What Way Will You Choose To Quit Smoking?

There are so many websites today offering numerous ways to quit smoking, many the same or similar, some quite different. Today the government’s 1-800-QUITNOW hotline is receiving a record number of calls. From 2004 to 2010 the total number of calls received was just under three million. So far in just this year, 2011, there have been over six hundred thousand additional calls! It is clear that more Americans than ever before are seeking some way to end their habit/addiction to smoking cigarettes, and once and for all, stop smoking.

To successfully quit smoking, to really stop smoking, one must find the right solution to their problem. Many seek to stop smoking using the nicotine patch. The theory is that if one uses the nicotine patch, and slowly withdraws from nicotine by using less and less nicotine in the patches, that in the end, the desire to smoke will be gone. The success rate for this system is woefully small (1). In fact, it is similar (or less) to just trying to quit “cold turkey”. This tells us that the desire to smoke cannot simply be found in the addiction to nicotine. Surely that is a part of the syndrome, but it cannot be all of it, or the system would be 100% successful for each and every smoker using it. But it is not. Not even close. Far less than 10%

The same is true for those who choose to use the nicotine gum. This is gum saturated with nicotine in various amounts, used to withdraw from the addiction to nicotine. But nicotine gum works no better than does the nicotine patch (2).

One of the oldest programs to quit smoking is using a hypnosis program. Hypnotists have for decades been taking money from those who believe that a hypnosis to quit smoking program will help them to once and for all stop smoking. However, having been a clinical hypnotherapist in perhaps the largest and oldest hypnosis clinic in the USA, I can tell you that although I do believe hypnosis should be a part of a successful campaign to quit smoking, the vast majority of hypnotists do not know how to correctly use hypnosis to get their clients to quit smoking. So the end result is that using a hypnosis program to quit smoking is rarely successful in the long term.

In fact, Kerry Packer, who was, until his death in 2005, the most wealthy man in Australia and one of the world’s multibillionaires, is reported to have paid Marshall Sylver, a world renowned hypnotist, $100,000 for a single session of hypnosis to help him quit smoking. It did not take. Kerry Packer did not stop smoking through hypnosis.

To quit smoking now, what a smoker must do is begin to deal with the core issue that drives the desire to continue to smoke cigarettes. To quit smoking through hypnosis, the hypnosis must be properly applied. It should not focus on the present, telling the subject that they will no longer desire to smoke, or that the cigarettes will begin to taste like rotten eggs, or any other such nonsense. What the hypnotist must do is focus on the past, back to the time when the subject first decided to become a smoker. That point, the exact moment that smokers, almost invariably children of no more than fourteen, often as young as ten, the children started to hypnotize themselves into becoming smokers.

It is my firm belief that every smoker, every single one, is in a state of hypnosis. They hypnotized themselves into becoming smokers, as after all, any hypnotist worth his or her salt will tell you that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. It is not a capturing process as the old Dracula movies would suggest, but a leading process. In other words, the hypnotist leads the subject into a state of mind wherein the subject accepts and internalizes the suggestions of the hypnotist. But the hypnotist is not issuing commands, only offering suggestions that the subject may or may not choose to follow.

When someone tries to quit smoking after a decade or more after starting, they most often fail, and then believe it is because they lack the will power to overcome the addiction. Most see it as a weakness in their character. This is not true. What is true is that their inability to stop smoking by simply exerting their will is a testament to the commitment they made to themselves to become a smoker in the first place. They hypnotized themselves to start smoking, and they must reverse that hypnosis at the subconscious level to end it. To quit smoking, to stop smoking successfully and never desire to smoke again takes returning the person to the psychological state they were in before they committed to become a smoker.

I know there are those who smoke who will say, “I am not hypnotized!” But have they ever been hypnotized? Do they even know what being hypnotized feels like? Tell me this. Would anyone who is not in an altered state of consciousness (which takes them a step away from reality) knowingly take a chemically treated poison weed, wrapped in chemically treated poisonous paper, light it on fire and breath the toxic fumes from that fire as often as two hundred times per day (twenty cigarettes times ten drags from each) every day of their life for ten, twenty, thirty years or more, knowing that the end result may well be a painful, costly and prolonged death, and believe that they are experiencing some sort of “pleasure”, pay dearly to do that, and not be in a state of hypnosis?

No one starts smoking because they want to enjoy the taste of a burning cigarette. No one I have ever heard of enjoyed that first cigarette, especially after inhaling that first time. I know I didn’t. I became instantly nauseous and nearly threw up. I was dizzy and at ten years old, decided that smoking was not for me.

But four years later, after associating with three other boys my age in my new school, and dearly desiring to become a part of their “gang”, I believed I had to become a smoker as they were. I clearly remember asking myself what I call the “critical question”. I remember where I was and what I felt. The question was, “Do I really want to be a smoker?” Of course, after very little consideration, I said, “Yes!” Then I proceeded to inhale the cigarette I’d just lit, stolen from my parents stash, and got sick, waited until it passed, then did it again, until I could do it without feeling like puking. It only took a few days before I was smoking just like my new friends, blowing smoke rings and “looking cool”.

I, like almost every smoker I have interviewed over the years of my work as a smoking cessation coach, started smoking for three main reasons. They are

1) If only adults smoke and I smoke, I will appear to be more mature, more “adult-looking”. But that was true only to those younger than me. To true adults, I simply looked like a foolish little boy trying to look older.

2) My friends are doing it, and if I want to be more like my friends, I will start smoking like them. I will then be more accepted by them. I don’t truly think that they accepted me more, or would have accepted me any less had I opted not to become a smoker, but that was my thinking at the time.

3) Smoking is sexy. In the movies, I saw James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor and so many other sex symbols smoke and look “sexy and cool” smoking. I wanted to be like them; to be more sexually attractive. After all, John Wayne was advertising cigarettes on TV. If “The Duke” said it was the thing to do, who was I to believe otherwise. And add to that, every single adult in my family smoked. (And with the exception of my mother, who died as a result of an auto accident at 43, all died with smoking related cancers.) So smoking was simply a right of passage into adulthood in my life in the fifties.

So let’s review. I chose to smoke cigarettes to appear more mature. I attached the behavior to my sense of maturity. I chose to smoke cigarettes to become closer to my friends, more accepted by them. I attached the behavior to my sense of social acceptability. I chose to smoke cigarettes to appear more sexually attractive. I attached the behavior to my sense of sexuality. And I did these three things at perhaps the most critical point in my development; while I was establishing my internal self-image. I was deciding who and how I was in the world, what my values are, and how I would behave in the future. One of those facets of that image was…I was and would continue to be a cigarette smoker.

How I Quit Smoking – After Failing to Quit Smoking at Least a Dozen Times

Yes I did eventually quit smoking – been a nonsmoker for over 25 years now. But just so you know – my will power sucks. I’d tried and failed to quit smoking so many times I was embarrassing myself. At least a dozen times I tried to quit smoking and blew it. Every time. Almost a couple times a year over several year’s I’d try to quit smoking (New Years being one of them – of course).

This was back over 25 years ago, from the early 70’s to the late 70’s. Most of the time I’d last 2 – 3 weeks.

Once I had quit smoking for a couple weeks — things were tough of course, the urges and cravings, but I was doing OK dealing with them. Naturally, I was a lot more moody than normal, got angry more often and more easily. But I was getting through ok, till one night while I was working, I looked outside the window from the store I was working at to check my car – and it wasn’t there. My car had been towed. That was what shoved me over the edge – that time.

Naturally the first thing I did when I found out my car was towed was walk over to a cigarette machine, drop my money in and buy a pack of cigarettes. Like that was going to help right? But there I was smoking again.

There were time’s I’d quit and thought “well I’ll just smoke one, and that’s it” – but of course “one” today, turned into “two” the next. And before I knew it, I was back to a pack and a half a day.

It was always a problem sitting back and drinking a cup of coffee or a beer – I was always so used to having a cigarette in my hand! I’d been smoking a lot longer than I’d been drinking coffee or drinking beer! (Having started smoking in 4th grade.) All I could think about was how uncomfortable it felt!

I was uncomfortable after meals because I was used to settling down into the couch in front of the tv with a cup of coffee and a cigarette! So that was a double whammy! Now I had trouble relaxing after meals – because the cup of coffee was missing something – missing the cigarette in my other hand!

Then there was going to the bar with the guys from the shop. First of all “everybody was smoking”! Then if you’re like I was you’d get a beer and play a game of pool! But every time I’d try to quit smoking I was always uncomfortable because I didn’t have that cigarette in my hand! My whole life became uncomfortable!

One time I even lasted a full month without a cigarette! I remember that day I blew it like it was yesterday. It was about 7 in the evening, starting to get dark – and I was sitting on a friend’s back porch waiting for them to get ready to go out. And I wanted a cigarette.

You can imagine me sitting there arguing with myself – saying (to myself) “I’m an adult – I go to work everyday – I pay my own way – If I want a cigarette I can have a cigarette and nobody can stop me!” It’s embarrassing to admit it – but, yes – I talked myself right back into my pack and a half a day smoking habit yet again.

By this time I’d been studying what felt like almost every self-help guru’s book, how to succeed, mind mastery book out there – almost every book of this type I could get my hands on – for over 10 years. And 4 mind sets that I knew were important to me about smoking cigarettes started come together in my mind.

I knew it was stupid to smoke cigarettes – I knew the risks, the cancer, emphysema, the damage it does to your skin – making you look older than you are. How it was destroying my lungs – filling my lungs up with tar year after year.

I thought about how I wouldn’t have to worry about the cancer, emphysema, and other damage I was doing to myself by continuing to smoke cigarettes if I didn’t smoke. And how lousy it was that I even started this habit of smoking cigarettes in the first place.

I spent time thinking about all the good stuff that would happen – all the money I’d save, that my body would start recovering from the 20+ years of being a smoker when I did quit smoking cigarettes. I’d stop smelling like I’d just walked out of a bar. I’d stop putting my family in jeopardy from the 2nd hand smoke.

And finally – what if I could somehow feel like I’d never smoked before, after I did quit. I remembered all the times I’d tried and failed to quit smoking – and I certainly didn’t want to go through that again – when I did try again to quit. But what if I could somehow – when I tried again to quit – if I could somehow make myself feel like a person who had never smoked a cigarette before – in their life.

So after spending some time mulling over all this I came up with a plan and followed through with it for 60 days. A plan to bring all these considerations together and – hopefully – instill them in my mind. What happened after that 60 day exercise went way beyond anything I’d ever imagined. And if you can instill these same concepts in your mind you have a chance to have the same thing happen to you.

I had just walked out of a restaurant in Flint, Michigan from lunch. I took what was left of my pack of cigarettes, crushed them in my hand and tossed it into a nearby trash can – it was the prearranged day that I’d decided to quit – again. I didn’t know what would happen, I didn’t know how long I’d be able to last this time, but I was going to give it a try anyway – one more time.

What happened next is still with me today more than a quarter of a century later.

Right after tossing that pack of cigarettes away I had a thought, “I’d sure like to have a cigarette”. Then BAM! Totally out of the blue I got hit with an overwhelming rush of thoughts and emotions that went flying through my head in a flash. It was so intense it actually snapped my head back.

The best description I’ve been able to come up with, about how it felt, is this…imagine a huge dam, picture the Hoover Dam – exploding into millions of pieces – and imagine all those millions and millions of gallons of water rushing, crashing down the valley below – ripping away everything in its path. That’s how powerful it felt. And it was totally unexpected!

Also totally unexpected was this – my smoking habit was completely washed away. Like it had never existed. It wasn’t like I’d quit – it was like I had never, ever, smoked a cigarette before in my life!

Since that experience I’ve never had another thought about smoking another cigarette. No cravings, no urges, nothing. The anger I’d always had to contend with before never occurred. It was just “normal” not to have a cigarette. Since that experience, I’ve never had any problem sitting down and enjoying drinking a beer or cup of coffee, finishing a meal. And not once have I ever considered smoking another cigarette since that day. It’s always just felt “normal” not to have a cigarette.

If someone lit up a cigarette around me it had no affect. People could smoke around me all day long – and often did – and my mind was totally oblivious to it. Like the cigarettes didn’t even exist. For all intents and purposes cigarettes actually DIDN’T exist in my world.

Somehow I was able to instill all the concepts described above in such a way that I came out of it feeling just like I had never smoked, like I had never lit up a cigarette before in my life. Just the dream I was reaching for.