I’VE TRIED EVERYTHING
Guest Post: Chelsea Wymer
I have been smoking for about 20 years and consequently I’ve tried everything to quit. Patches, nicotine replacement gum, lozenges, champix, cold turkey and just beating myself up on a regular basis, which inevitably lead me back to my ol’ faithful friend – the cigarette.
Encouraged by a friend to “give hypnosis a go”, it conjured up regaling’s of cruise ship entertainment and cheesy TV shows where they embarrass their prey by having them lay an egg on stage. Did I really want to tell my inner most fears and concerns about giving up the ‘crutch’ to someone that could click his fingers and have me quacking like a duck? But what if it worked? This 20-year struggle would be over. I kept coming back to a quote from Thomas Edison
“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t”.
And I hadn’t.
The initial meeting was over the phone. I quipped about how I think people are turned off by hypnosis as it seems like ‘magic’ and he confirmed – “that’s exactly what it’s like. Magic, it happens as if like magic”. For the record, I hate magicians and their fancy little “I know how it’s done and you don’t” smugness. So I’m not off to a great start.
We chatted about why I wanted to quit, was I ready?, he was making sure I was. Am I ready to give up smoking? Good question. Am I? He wanted to know I was serious about this.
He gave me some reading to do in preparation for the first session, telling me to “get ready to quit smoking”. I needed some rational thought process’ here, and the articles were happy to oblige.
There was strong rationale for hypnosis being wonderfully effective in smoking cessation work. Reasons for smoking are outlined:
the addictive nature of cigarettes
the emotional reasons
and the familiarity of the habit itself
But it’s never just one; it’s generally a combination of all 3 that are the issue. Therefore if nicotine were addictive alone, the patches and gum would have worked.
All this was appealing to my logical mind. “Most intelligent people want to know why something works”. That’s me, I thought, I want to know why? Hold up… then the dreaded realisation that maybe; just maybe, I’m just an oxymoron in disguise.
I kept a diary – just for one day. Some of my smoking was conscious, but it was mostly habitual triggers like having a coffee, alcohol, cooking dinner, after dinner, anytime I stepped outside, when I took a break from work, on the phone, to give myself “thinking” time, being awake, upright. Wow, I really am a smoker. But it promised that hypnosis could amplify my strengths and reduce or eliminate cravings. I thought, if the cravings are gone: then it’s a CHOICE! My choice.
I went in for my first appointment. Nervous. Anxious. Feeling like I, well, needed a cigarette.
‘What would my life be like without them?’ He asked me. I have no idea? It’s been so long. I suppose I’d be happier, healthier, richer? I wasn’t sounding very convincing. We talked a lot. Lots of questions and statements, some that seemed illogical and irrelevant, but I’m sure it was part of some process.
Then he asked me to relax. You can sit up; lie down, what ever is comfortable. I chose to lie down. If I can’t live out my “lie on the couch and be hypnotized” movie moment, then why am I here. Seriously…
A hypnotic state allows you to be highly responsive to suggestion or direction and in therapy, can allow modification of behaviour. It felt like I was daydreaming or meditating, a state between the conscious mind (awake, alert) and the unconscious mind (asleep).
I could hear everything. And I just listened. When I ‘wake up’ the only thing I remember is “I don’t have to let the decisions I made when I was younger, control my future”. I don’t remember anything else, so this statement must have resonated with me. I mean, I wasn’t still getting around with my CD walkman that I loved in the 90s, so why have I held onto this? And I had no idea how long I was under. Was it 5 minutes, 15, 30 max…. right? Wrong. 45 minutes.
The first 7 days
For me, it completely eliminated the cravings. Thank god! But the habit and emotional connection is harder than you think. I needed a strategy.
Step one – no cigarettes in the house.
Step two – don’t think about it, just go to bed.
Step three – step two is ridiculous and I can’t spend my life in bed. Lets just try not thinking about it?
Step four – don’t drink alcohol, don’t go out and keep busy. Exercise, work, work, work, exercise, drink tea, tea, tea, water.
Step five – Remove steps 2 and 4. No woman is an island!
Keeping busy did work. But I’m going back in a few days, I need to make sure this over thinking is normal.
Round 2 – (7 days later)
Less cynical and a little bit proud of myself, I’m still not smoking; haven’t had one. I explain that the first few days were the hardest, but not from cravings, I just thought about it, a LOT.
It’s like when you break up with your boyfriend and he’s all you can think about. You have the initial mourning period, where you miss him terribly and think about them all the time, but time passes and I think less and less about it. He describes this as the ‘awful, smelly boyfriend that I once loved. But not anymore’. Insert mic drop!
I explained how I set myself some controlled tests. Go to lunch with my smoking buddies at the pub and see how I go. But I wasn’t tempted, so I was feeling all Charlie Sheen and #WINNING.
We chat more and more about the positives and negative statements that little voice in my head is saying to tease out what to address in the hypnotic state. I explain that after about 5 days, the insomnia kicked in: falling asleep at 2am, wide-awake at 6, so I’m tired and grumpy. But a quick Google search reveals these are all physical withdrawals from the nicotine. To be fair, it’s been 20 years. I’m bound to have some physical withdrawals.
Under I go for the second time (sitting up this time). I can still hear everything, but again, I can’t remember much when I wake up. But I do remember feeling “that’s it, I’m done”. Finally.
P.S: Update 5 December, 2016:
How did I go? I bet you’re all busting to know (or maybe not…)
Bottom line, I’m still not smoking. Haven’t had one. YAY right? Yep. I’m pretty damn proud I must say, but I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been easy. You really do have to want it.
Looking back, those first few weeks were the hardest. It was all I thought about. For me, it’s still the habit I’ve had to kick, not the cravings. My trigger is alcohol. Not coffee, not a particular time of day or scenario, just plain old “when I have a drink, I want a ciggy” trigger. I haven’t quit drinking, but it has been important to identify trigger(s) so that you can be aware of it and if need be, control it.
So what I’ve focused on:
- Telling as many people as possible that I’ve quit. Hopefully, they’ll help me keep on track.
- Patting myself on the back when I’ve had a win; turned down that ciggy, walked away when I’ve felt like buying a pack.
- Not having one. Never. Ever. I’d just be fooling myself if I thought I can have one and walk away. I can’t, I know I can’t, so don’t kid yourself.
- Not being that annoying “if I can do it, you can do it too” person. I hate that person. You’re annoying! I’ve made a conscious effort not to be that person. Like I said, you’ve got to want it and everyone has their time. They’ll get there on their own.
I don’t think about it anywhere near what I was at the beginning (which for the record was early October 2016), in fact unless I’ve got a drink in my hand, I don’t really think about it at all. Now, I’m just looking forward to moving into 2017 and beyond, smoke free.
Services provided by Sydney City Hypnotherapy
Clive Girdham Dip ClinHypPsych, PMAHA, NHRA
They offer Hypnosis services tailored for each individual to address – Anxiety, depression, fears, phobias, habits and addictions.
How many sessions will you need?
It really depends on the individual. 80% of patients nail it in one go. But I liked having the 2nd session. It was a chance for me to come back, check in and get some support. Up to 4 sessions could be needed depending on your level of addiction.
Will it work for everyone?
No, it won’t – but what have you go to lose by giving it a try? I’ve seen a few places that “guarantee” you can quit, but I’m not sure how you can guarantee that? Maybe it’s a money back scenario? You really have to want it. If you’re partner is forcing you to do it, chances are, that wont work, so a guarantee is useless.
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