If you take a look with a dose of honesty, we reach for a cigarette (or other objects of coercion) as a result of uncomfortable feelings or sensations in the body, which we perceive more or less consciously. It can be that sinking feeling in the stomach, anxiety, nervousness, agitation, or something else - different in each particular smoker's case. However, what is particularly significant here, none of these sensations can be described as having anything to do with a cigarette per see, as the body speaks in a language that does not use words, but only feelings and sensations. What makes us then reach for a cigarette?
Scientists suggest that our brain can associate various experiences' causes and their effects into one, which may be responsible for that. The mind creates hybrid experiences - picks up a cause of one experience and attributes a result of another to it. For example, we bear cultural and family-based conditioning that smoking brings relief and relaxes, suppresses tension, and stress. In a situation of life difficulties and problems that cause anxiety and stress, our mind 'suggests' that a cigarette may be an excellent way to get rid of those uncomfortable feelings and make us feel good. The whole generations' experiences before us proved it to be true - very often our close relatives', why wouldn't it work for us, too? We reach for a cigarette then and find out that it works, indeed. Subsequently, stressful situations and smoking cigarettes strengthen the connection in our brain, proving we are right about such choices. The mind no longer suggests a different path, because this one is easy, and we like easiness and pleasant solutions by nature, and it's just that we don't perceive their long-term effect.
Our mind is already set on this solution. Although something quietly whispers from the other mind's corner that smoking doesn't make us feel the best, the temptation of getting relief in stress is so alluring that prevents other possible solutions to ever knock at our door. Even if alternative solutions show up once in a while, we tend to decline them as too tedious and demanding, therefore, a cigarette seems the easiest.
So our mind creates a hybrid solution to support our feeling nice and comfortable, based on the following associations:
1. a cigarette suppresses the feeling of stress, hence
2. since our problem generates stress
3. then if I have a problem - I smoke to suppress stress
It is not so apparent from a logical point of view. If the problem generates stress, then usually what eliminates it the most effective is simply solving the problem. In the case of smoking (and other addictions), the value is providing quick relief for stress. In contrast, in the case of healthy decision-making, the value lies in solving the problem in the first place, which relief follows as its natural result. What might be the fundamental difference here is that in the former, ease and pleasure are the only objectives, and the underlying problem is not recognized, whereas in the latter - on the contrary - a solution to a problem is the main objective regardless of effort and hardship necessary. The ease and pleasure come as secondary.
Not only does smoking fail to solve the problem, but it exposes us to health and financial problems plus other costs, and the only short-term illusionary benefit here seems to be a numbed perception of what a problem triggers in our body.
Our head knows it, and there is nothing new here. Many ways were invented to help in quitting smoking that have different results for different people. Many cannot cope with the body sensations that keep making them fail. You can use nicotine patches, pills, or other methods to cover up and suppress the feeling of 'a cigarette craving.' It would be nothing else, though, like to suppress sensations that are the result of suppressing other sensations that smoking was supposed to suppress.
In the case of smoking and not solving the underlying problem, the question is that we may not know that the body sensations can be signs of any problem at all. Maybe, we would be eager to solve it if we only knew that we have it.
A suggestion to reach for a cigarette as such, does not come from the body. The body sends a signal, 'wants' something from us, but because it speaks the language of neither words nor pictures, it is not able to literally suggest a cigarette. This is our mind that makes such a decision, based on the knowledge it possesses. However, it is easy to say that if our mind makes such harmful decisions, there must be shortcomings to its knowledge.
If we are lucky to have realized that something is wrong about our decision-making system, the question of the next step remains. We have stress, we have discomfort in the body, and we are used to smoking - what to do about it - nicotine patches, chewing gum, you name it, or another substitution that will soon become a problem by itself?
I've observed that many phenomena in the world have a wave nature. Things come and go, regardless if they are good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. Some last longer than others, but you can be confident that eventually, they will all pass. It's the same with smoking and any addictions or harmful habits. I've also observed that things pass easier when they are left without our reaction. If we have a habit of reacting to stress with a cigarette, we don't allow waves to pass without it. We don't even realize that we could as the body sensations are hard to withstand, and we don't see why we would do this. What could we get instead?
Well - second of all - we would need to wait for the next craving a cigarette wave. And try not to react, as always - with smoking. With what then?
Where is - first of all?
Some scientists say it is unhealthy to quit smoking (or other addictions, especially those based on chemical substances) abruptly. I think this depends on individual cases. I can only tell from my own experience that I successfully quit smoking using a simple method of giving myself time for a decision.
First and most important of all, I wanted to quit smoking. I haven't been able to do it for years. I think, however, that deep in my heart I didn't want it. I believe if you really want something and not just saying you want something, nothing can stop you from achieving it, and I felt ready for it this time.
I decided to give myself 15 minutes before I reach for a cigarette when another wave of craving appears, which means I would wait this wave out without any reaction. If, after 15 minutes, I still feel the irresistible need - I would smoke and not blame myself for it. I decided to keep proceeding the same way each time a craving for a cigarette shows up again - 15 minutes before I make a decision.
The first times were pretty challenging as I was tempted to bite my fingernails cuticles, walk around nervously or scratch my scalp until it bled - all to distract attention from this uncomfortable feeling in the body that was torturing me. Never in my life did 15 minutes seem like hours. The point, though, was not to do a single thing and only to watch what is happening.
The first times ended up with me smoking, but as I was patient and persistent, I noticed that several times after 15 minutes, the craving for tobacco dissipated. Over time, it appeared less frequently and for a shorter time, so only a few minutes were enough to wait out. After a few weeks, it disappeared completely as I stopped feeding it with my reaction. It came up, realizing that there was no one to talk to in me anymore, so it gave up and left me alone.