IGS Discussion Forums: Learning GS Topics: Breaking a habit....
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, December 4, 2005 - 11:52 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

By "buring it", you get "second hand smoke" that was not inhaled by anyone else. It's in your environment, so you are absorbing nicotine, just in less concentrated form and not as obviously. Having quit cold turkey as a three pack-a-day smoker in the spring of 1973, I can say that when you "burn" them in the same room, you may not be "technically" smoking, but you are getting a substantial nicotine fix all the same. Go cold turkey, and avoid second hand smoke. Your health depends on it.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, December 5, 2005 - 04:53 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

It took me eight years and two tries to quit. Tapering off twice failed. The first time I tried, I just switched from Luckies to Winstons. When I finally quit, I had spent months "psyching" myself up by calling smoking a "filthy habit", paying attention to my yellow fingers, smoker's cough, nasty snot, putrid phlegm, flakes of ash floating down into my coffee, finding ashes in the bottom of the coffee cup, the look of dirty ash trays, thinking of sayings like, "kissing someone who smokes is like licking a dirty ashtray.", etc. I would say to my self, "filthy habit; one of these days I'm going to quit." I had a non-smoking girlfriend who helped. First I smoked at her apartment. Then she gently asked me not to, so I smoked just before arriving and after leaving. One day she gently remarked that I had had a cigarette just before arriving. Surprised, I asked, "You can tell?", and she said yes. So, I began to brush my teeth before leaving my apartment. I could spend six, eight, or more hours with her and never miss the cigarettes. Then I said to myself, "If I can spend that long without cigarettes as a favor to her, I certainly can do so for myself.". I quit in the middle of the day sometime in March 1973, after having smoked a pack that morning. I put the opened half pack back in my pocket and carried it around with me for a week. I was never without cigarettes, and the only thing stopping me from smoking them was my decision. The first three days were the worst in terms of physical symptoms. I also found that I frequently got out a cigarette and even lighted a match, out of sheer habit, before I caught myself; I put it back in the pack. As the pack got thoroughly mashed, I replaced it with a full pack, and carried that around for another three weeks or so. The one I missed the most was the one after meals. It counteracts the dropping blood-sugar level after a heavy meal by stimulating a blood-sugar increase, so one just feels a more immediate and stronger reward.

I think one of the best reasons for quitting is pheromones. Smokers cannot detect them, except in the strongest concentrations if at all. By smoking, we are cutting off our experience of pheromones; we eliminate a whole dimension of experience. The pleasure, attraction, and arousal induced by pheromones is like adding color to black-and white television; the experience of relationships is so much better.

Of course, things taste better too. "Burned out" olfactory sensors prevent the experience of dimensions of flavor.

Oops. Got on my soap box.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, December 6, 2005 - 12:11 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

The "incremental approach" failed me twice. I tried started smoking later and later in the day and tapering off by smoking less and less. Both times I reached a point where the progress became "infinitesimal". The starting time got less and less later until it was not progressing later. The amount reduced less and less until it stopped reducing. Both of these were incremental approaches - starting incrementally later each day, and on the other try, reducing the number of cigarettes smoked each day incrementally less and less. One cigarette less per day became one less per two days, which became one less per 4 days, which became one less in a week, until finally it stopped getting less, and suddenly the reward for improvement was not there. The effort collapsed. A similar thing happened when I tried starting later each day. The difference became minutes, which reduced to seconds, and finally stopped getting later, the reward for progress disappeared in this case also. The effort collapsed.

Milton's recommended "incremental approach" failed to work for me on two different occasions, years apart. In one case, I ended up changing brands. I actually tried a third incremental approach - buying less and less, until finally, I was "bumming" from other smokers. It didn't work.

The only thing that worked for me was a conscious decision to stop "here and now" at that particular day in March of 1973.

With tapering off the negative symptoms often begin to decrease, thereby making smoking seem to be less of a problem, and the motivation for quitting correspondingly reduces. Here is a functional approach. Mq=f(sn,sr) The level of motivation for quitting is a function of the strength of the negative symptoms and the strength of the positive reward. The greater the strength of the negative symptoms, the greater the motivation for quitting, and, the greater the strength of the rewards the lower the motivation for quitting. Incrementally reducing smoking reduces incrementally the corresponding negative symptoms, but the strength of the reward depends on more than just the number of cigarettes. It also depends on what else is going on, whether its after food, after sex, in the club's smoking room, at the track, etc. The environment for smoking contributes to the reward factor, so incrementally reducing smoking may not always correspondingly reduce the reward. I noted that the one I missed the most was the one after meals, and when I tried incrementally quitting, those were some of the ones I did not succeed in dropping, so the reward factor remained high while the negative symptoms dropped. Motivation for quitting correspondingly fell, and I failed to quit.

I have used the mathematical calculus approach to show that incrementally trying to quit has a lower probability of success, and I have direct personal experience in two (possibly three) cases in which that approach failed.

What worked for me was to go "cold turkey" when the symptoms were at their highest and I was smoking three packs a day. My motivation for quitting was at it highest, and I did not allow it to become incrementally less due to reduced negative symptoms from incrementally smoking less.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, December 6, 2005 - 03:00 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

That is why I used the word "probability". Probablity means a percentage of the population, and that means for SOME people it does some things and for SOME other people is does some other things. The level of abstraction of observation differentiates between the probability level and the level of the individuals that make up the population from which the probability value is calculated.

A way of looking at this would be to count the attempts. You did not mention trying to quit cold turkey. I mentioned two tapering attempts. Thats a total of four attempts. The probabily of successful tapering is one out of three, or 0.33. The probability of successful cold turkey is 1 out of 1. The probabability of any success is 2 out of 4 attempts or .5.

Since the territory is limited to our four reported attempts involving only two people, it's hardly representative of the general population.

It turns out that reports on the internet objectively support my little "theory" devised for the purpose of illustrating a structurally correct "calculus functional approach".

"Cold Turkey: Stopping completely all at once. This is the most effective method; more people who quit this way stay stopped."


The real secret appears to be, if at first you don't succeed, try, try, again.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, December 7, 2005 - 12:32 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Nora, I missed your statement about trying to go cold turkey, so your numbers are the updated ones.

Note that both URL's, and several others, mentioned many different methods, including cutting down for dealing with the physical addictions, but both said that cold turkey was the most successful. I would personally like to see a table of actual counts, but the subject is so often discussed, finding that proved more time consuming than I wanted to invest.

Actually the probability of an occurrance applies to an event, so it refers to the individual case, and it only speaks to the future instances. The probability can be calculated from population statistics. With every probablity of success there is the complementary probability of failure. If Probability(success)=p, then Probability(failure)=1-p, and as you note, the population is divided into two categories, where the probability of success for one category equals the probablity of failure for the other category.

So congratulations on your success, regardless of the method that worked. It's been over 32 years for me; how long has it been for you?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, December 7, 2005 - 02:54 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Probabilities do not apply to a group. Probability applies to specific events. When more than one event is to be considered, then you are talking about combinations. For example, when you roll a die, the probability of getting a 6 is 1 out of 6. The probability of getting a number less than 4 is 3 out of 6 or 0.5. If you roll two dice at one time, then the probability distributes over 36 possible combinations, and we classify the results according to the sum of the numbers into 11 possible classes. The six possible ways to get a sum of 7 might be described as your "group", but the probability is the measure that one of those six combinations will occur.

None of the qualifiers that you mention are relevant to the application of probabilities. A probability is a number between 0 and 1 that has already taken into consideration in the background all the qualifiers that you mention. You can think of the probability of an event as a single high level abstraction in the form of a number that measures the likelihood that a specific event will happen or that any one of several events will happen. There are no "results" to achieve, unless you start betting on the outcome, but that is not "applying probabilities" to a group. Once the event comes to pass, then it is then a "statistic" and the concept of probability no longer applies. We can use statistics from the past to numerically classify events in a population. Once that is done, then the ratio of one particular class to the total population may be interpreted as a probability that the NEXT event, that would qualify to be counted in the population used in the statistical calculation of the probability number, will occur. The qualifications you mention would all go into the statistical description of the population, and all those are "done with" once the probability number is calculated.

Milton, I agree with you about the distinction between individuals and statistics. Each perspective is valuable and useful in its place. As has been said before, "There ain't no such thing as the 'average' American.". That's why I generally think in terms of distributions and variances, such as the normal (bell) curve, as well as of individuals. And I don't confuse these two perspectives; unfortunately, many do.

1978 + 37 years = 2015. Somebody's math needs checking. Was it 1968? or 27 years, or two other numbers? It's not possible to correct the equation without additional information, so this is not a "quibble" about a typo, as "somebody" would suggest. I could guess that the date is more significant, so the subtraction was at fault, but I won't "assume" that that guess is correct. Whatever the case, congratulations!

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, December 7, 2005 - 04:13 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Milton's short post with his name right after your post - an easy error. We're full of them. Like you I speak of my mathematics as distinct from "mere" arithmetic. My field was initially "pure math" until I added applied mathematics. I still have my collection of Pi Mu Epsilon journals.

You "might" enjoy:

Regarding mathematics, my friend Teresa Conant states:

"Reading a proof is making love with the soul of the intellect."

What I could have done ... What you could have done ... They are sort-of like the IF part of an IF ... THEN ... statement, but since we did NOT do what we COULD have done, the hypothesis of the conditional is false, so anything may be the conclusion and the conditional will still be true.

Making a mental note of the "goof" and leaving it at that does not complete the information trasfer. If you prefer to leave communications with incomplete information trasfer, that is your choice, as is my choice is to finish the transfer.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, December 7, 2005 - 08:06 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

You closed the mood topic because you thought I behaved in the manner you are now behaving.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, December 8, 2005 - 09:53 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail


The specific numerical value of the probabily of any event depends on the context. "Indexing" to the context is part of what probability means.

I "indexed" my use of the term by providing a specific, extensional, example, (although the data was in error, as Nora pointed out).

How would YOU index the mathematics technical term 'probability'?