The Difference Between Habit and Addiction

Copyright 2006 Cole’s Poetic License

President Bush said we are addicted to oil. Most smokers say they are addicted to nicotine. I thought I was. Some, in attempting to quit, chew nicotine gum or apply nicotine patches. Neither work in more than fifteen per cent of cases because nicotine is not addicting. Heroin is.

Until recently I did not make that distinction. I once published an article about all kinds of addictions which were no more than habits.

A relatively small percentage of the population is addicted to alcohol. Heavy drinkers just have the habit of drinking a lot every day. Smokers have the habit of putting something in their mouth up to 400 times a day. Americans have the habit of driving wherever and whenever they feel like it in gas guzzling vehicles. Gamblers have the habit of ruining their lives to varying degrees.

Heroin is addicting. Nicotine is not. Heroin addicts have violent physical reactions when deprived. True alcoholics have severe reactions, too. Heavy drinkers can go without a drink and not react physically. Cigarette smokers do not get sick when they run out of cigarettes. Drivers may complain but don’t get sick when forced to stay home. Gamblers just get bored.

Recognizing this distinction, we can see where hypnosis can be the perfect cure for any habit we want to change. We develop habits early on to compensate for some perceived lack in our selves or lives. They, and the reasons for them, get buried in our subconscious minds.

I started smoking when I was twenty, a sophomore in college. I thought it helped me go to sleep at night. Actually, I felt so anxious about everything I didn’t breathe deeply unless I inhaled smoke. When I finally quit smoking several years later all I needed to do whenever I thought I wanted a cigarette was inhale air deeply. It worked. I was amazed at how easy quitting turned out to be. I thought I was addicted to nicotine.

Hypnosis not only helps us access the subconscious mind, it can re-program our habits. And it can re-program our self-perception. It works for weight loss the same way. Each one of us who is overweight is overweight for our own, often unknown, reasons. Sometimes we think we want to lose weight but our subconscious mind says “no-way”. That’s why diets fail.

One of my students discovered through hypnosis that she wore her extra pounds to protect her from men “hitting on her”. Because she did not know how to respond to flirtation, she wanted to avoid it altogether. Once she released guilt feelings about her past sexual responses to men, she began losing weight without dieting. Now she is at her normal weight and feels, she says, “really light-hearted”.

Hypnosis can help us develop new habits, too. If you’re in debt and sinking further, you can develop a daily habit of recording your income and expenditures. If you keep losing things you need, like your car keys, you can hypnotize yourself into placing them in one spot every day.

Some people fear hypnosis because they don’t know how safe it is. Some don’t know any practicing hypnotists they’d trust or can afford. Answer: Self-hypnosis.

I used to grow mute every time I needed to speak for myself. I could write what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t say it. I’d forget it. My mind would go blank. Through self-hypnosis I learned how to talk. Now I have several audio discs I listen to as the mood strikes me. One is called “Break the Habit.” Another is “Talking to Win”, another, “Peak Performance.” I gave that to my 15 year- old grand-daughter before she was scheduled to give a speech to an audience of adults. My favorite, though, is just plain relaxing into Alpha waves before using the computer to manage my website. Everything works much better for me afterward.

Habits are stored in the subconscious mind. Hypnosis lets you talk to your subconscious, eliminate old habits and create new ones. With self-hypnosis it takes about 30 days to re-program your subconscious mind. It’s far easier than you’d expect.

So, if you’re in the habit of cruising the freeways for Sunday recreation, try skateboarding or walking. The U.S. Surgeon General will soon say that cruising is hazardous to your health.