Hypnotized into quitting

From decades of talking with people about quitting smoking, my two biggest take-aways are that tobacco cessation is a very individual thing, different for each person, and that nicotine is such a powerfully addictive drug that it often takes several quit attempts to finally become tobacco free.

Despite a downward trend, about a fifth of Americans still smoke. It’s a little bit lower in some places (like Utah) and a little higher in other places (like West Virginia). In our home state of Mississippi it is around 20% and that’s about average for America.  So even if you don’t smoke, you probably know someone around you who could benefit from some advice and encouragement about quitting.

Most tobacco cessation programs are a multifactorial approach with nicotine replacement (gum or patches) to help with  the chemical dependence, medications like bupropion (Wellbutrin) to help with the psychological and emotional dependence, and counselling to help with the habitual aspects like oral fixation.   Even with best practices like this, the success rates for smoking cessation programs are often less than 50%. 

Some years back I met a fellow who had a metal staple in the cartilage of his ear.  He said he’d gotten it a few years earlier in an attempt to quit smoking.  

You might recall that in the early 2000’s ear stapling became a popular alternative health fad that could supposedly help with weight loss and smoking cessation.  Mississippi shut down the ear staplers within its borders in 2006 because it was ineffective and moreover it istantamount to unlicensed practitioners doing medical acupuncture procedures. 

I asked the man with the stapled ear if it had really helped him quit smoking and he replied that it had not.  I asked him why he still had the staple in his ear if it was ineffective and he said, “To remind me not to do stupid things.”

On the other hand, I talked with another man some time back who told me that he’d successfully been hypnotized to stop smoking.  I was intrigued and pressed him for the whole story.

He said when he entered the venue where the hypnotism was to take place.  The receptionist charged him $40 and told him, “Go right in, I think they are about ready to start.”

“They?” He wondered as he walked in.  He’d thought it would be a clinical one-on-one thing where some guy in a suit swung a watch on a chain, but when he opened the door it was an auditorium with 200 other people.  He thought he’d just been tricked out of $40 for nothing but he decided to stay and listen.

The hypnotist was a tall, rail-thin guy from somewhere up north, who spoke at length in a droning monotone.  When my friend left the room he realized that two and a half hours had passed but it only felt like a few minutes.

He said when he got to his truck and opened the door, the smell of old smoke almost made him puke!  He had to stand outside breathing fresh air for a while, then hold his breath and throw all the contents of the cab into the back of the pickup and roll down the windows.  

He had developed such an aversion to smoke during that two-and-a-half hour group session that he had to drive home with his head hanging out the window.  That was in 1995 and he still tells people he has a powerful revulsive aversion to the smell of tobacco smoke or even the sight of cigarettes.

I don’t think there is one secret to quitting smoking – no one thing works for everyone.  It might take a while and a lot of quit attempts and you might have to try different techniques.  Keep trying and keep asking for help from people with different perspectives and in the end it will be totally worth it when you are able to proudly say, “I’m a quitter!”