A DIFFERENT APPROACH
by Babett Wollin, 03.02.2021
Have you tried to stop smoking over and over again without success? At some point you asked yourself the question: why is it so hard to quit smoking? You really want to do it, but it seems impossible. If this is you, this blog will give you some powerful insights, great tools and exercises on how to stop smoking. If you are honest with yourself and work with these tools you can succeed and quit smoking for good.
You will not need will power but you can arrive at a point where smoking just does not make sense in your life anymore. In this blog I will not be talking about the physical addiction. There are already many websites out there addressing this topic. Instead, I would like to help you changing your view on the addiction.
First of all, it is important to realize that smoking comes along as a rather ‘innocent’ and socially accepted addiction. Hence, it is a lot harder to appreciate the seriousness of the addiction because it does not have a significant effect on others. Assuming you smoke on your own and outside, your friends or family are not affected, at least in the short and medium-term. It does not have a terrible impact on your job, social life, reputation etc.. If you compare smoking to alcoholism, gambling or drug addiction the effects of smoking cannot be seen straight away because you are usually ‘functioning’ in a normal way.
But this lulls you into a false sense of security which is particularly dangerous as the long-term health effects of smoking are very negative. It promotes diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, asthma, osteoporosis, arthritis to just name a few. Moreover, cigarettes contain many poisons and carcinogens (cancer causing substances) and something not many smokers are aware of, also radioactive elements.
DOING THE INNER WORK
Another very important aspect which makes it so difficult for someone to quit smoking is that many smokers see smoking just as a bad habit and a physical addiction which they try to ‘willpower’ or ‘nicotine patch’ away. That often has very little success. Here lies the first clue: many smokers tend to completely miss the psychological side of their addiction. They ‘just want to stop smoking’, there is ‘nothing wrong with them’. I agree there is nothing wrong with them. As a matter of fact, there is nothing wrong with people in general but there is inner work to be done for all of us. In my experience from working with clients you cannot ‘just stop smoking’ without the willingness to do the inner work.
REASONS FOR SMOKING
You need to realize that you smoke for a reason. Your smoking is not random, far from it. To illustrate this, I would like to share some client comments about smoking I hear quite frequently to illustrate this:
- ‘Life is difficult. Having a cigarette lets me forget this for a moment.’
- ‘Smoking is my friend.’
- ‘Cigarettes are always there for me.’
- ‘Smoking gives me time to breathe.’
- ‘Cigarettes allow me to have some peace and quiet.’
- ‘Smoking gives me some time for myself.’
- ‘I feel connected when I have a cigarette.’
Do you recognize yourself in some of these comments? They all show that cigarettes do something for the smoker. You can say they have a job. So if smoking has a job this must mean that there is no point condemning and fighting the addiction, because smoking helps you with something. Instead, you need to understand the smoking and with that understanding you will be able to take steps to end it in a sustainable way.
MAKING THE SMOKING JOBLESS
If you think about smoking from that point of view, what happens if you ‘willpower or nicotine patch away’ the smoking? Who will be doing the job? Nobody! There is a big hole and this is the very problem. Often this hole is filled straight away with something else. Usually it is another addictive action or substance, such as eating sweets or cakes. Do you recognize yourself?
It is really important to realize that before you can take the smoking away you have to take over the job of the smoking. You have to do that job. Only once you have fully taken over, the smoking will become jobless and therefore irrelevant for your life. How can you achieve that?
First of all, you need to really understand the addiction. Take a pad and write down what smoking does for you, similar to the examples I gave above. Smoking helps you with something. What is that something? What is the job of smoking in your life? Become your own detective and start investigating. Give this exercise time, ideally over a couple of days. Do it in writing, not just in your head. You will realize that more and more will come up if you focus on this question and do not look away anymore.
After doing this exercise can you see now how smoking, as bad as it is for your health, helps you fulfilling some of your needs? That is a first big step.
As a next step, you need to think of ways how you can take over that job.
Let me give you an example. If your job description for smoking is for example ‘Cigarettes allow me to have some peace and quiet.’ you need to think how you can bring some peace and quiet into your life. That could mean that you tell your spouse and kids in the evening that you make a cup of tea and need fifteen minutes just for yourself, to wind down. That requires communication. You might realize that you need to learn a better communication. Be courageous and self-loving. Listen in and learn to recognize your needs and to communicate them.
SMOKING AS A SYMPTOM
Smoking is a symptom of an underlying issue. Let me explain. If you have a tooth pain you would not come up with the idea that pain killers will make your tooth pain go away. Pain killers might help you in the short-term but still you need to see the dentist to fix the root of the problem.
The same applies to smoking. The source of the problem needs to be addressed for the symptom, the smoking, to disappear. Apply the same approach you use for an aching tooth to your smoking: search for the source and take steps to eliminate it.
Let us use our example again that ‘Cigarettes allow me to have some peace and quiet’. The underlying issue we have identified in exercise 1 was a lack of communication.
In my experience with clients, smokers often struggle with communication and the very act of smoking comes in very handy to do that communication for them. Usually, family members leave them alone when they go outside for a cigarette. No explanations or communication is required.
Make an honest assessment. Do you struggle with communication? Do you tend to ignore your needs? If you answer these questions with yes you have a good clue on the topics to work on.
Ask yourself what are the things I could do to be more kind, understanding and loving with myself, to recognize my needs? What are the steps I can take to communicate my needs better to others? This will require some changes and courage from you, but it is worth it, not only in order to stop smoking.
I would like to share this great exercise to better notice and acknowledge your needs. Take some time every day, sit down and set the alarm to 3 minutes. During these 3 minutes really feel your feelings. Listen into your body. What does it want to tell you? What is it you need in this very moment? Sometimes it will be a feeling and you just need to be with it, acknowledge it. Other times it might be something you need to do for yourself, so you need to take action. Start being yourself a good friend, understanding and patient.
SMOKING TO FEEL GOOD
One characteristic of addictions in general is that every addictive substance or behavior moves us away from a bad towards a good feeling which must mean we somehow do not feel so good to start with. The addiction serves the role of moving us away from pain towards pleasure, even if that just happens for a short moment.
So ask yourself the question what do I do or miss to do that makes me feel not so good? Is there something I could change about that? Are there things I could introduce into my life that make me feel good?
SMOKING AS A SUBSTITUTE
Another important aspect of smoking is that it is a substitute, an alternative for a more direct answer to an issue. Again, let us have a look at our example. You feel good having a cigarette, you feel relaxed. But of course, there are many other things you could do to relax, often times much more direct and more healthy options than smoking.
Think about direct actions you could introduce into your life as a response to your underlying issue. If it is the need to relax that could be a hot bath, a yoga session or having a nice cup of tea on the sofa. Ask yourself: ‘What feels relaxing to me?’.
Whatever it might be for you, taking action to make you feel good or to relax, to learn a better communication or to have more real friends and connect. So start searching for direct actions that address the underlying issues. At some point you will be in a position not needing cigarettes anymore because you can directly respond to your needs.
RAPID TRANSFORMATIONAL THERAPY™
If you feel stuck in your investigation on the underlying issues a Rapid Transformational Therapy™ (developed by the top UK therapist Marisa Peer) is a great tool to give you further insights. It is particularly powerful because it works with the subconscious mind and can help you uncover and transform subconscious limiting beliefs that might have stood between you and a smoke-free life.
I hope this blog gave you a different perspective on smoking and you find the exercises helpful to get to the bottom of it. You find further information on addictions in general in this article.