“Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.” – Seneca
As a child I lived through a period of anxiety and emotional trauma, living with two aggressive alcoholic parents (one mentally, one physically), and at around the age of 14, I developed an addiction that would stay with me for over 20 years.
I couldn’t tell you the exact reason that I started smoking. Possibly it was just simply act of rebellion – in a world where I had little autonomy or control, this little act of defiance meant a lot to me.
Possibly it was to seem ‘cool’. With life spiralling out of control at home, I really wanted to fit in with other people. And all the cool kids smoked.
Possibly it was because I was unhappy. During these same years I also used to self-harm in other ways, and while (happily) these other ways never became full on addictions, my nihilistic attitude and self-destructive behaviours lasted for a number of years.
I think it’s probably all of the above reasons, and after time smoking just became a part of who I am – long after the need for the emotional crutch had disappeared.
In a weird way it’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only person that begun smoking in this way. Studies have shown that there is a direct and significant correlation between the incidence of smoking in adults and childhood trauma, and separate studies have shown that this can affect women more than men. (It’s believed that men tend to have other coping mechanisms other than smoking).
Anyway, recently I stopped smoking. There was no fuss or fanfare – I simple ran out of tobacco one day and didn’t buy any more. I haven’t been plagued with withdrawal symptoms. I haven’t been craving a cigarette. There’s been no gnashing of teeth, tantrums or trips to buy vape materials or nicotine replacement products.
For stopping a powerful addiction that’s been with me for over half my life, it’s all been a bit…undramatic.
So what happened, and why hasn’t it been harder?
Simply speaking, I think it was just the realisation that I no longer need cigarettes. Smoking was a coping mechanism that I adopted because I had not healthy alternative to cope with stress when I was young. Smoking was a solution to a situation that I could not control.
And today I know that I do not need a coping mechanism for life. I also know that it’s foolish to focus on the things that I cannot control, and instead busy myself with the things that I can – like my own actions and attitudes.
I guess I’ve always been cerebral over emotional in nature (that said, I do have strong emotions – I just don’t allow them to guide my actions should they make no logical sense), and so maybe it’s the lack of logical sense in smoking that has made it easy not to smoke…and also made the whole experience a little anti-climactic.
I don’t even feel pleased with myself – if anything, I feel a little bit stupid for not deciding to not-smoke earlier, as it turns out that depriving oneself of cigarettes really is no deprivation at all. As Seneca once said; “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality”