Many ex-users of tobacco comment that quitting feels like losing a best friend. There can be a period of deep grief and a sense of profound loss when you quit tobacco because tobacco works like a good friend in many ways. It almost always is there when you need it; it soothes you when you are feeling bad; it rewards you when you are feeling good; it reduces your stress; and it helps to manage depression and anxiety. What a nice friend!
Our friendship with tobacco starts when we first begin using it and experience its pleasurable effects. The average age for the first use of tobacco is 12. Often, our best friends or siblings, who usually have immediate family members who use tobacco and can acquire it easily, introduce us to the drug.
Think about the first time you tried tobacco. You probably were a young adolescent and with your friends. The experience was a combination of curiosity, comradery, naughtiness and fun. Most likely, there was a lot of laughter and joking with one another as each of you tried to use the tobacco product (usually cigarettes) without looking too silly or getting too sick. It is one of those childhood experiences that often bonds friendships and creates a nice memory. You may even be smiling right now as you think back on it. The fun and friendship associated with the initiation into tobacco use often is strongly imprinted in our memory. In itself, it is not a major life event, though it can be a very important one.
If you had friends who were regular tobacco users, you had more opportunities to try it and to get used to its effects. Friends often are the reason that we go back and keep trying tobacco, even if our first experiences with the drug are neutral or even negative. Many cartoons portray the nauseating effects of smoking for the first time, and the violent coughing that can occur when you first try it, or the distasteful flavor of smokeless tobacco. However, we still continue to use. Adolescent fun and friendship are powerful motivators and potent reinforcers that ultimately contribute to developing our tobacco addiction.
Medicinal aspects of the drug itself make it feel like a good friend. Tobacco contains nicotine, a drug that operates as a stimulant in low doses and as both a stimulant and a depressant in higher doses (as in smoking a pack of cigarettes a day). The aspect of all mood-altering drugs that makes them so addicting is that they work, and they work every time you use them. This type of dependability establishes a trusting relationship between you and your drug of choice. That relationship is reinforced every time you use it and the drug satisfies your need.
Since nicotine can have both stimulant and depressant qualities, it can provide you with a lot of help. It can help you relax, stay focused and alert, relieve moderate depression or anxiety, and manage stress. Your tobacco habit probably is associated with behaviors that are soothing, rewarding, energizing and productive. You probably have used it for all types of needs and in many situations. It is like a magic wand that works in so many ways, giving you emotional support whenever you need it. What a good friend to have!
Since tobacco products are legal and easy to get, this friend has been there for you at all times, a better support than some of your human friends ever could be. In addition, you may have used tobacco for many years, since your early adolescence, so you may not have experienced a time in your adulthood without its soothing support. The combination of emotional support, dependability, productivity, fun and friendship is what makes our relationship with tobacco so profound and so much like a friend. This is why quitting can feel like losing a good friend.
Unfortunately, tobacco is a friend that ultimately will stab you in the back. Half of all cigarette smokers die from their habit. Losing a friend is hard, but tobacco is the type of friend that you need to eliminate from your life. The grief that you may experience when you quit is only a sign that you need to find healthier things to fulfill the needs that tobacco once met. Every successful former user of tobacco has had to find other ways to manage stress, cope with depression and anxiety, enhance productivity, and enjoy life without tobacco.