What does it mean to Quit Smoking?
The NHS believes it means stopping for 4 weeks. In fact, the Department of Health definition of quitting is actually to stop for 2 weeks. Have you ever stopped for 2 weeks? Does that make you an ex-smoker? No.
I prefer to think of quitting as quitting. Not just abstaining and struggling for a while on the patch to make it look like a quit, until no ones looking – but a proper long-term, nuthin’-could-drag-me-back-to-it quit. Does it happen? Of course it does – everyone knows people who have quit like this.
Quitting isn’t when you’re waiting to see if you might have another cigarette – its when you know that you won’t.
Quitting isn’t when you get tempted by the sight of others smoking – its when you feel certain.
You can only change your smoking habit if you change your mind first. We’re not talking simple decision making here, we’re talking the thoughts, feelings and perceptions which lead to that wonderful power of directed energy: motive. Motive so strong it becomes automatic.
People talk about needing (or not having) will power. But will power is just a consequence of psychological change, rather than a cause.
Someone could have a heart-attack and in a second become a non-smoker (I have met many such people). Something changed psychologically which made quitting seem obvious, easy, and a simple change to make in the scheme of things. The interesting thing is that quite often, they don’t even have cravings.
The parent who makes a snap decision after realising that they might not get to see their children get married if they carry on smoking.
These are people who had the right stimuli to change their thoughts, feelings and perceptions about the idea of smoking, which creates a reservoir of will-power.
These examples basically show that it is possible to develop will power through the right stimulation. This right stimuli will be different for everyone, but are likely to include one or more of the following:
- a change of awareness about smoking
- an enhanced recognition of the importance of self-protection
- an awareness of the addiction trap and what its nature really is
- an awareness of the industry and how the trap is designed to drain you
- an anger for the costs of smoking (health and financial) coupled with a strong desire of the benefits of quitting
- good self belief – the confidence to succeed
Nicotine addiction is such a well designed trap. It protects itself through some ingenious reinforced associations – the dopamine releases, the illusions of relaxation, comfort and familiarity. Once this cycle has tricked your brain into believing it needs nicotine, the mind plays devils advocate. It protects the addiction through bad thinking:
- misinterpreting information (“but my doctor didn’t mention smoking – therefore its ok” or “my friends grandpa died a few months after quitting therefore it can’t be a good thing to quit”)
- distorting information (“but car exhaust fumes are dangerous, so I might as well smoke”)
- filtering information (“my gran lived to 85 and smoked like a chimney”)
- rationalising the addiction (“it relaxes me, I couldn’t live without it”)
- claiming inflexibility (“its just who I am, its just what I do, its just the way it is”)
- living in the future (“I’ll quit after my holiday, after Christmas, when my spouse quits”)
- living in the past (“when I was young it was fine to smoke cigarettes, so I’m not quitting just because they’ve changed their mind”)
- distorting reality (“my life is so stressful now that I couldn’t make it through the day without cigarettes”)
- twisted priorities (“I got loads of cigarettes duty free so I might as well smoke them or it would be a waste”)
- denial (“I’m healthy enough”)
- IGNORANCE (“It won’t happen to me”)
- MORE EXCUSES! (click to see them)
Basically, if the mind has a subconscious compulsion to do something, it will justify itself and rationalise with the greatest intelligence and creativity. The same pattern can be seen in phobias, people carrying out post-hypnotic suggestions after hypnosis, anyone who has absorbed an idea subconsciously.
Smoking is no different. Nicotine addiction is probably the strongest example of a subconscious compulsion. Not only does the mind genuinely believe it needs a chemical, it is reinforced by a plethora of associations and behavioural habits. So how do these patterns of bad thinking get broken? Through the application of…
The reason the bad thought pattern of ignorance was emphasised is because its one of the strongest. Not ignorance itself mind, that is just a consequence, its the desire for it which is the enemy. The nicotine addiction creates a thick blanket of denial to protect itself from any challenging or uncomfortable thoughts or realisations. It knows that if it were to truly let such information in, it would threaten the addiction.
So good thinking starts with a commitment to learn. To become aware of what is really going on. To be aware of the addiction and how it works, the trap and how its designed, the many associations of smoking and whether they are real or not. To challenge your own thinking and separate fact from fiction, or fear from desire.
Most smokers think they already know all about it, but this is just the denial mechanism kicking in. The facts, statistics and dangers which are constantly thrown at smokers, are a distraction from the psychological imprisonment of addiction. More often than not they just stress smokers even more than they already are. The dynamics and mechanisms of addiction and psychology is where the real awareness is.