Quitting smoking is no easy task, or so we are led to believe. Most of us tend to think that the nicotine is just too addictive! No wonder, since the addiction is like what people experience with drugs such as heroin or crack cocaine, right? If you subscribe to this view and are still smoking for the simple reason that you firmly believe that you simply can not stop, I have news for you: it is actually quite easy to stop, and nicotine is not nearly as addictive as you might think .
Let me explain. OK, granted, there is a component of physical addiction to smoking, and for some people this may be stronger than for others. However, this does not account for more than 25% -30% of the whole smoking problem, and it is generally over and done with within 2-12 days. For the vast majority of people, the worst is over after 4 days, and there are no physical symptoms left after 3-4 weeks. And what seemed like the pangs of withdrawal (headaches, irritability, aches and pains, insomnia, etc) may well have been detox symptoms as much as withdrawal. After all, once you stop smoking, the body finally has a chance to clear the toxins out, which it does. This means your organs of elimination work in overdrive, and you feel less than well while this happens. Quitting cold turkey may well make this tougher, but then it'll also shorten the process, so go right ahead and do it – have plenty of water, fresh fruit and calcium-containing foods to ease the detox symptoms. It certainly helps to reframe the so-called withdrawal symptoms as detox symptoms – much, after all, is in the mind. The truth is that if you believe you can quit, then you can – and if you believe that you can not, well, then of course this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy and indeed you can not.
So what are the other 75-80% of the smoking puzzle if not physical addiction to nicotine? They are the psychological and emotional attachment to the cigarette and the habit factor. Think of this way: if you can only really see yourself as a smoker and have identified with that role in life so deeply that you can not really imagine yourself without the cigarette, then it's going to be hard. So the key is to learn how to see yourself smoke-free and with absolutely no desire whatsoever to smoke, as a happy, confident, complete person who has no such need. So much for the psychological-emotional aspect. Now for the habit aspect, which is also a huge factor. Consider this: if you have been smoking 20 cigarettes a day for about 20 years and had 10 puffs off each cigarette, then you have made that cigarette-to-mouth hand movement and that deeply-sucking-in-air breathing about 20x20x10x365 = 1 million 460,000 puffs. So much for neuro-muscular memory / conditioning. Over time, you learned to do this. At first, it took some effort, as it was not yet automatic. But once it was deeply ingrained in your unconscious mind, it became second nature. If you are like most people, you probably had to work at it when you first started smoking when you were young. But then one day it became effortless – much like so many other things you learned over time, like tying shoelaces, riding a bicycle, driving a car, playing an instrument or using a computer software.
The good news is that you can unlearn what you have learnt if it no longer serves you. Here you can undo the habit aspect of cigarette smoking by learning alternative behaviors. And it is possible, with visualization techniques, to learn to see yourself as someone who simply does not smoke and does not even want to. So, how can this be done? Will not you need any NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) to help you quit? Why on Earth would you replace one drug with another? If you use nicotine patches you are certainly prolonging the physical addiction aspect. Also, if it were so addictive, would not people get hooked on those patches? For some reason they do not!
It is my concerted opinion that nicotine is not nearly as addictive as most people believe. In the US, there are currently 599 permitted ads in cigarettes, and we do not really know what they all do. But one thing is for certain: what you are smoking has little to do with natural tobacco. Who knows what is addictive there? Is it the caramel (sugar) that they add? Is it some other noxious chemical that leaves you feeling washed out so you paradoxically crave more? The nicotine certainly plays a role, and the ever-devious tobacco manufacturers have been known to design ways of increasing its delivery even as they reduce its total amount so that you actually get more than it even though you are getting less of it, but I honestly do believe that whatever it is that keeps you hooked is purely a small aspect of the larger picture that equally combines the psychological-emotional factor of identification and attachment and the behavioral factor of habit.
Oh, and do not get me started on modern-day drugs such as Zyban, which are used to help people get off cigarettes. There are entire academic books out there with tons of research on nicotine receptors and so on and so forth. Why? Not to help you quit but to make it plausible to you that you need drugs from Big Pharma. Do not bother, you do not need them. They are medicalizing the issue because they want to sell you their drugs rather than empowering you. Because once you realize that it's almost entirely in the mind and that if you really want to stop and are lucky enough to see through their mockery you can stop just like that. Over 45% of all smokers quit ever, and the vast majority do so cold turkey. And so can you!
If you are having difficulty doing this because you lack the confidence to go through with it, I suggest soliciting the help of a hypnotherapist. Hypnosis has a higher success rate in smoking cessation than any other treatment modality, and a good hypnotherapist can help you get over the hurdle with ease. They will help you identify and undo all the psychological triggers you have for smoking and help you see yourself as the person you want to be, helping you identify and break through your limiting beliefs and mobilize resources that you already have within you to make being a non-smoker an easily attainable and sustainable reality for you. You may like to look for one who also practices CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) since this also has a high success rate for smoking cessation. Regardless of their school of thought, make sure that the hypnotherapist you approach is a good one. Ask them questions beforehand about how they approach the issue. If they can inspire confidence in you that it's possible for you to become a non-smoker for good, then go right ahead and book your session with them. It may be the best decision you ever make. One thing, however, you need to remember: first and foremost, you actually have to want to stop.