt the person to return. Therefore, while giving up smoking, medical assistance to monitor and treat these withdrawal symptoms can be very helpful.
- Smoking is a Statement:For some individuals, the rough masculine image which goes along with smoking is essential to hold onto. Others feel that they will not be able to gain their friend's acceptance. In these cases, some amount of work is required on the ways to cope with the peer pressure.
- Smoking Secondary to a Psychological Disorder:In some cases addiction to smoking is due to a psychological disorder the person is suffering from. These disorders include Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Conduct Disorder.
- Smoking to Beat Stress: Individuals suffering from work stress, study pressure or marital stress take to smoking to beat the stress. Until proper stress management is done it is hard for them to quit smoking.
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