I realize that this piece will not necessarily speak to every smoker. There is a vast array of ages, ways, reasons we each started to smoke. I cannot possibly know what each person went through, just by my own experience. But I do believe I am speaking directly to more than a few. You will know who you are.
My Webster’s New World Dictionary contains this after “guilt”, as its second definition: 2. a feeling of self-reproach from believing that one has done a wrong.
I am of the opinion that guilt is a psychological and emotional state of experience common to all living, breathing things, just as are joy, fear, confusion, love, hate, apathy, rage, and the spectrum of feelings from bright white to darkest black in tone and feeling. All have a place within our human lives, and each is meant to express in an inwardly and/or outwardly way what the spirit that dwells within is experiencing.
I believe each of us, without regard to fact, fantasy or reason takes his or her station in life according to the degree of ongoing guilt felt at the core of that individual, whether or not that guilt is now apparent to their current state of conscious self-awareness, or even if it is valid guilt. It may not be. Still, it has the same effect as though it was and still is.
Second to what is commonly perceived as love, I believe guilt to be the strongest, and certainly one of the most volatile and potentially destructive of all emotional experience. It is certainly in a league with rage and jealousy.
I believe each of us carries with us everywhere we go, every minute of our existence, waking or sleeping, our personal dolly of psycho-baggage, filled with those things we would rather be kept in a distant, dark past, mostly out of the sight of those who would recriminate.
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If one can find a way to lighten that load, relieve some of the nagging weight of guilt, then one will automatically find that strength remains and is gained from having carried such a load, now discarded.
Once purged to any degree, one will find a noticeable increase in positive applicable energy that may be applied toward new and heretofore seemingly unreachable goals, considered previously as perhaps unattainable while carrying that baggage of guilt.
It has been my experience over the better than half-century of my lifetime to have had cigarettes as members of our family since my earliest memories.
From birth, and all the while I grew up, every single adult in my life smoked cigarettes. All my parents (mother, father, step-mother, two step-fathers), both grandfathers and grandmothers, both my father’s brothers, my mother’s brother, and many others in our family have all fallen to fatal smoking related diseases, all but two dying before their sixtieth birthdays. Both those made 72 before dying of cancer. Before it struck, both seemed apparently in relatively good health.
I believe I am the first in my line on either side of my family to have escaped from the clutches of the addiction/habit of smoking. As good as my health is at my current age, it is clear that, barring an “untimely” demise, I will surely live to be the oldest member of either of my parental clans for at least 100 years back.
That pleases me, but puts a responsibility on me too. I believe it is not just enough to live long, but to live well, and to contribute progressively and perpetually.
Of the true guilt and shame I feel and have felt in my life…the kind of feeling that never goes away, nor is ever truly forgotten…I’ve only a very small number of incidences.
But that guilt, if publicly known, would likely be so humiliating that just remembering some of it while typing these words is upsetting me.
That kind of guilt. Know it?
It’s not an intensity of guilt often felt by adults. It seems reserved primarily for the young.
For by adulthood, one has discovered ways of covering that guilt, that shame, that anger at one’s self for not being who I/you/they set out to be.
We compensate for those feelings. Numb them. Deny them. Often blame others. Bury them in the past, and go on.
For that’s what we must do to survive, or we’d all go mad, wouldn’t we? We walk along, pretending to be mature adults, working to develop the traits we observe in others we perceive to be adults.
We make the best decisions we can, given the circumstances. And to the greatest degree that we allow ourselves, we avoid feeling the guilt.
Eventually, we realize, not many of us seem to truly “grow up”, but everybody does grow old.
We in the USA, my generation, are now growing old. We were the “Baby Boomers!” The state-of-the-art, first class, second, third, even fourth generation Americans! It’s been an amazing demographic of which to have been a part.
We’ve done “the most…”, been “the most…”, are “the most…”, and on and on for over fifty years now. That includes bought and smoked the most cigarettes of any age demographic to date.
And died of more smoking related diseases of any age demographic to date.
So the evidence that we all knew all along is in. Yes, smoking can and will kill you, after making you very sick for various periods of time.
But when we started, we really didn’t need statistics and research to tell us it was bad for us, did we? That first inhaled drag told us all right then.
The first time anyone anywhere tries to inhale a full drag from a cigarette, especially if it is a young teen, and especially if it is an unfiltered Chesterfield as I had begun with, their body will reject the smoke with such a clarity of feeling that this person, usually a child of not more than sixteen years of age, often far younger, instantly knows on the most basic physical and emotional levels that this hurts and damage is likely being done to their body.
But then we made a decision to manually override the body and its signals until indifference toward those indications seemed to become natural.
Once the “thinking” mind successfully convinced the body to either comply or remain in pain, the signals became either totally unacknowledged by the conscious mind, or misinterpreted at the conscious level.
While doing this act, this painful, otherwise senseless, self-destructive act for the first few times, whether to rebel against adult authority, parental authority, or to emulate others, we all had to feel guilt.
That guilt was heightened by the fear of being caught. Fear of recrimination. That type of energy inflates guilt. Takes it from being passive to active.
Every cigarette for a long time after that first was an assault on, and an insult to, our inner intelligence, as well as our body and the signals it was sending to help us survive.
Call it inner intelligence, higher power, or a number of euphemisms I may suggest. I believe that at our basic core, every one of us knows right from wrong, good from bad. (The exception to this is that there are those who have been so severely abused as infants that they no longer are able to have natural access to their feelings, an ability lost before gaining the ability to speak. But that is mental illness beyond the scope of this opinion.)
We forced our bodies, against their wills and protests, to absorb smoke through the lungs. We knew it was the wrong thing to be doing the whole time.
We felt guilt.
We eventually just blew it off.
We grew up, we smoked, and forgot about it, unless some television show would air, or some news flash sparked that occasional and insincere thought that we were about to quit. As soon as we were “ready”.
I believe it is entirely possible that for many of us, guilt because of smoking is among the biggest items in the bags of guilt we carry.
A perpetual, unconscious, weighty guilt with no secret attached.
Everyone knows. Almost no one cares. So many others are doing it. We rationalize, it couldn’t really be that bad, could it?
But down deep we know better.
Now you have a wonderful opportunity. Now you have an advantage. Now you are in a position to make the biggest “unloading” of unnecessary guilt you’ve probably ever unloaded without some trauma attached.
No clinic, no therapy, no shock treatments, no Prozac or Valium or Welbutrin, no Zyban, no patch, no hypnosis clinic, no trips to the Chinese herbalist or acupuncturist.
You are capable of going back into your memory, recalling the original decision to become a smoker, and then successfully remake that decision while successfully retracting and erasing the original commitment to be a smoker. You will, by doing this, also unload all the weight of the load of guilt you’ve been carrying around with you all this time about that issue.
I believe that it’s not enough to simply stop smoking. I believe you must get to the core of it and stop wanting to smoke.
You must realize that you never did truly want to smoke. That you are awakening from the hypnotic spell you’ve been under, and are no longer attracted to suicide in any form, especially by inhaling the smoke from the fire of a burning poisonous weed in your hand.
It’s a lift to the spirit that only those who have truly become non-smokers, rather than ex-smokers, can experience.
It goes hand in hand with any addiction. I firmly believe, and it is supported by my experience of my own infatuation with cigarettes; to lift out this addiction at its core is to lift out all the guilt that’s attached to it.
I believe it is worth whatever you have to do to get it done.