Smoking ruins lives and separates us from dealing with reality. Let us get acquainted with one of the 15 million profiles of a typical smoker. Below is a composite from my experience with thousands of smokers, including my own history. My own life was ruined until I came to grips with my smoking addiction and sought treatment.
Meet Jonathan Smith of San Diego. Jon is a successful Associate Vice President of a large investment brokerage firm. He is well-educated and exemplifies the usual measures of success – a house in an upper class neighborhood, a loving and doting wife, three beautiful children, various sports cars and an SUV, a 32-foot boat, and a ski lodge in Lake Tahoe.
He is a devoted family man and takes great care of the children. On another positive note, after taking a decade away from a career to raise her kids, Jon’s wife has now decided to return to school for an Executive MBA and work part-time at a local public relations and marketing company. Her school and work now absorb most of her time and the attention to the home and family now fall upon Jon.
As a result, Jon is now the one to attend to many family matters. Jon now balances his stressful job as a stockbroker with visits to the grocery store, pediatrician, orthodontist, soccer games, and to college campuses for the oldest child. In addition, his ailing mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease is now about to move in with Jon so he may better attend to her growing medical needs. His already busy schedule has now been turned upside down with the added responsibilities.
Now let us profile a typical day in the life of Jon and observe his use of cigarettes to get him through the day. He wakes up early as soon as the alarm and radio goes off. Before he is fully awake, Jon reaches over to the nightstand for a cigarette and lighter. This action and reaction is now an instinctive and ingrained conditioned response since his university days. Jon cannot get going without a cigarette and his body needs the shot of nicotine to get his adrenaline going. So Jon lights up his first cigarette of the day and goes about his typical day.
Soon he is shaving, aided by the ritual of another cigarette. Now Jon is rummaging through the cabinets and refrigerator to make breakfast for the children, which until recently was waiting for him already prepared by his wife. He realizes they are out of cereal and eggs and so suggests to his wife if they need to hire a housekeeper or nanny for all of this. For many years, Jon’s wife is growing more disillusioned by their marriage and feels Jon is more concerned about cigarettes than his family. By the time he has an ad hoc breakfast he has a few more cigarettes with coffee. The morning rush out the door builds the stress even more and so Jon lights up another cigarette as he grabs his keys and cigarette box and loads the SUV with the kids. Jon has heard it many times from his primary care physician that his cigarette smoking is harmful to his kids as the second-hand smoke delivers deleterious effects on them as well as to himself. Nonetheless, Jon ignores the sage advice of his physician.
Jon is oblivious to the fact that his wife has complained numerous time about the foul smell of cigarettes that permeate throughout the house, car, and on himself that linger around for days.
At work, Jon arrives in the parking lot and feels the need to light up before the start of his work day. As he juggles various projects, executive committee meetings, client calls to discuss the volatile stock market, Jon takes four to five intermittent cigarette breaks every time the slightest problem arises which to him are larger problems caused by little problems. So he reaches for a cigarette which steadies him and relieves any tension. Sometimes he uses cigarettes as a reward for a closed deal or one for self-pity if he is not recognized for his hard work or does not receive a bonus. He goes to lunch with a colleague and lights up again. His afternoon blues at work include more cigarette breaks.
He finally leaves work to pick up the kids and arrives at home. His oldest son reminds him that he forgot to go to the grocery store to pick up a chocolate cake for Friday dinner at their neighbor’s house as well as various breakfast items they discussed this morning. He lights up a cigarette to refocus his mind and makes a detour to the grocery store and back home again. At home, he has another five cigarettes, all of which are used as coping rituals during the evening’s comings and goings. Whether it is stress, frustration, anger, lethargy, celebration, social exchanges, or boredom Jon has a habit of using cigarettes simply because it helps him to cope with these feelings. Over the past decade, Jon has slowly and painfully spent less quality time with his family.
Are you tired, weary, and beaten-up for Jon? In fact, so is Jon but he will not know just how much until the day he stops smoking. With professional intervention, Jon can stop smoking and it goes well beyond the act of quitting. All smokers have tried to quit at one time or another. They just have not been counseled on how to quit, and then how to cope without cigarettes. By seeking the assistance of an addiction and rehabilitation center, Jon can eliminate the pain of addiction withdrawals and deal with the many physical, social, emotional, and psychological issues that arise from a smoking addiction.