many people personify their addiction; mine is a demon. in this tale, originally posted on december 12, 2001, i describe my demon, how i got him, how i fed and nurtured him, and how i finally put him down.

my demon

2009 January 13

i remember when i first met my demon; he wasn't much to look at back then - more like one of those cartoon devils you'd see sitting on bugs bunny's shoulder; kinda cute. and small. very small. an imp, really...

i’d guess he’s about ten feet tall and weighs well over five hundred pounds. of course, this is only an estimate, but i think it’s pretty accurate; at least, that’s how big he felt a month and half ago when he was sitting on my chest and i felt like i couldn’t breathe…

actually, imp is a good name for what he was back then: edgar allen poe wrote a short story called "the imp of the perverse"; it was about this little imp that encourages us to do things just because they're wrong and we know it. when i first met my imp, i was ten years old, and one of the big draws to smoking was that i knew it was wrong (i.e.; if i got caught doing it, i'd get paddled...). maybe that was the biggest draw; it certainly wasn't the taste, or the smell, or the dizziness or the nausea or the lightheadedness - it was the thrill of hooking a smoke from dad's pack of camels (or mom's pack of viceroys) and sneaking out to the back alley to smoke it with my other rebel friends...

as i fed my imp, though, he started to grow. i only know this by comparing what he was to what he's become; the change was so gradual, that, while it was happening, i didn't really notice it. it's kind of like having a child and watching him grow up; sure, there are times when he'll shoot up so much and so fast that you'll actually notice it, but by and large, it's a gradual process - so gradual, in fact, that one day you're caught totally by surprise to see that your little baby has become a full-grown man in his own right. what parent hasn't been startled by this?

but, unlike a child, i carried my imp with me everywhere i went. for years; day in, day out, week after month after year, my imp was always with me. yeah, i carried him, and he grew, but it was such a gradual thing, like i said, that the growth was barely noticeable from day to day. kind of like the story of milo and the bull: milo was a young man who lived on a farm. every day, he would lift a certain calf. the calf gradually grew, and milo gradually got stronger until the day that he found he was able to lift a full-grown bull...

in the same way, my imp grew. imperceptibly at first, but after about ten or fifteen years of carrying him around, i really started to notice the extra weight and i decided to put him down. i went to a company of impologists for help with this, because the imp didn't want to be put down; he was too spoiled by having been carried around for so long... the company, called imp-enders (or some such) told me they could help me put him down if i'd give them some money and about eight weeks of my time. i signed up. and sure enough, at the end of the eight weeks, i'd put the imp down, i thought for good.

it was over three years before i ever thought of the imp again, but one day, i saw one of my buddies from the impologist's seminar, and he was feeding his imp. i guess that, somewhere in the back of my mind, i figured that if my buddy could feed his imp, maybe it'd be ok for me to feed mine, too. maybe this thought never consciously occurred to me, but later that same day, i went to another buddy and asked him if i could have a stick of his imp food. he gave it to me, and i lit it up and fed the imp. i guess i should've figured that if i fed the imp, he'd want to start eating regularly again, but i thought i could just throw him a snack every once in a while and he'd be satisfied with that.

i guess i didn't remember was how strong the imp was when i put him down three years before, and his strength seemed to come right back as soon as i fed him a couple of times. he demanded to be fed regularly again, and i soon agreed to feed him at least once an hour. i mean, he was my imp, wasn't he? i grew him myself, and i couldn't just abandon him now, could i? it was only fair.

it was around this time, though, that he went through one of those growth spurts that adolescents do, and before i knew it, he was no longer a big imp, he was a small demon. the change was dramatic; he put on a lot of weight and generally got bigger overall, his voice got deeper, and his appetite was almost insatiable; before i knew it, he was demanding to be fed, not 20 times a day, but 40, and then 60. i tried to put my foot down, but he had also gotten quite a bit stronger, too, and i ended up giving him what he wanted.

after a few more years of carrying him around and feeding him, i decided to go to a "demonologist"; this one called himself a hypnotist, and he told me that if i'd give him some money and three hours of my time, he'd put the demon to sleep for me, and i wouldn't have to feed him any more. i said "let's go!", gave him the money he asked for, and sure enough, three hours later, i walked out of that hotel meeting room a free man again.

but i guess i didn't pay attention to what the demonologist had said; he said he'd put the demon *to sleep* for me, and i took that to mean the same thing as when the vet put my dog to sleep when i was a kid. back then, i eventually figured out that the dog wasn't gonna wake up or come back - i guess i thought my demon wasn't coming back, either, because, one day, i thought i'd get me another one of those cute little imps, only i wouldn't let this one get so big.

i figured the best thing to do would be to get some imp food, and i asked a friend who i knew would have some with him if he'd let me take a stick. he said sure, and i took the stick and lit it up, thinking i'd attract one of those cute little imps i'd had back when i was a kid. imagine my surprise when i didn't get an imp at all, i got my full-grown demon back instead! and he was every bit as strong as he was when the hypnotist put him to sleep; within a day or two, he was demanding to be fed what i used to feed him before. as it turns out, i was a bit stronger, too, so i was able to hold him back to only 20 feedings a day, instead of the 60 i used to give him. but even on limited rations, he continued to grow...

over the years, i tried various methods of getting rid of the demon, but the best i could ever do was to put him to sleep for a while. and then i'd offer him a snack; maybe in a moment of weakness, maybe in a moment of cockiness, thinking i could throw him a bone and he'd be satisfied. but, every time i did, he'd wake up and we'd pick up right where we left off. and he continued to grow and get stronger. i remember when he was a little imp, barely bigger than my thumb; these days, i'd guess he's about ten feet tall and weighs well over five hundred pounds. of course, this is only an estimate, but i think it's a pretty accurate one; at least, that's how big he felt a month and half ago when he was sitting on my chest at night and i felt like i couldn't breathe if i laid down on my back on the bed...

it was almost exactly a month ago that my doctor told me that the reason i was having trouble breathing was that i had given myself emphysema by feeding my demon for so long. this didn't sound good at all, and i decided, once again, that i wasn't going to feed him any more. i set about to learn everything i could about hypnotizing your demon and putting him to sleep. i found some great information in places like quitnet.com and whyquit.com, and i also found some easy to follow step by step instructions at the american lung association's freedom from smoking website.

i stopped feeding my demon on november 19th. but he's still fighting me tooth and nail, like a spoiled kid that doesn't want to go to bed, much less go to sleep. he keeps on demanding that i feed him, he tells me that i'm mean, he tells me i'm hurting him and he can't believe i won't even give him a little snack. i keep telling him, "no, it's past your bedtime. if i feed you now, you'll just have nightmares. now, go to sleep!" (sometimes you have to be firm...)

it's taking a lot longer to get him to go to sleep this time, but his demands are getting a little weaker now; he'll probably be fast asleep pretty soon. and once he is, i'll just have to keep reminding myself that he's only asleep, and if i don't want him coming back to run my life with his demands, i can't do anything to wake him up.

and i know from experience that the smell of food always wakes him up...

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7 responses leave one →
  1. 2004 April 13
    Angel permalink

    Loved it!! That is exactly how I feel - I always want that cute little imp I had when I was 12, but I get that big ugly one instead. This totally explains why my husband won't quit with me - He's never enforced a rule in his life, at least not in our home!

  2. 2004 May 4
    margaret permalink

    Are you sure you're not related to us? My brother started at 10 also and stole from my father's pack. He was in big trouble when my father quit and he had to get a paper route to feed his imp turned demon. (I didn't know all this stuff about my family, but since I quit, they've been very forthcoming with all the "truth about demons." This is a good site, Kevin, and I think I'll just pass on any ideas of returning to hell (isn't that where demons live?) Thanks.

  3. 2004 August 7
    jenny permalink

    This story is great. I'm in module 6 of FFS and they say to write down how you felt because 6 mos down the road you'll forget how hard it was. I plan to do that - but coming back to read this would be the same - wow - we sure can relate to that. I'm so glad you have the 'tales' for us to refer to and thanks for this site.

  4. 2004 September 1
    ben permalink

    I started feeding the little imp at age 7. We went around looking for half smoked cigs on the street and used the tobacco to roll our own. That was just an occasional thing. Then occasionally we'd buy some as teenagers. Then when I was 17, I bought some for a few days in a row. It's funny how I can remember it so well, and the guys I was with, being cool. That's when the imp got strong.

  5. 2006 April 1
    Marie permalink

    Now, this is telling it like it is!!!!!!!!!!I had read on so many of the programs that the worst part is over in a few days for most people, and by three months at the most even the highly addicted shouldn't have craves. At 5 months into my quit I really had become depressed. I thought I must be different and was one of those people who was so strongly addicted that I might as well accept the fact that my problem was from starting, and I couldn't change that. I have stopped several times and failed, for a few months at a time, the longest quit was 2 years. I really have spent a lot of time reading and re-reading different smoking cessation
    programs, and I truly believe this site has been the most helpful. I wish I had found it earlier...Thanks Kevin, you are a real trooper and your words of wisdom have really strengthened my quit...

  6. 2007 January 4
    Colleen permalink

    Wow Kevin. Im really scared. And hate the fact that I let this addiction take over my life.

    But 53 well 54 days done now, I feel pretty good.

    I do plan to keep the "imp" at bay. But it makes me swallow hard to think he'll keep trying to come back. But it's good for me to realize this is reality. Thanks for being honest and here with your time and efforts. Looking forward to visiting often.

  7. 2009 January 13

    note: the comments above were left on the original tale at the date and time indicated.

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