craving for a cigarette merely has the lifecycle of a wave

[First of all a disclaimer: I don’t have anything against smokers (but I generally don’t hesitate to express my protest if I feel they’re over-stepping over the non-smoking rights of anybody else in public, still without anything against them 😉 ). Some of my best friends are smokers and I’ve had long conversations with them (sitting upwind) while they’ve smoked. I’ve made some stupid attempts to convince them to quit occasionally, but finally I realised that they already know everything, and I just have to respect that its their choice – whether they quit smoking or not is up to them.]

This post by Suresh prompted me to complete atleast one of my long pending posts based on a fairly well researched article I’d written a few years ago. This is just my own understanding, I might’ve ended up totally distorting what Suresh meant 😉 so better to read that entire post in its originality. I’m using some excerpts only for my own context here.

I’ve never been a smoker. I’ve come close to it, its been pretty easy for me. As a kid, I’d sometimes held an extingished match in my hand, blowing the smoke imaging I’m exhaling it (after being inspired by some scene in some movie). I’ve been in countless situations in college days where I’ve been with a group of friends who are all smoking around me, some occasionally even prompting me for a puff. I’ve been brought up in a liberal family (with a couple of relatives who were smokers and we’d all just joke about it), and so had not much guilt or fear about smoking. Nothing had really stopped me from trying. It just so happened that I didn’t.

So though my post here is about smoking a cigarette – the ideas about a cigarette are partly speculation, and also based on conversations with smoking friends. Its also partly a metaphor to other similar situations I’ve experienced myself.

First of all, Gracie makes an important observation on when she comments:

Yet another powerful piece that applies to most people even those not smoking or taking drugs of any sort. Many have relied on a substance at some point if for no other reason than to mask pain caused by stress and heartache.

So his post says…

Have you watched? Whenever you feel nervous you immediately start smoking. It is a way to avoid nervousness; you become occupied with smoking.

It seems Nicotine in a way acts like a mild anaesthetic, thus temporarily giving the impression of being “relieved” of stress.

Through regression you avoid the responsibilities and the pains of being adult. And that’s what goes on through many many drugs.

Its not easy to give up a cigarette, because once one is an addict – a friend had said – the entire body feels a craving for it – with an intensity much more deeper than hunger. Now how can anyone resist that? There is already enough information on ill effects of smoking, etc and its not that most smokers don’t know about it. There are so many doctors who smoke, who knows more about ill-effects than them!

The main issue I see about smoking is that it limits one’s freedom. One cannot spend a certain amount of time without it. Even those who have strong willpower, they might manage to supress it for a while, but esp those who keep track of how long they’ve supressed the urge, like a climber who climbs a mountain and keeps looking downwards, may end up feeling dizzy and demotivated!

Mohan had recently shared a link on a succesful quit-smoking camp.

All were told to quit smoking and got 30 minutes of counselling with self-help materials. Half then were given at least 12 weeks of behaviour modification counselling and either nicotine replacement therapy, treatment with the drug bupropion, or both. Bupropion is an antidepressant that has also been shown to help people quit smoking.

Fight a drug with another drug 🙁

Another approach, not based on drugs, not based on clever psychology nor positive thinking (which has its own shortcomings), but a more natural approach: is to not distract oneself with anything at all, just look at what is really happening. As Suresh’s post says…

And say to yourself, “This time I’m not going to avoid it, this time I’m not going to reject it…

Those who have sincerely tried it will know that such a simple thing it is – but is easier said than done. This is the main point of this post – to identify a couple of points that may be a roadblock to actually do such a simple thing.

One of the main points is the limits one imposes upon oneself. After a certain period of deprivation, one may start feeling that “something terrible is going to happen to me now without a cigarette… I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE”. Its a kind of self-imposed limit that one cannot handle what is happening right now. A playful adventurous attitude helps. Its like my Thatha used to say when I could not stand eating fruits… “let me see what happens if you eat it I say!” Its easy to say that to others, but a day did happen to come when I could say that to myself! 8)

Another main point is the false notion that the terrible situation is going to last forever.

Initially, this aversion for the current painful situation of no cigarette, (or a craving for a past or future wonderful situation of smoking a cigarette) may come and go in waves. And like any wave, it has its own lifecycle…

Sometimes, they may look really intimidating!

One may be resilient enough to overcome it. But it may recur. Again and again, with varying intensity.

At times one might get hit by a real huge and powerful wave!

Yet, if one forget about the past waves or apprehension of future waves, just remain with the current one… Not wishing for it to end. Knowing (not just a philosophical understanding in general, but knowing at that precise moment in that particular situation!). Anchored the way a lighthouse is anchored to the bed of rock. Anchored to the Gita’s core s teachings (change is the essence of the world). This knowing – this love and trust in the Eternal – is the ultimate in bhakti.

Then one knows by experience – atleast glimpses for a few moments – what is beyond mere transitory waves – to (re)discover (what was always ours but we had temporarily lost connection) – what is far beyond description in words.

As Suresh has put it…

In fact one is simply surprised, one cannot believe it, it is so incredible.

Even if I were to try and say it, nobody would believe me, as if it was some alien meeting like they show in the movie Contact :mrgreen: Not that I want to dramatise the whole thing; but have to say that it simply has to be experienced by oneself.

Alan Watts says* (can’t recall the exact words) that more than being ecstatic – one has the surprised feeling how one has managed to miss it so far! 😮

[Talking Zen, Chapter “The Psychology of Acceptance: The Reconciliation of the Opposites in Eastern Thought and in Analytical Psychology”]

Better it is to live one day
seeing the rise and fall of things
than to live a hundred years
without ever seeing the rise and fall of things.
~ Dhammapada


The above wave lifecycle image had been created by an Olympus C-750 camera indexing a short video clip. (Brighton, UK – 2004)

6 Responses to “craving for a cigarette merely has the lifecycle of a wave”

  1. preethi Says:

    I was also close to trying cigrattes because of peer pressure and pain, but stayed away from it.
    But I had a clear idea of my own limits.As a individual I have a certain tendency of developing severe mood swings.So I always knew that any form of dependency on a drug can ruin me.I would cling to it during my life’s lows and it would make me an addict.
    Also knowing whether we are doing for ourselves or to get approval and to look cool/brave also makes us keep away from many of the drugs/addictions.
    To suffer without any dependency is the greatest test of courage.(As conveyed in Suresh’s blog)
    No one will know these inner one will applaud us..But life changes at that instant and we know that nothing can break us or shatter us..

  2. msanjay Says:

    Completely agree esp with the knowledge about whether we are doing for ourselves or to get approval and to look cool/brave – this kind of discrimination is really key and yet does not always come in all situations!

    Your last para really touched a chord in me… very similar words in the story Swimming Towards Freedom. Thanks for your inputs as always, preethi

  3. Vijay Says:

    Got caught smoking when I was 8 (along with my cousin who was 10)… got thulped.. never tried after that…

    Sanjay, you seem to feel strongly against. My view is that its that persons decision. I do stay upwind.. but then I dont try and talk them out of it.

  4. Sanjay M Says:

    Hey Vijay nice to hear from you! I’d said: I’ve made some stupid attempts to convince them to quit occasionally – this was many years ago mostly during college days. That too only for a couple of closest friends whom I knew intimately. I could not bear to see them becoming “less alive” – apart from all the long term ill-effects of smoking, that’s what is a short term effect: it makes a person feel less alive and that’s what gives the delusion of “stress relief”. It really kills their stamina. It really tore my heart that the very same friend who used to be much more athletic than me during school days, is now lacking stamina and lagging behind when we go on a trek/long walk.

    Over time, I learnt to acknowledge my own helplessness and stopped saying anything to them, only can silently wish them well. I too have long since reverted to merely standing upwind acting as if I don’t care.

  5. a common man ಸಂಜಯ » Blog Archive » any addiction is like a camel coming into the tent Says:

    […] Smoking is only a well-beaten example, everyone is addicted (knowingly or maybe even unknowingly!) to different things. […]

  6. ingresos pasivos Says:

    Hey there, You have done an incredible job. I’ll definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends.

    I’m sure they will be benefited from this web site.

Leave a Reply