Up In Smoke

Perusing the inside of today’s Times I found this article about how smoking addiction can sometimes just disappear. The piece goes on to document how a USC/University of Iowa study linked injuries sustained to a specific area of the brain called the insula (which apparently holds sway over urges such as smoking) with the immediate and complete cessation of tobacco use.

One man who smoked an average of 40 cigarettes a day before a stroke damaged his insula was surprised to suddenly lose all cravings for tobacco. He told researchers his body “forgot the urge to smoke.”

In the 10 years since I last stopped smoking my pack-aday cigarettes cold turkey I occasionally think back to how “easy” it was to do so; sure the first few weeks were hellish, but ultimately I just made the decision and stopped. Susan did the same thing before we got married. Though she was a far more occasional smoker — maybe only a pack or two a month, if that — it was nevertheless an habitual behavior that she was successful in breaking.

But during my time as a smoker (from age 15 to 32), having tried quitting plenty of times in between, including once for a year and another time for more than three years, I will never forget how no-quotes easy it is to start back up. I also think back to the several years that I tipped the scales at 260 and how I was unwilling to do anything but bitch about it until I finally and abruptly went on a successful diet this time last year. I was also able to do the same with some brief binge drinking I found myself doing in my early 20s. I recognized that slamming up to eight shots of vodka before going out to drink more was the beginnings of a serious problem and I promptly corrected the problem.
But still I wonder why I’ve had a decade-long success streak in regards to smoking whereas someone like my mother says she can never and will never give up the habit. In her case it might have something to do with her age. Maybe she figures she’s made it this late in her life with them, why stop now. Me, I don’t think I’ll ever be too old to teach myself a new trick. At least I hope I won’t be. I may not work the solution as quickly and decisively as my smoking or drinking, but I hope I’ll always be open to giving whatever it is the proverbial shot.