A few months ago I wandered into a chat room in time to hear
someone talking about "the Nicodemon". I asked this
person what their strategy was for dealing with "the Demon"
and was told, "KILL him!! Bury him!! Bury him so deep he'll
never surface!!" I asked if they thought that would work,
as the demon seemed to be a pretty powerful force. I was told
that that's why we need to be constantly vigilant, to be always
"on guard". They spoke of how "he's always out
there trying to trip us up" and how "he can sneak
up on us." I then asked just who they thought this demon
might really be. The answer came back, "Why, it's us of
course. Who did you think it was?"
True, the Nicodemon
is us. I think you'd have a pretty tough time finding anyone
who didn't honestly believe that the nicodemon is within each
of us. But what part of us? Look at the language quitters use
to describe that part: sneaky, evil, devious, lying, selfish.
And the language they use to describe how to deal with it: kill,
slay, bury, fight, battle. Yet none of this really names just
what part of us it is that we've labeled "the demon"
nor does it even begin to realistically address just exactly
what the 'demon' did for us when we were smokers or what it
does to us now that we've quit.
What's the gist
of the demon's message? " A cigarette will cure _____ .
So light up." No matter how subtle or intense the delivery
might be, the message is simple in the extreme. When I think
of a 'voice' telling us to light up, I don't hear the voice
of some powerful demon I've created, but rather the small incessant
whisperings from a very basic and simple part of us. It's the
voice of a messenger we trained long ago, even before we became
smokers, to interpret what we feel, and based on that interpretation,
associate the feelings with an appropriate response, and then
to 'tell' us what to do. Somewhere along the line we trained
that diligent little messenger that the recognition of any and
all stress was to be immediately responded to by telling us
to smoke. If we were 'busy' and didn't hear or heed the messenger's
voice, he'd raise the volume until we heard nothing but his
voice. In many ways the messenger reminds me of the broom in
the Disney production of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"....
endlessly, tirelessly, mindlessly doing it's job.
We humans are capable
of doing several tasks at once. Without this ability, every
time my ass got numb from sitting too long, I'd have to stop
what I was doing, recognize that there was a lack of sensation
from my back end, evaluate possible solutions for the situation,
choose a first response, and then tell my body to carry out
the response. However, once the appropriate response had been
'figured out' a time or two, then the job of dealing with a
numb ass was relegated to that tireless little messenger. Most
of the time I'm not even aware that the messenger has 'told'
me to shift position, or that I've shifted position, or that
feeling is now returning to those cheeks. I don't think our
smoking responses were much different. We'd feel some vague,
subtle sensation and suddenly there would be a burning cigarette
in our hand.
One of the first
symptoms of a lowered nicotine level is a reduction in our ability
to concentrate. Every time the messenger sensed that I was feeling
"mentally sluggish", it told me to light up. And every
time I lit up and suddenly my brain seemed to work again, I
revalidated the 'truism' that a cigarette would help me think
or to think better. I long ago forgot that I'd trained my messenger
to recognize a sluggish feeling as something to be 'cured' with
a cigarette. I long ago stopped 'thinking' each time I felt
sluggish, "What would be the best 'cure'? ". We may
have consciously decided to quit smoking and may be going through
all the motions associated with quitting, but is that messenger
still going through his patterns just like that mindless little
Sorcerer's broom? Are we trying to bring him to a halt without
As smokers, we were
rarely aware of the messenger's work to keep us comfortable.
He did his work hour after hour, day after day, year after year
and we let him. This little messenger is not within our immediate
control only because we've never bothered to even try to learn
who he is. Yet almost every one of us is aware of some *messenger*
that called to us to light up. The majority of quitters will
bestow upon him the power and stature of an almost omnipotent
Demon that resides in some inaccessible place. Some people will
say, "The demon kept me enslaved". Was it 'the demon',
or the addictive characteristic of the chemical nicotine, or
was it just easier to abdicate our responsibility for our own
actions? Some will say, "I'm powerless in the face of the
demon". Of course they're powerless. Having personified
and empowered what which was nothing more than a very simple
part of themselves, is it any wonder most quitters will spend
a tremendous amount of energy, for some the rest of their lives,
periodically struggling with themselves? For most quitters,
their only weapons against this creation will be denial, repression,
and an effort to hold on tight that will drain them body and
soul. I don't know of any quitters who haven't, at some time
or another, argued with themselves about whether or not to light
up. Who hasn't heard the voice of their own messenger? Is it
really a demon? Or have we taken a simple little broom, taught
it a single universal response to all of our life's events,
and called it the Nicodemon.
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