In my experience, the whole stop smoking industry, although with very good intentions by mostly very good people, is doing a very louzy job helping people quit smoking, primarily because they (we) have been told that nicotine addiction is the problem. But nicotine is NOT the problem.
How can we know? Because only one or two, sometimes three out of ten people actually quit smoking when following the “nicotine replacement” approach to quitting. In my view, if your operation fails 7 out of 10 times, (or, more often 8 or 9 out of ten times) you might want to question your approach, and for sure keep an open mind about what’s happening in your world.
My experience tells me that such consistent failure to help people quit smoking, not only here in the U.S. but across the world, continues to occur– regarldess of new drugs and devices– simply because currently our whole treatment theory is based on the false assumption that the smoking addiction is a nicotine addiction. Again, IT’S NOT! Research and direct personal experience have shown time, and time and time again that nicotine is NOT the culprit we professionals wish it was.
I go into detail about this in Chapter 11 from my new book, The Smoker’s Prayer The Spiritual Healing of Tobacco Addiction with or without Chantix, Nicotine Patches, Hypnosis, Jail Time or Duct Tape. .
But you don’t have to read the book. Here’s the chapter, in its entirety. I’d be interested in your feedback. Hope you enjoy.
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Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7
In the last chapter I encouraged you to stop believing that you were wrong, or bad for experimenting with tobacco in the first place. I encouraged you to stop beating yourself up about that, to love the kid you were, and carry on. I trust this was useful advice.
Next, we need to look at the false belief that nicotine is the devil, and is what keeps us smoking. This will be the longest chapter in the whole book because, after all, if we’re going to fight the devil, we need lots of ammunition. You’ll find more than enough ammunition here in this chapter.
Often spiritually inclined people believe that their “metaphysical” prayers for freedom from tobacco have not been answered simply because they cannot resist their own physical cravings for nicotine. They have been led to believe that it is their physical addiction to nicotine that keeps them smoking. They believe this, not because of the physical evidence, (again, we want to stay on solid ground) but because this is what they have been told for decades by the well-intentioned “high priests” of the medical materialist belief system. And as the old saw goes, “What you believe is what you get.”
If addiction to nicotine is what keeps us smoking, in spite of our prayers, or in direct opposition to our prayers, then nicotine must be the devil, yes? Or at least a representative of the devil. (Nicotine is the supposed force interfering with our prayers.)
So, as Jesus did, we want to put this devil behind us. (Matherw 16: 23 “Get behind me, Satan . . . you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns Get thee behind me.” )
Again, as we’ve already discussed, we’re not necessarily asking Jesus to put the devil behind us. We ourselves, in our daily walk around mind, must have the certain confidence to know, without doubt, that nicotine has no power over us. Only then can we put it behind us.
The Hot Dog with Ketchup and Mustard Addiction
Okay, so let’s get confident, get sure about “nicotine addiction, to a depth that we are no longer afraid of it, we can simply stop being cowed by nicotine, love the new freedom this knowledge gives us, and then carry on.
In order to do that we need to have the courage to look this “devil addiction” straight in the face, and see him— see it— for what it is. And even more important, what it isn’t. (This chapter is one of the longest in the book because the belief that “nicotine is the devil” is a widespread, faulty belief that keeps millions of smokers hooked. We need to dismantle the belief one step at a time.)
Here’s the story, in a nutshell, about nicotine: Instead of cigarettes, let’s pretend you are addicted to hot dogs, with mustard and ketchup. You love ‘em. Morning and night. Seven days a week. But you know that so many hot dogs with mustard and ketchup are probably not good for you, so you go to the experts on hot dog addiction and they tell you: it’s actually the mustard and ketchup that makes hot dogs so addictive.
They convince you, based on their research into the brain’s bio chemical properties, that your brain has “mustard and ketchup receptors.” Because of your long habit of eating hot dogs with mustard and ketchup your “mustard and ketchup receptors” now crave even more mustard and ketchup. They tell you that the “mustard and ketchup” combo is the devil behind your hot dog addiction.
Then they tell you that the pharmaceutical companies have developed the remedy: mustard and ketchup patches. And mustard and ketchup gum and lozenges, so you won’t have to eat all those hot dogs. And even if these remedies fail (which, alas, they most often do), you can then try a powerful, quite expensive psycho-active drug (with suicidal side effects) that will block your mustard and ketchup cravings.
So on their advice you try the mustard and ketchup patches, and it works, sort of. But you still crave a hot dog. As the days go by, even though you’re wearing the full strength mustard and ketchup patch, you can’t get your mind off hot dogs. So you cave, eat a hot dog, with mustard and ketchup, even while wearing the mustard and ketchup patch! (Ahh, boy that tastes good!)
Is it your fault that you still wanted a hot dog? Or was it the faulty diagnosis about the cause of the addiction?
OUR CURRENT INSISTENCE THAT NICOTINE IS THE CAUSE OF ADDICTION IGNORES THE REAL MEAT!
As we’ll explore more fully in later chapters, you smoke because at some level you actually enjoy it, and, more importantly, you’ve learned to use smoking as a way to manage your daily attention. Thus, you smoke because you receive some rather basic, maybe even healthy (meaty?) mental and emotional benefits from it, just like you did when you were a kid. Makes sense, yes? Why else would you still do it?
Obviously, from the medical materialist world view, the idea that you may receive some real “meaty” benefits from smoking and use your smokes to make your day run smoother, even if this should prove to be true, is not a politically correct diagnosis. In our materialist culture it is simply wrong to enjoy smoking, and it is wrong to use smoking as a way to manage your attention. Maybe even evil! And healthy benefits? Ha!
But again, give yourself a little credit! Give nature a little credit. Give God a little credit. You are not evil or stupid or weak. You are a wonderful being, mysteriously and beautifully made. If you weren’t, at some level, getting something real and necessary, something even life enhancing from the habit of smoking, (something meaty!) you wouldn’t do it! Please, give yourself some credit.
Back to the hot dogs with mustard and ketchup: The materialist approach insists that ninety percent of the reason you smoke is because your body, and in particular your brain, and even more particularly the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in your brain have become addicted to nicotine. This false belief, insisted upon by well-meaning authorities, posits that nicotine is the devil. (The devil is the ketchup and the mustard.) It’s this nicotine devil, they insist, that causes all the misery.
From this materialist viewpoint, what you need to do is wean yourself from nicotine–fight the devil, run from the devil, somehow free yourself from this nicotine habit. They suggest you need to dismantle your brain’s nicotinic receptors, rewire your neurons, overhaul your psyche, either gently or forcefully. You need to replace your nicotinic receptors with—oh, celery receptors, say. Or maybe root beer barrel receptors. Tooth pick receptors!
This medical materialist approach understands you primarily as a bio-chemical machine, in fact a bio-chemical robot. Their diagnosis is that, due to both personal deficiencies and corporate villainy, the bio-robot that that is you somehow became badly programmed with the devil nicotine (mustard and ketchup) now at the controls. Thus, your robot machine needs an overhaul, an exorcism.
Unfortunately, as we hinted at in the introduction, even with the best exorcism methods available in the medical materialist doctor’s bag, this approach does not offer much hope for success. Statistics show that only one or two of every ten robots that undergo re-programming for nicotine addiction (exorcising the devil) will actually find freedom from their smoking habit.
Could that be because the “nicotine addiction” diagnosis—that we smoke because we crave nicotine, that nicotine is the devil behind this whole tragedy– is itself simply wrong? Is there any actual empirical evidence that such a diagnosis (that nicotine is the devil) may in fact be wrong?
Yes. Over the past fifty years scientists, clinicians and smokers themselves have all accumulated literally tons of evidence (if we include the weight of all the smokers who took part in the trials) that nicotine is not the devil. This proof, here in plain sight, goes mostly unnoticed.
The “solid ground” proof that nicotine is not the devil appears not only in the research reports about nicotine, but most especially in the millions (and millions) of smokers who have tried unsuccessfully to quit based on this “nicotine is the devil” diagnosis.
The Evidence Against the Nicotine Diagnosis
If your body craves nicotine and that’s why you smoke, then it must follow that when your body has received adequate levels of nicotine you would not smoke. But this has proved not to be the case. First, and very simply, every smoker has experienced those yucky moments when it’s clear, “uggh, I’ve smoked too much.” Maybe at a party or a work session or a cross country road trip. If the nicotine diagnosis was correct, the body would send signals to regulate nicotine intake (more or less) as it was needed— and we would never have the “uggh, I’ve smoked too much” experience.
But maybe we just weren’t paying attention. Maybe the body did send its signals: “enough nicotine.” But for some reason, we kept smoking. But what reason could that be if, as the authorities insist, the nicotine (mustard and ketchup) craving is the engine driving why we smoke?
Okay, you admit you sometimes smoke too much, even when you obviously have taken in enough nicotine. That’s proof number one, a direct, repeated experience in your own life, that a “craving for nicotine” is not necessarily the cause of why you continue to smoke.
Next, google “nicotine patch.” At the top of the search, Wikipedia will tell you that clinical trials have shown that the patch approximately doubles success rates for quitting over placebo treatment
Wow, that sounds good. Clinical trials! Double success! And then it goes on to state, “Dozens of placebo tests show a 5.9% success rate, in comparison to the 7.2% blind active tests, and the 10.8% open tests.“
What? Wait. That means without the nicotine patch six out of every hundred smokers can quit. But when using the patch, only seven, or sometimes maybe ten or eleven out of a hundred will quit. If nicotine is the problem, and the answer, what’s the deal with the other ninety nicotine patch wearers who don’t quit?
This is not just faulty information put out by Wikipedia. Researchers at Vanderbilt University, doing a study on the difference between placebo patches and nicotine patches, found that, after 24 weeks (six months) three people out of a hundred quit by using the placebo patch, while eight out of a hundred quit using the nicotine patch. (See http://healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu/health-patch.htm )
Although the pharmaceutical companies point to these types of studies when they advertise that the patch “doubles your chances of quitting,” as do stop smoking programs around the world, any honest outside observer might easily and wisely conclude that neither the patch nor the placebo are effective methods for quitting. In this test, fewer than one out of ten patch users found success!
A survey of all the studies of the effectiveness of the nicotine patch and other nicotine products by the United States Department of Health and Human Services found that the nicotine products work less than twelve times out of a hundred.
IF NICOTINE WAS THE REAL CULPRIT, THE NICOTINE PATCH, GUM OR LOZENGE WOULD BE THE REAL CURE! NINE TIMES OUR OF TEN! BUT NICOTINE REPLACEMENT NEVER COMES EVEN CLOSE!
Yes, in some studies, especially if counseling and other remedies are used, the patch will work for as many as two or three people out of ten. That means “the nicotine cure” might work as much as 20% or 30% of the time. Still, if the “cure” only works three times out of ten, at best, it’s not a cure! We must assume that the diagnosis of what is causing the problem must be wrong!
The evidence against the old diagnosis is inarguable: it’s not the nicotine that keeps you smoking. Chances are that you yourself have tried to quit using one or more of the nicotine products, but still you smoke. If so, then you yourself are part of the huge body of evidence proving that “the nicotine is the devil” diagnosis is not accurate. IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT YOU DIDN’T QUIT SMOKING WITH NICOTINE REPLACEMENT. YOU, WITH MILLIONS OF OTHERS, WERE MISINFORMED ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM!
Even though such empirical evidence shows that nicotine is not the problem, “nicotine addiction” (mustard and ketchup addiction) remains the cornerstone of the medical materialist world view in regards to smoking. The sad part is that smokers themselves have been led to believe, by the common materialist medical diagnosis, that their own “smoking problem” comes from their addiction to nicotine. But the medical materialist view is an extremely narrow, dangerously wrong diagnosis! (Focusing on the purple when in fact there’s a whole rainbow!) Again, it’s not the nicotine!
An example in my own work was with a client I’ll call “Dan,” a fifty-five year old blue collar worker who smoked at least two and often three packs a day. Dan was convinced if he just wore enough patches and chewed enough nicotine gum and lozenges—which, through our materialist medical government program we offered– he could quit. I tried, apparently not very skillfully, to convince him there was something else happening. In our private sessions we would have quite animated, fun and inspired discussions. Still, at the end of each session he would beg for twice the allotted number of patches and other nicotine products than was normally allotted.
Dan felt he needed to wear two full strength nicotine patches, one on each arm, plus regularly chew nicotine gum and suck on nicotine lozenges. All this nicotine—much more than he was normally getting from his heavy smoking—allowed him, he said, to cut back from his two or three packs a day to just one pack.
He smoked a pack a day even while wearing twice the recommended number of patches plus chewing nicotine gum. He felt that “only” smoking one pack a day was a sign he was making progress. Dan simply refused to believe—or was not prepared to believe– that there was something other than nicotine itself that was at the heart of his smoking behavior. “I think I must have a death wish,” he’d say, trying to understand why he still could not stop smoking.
This is one of the sad and dangerous side-effects of the erroneous materialist belief that smoking is simply a bio-chemical addiction to nicotine. Not only does such a belief not lead to freedom from tobacco, it also leads to a false estimation of our own self-worth, and life-affirming core. “I must have a death wish” is simply not true! (Did we have a “death wish” when we snuck behind the barn to first try out smoking? No. It was a “more life” wish!)
Dan would enroll in the program for many months, and then, when his “free patches” ran out, and he was asked to start paying a small amount for them, half or less of what he would pay retail, (we subsidized the cost) he would drop out. Six months or a year later, he’d be back. “Can I get some more free patches?”
After I retired, Dan signed up again, with my successor. He still hadn’t quit. His faith in the “nicotine diagnosis,” and his certainty that he must have a death wish, kept him trapped. But it was simply a wrong diagnosis of the problem.
If you keep taking your chugging car in to the shop and they keep fixing the carburetor, or even give you a new carburetor, but the chugging problem doesn’t go away, might this be a clear sign that the problem was not in the carburetor?
Again, as we’ll see in more detail in the following chapters, the reason you smoke is simply because at some level you enjoy it, and more importantly you use it to manage your daily attention. So you are getting something very real and even healthy from your smoking routine! When you recognize what it is you do crave, and regularly receive from smoking, and learn to find it in other ways, smoking falls away naturally. It’s simply no longer needed.
That nicotine is not the culprit— the devil— behind smoking is actually very good news! It frees you from the medical materialist faulty diagnosis and lets you see the simple mechanics (the real hot dog) much more clearly. “Oh, the problem if the problem is not in the carburetor, maybe it’s the radiator!”
This doesn’t mean that you can’t use the patch or gum or lozenge when you are moving away from the smoking addiction. Of course you can, if that’s where your inner wisdom leads you. But do so with the clear, and this probably new understanding that nicotine is not the problem nor the solution!
Although my client Dan is an extreme example, the millions of smokers who have tried to quit smoking but failed with nicotine replacement show how dangerous it is for smokers to accept this diagnosis. The problem is they blame themselves, rather than the faulty diagnosis. So when they try again, they often try nicotine replacement again, or some other more powerful and dangerous drug, like Chantix, based on the same diagnosis. (“Nicotine is the problem. Chantix will interfere with nicotinic receptors.”)
Okay. Enough of that. Let me simply encourage you to stop believing that nicotine is the problem, love the new possibilities this idea opens up so that now you can carry on to the more fun parts of the healing process. Let’s put the “nicotine is the devil” diagnosis behind us, and get some much needed fresh air on the topic.