I was seven years old when I decided to be a smoker. Yes, just seven.
In fact, it became one of my goals in life – a goal that I accomplished much more easily than anticipated. My dad and I used to visit the theatre every Saturday, sometimes to watch the same play. On one such day, we spent the intermission at a café within the theatre, where I saw a gorgeous woman – maybe in her 40s – wearing a stunning ballgown. She had a long pipe attached to a cigarette, and I had never seen anything so fascinating. I thought to myself, ‘I wish my mother was a smoker, it’s so cool. She is so pretty. One day I will become like her, I will be a smoker.’
Two years later, I caught my mom smoking and I was so happy. The next day, my entire class knew about it. Apparently, she had smoked secretly for many years. I smoked my first cigarette at 10 and was caught by my mother, but instead of being proud of me, she punished me. From the age of 13, I was a regular smoker. But as fate would have it, today, I assist my clients in quitting smoking and taking charge of their lives. As a result of my services, my clients can stop smoking without experiencing any anxiety and are able to reclaim their health.
There’s No Going Back
It’s always important to remember that smoking is not a habit – it’s an addiction. Many smokers wish they had never tried that first cigarette in their teenage years or young adulthood. The only reason they continue to smoke is because of the fear of withdrawal symptoms. They believe they will go through miserable days of desperation and deprivation, and will not be able to deal with it. In fact, this belief about withdrawal symptoms is reinforced by manufacturing companies of nicotine patches and gums (as a substitute for smoking). Smokers don’t want to go through these symptoms and, instead, prefer instant gratification over looking into the future to a healthy life.
But the bitter truth is that the withdrawal from nicotine is very mild. And with the right attitude and support from our subconscious mind, it can be hardly noticeable. This is because physical addiction has a very small role to play as smoking is more of a psychological addiction. The first cigarette of our lives is always disgusting – we don’t know how to smoke, we start coughing, it tastes awful. But because there is always a motivation behind this behaviour, we force ourselves to become tolerant to smoking.
So What’s the Motivation?
Well, for some, it’s social acceptance and to feel a sense of belonging. For others, it’s a milestone of becoming an adult. The fact is that everyone knows smoking is harmful – even a smoker wouldn’t want their child to smoke. In any addiction, a person is trying to fill some empty space within. We call it a ‘void’ in therapy. It is important to understand this concept and deal with it in due time, so that smoking is not substituted with some other addictive behaviour or substance of sorts. In most cases, it is because of underlying anxiety that people start smoking, so we often recommend self-hypnosis and mindfulness-based practices, which can be very helpful.
One of the biggest challenges for smokers is the inner conflict that they experience. A part of them wants to quit because of various reasons, but the other part still wants to smoke. This conflict is what creates anxiety. Therefore, it is very helpful to create a list of reasons as to why you want to quit smoking, such as, ‘What are you going to lose or gain by quitting?’ The other challenge is that smoking has been associated with multiple other behaviours and actions in a smoker’s daily life. This includes drinking coffee and smoking, driving and smoking, talking on the phone and smoking, smoking after every meal, taking breaks from work with other colleagues and smoking, and smoking while consuming alcohol.
The Only Way Out Is Through!
The formula for success is the desire to quit. If the idea of quitting is forced by family members or a partner, it doesn’t work. In such cases, it’s easier to change the partner than to quit smoking. In my one-on-one De-addiction & Quit Smoking sessions at Illuminations, we discover the limiting beliefs of a person and change them into beliefs that support life without smoking. We identify associations with cigarettes and break them. We create new goals and healthy behaviours that clients want to have as happy non-smokers.
Hypnotherapy is another highly effective modality that helps to resolve the conflict and release any trapped feelings and emotions related to the void. The client is also taught self-hypnosis for experiencing deep relaxation whenever needed. When we start de-addiction, one of the first rules is to smoke mindfully. This means that you start paying attention to every puff that you inhale. Whenever you want to smoke, you take time out to smoke without doing anything else simultaneously.
This is what I tell my clients: “Cigarettes kill you and you know that. Yet, you choose to smoke. There is a very special bond you share with the cigarette – it definitely deserves your undivided attention, so from today, you can smoke as much as you wish, but do not combine it with any other activity. Do not smoke with anyone else, no conversations on the phone, no watching videos, no checking messages. Just take a moment, go out, smoke, and be present to every pleasure it provides.”
With this simple behavioural change, they are pleasantly surprised by what they discover. Some say they couldn’t smoke as many cigarettes as before. Some throw away the cigarettes halfway through. Others say only a few cigarettes give them pleasure. Some experience anger towards cigarettes as it consumes so much of their precious time. Hundreds of people have taken charge of their lives this way, going on to become happy non-smokers who are free from past compulsions and filled with renewed energy, thus improving their health and gaining back their confidence. To quote Theodore Roosevelt, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”
Dr. Irina Khanna is a Hypnotherapist and Holistic Counsellor at Illuminations.