Can we help a person quit when they are pretty sure they don’t want to quit?
Over the years I have seen numerous members thrust into my program, totally against their wills who still manage to succeed in quitting smoking. I had two in the last clinic who clearly stated they did not want to quit but were forced in by parents. Other people are forced in by doctors, some people have even been tricked into coming to my seminars by family and friends who told them they were going somewhere else and literally brought them to the room under some form of false pretense. While I won’t say this tactic works in the majority of cases, it works a lot more often than most people would think.
To say that these people had no prior motivation or desire to quit would probably not be true. I suspect most smokers have some level of motivation to quit, but motivation without understanding isn’t enough to succeed. That is what I try to do in the first session of a clinic or in the single session seminars. I try to cram in four areas of understanding, all of which I think are crucial for the smoker to understand if they are going to have a good shot at success.
The areas I try to cover are why they smoke, why they should stop, how to quit and then how to stay off. I think these four areas are crucial points of understanding, without having a firm grasp of each component, the smoker is handicapped in his or her efforts.
Understanding why he or she smokes help the smoker see that all the magical qualities associated with smoking are false feelings. While most smokers think they smoke because they want to, the real reason they smoke is because they have to. Their bodies demand it. They are drug addicts, plain and simple and understanding this premise is the crucial first step. As with any other addiction or 12 step program, the premise of being powerless over the drug is the first step in recovery.
I want them to recognize that while they thought smoking was keeping them calm, it was actually increasing their stress levels, or more accurately, their reactions to stress. While they thought smoking made the energetic, it in fact robbed them of endurance and energy. That it made keeping their life style fun and active, it was actually robbing them if ability to do many things and was in fact putting every activity and relationship at risk. That it was at their core of their ability to be an active member of society, it was in fact causing them to resort to many antisocial behaviors, leading them to smoke in lieu of human contact or even leaving gatherings because smoking was not permitted.
Why they should stop smoking is probably the least surprising to most people, they already know smoking is bad for them, but most people don’t recognize how bad it is. Many people are blown away when they realize the full magnitude of the dangers from smoking. While I don’t spend a great quantity of time on the issue, maybe only an hour and a half of 10 hours of presentation time, it is still one of the areas that many people refer back to years later as a major motivating factor to stay off. The recognition that quitting smoking is in fact a fight for very survival is often of paramount importance in long term success, dealing with the occasional thoughts that are still triggered by circumstances and situations faced throughout the ex-smoker’s life.
How to quit, now there is a shock to most people, especially after the more reading and research they have done prior to coming to my programs. If they are medical professionals, bombarded by the influence of the state of the art of smoking cessation techniques, what I am proposing is so radical that it takes them a few minutes to overcome the idea that I am out of my mind. After being bombard by study after study and expert after expert, to come out and accept that the way to quit smoking is simply to quit smoking seems ludicrous. It is only when I have them think real hard of all the long-term (one year plus) ex-smokers they know, of how these people initially quit, that they start to realize that the vast majority of these people, and in many cases all of them, quit by cold turkey. It is often like a light bulb goes off in their head for the first time seeing the obvious, even though it flies in the face of conventional wisdom.
Finally, how to stay off, here is another kicker. Almost every piece of professional literature on smoking cessation produced over the last 30 years will bury one line in the text, or sometimes make it really obvious that will undercut the most truly motivated and educated smoker. The line is “don’t let a slip put you back to smoking.” That makes as much sense as don’t let a drink put you back to drinking to an alcoholic, or a heroin addict given the message of don’t let a little injection put you back to using. The message needs to be stronger than that, not don’t let a slip put you back to using, the message had better be–DON’T SLIP!
There is no such thing as a slip, or an accident, or a mistake, or a puff, or just one, they are all a RELAPSE! This point, more than anything else is what is going to make a quit last. Forgetting this concept, or worse, never knowing it all but assures failure.
I have seen the education of the smoking problem work thousands of times in getting people to be properly prepared to quit. Again, that problem is more than just the physical dangers of smoking. It entails the smoker developing a full appreciation of the physical, mental, social, economic, and aesthetic implications of smoking. I have also witnessed the understanding of these issues to be the tools utilized by thousands of ex-smokers in keeping their quits going as long as they keep the understanding of all these issues at the forefront of consciousness.
So can we motivate a smoker to want to quit? I think most smokers of any appreciable time period is already motivated. If not most smokers in general, any smoker who shows up here for even a glimpse at Freedom is motivated or they would not even have typed in the word smoking into a search engine or followed a link sent by a friend. If they took a peak, there is an interest. Now it is a matter of tapping into that interest and helping them realize that there really is a way out. You have all found it here. Those just starting, listen to those who are here for months and years already. Listen to how they sound about not smoking, the overall improvement of life experienced by most.
Those who are here for months and years now, listen to those who are just joining. Hear the fear and doubt expressed and realize that was you so long ago and how you never want to be back at that stage of your life again. You don’t know you will have the strength or sufficient desire or opportunity to quit again if there were another need to do so. For everyone, recognize to quit smoking and stay smoke free, always remember to never take another puff!
“How can I get my family and friends to quit smoking?”
That is the question I am often asked by successful graduates wishing to help those closest to them achieve freedom from their deadly addiction to cigarettes. Unfortunately, there is no simple solution. Smokers are going to smoke until they are ready to quit. Pestering, threatening, insulting, destroying or hiding cigarettes all cause the smoker to feel resentful and usually result in higher consumption of cigarettes for spite. These are not the methods of choice.
One method which I do suggest is understanding. Smokers do not smoke because they are stupid. They don’t smoke because they are mean or obnoxious and wish to hurt their families and friends. They smoke because they are human, and as humans they make mistakes. One that all smokers are guilty of is experimentation with a highly addictive and dangerous drug-nicotine. Many of them took up smoking long before any dangers were known. When they realized the dangers, they may have attempted to quit, but for some it is not easy. They are hooked on a drug, and it will take strong resolve and a support system to overcome the initial difficulties encountered during the quitting process.
The best support which can be provided by significant others is to offer love, patience and understanding, and to try to make the smoker’s life as easy as possible over the first few days. The smoker giving up cigarettes may have severe emotional outbursts and be irritable, depressed, and even irrational. These are all the effects of nicotine withdrawal. Many family members and friends will encourage them to smoke rather than act like that. If they were recovering alcoholics, they would not be offered drinks by these people. If they were reacting to chemotherapy they would not be begged to give it up and sacrifice their lives for the family’s momentary comfort. Unfortunately, many friends and family members often do not take smoking cessation seriously enough. We are not talking about giving up a simple little annoyance such as biting of nails. We are talking about a powerful and deadly addiction. They are dealing with a real physiological need as well as a strongly ingrained psychological dependence. Offer the most encouragement you can. Be tolerant of their temporary emotional outbursts. They will soon return to normal, and you will have the personal satisfaction of knowing you helped them over one of the greatest challenges of their lives-giving up cigarettes.
While non-smokers may offer their love, patience and understanding, you, as an ex-smoker, have the unique ability to be a highly supportive and credible source to the individual attempting to quit smoking. You knew what it was like to smoke. You know how much nicer it is to go through life as an ex-smoker. Share this knowledge. Be honest-if you still have thoughts for a cigarette, tell them. But clarify what the thoughts are like. If you are a typical ex-smoker, the thoughts occur quite infrequently, and even when they do occur they last only seconds and are just a passing desire rather than a real painful episode such as those encountered during initial cessation.
People giving up cigarettes need to know this natural evolutionary process of smoker to ex-smoker. When they encounter urges after the first two weeks, they are no longer experiencing physical withdrawal, rather they are responding to a psychological trigger. They are experiencing a new situation for the first time without a cigarette. The urge will pass and they will have learned how to face all future similar experiences as an ex-smoker, with no discomfort.
Share with them the information we shared with you during the clinic. Give them the same support that the others in your clinic gave to you. Most important, once smokers give up their cigarettes, offer periodic support to them letting them know you care about them, and always reinforce one concept to guarantee success in their continued non-smoking status-NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!