It was 2001 and, as I packed my tax-fee car, ready for the journey that was my posting from Germany to Northern Ireland, I had just my rucksack to fill before setting off. In it I would put my bottle of water, an assortment of sweets and chocolate… and a shiny sealed block of 200 cigarettes – bought for a fraction of the UK retail price, and fresh from my NATO tour of Kosovo two days earlier.
Fast forward a few days and finishing my final ‘fag’ before breaking the seal on my 200 pack, I contemplated how long I might last if I left it unopened on the top shelf of my new locker and used willpower alone to attempt to quit. ‘Foolish’ some might say. Well, it wasn’t. It lasted years. I had gone from being a smoker to an ex-smoker just like that!
I still, to this day, don’t know what possessed me to try this unlikely stunt. No preparation or planning; no informing friends or relatives so they can support or encourage me through tough moments ahead; no getting rid of ashtrays or other items that would be a constant reminder and make it even more difficult.
But, looking back, I can remember thinking, ‘I just feel ready’. This is a very important part of the process, which we’ll return to later. I thought I’d cracked it.
We have good days and bad days, even good weeks and bad weeks but, every now and then, a life event occurs that throws everything upside down and inside out. And that was it! I had a cigarette – just one. One was all I needed (at the time). And, after a few hours, I decided that as I was an ex-smoker who had got away with just one (one more wouldn’t hurt at this difficult time), so I had another, and another, and another. Sound familiar?
Wearing my hindsight t-shirt, I can see that deep down I was looking for an excuse to have one. Even after a number of years, the little devil inside every ex-smoker was still able to rear its ugly head and swing a wrecking ball into the walls that had been built since 2001. That’s the problem with being an ‘ex-smoker’. We’ll return to this unhelpful label later.
'I don’t want to be a smoker.'
So, I was a smoker once again. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to be a smoker, and this time there was no ‘wonder moment’ that would do it for me like there was back in 2001. I tried the NHS Stop Smoking assistance, which worked for a couple of weeks. I tried patches, gum, and vaping/e-cigarettes (which I found very unhelpful and just provided an opportunity to become addicted to something else). It was hopeless and I was helpless.
I wanted to be rid of the habit. I wanted to be rid of all of the following:
shortness of breath and tight chest
the smell on my clothes, hair, fingers and breath
the inability to taste and smell the food that I loved
the build-up of tar in my arteries
Most of all, though, I wanted to stop nipping out the back, while the kids watched TV and then fibbing about where I’d just ‘popped off’ to. Hold on a moment... Did smoking lead me into fibbing too? Yes, it did! We’ll return to this later.
Shall I give hypnotherapy a try?
It was suggested some time ago that the combination of tobacco conglomerates and big pharmaceutical companies have the global multi-billion-dollar smoking industry all sewn up. With regard to big pharma, why would an industry that makes its profits from selling smoking cessation products really want people to quit for good? Call me a cynic, but...
Anyway, for those who feel like I did, hypnotherapy is another option – a non-pharmaceutical method of smoking cessation that’s widely recognised, and many have achieved success where other methods have failed. And it did it for me too!
Another option has been slowly gathering momentum. Online Therapy is growing in popularity as individuals and organisations alike are starting to realise that their mental health needs paying attention to just like their physical health. This provides another avenue for those wanting to quit smoking, too.
Did you just say this was possible online?
Yes! Feedback from clients and numerous articles (it's always worth doing your own research) points to it being just as effective. It’s particularly suitable for those who can’t or don’t wish to travel, and who want to be in the comfort of their own surroundings. A PC or laptop is best, and a good internet connection.
'The need or compulsion to have a cigarette can be so strong that you do things that you would not normally do.'
Of course, many will prefer face-to-face hypnotherapy. The most important step is making the decision to quit when you are ready. For many, it’s the best decision they’ve made in decades.
What about those things that you said you’ll return to later? Well remembered!
1. You should want to quit and be ready to quit
I ask potential clients to score from one to 10 how ready they are to give up. If it's below eight, you’d be better off saving your money and getting in contact when you are closer to 10. A good therapist will recognise that, for all the good they can do, working without the will and desire of the client is unhelpful and unlikely to lead to a successful outcome for the client.
2. What’s wrong with being an 'ex-smoker'?
The terminology ‘ex’ may mean it is what they used to be, however, for some it’s something they could easily return to. I have found that it’s more helpful if clients expect to become a ‘non-smoker’ once again. Non-smokers include those who have never smoked and sitting in that category is much more helpful from a psychological standpoint.
3. Did smoking really make me a liar?
For all the ills of being a smoker, perhaps the one that is most often forgotten is the fact that you are no longer in control. The need or compulsion to have a cigarette can be so strong that you do things that you would not normally do. One of the greatest benefits of once again becoming a non-smoker is that you regain control of your life and the decisions you make. And the added bonus – you no longer feel the guilt and the shame that went with those fibs.
One element of my work as a hypnotherapist is responding to client feedback, and this is a very rewarding part of my job. I was recently reminded of an exchange with a client who needed life-saving surgery, but the consultant informed her that he would only operate if she gave up smoking.
Client: "I can’t thank you enough. You’ve changed my life." My response: "I didn’t change your life. You did. I just provided the guidance to help you succeed."
That pretty much sums it up. You already have the resources you need to be successful – and hypnotherapy can help you access and utilise them. And for those who were wondering what happened to the block of 200 cigarettes – it was shared among military colleagues.
It’s important to note that nothing is 100% and no one can promise that you will quit. An important part of smoking cessation is rapport and trust with your hypnotherapist. That said, it can be life-changing.
Written by Roger Mortimer, PDHyp, GQHP, CNHC, GHR Reg.
Roger is a solution-focused Clinical Hypnotherapist, working online with clients from all over the country and face-to-face in Dorchester, Dorset. He specialises in anxiety and stress-related issues, smoking cessation, and weight control. You can contact Roger via his practice website, Advantage Hypnotherapy.
Accredited - Central Register of Stop Smoking Therapists