I hadn’t seen Mary in years. She was in town for a conference and our time together was very limited, yet, the whole time we sat in a restaurant catching up, my mind was distracted by wanting to have a cigarette. I was a slave to an addiction, pure and simple, and I determined it would have to stop.
It became a quest. I chewed gum, wore patches, used progressive filters, tried acupuncture, wore copper bracelets, magnets, acupressure bands and even crystals. I’d go a few days, a week, even two weeks and then, something would happen and I’d find a cigarette between my fingers and a cloud of failure over my head.
Smoking meets the three criteria for a clinical addiction:
1. Nicotine is processed in the brain and the brain builds a tolerance for it, meaning more and more is required to achieve the same affect.
2. Without access to the chemical, users suffer unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal.
3. Smoking has negative effects on a person’s ability to live his or her life. In other words, smoking must be considered and accommodated in any plans a smoker makes. At some point that accommodation becomes onerous and restricting.
(A point about vaping: Nicotine is deceptive. It wears a kind of chemical mask and the brain initially believes it’s getting dopamine, a calming substance but then, nicotine takes off the mask and, believe it or not, delivers stress. Heart rate and blood pressure go up. While vaping removes the tar and avoids some negative health consequences, vapers are still damaging their health by chemically inducing stress. They think they are relaxing but it's real stress.)
Hypnosis has proven to be a very effective tool in quitting. By some estimates, it more than triples a quitter’s chances of success, but it’s not a magic pill. In order to get the most out of his or her hypnosis dollars a potential client should understand certain things before signing on the dotted line.
Smoking is more than a chemical addiction to nicotine. It has a three-aspect presence in a smoker’s life.
There is, as everyone knows, the nicotine addiction—addressed by pills, gum and patches by the medical community. Gradual reduction in the amount of nicotine available makes the cravings easier to manage but also prolongs the process, thereby giving the quitter more chances to backslide. Nicotine withdrawal can result in irritability, headaches and fatigue. Without strategies to manage these symptoms, they often break a quitter’s resolve. While hypnosis can't speed up detox and it's aftermath, it can help quitters manage the symptoms.
There is the behavioral aspect. In addition to the habit of smoking with coffee, while driving, after meals, what-have-you, there are also, the physical feeling of the cigarette between the fingers, the ritual of opening the pack, tapping a cigarette, of lighting up, and the inhaling and exhaling of the smoke. These behaviors have emotional and psychologically suggestive attachments, which cause smokers to reach for the pack as often, if not more than, the simple desire for nicotine.
Sometimes a smoker will discover that there are two lit cigarettes in the ashtray. Well, since the smoker was already getting nicotine from the first one, we know that it wasn’t the need for nicotine that prompted the smoker to light up another, it was the unconscious desire for the associated feelings of the behavior. Artfully applied hypnosis can actually change the meaning of these suggestive behaviors.
There is also a social aspect to smoking. While society increasingly shuns smoking and smokers, there is a comradery in smoking, especially when smokers are forced to indulge their habit in isolated locations. It’s a kind of community that smokers become tuned-in to. They take breaks together, gather around designated smoking areas, commiserate over being ostracized, and even talk about how much they want to or how hard it is to quit. In hypnosis, smokers learn how to say, "No thank you, I don't smoke" while still enjoying the company of their friends.
Addressing only one, or even just two, of these three aspects is insufficient. Any smoker who has endured a long airline flight using nicotine patches can attest. It’s not enough to just get the nicotine.
To understand the quitter’s challenge, imagine that smoking is like a pizza cut into three unequal pieces—chemical, behavioral, and social. As a hypnotist, it helps me to know which pieces are the biggest and what toppings are on them, that is, what elements are involved in each one. Smoking is a complex habit that needs a multi-faceted response. Until we spend a little time together, I can’t possibly know how a client’s pizza is divided or what toppings are under the cheese. This complexity is why I like to allow for several sessions. I want to make sure we are going to finish the whole pizza. I don’t want to leave even a bit of crust.
I offer two methods. The cheapest and quickest way is a two-hour smoking cessation workshop. There is a pre-session phone interview required before one can attend. This step provides about 20 minutes of private consultation that I need in order to better understand the client. I keep the enrollment low and make every effort to make the workshop valuable. Still, there are several people in the room and by nature, it has to be more general and generic than a private session. That being said, it still does the job for a fair number of people and is a good place to start, even if it turns out that more work is needed.
The other method is through individual sessions. I suggest three sessions because that seems to provide the most support to my clients. We could do it all in one marathon session but I would charge the same price as three and there is real value in the time between sessions. It gives us time to find and address elements, (pizza toppings) of which we may have been unaware. A few clients actually take more sessions but usually they do so because we discover related issues or habits that the client also decided to work on.
Smoking has stopped by the third session.
When I hear of people saying that hypnosis for smoking cessation didn’t work for them, I know that one of three things happened.
- The client may have bought a smoking cessation hypnosis product without actually seeing a hypnotist.
- The hypnotist used an off-the-shelf technique that didn’t take into consideration the client’s entire individual smoking pizza including the toppings.
- Or the client, for some unknown reason, held back, resisted or consciously sabotaged the process by deciding to smoke again against everything we’ve established in hypnosis.
Quitting is possible and with hypnosis, it doesn’t have to be an arduous, herculean task. If you want to smoke, smoke. If you don’t want to smoke anymore, let me help you. Contact me. Why wait? The phone call is free and there’s no obligation. (412) 523-8655