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Smoking: Habit vs. Addiction
by Mark Whalen

Although for most smokers, the assumption is that their habit and their addiction are synonymous, this isn't quite true.

In fact, my thesaurus defines "habit" as synonymous with "inclination, tendency, routine", while "addiction" brings up "fixation, chemical dependency, obsession".

I see that as a dramatic difference of definitions, don’t you?

I see it as far more than a slight variance in semantic interpretation. To me, there's a huge discrepancy between an inclination or tendency, and a fixation or obsession.

Defining these differences is the root tool of the process described in my book, "How to Quit Smoking Without Willpower or Struggle".

Knowing how much of your smoking is habit and how much is addiction is the huge step toward dismantling and removing both from your life.

I separate them this way. The addiction is to the nicotine. The rest is the habit.

It's my experience from my own cigarette struggle, and assisting others with theirs, that the addiction to nicotine in a seriously addicted, long-term smoker is actually only about four cigarettes a day.

Once all, or even most, of the habitual behavior is removed, four fully smoked cigarettes per day will satisfy most nicotine addictions.

Yet most heavy smokers assume that each cigarette smoked, each urge to light up, stems from the chemical addiction.

This simply isn't so. Cigarette habit/addiction is far more complex than that.

Most, seemingly all, of the current discussion about cigarettes revolves around the nicotine content.

But little, if any, of the material I’ve recently researched discusses how the tobacco companies have attached cigarettes to the smoker’s self-image, sexuality, and social acceptability.

I've placed an article in the reference section of my book about illegal cigarette "product placement" in the movie industry. But since Wilson Key's book, "Subliminal Seduction" in about 1974(?), I have found no information whatsoever about the subliminal advertising techniques used by all the tobacco companies.

I'm not talking about suggestive images of people being happy while smoking, I'm talking about the word "SEX" quite literally being micro-embedded into the ads, among other practices.

These techniques have nothing to do with the nicotine addiction. Nonetheless they have an addicting effect of their own, on subconscious psychological levels the tobacco companies pray never get mentioned in the press.

These tactics alone would keep many smokers "hooked", even if there wasn't any nicotine in the cigarettes at all!

The old adage, "It takes one to know one," certainly seems to apply to smokers. I don’t believe anyone who has never experienced that panic of finding out that it is 1:00 in the morning, they are out of smokes and money, and there’s no stores within miles can know how that feels, forget be able to teach anyone else how to make that craving "go away". While an "eater", finding themselves out of munchies, won't likely start going door to door in the middle of the night, asking neighbors for a Twinkie or a baloney sandwich, a true "butt junky" will not hesitate.

I know. Been there, done that!

So when I say that I know the way out of this insidious problem infecting fifty million Americans and perhaps ten or even twenty times that many more throughout the world, it isn't from some theory I’ve dreamt up, or some strategy I’ve designed because "it ought to work". IT DOES WORK. I successfully used it to end my sixteen year compulsion, and have now helped literally thousands of others as well.

I know there are those who will say, "Sure, it worked for you. But I’m different. I’m more addicted than you were. I have less willpower than you did. I’m not as smart as you. It’s harder for me." That can be true...but only if they want it to be. The only difference between those folks and me is I decided to quit, and they really don’t want to quit. They insist on believing that there's something positive for them in smoking that outweighs the negative. That it's worth the risk of dying a horrible, expensive, painful death to suck smoke from weeds whenever they think they "need" to. This book wasn't written for them, and it's not to try to change anyone's mind. They don't want to quit smoking, and I say okay.

Sure, they'll say, "Yes, I do want to quit! You have no idea how many times and how hard I’ve tried! If I could quit right now, I’d do it on the spot." But unfortunately, they're lying. Not so much to you or me. They are lying to the one person with whom they must be on the level...themselves.

Another semantic differentiation that must be made is the difference between "trying" and "doing". While common understanding is that the first leads to the second, this is only true for the first few efforts. Then, "trying" can become a way of behavior in and of itself, having little to do with "doing".

As a Certified Master Hypnotist for nearly twenty-five years, I've performed hundreds of theatrical hypnosis demonstrations called "hypnosis shows", as well as many instructional seminars in clinical hypnotherapy I've given.

One of the "tests" to "prove" a subject is "under" is I have them clasp their hands together, interlacing and overlapping their fingers, the way most adults do when they pray. Then I tell them to "try" to get them apart, but that they "can’t". The confirming suggestion (instruction) is, "In fact, the harder you try, the more you'll find you can’t. Trying only makes them grip tighter!" After they've demonstrated that indeed, they "can’t" get the hands apart, I say, "Now, on the count of three, you will release your fingers and your hands will come apart quickly and easily." Of course, you know how this always works out.

The point is this. In the first part of the test, I tell the subjects to "try" but not "do". In the second, I tell them exactly what to do, and they do it. Two completely separate actions. Therefore, I assert that anyone "trying" to quit smoking is probably not in the process of quitting, and someone truly in the process is not "trying", they are "doing".

In a personal growth training seminar I attended many years ago, among the many valuable lessons I learned about people, life, and myself was simply this: You can generally tell what someone really wants to do, and will continue to do, by what they are doing now, and have done in the past.

It’s called "based on results." It assumes that we all do exactly what we want to do all the time. That each choice we make and action we take leads us to an inevitable, predictable end. That end, to the largest degree and general certainty, can be foreseen. Perhaps not by the person taking that action the first time, but certainly by anyone who's been down that road a time or two.

I'm not saying that the future must necessarily equal the past , but unless one recognizes that a change in behavior must be taken in the present in order to change the outcome of the future, it likely will. After all, it's often said that the definition of "crazy" is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results each and every time.

As to the issue of willpower, I must say that I am a lazy person. I'll always try to find the "easy way out". It's my nature (as was, I now choose to believe, the man or woman who invented the wheel). It was for many years a personality trait that caused me to feel guilty, and discount myself as somehow unworthy. I actually believed in that "No pain, no gain" crap. I now know "gain" can be made, not only painlessly, but while having fun and enjoyment at the same time.

(The following story is true and accurate to the best of my recollection and information. Apologies to Charles Tate and any other family member who may find errors in my account.)

About twenty-five years ago, I took in a roommate named George, a man who, at thirty-four years old, had quit working "hard", and became "lazy". He’d lost his $600 per week job, his home, ended his long-term relationship, and according to him, was nearly financially and emotionally broke. He just laid down on an army cot in a friend’s garage "to think", where he told me he'd stayed for "a couple of years."

When he moved out of that garage and rented a room in my home, he was worth over $25,000,000, and was earning nearly a million more a month! About a year and a half after that, he took his new business public and took home millions the first day of offering. Less than ten years later that business he started in a friend's garage was sold to Borland for a TON of money & stock.

Was he smart? He told me his IQ was 90. George said, "That’s just one point above moron, buddy!", which of course it's not. It's just the bottom point of average on the old Stanford-Binet IQ test, no longer use.

Was he educated? Dropped out of school in the 10th grade, later to get a GED. He had absolutely no foreknowledge or training whatsoever about the one product that brought him the bulk of his success. In fact, George never even learned how to fully or properly operate it!

Was he industrious? He told me he worked about six hours a day, and most of that with his hands in his pockets. In his own words, he was "...lazy as an ol’ coon hound!"

Was he a physically compelling presence? He was overweight and prematurely balding. His constant daily uniform was a pair of well-worn Chinos, and a K-Mart white dress-shirt, always open at the collar, cuffs turned back, with a pocket protector full of pens and pencils, and many stripes of ink above the pocket from where he'd missed the protector. I never saw him wear a suit or tie. He could pass for the janitor of any building he happened to be in. He had a "Matlock" type of soft-spoken country-boy charm. But no, he wasn't a compelling presence in the movie star sense. He appeared to be just an average guy. In fact, except for the incredible income, that for the most part is what he was.

We had many late evening talks about what he'd done and was doing, and how easy it seemed. What he finally got through to me was that he'd simply "...decided..." to get rich. Not "try" to get rich. Not "work" at getting rich. As Nike keeps saying, "Just do it." George just did it.

How? With only his self-taught understanding of computers, he built one of the first Altair 8080-based home computers from a kit, and immediately set about studying computers and educating himself. George decided to make his fortune somewhere in that industry.

He began a mail-order software business, called it Discount Software, one of the first of its kind. He started reading computer magazines and studying software for inclusion in his business. One was highly recommended to him. He read a magazine article about this program that a man had written at home as a hobby. He read the article several times. He sensed he was on to something big, something apparently no one else had recognized.

When he finally did understand the implications and ramifications of what this program could truly become, he found the man, a computer programmer at Jet Propulsion Laboratories named Wayne Ratliff,  with whom he met on the Wayne's lunch break at work. They wrote a one page, hand-written contract on a yellow legal pad, giving George the exclusive right to sell the program. George agreed to pay Ratliff (who’d become overwhelmed by all the work he had to put into marketing and selling the program he'd named Vulcan), a small royalty for each copy he could sell. Ratliff readily accepted. When they parted that day, he wished George, "Good luck!"

That program was called dBASE! Yes, dBASE! Yes, Borland’s (now named Inprise) foundation for their Enterprise Technology!

UPDATE: I believe dBASE was recently acquired by Ksoft, Inc.

The father of the modern small computer database was a high school drop-out, self-proclaimed "hillbilly" from Greenville, SC, with virtually no formal education in computer science (albeit self-taught beyond what "formal" education could have possibly offered him), by his account a barely average IQ, and a lazy man to boot. But a man who had DECIDED! And then he followed up that decision with action.

Because of this one man, who'd decided to become financially prosperous, IBM launched full-blast into its budding PC division. Until then, they apparently couldn't see the application for PC’s for the mass market. This one man's decision and focus literally dramatically changed the way the entire world does business today. His name was George Tate. Ashton was his parrot. He called that business Ashton Tate.

George loved life. He used to walk around our house saying, "Nobody's life works better'n mine!" He seemed very happy. He'd found the love of his life, bought her a million dollar home farther down the beach, and together, they had a beautiful baby girl.

When the child was about eight months old, George's wonderful fantasy life ceased to work, and ended. At 39 years old, with "the world at his feet", he dropped dead at his desk one morning from his first heart attack. You see, George was courting another love too...cigarettes!

The point is that all of life can be mastered by decision, followed by action. Clear decision followed by decisive action. Ridding oneself of an unwanted habit, even a chemical addiction, is as simple as this: decide to do it, then follow up on that decision. It's that simple.

"But", you say, "it can’t be that easy!"

Did I say easy? No, I said SIMPLE.

But yes, it can be relatively easy as well. Analogize it this way. If you had to move a mountain, would you put your shoulder against it and begin to push? Of course not. You’d get a shovel and wheelbarrow, and start digging. With each shovel full you’d be moving the mountain. Not "trying" to do it, but "doing" it. That's an important distinction.

If you were here in Las Vegas and had to get to Los Angeles, would you take a running jump from the Las Vegas Strip and hope to land on Wilshire Blvd.? No, of course you wouldn’t. If there was no other way to go, you’d put one foot in front of the other, toes always pointing southwest. You wouldn’t be "trying" to go there, you’d be "going" there. And eventually, if you kept just doing that simple process, you’d arrive (or die along the way.)

Quitting smoking is the same process, applied to a different journey.

My Pulitzer Prize nominated book, "How to Quit Smoking Without Willpower or Struggle" details the ultimate, nearly effortless method to escape from that most evil weed known to man, without fighting "that craving urge" EVER, without using patches, gum, pills, or any device, for less than the cost of a carton of cigarettes. If you've truly decided to quit, and need an instruction manual, this is it. Buy it. Use it.

But understand this, the book doesn’t do the process, you do. The "work" is easy. First, you learn to begin dismantling your "habit". After that's gone, the addiction part is much easier! And you can smoke a cigarette each and every time you want to...really want to...while you are doing it.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? Yet to this very day, I know I can smoke each and every time I want. But I haven’t wanted or smoked a cigarette since Tuesday, January 2, 1979, at about 10:00 p.m. Really!

And if you sincerely do the process for a year, and are still smoking, we’ll give you your money back... TRIPLE!!!  How's that for a guarantee?

Mark Whalen, President
PresMark Publishing Co.
"How to Quit Smoking Without Willpower or Struggle"

August, 2006
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