Extract from "Features" article in Dominion newspaper, Wellington. NZ.
Curing a Smoking Addiction of 38 Years
Somebody once told me that so long as you can remember your last cigarette, you are a smoker.
Well, I recall exactly when nicotine last addled my brain and smoke last filled my lungs. It was at precisely 7pm on August 17 – and I'm a former smoker. Maybe the difference is that I had help to kick this habit which I picked up as a schoolboy and to which I was addicted to for 38 years.
Why did I decide to quit? I don't really know and I don’t think any former smoker has simple, single answer to that question. But I can tell you it was no thanks to people who said I should give up for the sake of their health.
Many of them have never smoked and have no understanding of this awful addiction.
Smokers don't need to be told that smoking is bad for them and for people around them. They know that. They need to be shown that quitting smoking is possible and there is a way to quit, then encouraged to do so.
I wasn't. Then neither was I actually committed to giving up when I had the opportunity to go with this stop-smoking program. I think it was some sort of perverse reaction to an uncompromising stand by non-smokers in the office. I stop or they walk out or I go. I decided to get help for my habit, and did some research, and settled on doing this course.
And thus I learned to re-program myself. I learned that to begin with I had the mind of a smoker, and that addiction, social lifestyle, advertising etc, all contribute to the powerful programming which keeps me smoking. My brain and nervous system (called the bio-computer on the course), automatically plays certain fixed programs which make me want to smoke when it is given the right signals.
For example, the nicotine level drops in my body, off goes a message to my biocomputer and the automatic response to light up takes over me. Same for other signals... dinner over, phone rings, coffee – and I responded to that feeling triggered off.
I soon realised why it is that to try and deny these pre-programmed instructions to smoke involves a battle, there is no choice but to use willpower to resist the temptation, with its high failure rate.
So I now understood that I was not doing this so much as to 'give up smoking', I was really changing my mind, or re-programming the part of my mind which controlled my habit.
Apparently most smokers' biggest problem is the belief that stopping is difficult. It is not. It is entirely up to each person to be prepared to deprogram themselves.
I start by having to recall what my first cigarette really was like; burning mouth, the heat on my tongue, gritty, unpleasant feeling in my throat, bitter taste, racing heart (extra 10 beats per minute on average), suffocating feeling causing coughing, not to mention dizziness, nausea and a drop in skin temperature.
I do remember all this, and even as a long time smoker those physical sensations are still there each time I smoke, but I have learned to deceive myself. What my little bio-computer says now is, "Ah... that feels better, I really needed this. I'm enjoying drawing and sucking on this cigarette. It makes me feel good. The nicotine makes my heart race, that makes me feel alive, stimulated. I am enjoying myself, etc."
So my objective is to destroy this old record in my brain and deliberately and consciously play a new and different smoking program.
I do it, I tell it like it is... smoking is an unpleasant experience, cigarettes tastes rotten... I go through that whole first session, doing the deliberate smoking exercises, repeating everything as instructed .. my brain is the same as others people's, it's not fussy about the actual content of any rules I put into it, it accepts them from me.
The effect is immediate and dramatic.
At the next day's session I record that I have smoked only 11 cigarettes in the past 24 hours instead of the usual 30-plus. They really do taste rotten now.
So far, so good, I say.
Now, we identify the triggers. This session covers all the illogical behaviours I have and I firmly and safely deprogram them. I learn how to now tell myself that "I'm having a cup of coffee, but I refuse to feel like a smoke as well." I also go through the process of instilling in myself the way of seeing myself coping perfectly well in any situation without needing a cigarette.
It seems to be working. I smoke only seven cigarettes in the next 24 hours and do even better the next day after a session on relaxation techniques. These are necessary they say – it is important to learn to relax to avoid being irritable and emotionally upset as the body adjusts to not having a constant flow of nicotine.
At the end of day three I have had only four cigarettes and do not even want the fag that is suggested I smoke, to test out how well I have learned the lessons.
I must have learned well. I get through only half a cigarette before savagely stubbing it out and announcing that this is probably the last that I will ever smoke.
The course has brought me to the point of making a decision I have never seriously contemplated before. I take a cigarette from my packet many times during the next day but don't succumb. Instead of wondering how long I can last before I have another, I begin congratulating myself on the time elapsed since I last lit up.
How does it feel? How does it feel when you kick an addiction? It feels great.