I’m kind of laughing at myself for writing this and I can imagine the accusations of arrogance and hypocracy flooding in. But even though I do smoke and I have no intention of quitting at the moment, I think I have a good idea how a lot of people including myself could stop if they wanted to. In fact it is simply an extension of the principles I try (and sometimes fail) to live by. It’s about liberating your will power and using it. Really wanting to stop is the key, and this means you have to be honest with yourself about what you do really want;- not always as easy as it may first seem.
I started thinking about this because of an incident that happened at a little drinks party I attended last night. A few of us stepped outside for a cigarette including a woman I had not met before. She started talking about how she had tried to give up smoking many times and just couldn’t; and then she went on to talk about how it was the manufacturers fault and the advertising industry and so on, and so on… After a while she was becoming quite emotional and she assumed the rest of us would agree with her about how evil the tobacco industry was. Well I didn’t agree and we got into a discussion. Then I told her how I thought I knew a way that might help her to stop which was deceptively simple, but it would mean being very honest with herself… Well she heard me out and in the end she said she would try what I suggested. I am sure she can succeed.
You see I think the society we live in often seems to conspire to convince us we are helpless victims without the power to change anything for ourselves. Smoking is just one aspect of that trend but maybe it can serve as an example of how our thoughts are manipulated by society in other ways. When we start smoking it is a legitimate decision we make ourselves. Some may view it as a silly decision and we might make it for what some consider to be the wrong reasons, but we decide. We decide to smoke for the same reasons we decide to drink alcohol, eat out in expensive restaurants, go on holiday, drive fast, walk in the woods or have sex. We smoke because we enjoy it; it makes us feel good for a while. There may be an addictive substance in tobacco but that is not why we choose to smoke. We choose to smoke because we are adults and we can choose our own pleasures and the risks we are willing to take.
But that is not how we are encouraged to think about the situation. We become convinced that we started smoking because of peer pressure and that we continue to smoke because of all the subtle advertising in the media and because of the addictive drugs in our cigarettes. We are victims of the tobacco industry, poor and helpless. ‘But,’ we tell ourselves, ‘I do still enjoy my cigarettes.’ ‘Oh no,’ says the nanny state and the self perpetuating industry of self help books, ‘You don’t really enjoy those cigarettes;- you just think you do because of the addictive nicotine and the conditioning you have received from the evil tobacco and advertising empires’. And so we are left, deflated, not knowing if we should even trust our own minds anymore.
And here is where we trick ourselves into a position which does indeed make it almost impossible to stop smoking. We become convinced that we should want to stop smoking and somehow our mind mistranslates this into thinking that we actually do want to stop smoking. Then when we fail, we think that it is because we are weak and that we don’t have enough will power, whereas actually it’s because we never really wanted to stop in the first place.
One thing that witches learn very quickly is the importance of defining your intention very carefully. Another important concept for witches is the belief in our own autonomy and in our ability to will things into reality. So on the subject of giving up smoking, if our intention is not clear (if we confuse thinking that we should stop with a genuine desire to stop) then it is unlikely to happen. And if at the same time our belief in our own will power is compromised (by people telling us we are weakend by addiction and social conditioning) then we are creating a no win situation.
I think I need to make this point a bit more clearly. What I am trying to say is that many people allow themselves to be fooled by the prevailing attitudes in society into thinking thet they smoke because of outside pressures and addiction over which they have no control and this leaves people feeling powerless to change anything. Where-as; if we take the simple step of admitting that we smoke because we like smoking it gives the responsibility and the power back to us.
If anyone wants to give up smoking then, they must first be honest about why they smoke and why they want to stop. Beyond that it is a process of realising that you still have the power to decide and make your decision a reality.
My technique would be as follows (I used it myself to cut down from smoking nearly 30 cigarettes a day to about 10 a day because I decided that was what I wanted).
Don’t throw all your cigarettes away, this will only make you feel desperate from the start. Buy more cigarettes .It is important to know that you can always have a cigarette if you want one , getting rid of them all at the start will only create stress. Now you can decide if you want to smoke on a cigarette by cigarette basis. Whenever you feel like having a cigarette you have a choice to make about whether you really want that particular cigarette or not. The chances are that no matter how many you normally smoke, you will always feel that you can put that particular cigarette off for an hour or two. What this does is reinforce the notion that you are making your own decision every time you light up or decide not to. It is giving you back control and strength of will. If you decide that you do want one, that’s absolutely fine and it is your choice. You still have the possibility to decide in an hour’s time that you don’t want the next one you would usually smoke. You are an adult in charge of yourself and you decide what you want moment by moment. You are in control and you are being honest about what you want and don’t want regardless of what other people think you should think and do.
I used this method to cut down from 30 to 10 cigarettes a day. I did it from one day to the next with no stress and no drama. If at some point I realise that I really don’t want to smoke any more cigarettes (for example if I become pregnant) then I will stop smoking instantly using the same method. There might be withdrawal symptoms, but I will do what I decide.
As I said at the top it might seem somewhat arrogant for me as a smoker to be issuing advice on how to stop since it is something I have never wanted or tried to do. But the advice I offer here is based on the principles I live by and I am quite convinced that it will work. If you have tried other methods that didn’t work, you have nothing to lose by giving my suggestions a try. It all boils down to being honest about what you really want to do and taking responsibility for each decision that you make in persuit of your goal. This same technique or principle is, I believe, empowering in every aspect of life.