I tried smoking once.

Someone offered me their cigarette to try, so I took a drag...and spent ten minutes lying on the floor, coughing smoke out of my lungs, getting stomach cramp from the convulsions, and waiting for my eyes to stop streaming.

When I was more or less recovered, I thought maybe I'd done it wrong, so I tried taking another drag. And spent another ten minutes on the floor.

That's my experience of smoking.

As a child, I lived through both my parents giving up cigarettes in the the late 70s - patiently waiting the months for them to stop being snarling ratbags, and turn into the healthy, happy, clean-lunged people the anti-smoking campaigns had promised.

And eventually the cravings did go away, and they did get their senses of smell and taste back, and they went on to cut out white sugar completely, then brown sugar in tea, and for the most part, deep fried takeaway food.

So I know two things about tobacco. One, it's rather less fun than bashing your shin on a car's hot steel bumper in blazing summer - and yes, I have done that. Two, once you've pushed past how unpleasant it is, it's extremely difficult to stop...even though it's still pretty unpleasant.

You see, I've lived all my life with the fact that people are addicted to smoking, but I don't understand what this kind of addiction is.

An addiction to heroin, sure. You take it, you feel amazing, you need a little more to feel the same way next time, and it feels so good you're willing to risk being killed by the impurities.

An addiction to chocolate, well why not? It's not the same, but you feel good when you eat it, and you can get the idea that eating twice as much will make you feel twice as good, and when it doesn't, you figure you somehow didn't eat it right...and need to try again.

An addiction to sex, not so different from chocolate. It used to make you feel good, so you keep doing it in the hope that it'll start making you feel that way again. And when it doesn't, well you're not doing it enough. People can go for decades caught in that kind of loop.

An addiction to facebook? Well if you're going to classify anything you do a lot because you enjoy it, you may as well classify 'being with your friends' as an addiction. Or 'breathing', because it certainly feels bad when you stop doing it.

Bullshit media scare stories aside, there's a lot of addiction, and a lot of types of addiction around. But chemical addiction, to alcohol or tobacco, I honestly don't have an experience I can relate it to.

I get that people do it, and that there's a patten to them doing it, but what's going on inside, that's opaque.

People can obviously acquire tastes, and quite quickly, just by doing something several times, probably in teen years.

At 19 I acquired a taste for sucking penises and having my nipples twisted - and I still have both, even though when I tried them at 17 both seemed repugnant. I never picked up a taste for anal play or kissing. And I think I managed to lose a taste for women sometime around age 14.

I watched others develop tastes for grungy guitar music, 16th century choral music, or rapid chanting of poetry to loops - something called 'hip hop'. And the usual reason for picking up a musical taste? Being born into the exact socio-economic subgroup which discovers it, because the previous fashion was getting old at just that moment.

So I imagine if you obey peer pressure to drink a lot of beer, you might eventually come to get pleasure from the flavour of beer, as opposed to the social licence that comes from being drunk.

Or the numbness that comes from being really drunk. It might not feel good, but at least you don't feel bad. Yes, I've know a few alcoholics - stay at home solitary drinkers, and homeless war veterans.

None of which tells me why it's difficult to quit smoking. It's not the learned pleasure of tar on your tongue, it's not peer pressure, or simple 'force of habit', and it can't be just the buzz of alertness - because if the addiction were to the stimulation as opposed to the stimulant, then smokers would be addicted to any and everything that gives them a similar buzz, instead of specific little white sticks.

I'm sure it's true that many smokers need the buzz, not to feel good, but simply to function properly. But that still doesn't explain the fixation on this buzz as opposed to that one.

So no, I don't get it. I just get that all the explanations I've so far come across...don't explain anything.

No comments:

Post a Comment