I posted the remarks below, about whether or not a person is really in recovery if they’re still using nicotine, on TheSecondRoad.org. Many people agreed with me, but some were absolutely vehement in their defense of smoking — or of having smoked well after they had ceased using other drugs. People got so emotional about their right to continue to poison themselves, and these are folks who read blogs on recovery sites.
There’s something different about nicotine addiction and the way people view it as opposed to other drugs. It almost has to be the lack of perception of immediate harm, the “this won’t be the one that kills me” factor — truly insidious denial. Along with that, I believe, goes the knowledge that giving up nicotine is truly throwing away the last crutch. When you put down the smokes, or the last chaw, you’d better be ready to take recovery seriously, because that’s about all there is left, or so it must seem.
Of course there are all sorts of addictive behaviors left, and when we can no longer mood alter at will we have no choice but to address them. In addition to those remnants, there are substitute addictions and behaviors. I chewed toothpicks for a couple of years after I quit smoking cigarettes, and did considerable damage to my teeth. I also found myself with a chronic cough due to tiny splinters (and perhaps some chemicals in the wood) but I had to have that oral relief. There cropped up, in addition, other forms of addictive behavior — some of which remain with me to this day.
Tobacco use, especially smoking, is instant gratification to the nth degree: drugs delivered through the lungs reach the brain faster than any others except for those that are injected, and it is known that the faster a chemical affects the brain (the quicker the behavior is rewarded) the more addictive the substance. Therefore we have a physical habit and ritual, one of the most addictive substances known, certain social behaviors, and nicotine withdrawal — all in one package.
Quitting nicotine is serious recovery.