Stopping smoking is easy. What makes it difficult for some is the fact that they believe the hype about the struggle and suffering stopping smoking is supposed to cause. This hype is created by people who have tried to quit and decided to continue smoking and want it to be something else than their responsibility and choice. People might say that it was too hard, or so easy that they noticed that they “could quit any time”, they might describe a stressful time of their life that triggered them to smoke. The thing is though, saying that one thing causes another in this context is crazy. “My girlfriend was being a pain so I decided to continue eating saw dust”, the two don’t seem related but the mind works in funny ways.
Notice that I say stopping smoking and not quitting smoking. Quitting is something you do when the task seems too overwhelming and out of reach so you give up, where stopping can be a proactive action. The words we use are very important contributors to the results we get, so use appropriate words.
I was a smoker
I started smoking when I was about 14-15 years old. After about a year of smoking I noticed that, not only do I smoke every day, but I smoked a lot. I smoked between every period in school and after school my consumption was about 1 cigarette per hour. When I reached my twenties i think my consumption was closer to 1 cigarette every 45 minutes every day of the year. That is a little less than the worst case chain smokers but nearly as deadly. Most of the smoking I did was to prevent cravings for cigarettes. So that means a great majority of the cigarettes I smoked I didn’t even crave. This is the case with many smokers.
During the 12 years I was smoking I tried to quit numerous times. I tried all the strategies. I tried cold turkey, slowly phasing out cigarettes, replacing cigarettes with candy, using nicotine products, several mantra methods etc. but I never went without cigarettes for more than 5 days. The reasons for continuing changed every time. It was “the hardest thing I have ever tried to do”. I hated myself for being so weak. I knew what cigarettes do to you physically and I was aware that they give nothing back, but for some reason I always came back to them.
The last time I quit was quite different.
At one point in my life I felt like a was lying on the rock bottom looking up from the abyss and decided that some things need to change. I went through many different transformations, many of which I will explain in other articles, and the interesting thing is that the changes started with one small action. I had been suffering from depression for some years and I was in awful physical shape, I slept through whole days and had no motivation for anything. I was unemployed and had no interest in pursuing any goal. It was truly the low point of my life. But one action started a chain reaction. I picked up a book and read about stopping smoking. I started to study the act of smoking. Every time I had a cigarette I stepped back and thought to myself “why did I choose to smoke this one?”. I became more aware of the habit. I started to pick up different tips for quitting, one of which was taking walks and making the walks a smoke free time (these walks changed my life and I still take them every day). The project of studying the act of smoking and ways to stop, started out as a endeavor to prepare myself for the fight against the withdrawals of cigarettes but turned out to be something more. I realized the physical side of smoking and the psychology behind smoking and failing to stop smoking.
After a while of studying the literature and analyzing my own behavior, the process of smoking cigarettes started to feel different. Earlier I felt guilty for smoking when I knew for a fact how bad it was for me. No amount of scare tactics could have ever made me feel worse than I already did. But now the act of smoking started to feel funny. I had learned from my studies that nicotine is a stimulant, yet 75% of the cigarettes I smoked was to relax myself. The remaining 25% was used for hunger, killing time, avoiding social awkwardness, waking up, falling asleep and after sex (“that was great babe… now let me go outside to eat some saw dust”). Everything about the habit started to show it’s illogical being. “Why am I still smoking?”
I had set a date when I was going to stop smoking, but a couple of days before that I ran out of cigarettes and thought to myself “Screw this. I am not going to spend any more money on this habit”. I was prepared for battle. I didn’t care what came at me I would annihilate the opposition. This time I was ready for not a battle but a full-out war. Then… nothing happened.
The first 2 days or so I felt changes in my blood pressure, so I got light headed easier when getting up quickly. I felt some anxiousness at about 6pm at the evening and that was completely fixed by taking a walk, which I really enjoyed. My mind wandered back to cigarettes every now and then, so I reminded myself that this option has been removed and moved my thoughts elsewhere. And that was it. A tooth ache or having the flu is considerably worse than that. Since that day in 2009 I didn’t taste another cigarette for about 13 months, until one day at a party I decided to try one. It tasted bad, made me dizzy and made my chest hurt for the whole next day. That was enough to completely let go forever.
What really happened
I trust you have read The Powerfast Method and if not, i recommend you do to completely understand and appreciate what i’m about to explain. There is a lot of psychology behind these methods and actions, but I’ve taken the approach of not going into the specifics about what is happening psychologically. We are going for the end results and that is considerably easier than understanding the mechanics behind them.
Why was this time successful? What was different?
Well, I started the entire process by analyzing my habits of smoking. Taking notice of myself and the reasons that made me choose to smoke. This is the Separation part. I started separating the physical actions I did and cravings I had from the associations to cigarettes that I had created during the years of smoking. I literally was analyzing my behavior in the physical world like a biologist would analyze the behavior of monkeys. I separated, in my mind, the act of smoking from everything I thought i knew about smoking. I “knew” people smoke because they crave cigarettes, but I almost never craved a cigarette before I smoked one. I “knew” cigarettes relax, but I was never relaxed no matter how much I smoked. Most importantly I “knew” stopping is hard to do.
So instead of trusting what I knew about smoking, I began to learn the physical realities about my smoking habits. I was not convincing myself to believe anything, I was simply being objective. I even wrote down interesting associations I stumbled upon. Like smoking while drinking coffee in spite the fact that every single time I did so, my stomach got upset. Or like not wanting to go to sleep because I didn’t want to go through the trouble of getting up and clothing myself and going out when I feel like smoking (I actually stayed awake to smoke!). This habit of analyzing that part of my behavior separated that action from everything else I did. I felt like it was no longer just something I do, but some weird action I choose to repeat again and again.
While I was studying smoking and ways to stop, the books offered me several new ways to view smoking. The good thing about the subject of smoking is, it is really easy to create a paradigm that makes it ridiculous. All you need to do is be completely honest about the habit and the reasons behind it. Try thinking about a world where people, instead of smoking, eat saw dust dipped into caffeine. Now all the reasons you can think of that people have for smoking can be applied to eating this saw dust. Does this make any less sense?
Earlier when I tried to stop, I was concentrating on the previous times I had tried and failed. I was concentrating on replacing the habit of smoking with something. Remember, if you replace cigarettes with something else you are still allowing the habit dictate your behavior. You cannot do something instead of another thing and not be reminded by the first thing. This is why nicotine gum is garbage. If you chew gum instead of smoking you are – in reality – replacing that one cigarette with that one gum. That gets old pretty quick and you will be back to the real thing in no time. This is why the option needs to be simply removed so your mind can start to think of other things to do. These new things will not be replacing cigarettes, they will be filling the time that was once used smoking.
There was one part of Allen Carr’s great book “Easy way to stop smoking” that really helped me create a new paradigm, it described smoking as a chain reaction that is either in motion or not. After extensive analyzing and studying I have come to the conclusion that that is the case. No more and no less. Smoking is a chain reaction that is either in motion or not. When you smoke you put the chain reaction in motion and when you don’t it stops. The only reason to smoke is to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms people think they have. There is no other use for the product we call cigarettes.
So the paradigm shift that I made was changing smoking from something that I just do, to some illogical crazy thing I used to do.
Another important part of the paradigm shift was to completely remove the option of smoking. If you “try to quit smoking” you actually leave a door open already in that sentence. If you “try” it is okay to fail (I personally don’t think in terms of failure and success, because the idea of failure is incomplete. Whenever you learn from something it is not a failure). This time I didn’t try to quit, I stopped smoking. It was also important for me to not make a big deal about it. I didn’t tell many people about it because I didn’t want to be reminded about the action of smoking by people asking how my “quitting project” is going. I just wanted to go and remove that part of my behavior once and for all and forget about it. When people asked if i’d like a smoke, I simply declined and didn’t go any more into the subject. The habit was removed. If people asked whether I had quit or not I merely told them that I don’t feel like smoking today. This allowed me to avoid the long conversations where people share their negative experiences about “failed tries” to quit, when I am in the process of removing the entire subject from my life. I didn’t want to justify myself to others who still smoke. I didn’t want to be praised for my “willpower to quit”. All I wanted was a habit I had, to disappear.
But here’s a twist. You cannot forbid yourself from thinking about smoking. That will eventually backfire. Whatever you forbid yourself from thinking actually pops up in your head at least twice as often as it would have without the decision to forbid it. You need to make new associations to the subject of smoking. So whenever the idea of smoking pops up in your head you can smoothly lead it somewhere else. You can use the Link Editor described in The Powerfast Method to accomplish that.
I started taking action way before I smoked my last cigarette. I had planned the end result for a long time but the first concrete action was finding a book to help with the endeavor. After that I read the book, then started to take daily walks, then started to analyze my behavior, then started to write down observations I made and so on until I took the action to stop smoking cigarettes. When the goal is clear and the foundation has been laid the action becomes much less effort.
Most people don’t take action to realize their goals. That is a sad fact of the world. Always when you find yourself comparing yourself to other people, remember the fact that most people don’t actually act upon things. When you want to stand out, take action. When you want to be the exception to the rule, take action. Remember that stopping smoking doesn’t involve you giving up something you have. It is gaining something you don’t have. You are making a choice to actively stop smoking to gain health, independence, savings and well being.
When the outcome is clear, the actions needed to be done to get the outcome reveal themselves easily. At this particular time the outcome was to no longer smoke. Not getting praise for being able to “quit smoking”, not to be an outstanding example of willpower in action just to no longer engage in the action of smoking.The needed actions are clear. First understand why you smoke, change the way you think about smoking & stop the physical act of smoking.
The Powerfast Method to Stop Smoking
This is how to quit smoking.
1. Understand why you smoke.
-Keep a journal of your smoking and write down in detail why you chose to smoke every cigarette you had over the course of the day. What was you motivation? What made you think of smoking? How did it taste? How did it make you feel physically and mentally? What triggered you to take action and smoke? Did you need to go through some trouble to get outside to smoke? Whatever you can think of that particular time you smoke, write it down. It might feel ridiculous, but you are describing an illogical behavioral pattern, don’t expect it to make sense.
2. Create a new paradigm about smoking.
-Write down examples of situations that you now think you couldn’t enjoy without cigarettes, and continue by writing several reasons why the absence of smoking will make it less enjoyable. After writing down these reasons, under them write the reality of the matter. For instance, if you wrote “I won’t be able to enjoy myself at the pub because all my friends smoke and I wouldn’t be a part of the group anymore” you can write something more accurate like “For me to be uncomfortable in situations where people smoke there would have to be a reason for me to want to smoke as well. But after removing the habit from my life the fact that my friends smoke is a mildly disturbing ugly habit, not a reason to not enjoy their company (plus. the fact that they still smoke is a way bigger inconvenience to them than it is to me)”.
-Make a funny association for yourself to think about whenever the thought of smoking enters your mind. This might sound silly but is extremely effective when modifying thought patterns. You can not forbid yourself from thinking about anything. But you can steer the thoughts to a new direction. One easy way is to make an image in your mind where everybody in the world have taken an other habit instead of smoking. For instance eating saw dust, blowing on duck calls or sucking on legos. The important thing is that the visualization you make is funny enough to you to make you smile (or even better, laugh). So every time you start to think about smoking you can replace the thought with this visualization and get a smile on your face.
-Remember that you should not replace the act of smoking with anything. You don’t need to be reminded of the habit anymore. Instead build a complete new lifestyle that includes several improvements to your life, but no one thing that would be replacing smoking. Write down a series of things you can do now with your healthier well-being time, of which you seem to have more than ever.
-Write about smoking in general. Why do you smoke? No, really why do you smoke? What are the associations you have made in your mind to justify this habit? What is smoking? What does smoking give to you? What does it take from you? Whatever you can think of, write about it. The goal is to eventually see smoking as it really is. The goal is to see the truth about your smoking.
-Remind yourself that stopping the act of smoking is really not a big deal. 6 months after I quit, my girlfriend, my best friends, my business partner and several other people I know had also quit smoking and not one of them failed. There was nothing more special about me stopping smoking than there was with anyone else stopping after me. It was a trend. It was a moment in time in the area I lived when people started to see smoking as it really is. When you see it, it isn’t a big deal to stop.
3. Take action.
-Start taking daily smoke-free walks outside. This was extremely important in the process of getting ready to stop smoking. Taking time to yourself and getting fresh air reminds you of more reasons to remove that bad habit from your life. At some point I started listening to audio books during my walks and got completely hooked. Still today I walk every day and listen to my books, and even now I find excuses to make the walks longer to advance the books quicker.
–After you have managed to clearly see the bizarre reality of smoking and about the justifications you have made for it, you can make the choice to stop smoking. But make sure that you really work on the Paradigm first. It is more effective when you are still in the habit. But when the Paradigm is done, make the choice to stop smoking. When you do, remove it completely from you life but don’t make a big deal about it.
-When you find situations where you notice the will to smoke, make new associations. Continue this for as long as you need to. 3 months after stopping smoking you might notice a situation where smoking might seem compelling. There you must stop, make a new appealing association (that does not involve smoking) and from there on apply that new association.
After smoking has been removed
After you have removed the habit completely, what you do is up to you. You have the tool-set to fix the lingering associations you might stumble upon now and then. But what I recommend is you continue taking the walks forever. The walks are the place I refine my thought processes and the base of my physical well being. I do other physical activities often that are more demanding than walking, but nothing centers me like the walks I take. Get a good mp3 player and get some good audio books and get out for a walk. Especially after stopping smoking the clearing of your lungs feels amazing. You start to notice new smells and the taste and feeling of fresh air refreshes your entire being. Enjoy the world with all your senses.