Kicking The Habit Through Negative Reinforcement

Kicking The Habit Through Negative Reinforcement

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My addiction to nicotine progressed from casual social smoking to consuming two packs a week. Although I’ve only been smoking for about one year, I had to quit before my addiction became much stronger. Like most smokers, I’ve tried to quit cold turkey on many occasions, but the mood and the will power lasts only until my synapses (nerve endings) start screaming, crying, and pleading with my conscious for a cigarette. The intendment of my quest was to discern the influences on my smoking habit and to curb the physical and psychological addiction through the implementation of specific reinforced behaviors. Positive reinforcers make me smoke, and negative reinforcers prevent me from smoking. By identifying positive reinforcements, I learned to quit smoking.
     Before beginning my analysis of my smoking habits, I recorded the number of cigarettes smoked on a daily basis. On an average day I smoked 4-5 cigarettes. By establishing my baseline performance on a typical week, I set out to find the positive reinforcements, which coerced me into smoking. The days that were most prolific in smoking were Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. The primary reason for the increase in smoking was due to the social events of that particular evening, which included the occasional alcohol consumption, and companionship of fellow smokers/friends. “Partying” dramatically affected my smoking habit. Undoubtedly my gregarious antics affected my smoking, but the post-sex cigarette also added to the count. By pinpointing these factors, I was able to invent a fixed negative reinforcement schedule to lead me away from smoking and steer me towards a healthier lifestyle.
     In order to develop a fixed negative reinforcement schedule, I divided my cigarettes into groups allowing myself only three cigarettes a day. I placed my daily ration of cigarettes into envelopes and labeled them for each day of the week. I smoked one cigarette after lunch, one after dinner, and one later at night. I would reward myself with a cigarette after attending classes and eating lunch. I would then reward myself with another cigarette after homework and dinner. Through the course of my week, I violated my regimen only twice. On Wednesday and Friday, I “bummed’ a cigarette from one of my friends. After feeling guilty about violating my regimen, I repented for hours, and swore to myself that I was going to beat my addiction. Primary negative reinforcers also helped me stick with the plan such as improved stamina during physical exercise and more money in my pocket.

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A secondary reinforcer achieved through my analysis was the reduction of the putrid smell of smoke from my clothing. The only way my quest was successful was because I kept an optimistic attitude by looking at all the gains I was getting from quitting smoking. The most powerful reinforcer was curbing the health risks associated with smoking.
I learned how to smoke, and the only way to rid myself of this detrimental habit is by learning what influences my behavior. The only way I can quit smoking is by “un-learning” the habit. By abolishing the positive reinforcers, which promote smoking and surrounding my environment with negative reinforcers to reduce the habit, I have quit. My fixed reinforcement schedule in essence was used to cause extinction of my need to smoke.
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