Everyone has addictions. We all do. Just because you have a vice or two or ten doesn’t make you evil or mean that what you’re doing is wrong, per se. It makes you a person, just like I am. I have plenty of addictions, none I’m willing to share for the masses; I dispense that to my therapist. I can tell you that I have more than one, and I struggle with them every day, just like most.
Some people hit the bottle, others fritter away their hard-earned money gambling, and some can’t cure their addiction to sex. Some people may not think that sex addiction cannot be a bad thing. Unless you have that addiction, you do not understand the hardships that a person with it is going through.
For my personal addictions, the best way for me to keep a grasp on myself is to face them head-on. If I want to stop doing something, I can’t take my time with it—I just need to end it. Other people may face their addictions in different ways. They may seek out a support group to express how they feel, or maybe occupy their mind with healthy alternatives in place of their addictions. There is no wrong answer to finding assistance with your struggles.
A struggle most people in the world have dealt with in one way or another is smoking. Not everyone is a smoker, but even those who live in a smoke-free household have come into contact with second-hand smoke. Though smoking has declined in the United States in recent years, the overall world population has increased their smoking intake. With the invention of E-Cigs, the gum, patch, and nasal spray, the choice for smokers to curb their addiction is easier than ever. Flashback to a couple of years before these solutions and the everyday smoker’s road to recovery was much more difficult.
The late ’70s were a different time for smokers. You were able to smoke in most places, which included a section in airplanes for those who need that nicotine during their flight. If you were looking to kick the habit, though, remedies like the ones we have nowadays were scarce. Most options were expensive seminars and hypnosis if you were unable to quit on your own. Stephen King crafted an idea based around the idea of quitting smoking for his short story “Quitters, Inc.,” released in the collection Night Shift. As with most things Stephen King, “Quitters, Inc.” was adapted for film.
Stephen King film adaptations vary wildly in quality. For every The Shawshank Redemption and The Dead Zone, there is a Cell and Dreamcatcher. Even if you offer up the fact Stephen King wrote the screenplay, it’s still a roll of the dice in quality between the highs of Creepshow and the lows of Maximum Overdrive. Thankfully, I am going to be delving into one of King’s better and underrated films, the horror anthology: Cat’s Eye—specifically the first segment, “Quitters, Inc.”
Dick Morrison (James Woods) is addicted to smoking. Like most people, he wants to quit, but the urge to smoke is too much. Given advice by a friend, Dick seeks help through Quitters, Inc., a clinic that boasts a 100% success rate. How do they accomplish such success? Counselor Vinnie Donatti (Alan King) explains to Dick that for every cigarette he smokes, an act of violence will occur within his family.
Like most with addictions, Dick struggles to stay on the straight-and-narrow. Fearful for the danger that could befall his family, Dick is able to curb the habit—until a fateful traffic jam. His addictions get the best of him, and an associate from Quitters, Inc. is there when Dick’s will has broken. Donatti, as promised, makes Dick watch as his wife suffers an act of violence. Seeing what his addiction has caused, Dick becomes another statistic in the 100% that Quitters, Inc. touts.
Avoiding spoilers within the story, “Quitters, Inc.” is not a typical horror idea that you would associate with Stephen King. Instead, King takes a black comedy approach with this short story. Donatti is an over the top villain, and the methods that he and his associates use for ensuring a high success rate are ludicrous. Using mob-like tactics to threaten a client to do the right thing and having surveillance on Dick 24 hours a day, seven days a week is so over the top that you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity.
Some of Stephen King’s better works come from taking what most people perceive as being normal and flipping that idea on its head. For every addict, understanding that you have a problem and reaching out for help can be trying. In the case of “Quitters, Inc.,” though, that offer of help begins the terror. While smoking could cause harm to him later in life, is kicking the habit worth it for the sake of his family?
Unlike other Stephen King film adaptations, very few people mention Cat’s Eye. Yes, it is not on par with the best of King’s work, but the film works well with an overarching storyline involving the cat in the film’s title. The vignettes within the film all involve the cat, to some degree, and vary in quality. All three stories in Cat’s Eye have the same underlying sense of dark humor found in “Quitters, Inc.,” though none are as funny.
Struggling with addictions is no laughing matter, but Stephen King is able to tap into the human psyche and add his own demented sense of humor. Between people watching Dick from inside his own house to parking next to him in a traffic jam, Quitters, Inc. will do everything in their power to ensure that you follow through with quitting.
So, what is Stephen King trying to say with “Quitters, Inc.”? Are those who smoke villains? Is the cure worse than the addiction? With all the self-help books, seminars, and life coaches out there, are they the bad guys? Do they really want to help you? Is Quitters, Inc. in Dick’s life forever? Will Quitters, Inc. become Dick’s newest addiction?
As Vince Lombardi once said, “Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”