I quit smoking about a year and a half ago, or put it differently: I have been smoke-free for 531 days when I’m writing those lines. I’m pretty proud because I feel more aligned with my holistic wellness way of living.
Cigarettes and I had been having a complicated relationship for almost two years. The kind of love-hate relationship you don’t wish to anyone.
I struggled so much that I would like to share this experience with you. If these lines could help even only one person to take the plunge, I’d be so happy – but hey, remember, no pressure.
So, let’s set the context and have a look at my smoker profile.
A short introduction to my smoking history
I smoked for 7 years without ever asking myself too many questions. Somehow, I was smoking and had no problem with it. We could almost say that I “enjoyed” smoking. I always thought that I would stop when it would be to get pregnant. However, the more time was passing, the less I felt a desire of having children.
But one day, out of nowhere, a friend told me about a book she was reading, a certain “Easy way to stop smoking” written by Allen Carr. That friend was so enthusiastic about it that I got curious, not that I really wanted to quit, but I figured it wouldn’t bad either.
Long story short, I can easily say that it worked pretty well and the magic happened: I quit smoking for two and a half years. Two and a half years during which I was convinced that I was a former smoker. Even a breakup didn’t make me relapse. I was so proud of myself!
Until one night, out of nowhere …, I fell back into a downward spiral.
This was the beginning of my nightmare. A nightmare that lasted two long years.
The relapse: how I got back to smoking
I mentioned earlier that I survived a break up without going back to smoking. Funnily, that’s the getting back together that did.
My ex. who helped me quit in the first place, being my support buddy in the first weeks, started to smoke again during the break-up. After getting back together, he somehow managed to quit again, smoking “occasionally”.
Note: all words set in "" highlight the lies we tell ourselves to convince ourselves that we are in control of the situation.
So, here we were, spending a great evening amongst nice people and I see him lighting a cigarillo; you know those little caramelized cigars. At first, I found myself a little surprised and disappointed at the same time by seeing him breaking our agreement, but then, THEN the idea of smoking suddenly came into my mind. I wanted to smoke.
Why? For the simple reason of adding a “touch of pleasure” to this very nice evening I was having. The first puff reminded me very quickly that I liked smoking … It was like meeting a dear old friend again.
The following days passed and nothing happened. No feeling of lack and therefore I felt no regret. Despite the many warnings I had read, the testimonials and stories heard, I was convinced that I was in control.
“It happened to them because they were weak, I was different, I was stronger because I didn’t feel any lack.”
Until a few weeks passed … the desire for more “pleasure cigarettes” arose. I was smoking one cigarette from time to time, in the evening, like a special treat.
Until a final evening … I partied with work colleagues and that evening closed the trap I gladly and voluntarily thrown myself into.
Now, I felt the urge to smoke. I was a smoker again.
Fortunately, the story doesn’t end up here.
Never give up, what helped me to stop cigarette
For two years, I went back, never finding the strength to quit for more than three months in a row. I had read Allen Carr’s book again so many times that my reading was not as engaged anymore and the results weren’t convincing.
I had also downloaded several quitting smoking coaching apps before finding one that suited me. But then again, after the first days of playing with that new app, my willpower was running out of steam again. I was desperate because I knew that I was the only person who could get myself out of this situation and yet I kept on sabotaging myself.
However, and this is the core message of this whole article, I never gave up. Each new pack of cigarettes I bought in the morning ended up in the trash a few hours later, symbolizing my “victory” over this drug. Yet, every other day, I fell miserably and bought a new pack.
I thought I had tried everything, and I let you imagine the kind of self-talk I had towards myself.
Until that particular moment … I was smoking the first cigarette from a brand new pack I bought – right after I started an argument as an excuse. (If you read Allen Carr’s book, this may sound familiar to you).
And out of the blue, the idea of hypnosis came to my mind.
Many of my friends quit through this method about the same time I managed to quit on my own. Because I did it on my own, I was convinced that I could do it again, that I was strong enough. The truth was that I was mentally exhausted: after two years of fighting with myself, I had to admit that I needed help.
How I quit smoking thanks to hypnosis
There I was, sitting on a bench, admitting that all my attempts had failed, and the idea of hypnosis just struck me. It was THE method that would set me free at last, the method I had been looking for for two years. And the strangest thing might be that I knew I will succeed. This was the little push or support I had been missing all this time that I finally found.
I immediately contacted a hypnotherapist friend to book an appointment. Liberated from the heavy weight of guilt and sure of my success, I was looking forward to this moment. I was filled with joy. Fortunately for me, the waiting was not long. Of course, I was a little nervous on D-Day. A mix of apprehension (it was my first hypnosis session), and fear that this last attempt might not work eventually.
During the session itself, I did feel a weight leaving my body, and the words “I am healed” crossed my mind as I left the office.
My opinion on quitting smoking using hypnosis
When I first gathered my thoughts about this experience, it was exactly four weeks later and something really changed in me. Of course, I still thought about it, but in a different way.
I experienced moments of doubts, pain, sadness, but also euphoria and happiness, but the idea of smoking a cigarette throughout those moments never seemed like the holy grail again. On the contrary. I considered hypnosis to be my last-ditch solution, so that I knew and still know that if I had to smoke even just a puff, everything would be over.
Shortly after the hypnosis, I liked to consider myself a sick person under treatment, somehow in remission, with a strong need to show extra care toward myself.
I am still wary of cigarettes and I think all former smokers should always be wary of them. If the urge should show up again, I will not hesitate to make an appointment for a second session.
My therapist told me that one of her patients does a session every year, just in case. It’s an idea that I’m also considering, depending on how the year goes.
If you are considering hypnosis as a support and accompaniment in your process of quitting smoking, here is what I consider worth mentioning:
- First of all, you have to be motivated. If deep down, you don’t want to quit smoking, your therapist won’t be able to do anything for you.
- Call in a practitioner who someone you trust recommended you.
- Do not hesitate to contact your therapist again, if an urge arises after the first session, to consolidate the effects.
- You may or may not need the support of a therapist. Everyone is different, and the experience of quitting smoking is just as unique as you are.
7 key tips for quitting smoking
I would like to share some ideas and considerations that helped me to be best prepared to quit smoking. While these tips were not enough on their own, they gave me a better understanding of my smoking habit and will hopefully be of use to some of you.
1. Set a date or an event to quit
Basically, setting a date helps to deal with the fear of quitting smoking and the fear of feeling the withdrawal effects. Just like any project, once a date is set, postponing it is harder.
Fear keeps you away from considering your success of quitting, but there is no reason to be afraid: in the best case scenario you succeed (yes!), in the worst, you start over.
In the meantime, you will have learned a lot about your relationship with cigarettes and your triggers (coffee, alcohol, boredom, social gatherings, etc.). You will be better equipped and prepared for your next attempt.
2. Get rid of all smoking-related items
Cigarettes, rolling tobacco, papers, etc.: throw everything away. It helps reduce temptation drastically.
Would you endure the cold and struggle to find a place to buy cigarettes at 10 p.m.? This idea alone should put you off. Some persons also recommend getting rid of ashtrays and lighters. If these are valuables, it’s up to you. Personally, I always like to have a lighter at home to burn my Armenian paper 😉
3. List the benefits of quitting smoking
Before D-Day, prepare a list of your motivations and the benefits you will get from quitting. There are so many!
- No more smelly hair
- Whiter nails and teeth,
- The end of your social exclusion (smokers are an endangered species!),
- The end of the withdrawal effects when traveling
- Your recovered energy level
- To name but a few
You can come back to your list as soon as the urge arises. Personally, during my two and a half years of break, I always kept in mind the face of a lady who I saw on the subway. She looked much older than her actual age and I was convinced she smoked. Maybe I was wrong, but it helped me a lot at that time, as I promised myself to not end up like this lady because of cigarettes. It still remains the case, and that’s why I’d never stopped trying to quit!
4. Avoid triggers
Smoking is a (bad) habit and like every habit, it can be triggered by association. By slightly modifying some of your automatisms, you will more easily turn away from the urge to smoke. I am thinking of social gatherings, drinking a glass of wine, but it may also be your morning cup of coffee, walking your dog, etc. Anything that you associate with smoking a cigarette.
However, don’t stop living the life you love. There are really two schools of thought about triggers.
Some will say that there is no good time to quit and that the sooner you face “difficult” situations, the sooner you will be set free from smoking.
Other advise to wait a particular moment when you’ll feel less stressed, such as holidays.
Of course, the choice is yours. 😉
Either way, don’t think about what you’re giving up, but look forward to the benefits quitting smoking will bring you. It is a great opportunity to put other healthier practices in place. For me, it was running.
I used to run on a weekly basis and I quit when I started smoking because I couldn’t stand noticing how short of breath I became (ostrich politics, hello!). I chose smoking over running. Now it’s the other way around, and I’m gaining confidence and self-esteem!
5. Prepare yourself for “risky” situations
Be prepared to experience the urge of smoking a cigarette, or ten. You’ll be required to stay strong and determined.
I therefore, advise you to think ahead (hence picking a date beforehand to get prepared) to resist the temptation.
A few random ideas: grab a chewing gum, go out for some fresh air, drink a glass of water, eat an apple … Get in motion and don’t focus on your urge. The less you focus on it, the sooner your mind will shift and think about something else. Drinking water is still ideal for me, and for obvious reasons.
This is a very common piece of advice about how to quit smoking, and I can confirm that it works, just like any habit you want to implement or let go off. Preparation is key.
Since I experienced MANY attempts to quit, I can easily say that the better I was prepared the longer I stopped smoking.
6. Inform yourself about the effect of smoking
There is a lot of information available on the internet to find out about the positive effects of quitting cigarettes (yes, there are benefits and they are numerous 😉).
Real-time information app
I found it empowering to know that our body quickly gets back to a balanced state and I’m always amazed by its self-healing abilities. You can also access real-time information using a dedicated app developed for smokers to quit. The numbers and stats are updated daily. If you’re driven by numbers, you may want to explode records!
Mine is French and is called “Arreter de fumer” or “Quitting smoking”. Pretty straight forward.
Another angle of information: the tobacco industry. Shortly before quitting, I watched a documentary about the tobacco industry and its lobby. After watching it, my motivation was boosted. The tobacco lobby is powerful and cigarettes are considered just like any other product.
It’s a poison that enriches shameless manufacturers who care little for the well-being of their consumers. Do you want your money to go to very unscrupulous people?
7. Avoid substitutes
I’ve never been a fan of substitutes. I believe that smoking cigarette is an addiction that is already difficult to quit; so why would you want to transfer this addiction to another? We can agree on the fact that this addiction is much more psychological than physical. This is the reason why I will not address the issue of the electronic cigarette which in my opinion is even more addictive because you can smoke almost anywhere anytime.
However, if you think that having a lolly in your mouth, sticking patches on your body, or even switching to electronic cigarettes will help you go through the withdrawal period with more confidence, then go for it. But don’t rely on it too much and keep in mind that this should only be temporary.
One last tip for the road
One article is not enough to cover all aspects of smoking because the subject is so complex and covers so many aspects of a person’s life.
In addition to that, many dedicated books, blogs or articles are already doing this very well. Some smokers quit overnight and never relapsed, while others have tried dozen of times, and some have never dared to take the plunge.
We are not all equal when it comes to quitting smoking. It’s difficult not to compare and not to put pressure on yourself. And yet, we all know, the pressure is often a trigger 😉
This is your own journey, the only person you should compare yourself with is … yourself! Be kind to yourself. If you are reading these lines, you can already be proud of yourself; it means that you’ve been thinking about quitting! That’s the first step towards freedom.
If there’s just one thing you should take away from this article: never give up.