Saturday, April 11, 2015

Since I'm giong to die anyway, I might as well smoke...

Not this. (the Guardian)
Choose this.
A former smoker, I apologize for becoming a little snarky in a couple of earlier posts regarding nicotine addicts and the perils of secondhand smoke. And yes, I recall in the bad old days how the ridicule and ill treatment by non-smokers mostly triggered my wrath and made me even more determined to continue smoking.  In fact, I was unable to stop smoking until I participated in the Clean Break program held on that occasion at Abbot-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. I explained to Peter Holmes, the program's founder and lead counselor, that I'd smoked for over 35 years, and I wondered whether or not I would be able to break that longtime habit. He replied, "My mom quit, and you can, too."

Peter was right: I've not smoked for over 10 years.

One reason Clean Break worked for me was that I was consistently treated with respect by Mr. Holmes and the other participants, who, by the way, included several doctors and nurses. During the first of five successive evening sessions, I learned the difference between the rationalizations usually practiced by smokers and thinking quoted below from the handout I've kept from that evening:

I’m going to die anyway, so I might as well

I want to live as long as I can, so I’ll stop


The government needs my tobacco taxes. It’s my
duty as a citizen to go on smoking.

I can simply donate money to the government.


I hate all those self-righteous non-smokers. No
one’s going to tell me what to do!


What other people want doesn’t matter. What’s
more important to me?
 A key concept in the Clean Break program for me was the instruction in how to deal with cravings. Holmes taught us former addicts to embrace our cravings rather than try to push them away.  A couple years later, I began practicing mindfulness, which teaches practitioners to lead non-dualistic lives - embracing our fears, angers, cravings, etc. - whatever concerns that have been distracting us from living fully in the present moment. That's when I fully realized how enlightened the Clean Break's teachings in dealing with nicotine addiction- or any addiction, for that  matter - really are.

Mindfulness also encourages compassion for all beings, even those who continue to park themselves nearby and direct secondhand smoke into our paths. 

P.S. The Clean Break program is available online here.

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