I believe it was Roald Dahl who said, “those who do not believe in magic will never find it”.
I have to admit, I am loathe to talk about what I’m going to talk about because who would have thought that Rachel Norwood, the “supposed-to-be-very-perfect-three-principles-practitioner-who-surely-has-all-the-good-answers” would be here talking about her dirty, stinky smoking addiction and the difficulties that I’ve experienced these last couple of years untangling myself from that addiction?
Shock! Horror! Well, I suppose now the cat is out of the bag I may as well carry on and talk about it! And, who knows, talking about it might turn out to be helpful to somebody else – that would be pretty cool!
I was always a “fair-weather” smoker, which is to say that I would smoke at a fairly sustained rate for a couple of months a year, usually when there was finer weather and I could go outside on a café terrace to do so, then stop just-like-that for a year before taking up again. I smoked like that for around ten years, stopping completely when I started having children. In those times when I stopped, after only a couple of days the addiction was gone and it was as if I’d never smoked – it was really easy. Of course, my fair-weather smoking came from having “just one, just this once” and then finding myself pulled back into the cycle of addiction – I have to say that.
Back in 2010, I started having some serious issues that, not knowing at the time how we function psychologically, meant that I started smoking again, and very heavily, I would say between 15 and 25 cigarettes a day, sometimes more on those particularly bad days.
In 2012, I discovered the principles with Michael Neill’s very first “Living from the Inside Out” program. As I like to tell the story; I was in a suicidal state, desperate for a solution and by sheer accident came across Michael’s program and joined up. The course had already been running for a few weeks and so over a couple of days, I spent time catching up on the initial videos and listening to the audio recordings of the calls, not understanding a single word of what this guy Mike, casually dressed in sportswear and sometimes looking like he’d only just had his coffee, was going on about!…
… Until a few days later. I think I must have been about three or four days in, and I was sitting in my kitchen having a cup of tea and a cigarette when it suddenly hit me, “I’m doing this to myself! I’m not a victim of anything or anybody because I’m the one creating the feelings with my own thoughts in my own mind”.
And there it was, that one massive insight that transforms you for the rest of your life, that one insight that upends everything you thought you knew, and opens you to a new dialogue and, most of all, a new world; a new world where everything can be greener.
What has that got to do with my smoking habit?
I think that my débuts of understanding in the principles gave me a certain sense of euphoria. To have finally been able to get myself out of an horrific cycle of suicidal thought, it seems fairly natural that any kind of higher state of mind is going to feel a bit euphoric in comparison.
A couple of months after that first massive realization, I was again sitting at my table in my kitchen with a cup of tea and smoking a cigarette when I had, in my somewhat euphoric state, the thought that I didn’t need to smoke any more. And, although I was only half way through that cigarette I stubbed it out, then threw the remainder of the packet with all the accessories in the dustbin. That was it, I didn’t need to smoke any more. I believe triumphantly, I hastened onto the facebook group to announce that “thanks to the three principles I’d kicked my filthy smoking habit!” Of course, dozens of people “liked” it and commented “how fantastic”, “congratulations”, etc.
Except a day, or two or three later, I started to feel physically sick from withdrawal, with a deep desire to light up a cigarette – a desire that I gave in to. My ego took a bruising, obviously I couldn’t go and admit that in the group after so many people having “liked” my announcement and all the lovely, supportive comments – and here you have a vicious psychological cycle that can be extremely difficult to get out of – the vicious psychological cycle of shame.
And the more ashamed I felt, the more annoyed with myself I was getting – and so, the more I smoked. At that time, I was smoking a lot less, between 5 and 10 a day. Then, when life got a bit more complicated, the quantities increased to what I’d been smoking previously and, outside of most of my pregnancy with Emma, I haven’t been able to stop since despite several attempts.
I have spent the last two years, but particularly this last year, waiting for some kind of magic insight, a magic insight so mind-blowing, it would mean that I would never need or want to smoke again. And though insights I’ve had some, and they have been momentarily helpful – for example the realization that I was (still) attempting to control my emotions and avoid low states of mind via the “cigarette high”.
But here’s the hiccup. For over a year now, every morning of every day, almost without fail, I have woken up in a very black mood, churning negative thinking around in my head, feeling like a victim, angry and hostile – and it would take me at least two cups of tea and around four cigarettes for that mood to start lifting.
Now, we create our own feeling through our thoughts – yes, of course. We know that as a most simple truth. Addiction or no addiction, that is how it works.
However, one major realization that I recently had in reply to a question that I’ve been asking myself for some time, that question being, “why does a low state of mind feel so much more real than a higher state of mind?” And the answer comes across to me as very simple. – When we create stress in our minds, our bodies produce a stress-response which allows our bodies to realize what’s going on and to respond in accordance.
In a low state of mind, with low state of mind thinking, we create a stress via our thinking to which our body responds. The more negative the thinking, the more stress is created so logically even more of a stress response is called for. It’s that stress response that makes what we are thinking feel so real via a chain of reactions throughout the body – accelerated heartbeat and breathing, higher blood pressure, shutting down of certain body mechanisms, the need to go to the loo!
A psychological stress in the mind creates, thus, a physical stress (so to speak) in the body.
Why does it feel lighter and less serious, why does it feel less real when we’re in a higher state of mind? – Simply because the body is not being made to create a stress-response, our bodies are more in balance, in their natural state.
You could perhaps say that part of our grounding is also based in a balanced bodily state. *
The insight that I recently had is that (cigarette) addition acts like a subset of invisible thoughts creating stress while destroying the stress-responses and hormonal balance. The force of addiction switches off certain receptors thus increasing the need for an increased dose.
When I was waking up in the morning in a black mood, it wasn’t just because of my thoughts – my thoughts were being channelled via a low state of mind created by the cigarette addiction, and in this particular case, the fact that for six to eight hours I hadn’t been obliging my body, with the use of cigarettes, to answer to a stress created by a lack of nicotine.
In layman’s terms, it’s what I would refer to as a hellhole. You go to bed at night with the full intention of not giving in to the addiction the next day, waken up in a foul mood and the only thing that can break that foul mood is the very thing that caused it in the first place. So you take your poison and then spend the rest of the day being angry at yourself while praying for an answer to get out of the trap.
As I said, I was impatiently waiting for that magic insight that would make it so that I would be able to just stop smoking and never look back. I was looking for that massive insight, similar to my initial massive insight back in 2012 that had been so life-changing. But that insight was not forthcoming. Why?
Because there is no magic insight.
And there’s a very simple reason for that. The principles are a description, not a prescription. An insight is not a remedy to cure all ills. An insight is not going to do the laundry, the ironing and then fold all the clothes into a drawer.
But there is magic within the insight.
And I believe in magic!
Back in 2012, it was not the insight that changed my view of the world and of my life. It was the understanding within that insight, the magic within the insight – what I understand Syd Banks meant when he talked about “the feeling behind the words”.
The magic within that initial transformative insight comes from the realization that possibility exists. The possibility of any new thought bursting forth. The possibility of things not actually existing only in the way that I happen to be seeing them at one particular moment in time. The possibility of some new idea that will help get the laundry, ironing and clothes folded into drawers done.
In my addictive cycle I had closed myself off to any new possibility. In my mind, there could only be one insight that would allow me to stop smoking cigarettes. I forgot there was magic in insight.
Last Friday, I was crippled with pain in my back for the entire day, pain that I obviously was attributing to the number of cigarettes I had smoked in previous days, and terrified that this is a sign of cancer.
Again, I was in the struggle of looking for that one insight, that one realization, but still it would not come. That one insight whose presence I could sense but that I was unable to grasp in form.
I was so busy in my search for that one magic insight that I in fact missed the actual magic when it showed up.
At one point, last Friday afternoon, I made the conscious decision to find a solution to my smoking addiction, one way or another it could not continue. My mind responded to that with, “yes I know it can’t continue but I’m still waiting for that bloody insight that will allow me to stop” – I was completely missing the plot. “It cannot continue” and “find a solution one way or another” was the insight.
“Where’s the magic in that?”, you might ask. The magic is in the fact that in that short statement I made a separation between my spirit-self and the addiction. I did not say, in that moment, “I have to find a solution to stop myself from smoking”, I said, “I have to break the addiction”.
Therefore, I am no longer the addiction. (The laundry’s in the machine)
On Friday evening, as I had to pick up some medication for Emma, it occurred to me to speak to the pharmacist about the addiction problem and ask what solutions are available.
We had a very fun and very informative discussion, and I came away with patches and gum (refunded in part by the social security here in France, which I only discovered when I asked about addiction solutions)
On Saturday morning I started wearing the patches and I feel fine. Occasionally, I have a fleeting desire for a cigarette but it’s not a strong desire – but most of all I have cravings for lots of water and lots of air. (The laundry’s done and the ironing’s on its way)
(And I feel it’s only fair to add that tea and chocolate taste so much better without being ashtray flavoured.)
The magic within the insight comes from realizing that I didn’t have to do it all on my own; that help is available and that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. That I don’t have to be in control, but that I can allow myself to be guided by insight and wisdom.
Getting help with an addiction problem is certainly very wise. In searching for that one magical insight, I was blocking my own wisdom.
The magic of realizing once more, and in a very profound sense, that the principles are a description and not a prescription.
I can see, I can know that any low state of mind will at some point in the future dissipate – but that doesn’t necessarily make that low state of mind easier to bear in the moment that I’m experiencing it. If your low state of mind is being created, at its origin, by something physically foreign to your own psyche, it is fairly logical that your own psyche is not going to be able to deal with that low state of mind. When the low state of mind is self-thought-created – yes, our psyche is more than capable of working it out; but mess with the hardware, which is what addiction does, and our psyche is going to find itself with one hell of a difficult job.
The insight is realizing that; the magic within the insight is accepting it, integrating it and not expecting some kind of superhuman answer.
I’ve not smoked now for three days. It’s early and I obviously can’t say that I have kicked the addiction. But with the help, I am giving my psyche the possibility to work stuff out, possibility that is robbed (in great part) by addiction. With the support system, I am more confident in my own wisdom, more trusting in the guidance of Mind and the unfolding of life. I have more hope.
These past two days, I have woken up in a good state of mind. I’m feeling less tired, more energetic – those positives likely coming from both the physical and the psychological. My lungs aren’t full of smoke – so my brain is being better oxygenated (better state of mind), as is the rest of my body (better physical state).
Of course, the clothes are not yet folded into the drawers, but my back is already far less painful than it was three days ago …
There is no magic insight, but there is magic within insight and the magic naturally appears when we allow the insight to appear, however unexpected that insight might happen to be.
One way of putting it would be, first comes insight that possibility exists, then comes magic that allows any possibility to play out in life – the feeling behind the words …
* Here, I express my own personal understanding of what I see around how addiction functions. I make no claim to be any kind of expert on body mechanisms. For those interested in a clearer understanding of hormonal structures and “stress – stress-responses”, I warmly recommend Robert Sapolsky’s, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”