How To Quit Smoking Right Now

I’ve got a tale to tell you. I’m happy to say that I quit smoking cigarettes over 30 years ago. No patches. No gum. No drugs, hypnotism or group therapy. I just quit, cold turkey, and I’m going to tell you how. How to quit smoking right now.

The really funny thing is I didn’t even want to quit at the time. I’d been smoking for several years, and thought I’d quit someday, because even then we were calling cigarettes “cancer sticks,” and I had seen some of the photos of what lungs look like after years of smoking, as well as a number of lung cancer victims. It’s a pretty painful, and slow, way to go.

But no, I wasn’t planning on quitting just then. I was still in my early twenties, healthy in every way, and likely destined to live at least another 70 or 80 years, so I figured I had plenty of time to take up quitting smoking.

But, there was a girl in the office where I worked who determined to quit on average about twice a month. She’d put signs up all around her desk – “No Smoking,” or “No Smoking Zone.” But it was a pretty high-stress place to work, and a lot of people there smoked. Her “Smoking Not Tolerated Here” sign got more than a few chuckles.

That got her hackles up…

One day, I finally told her that she should just resign herself to smoking, that she didn’t have the will power to stop. Well, that got her hackles up, and she responded that she had more will power than I had. And, that got my hackles up, and so we got into a “do so – do not” type of intelligent discussion.

Finally, I said, “Look – let’s decide this. I bet that I can quit smoking longer than you can.” I took myself a little by surprise with that dare, since I knew I wasn’t planning to quit. But then I figured, “Hey – I can quit for a couple weeks if I have to. At the most.” So we made the bet – the loser had to buy the winner dinner.

Now this wasn’t a lead-in to anything more than that – we really weren’t interested in each other. So – we shook hands, and I put out the two cigarettes I had going at that time (I often switched working between two different desks, leaving a burning cigarette in the ashtray when I went to the other desk). I threw away my half-pack of Old Golds, and we were off to the races.

That’s when I found out she was really taking this seriously. One week went by, then another. I chewed a lot of toothpicks in those two weeks, let me tell you, and stuck more than a few unlit cigarettes between my teeth. But I didn’t light up – no way I was going to let someone beat me at a bet over something I should be able to control – which was my own will power.

Then in the third week, something kind of happened to me. I realized that I had actually quit for two weeks, and that if I wanted to, I could stay not smoking. It still was tough, but I had shown myself that for two weeks I was in control, and that I could remain in control.

Now it’s been 30 years…

So it’s been over 30 years. To this day, I don’t know if I ever actually “won” the bet, because she left the job about a month into the bet and I never saw her again. But I do know that I didn’t “lose” the bet.

So how did that really happen? What was the real motivator inside me that helped me quit? Pride? Yep – I’ve got that. Fear of losing publicly on a bet over will power? – yep, I’ve got that too. But I wanted to look a little deeper than that. Even then, I was a little curious as to what was really going on inside my brain.

What if?

If someone offered you $10 million dollars to quit smoking right now, cold turkey, would you, could you, do it? I’m fairly sure a lot of people would take up that challenge, and win it. That’s a lot of visible, tangible, motivation.

What if it was just one million dollars? Still interested? I suspect pretty much the same group of folks, the majority of smokers, would still go for it and win.

What if it was a dollar? I suspect the numbers of takers drops off pretty much to zero. But – the main point is – something could motivate you to stick with stopping smoking, so the key is to find out what that is, and then find the way to succeed. Not getting lung cancer comes to mind as a pretty good motivator, along with the price of cigarettes for another. Just volunteering an idea or two.

But back to me 30 years ago. Dinner wasn’t exactly a million dollar equivalent. I mean, I like eating and all, and I don’t like losing bets. But we’re talking quitting smoking cold turkey. There was something more at play here, and it also wasn’t just superficial pride and fear, or saving money or even lung cancer, though they played their parts.

Why was it working?

Many instances occurred when I picked up a cigarette and thought strongly about lighting it, especially when I was at home alone, and no one could see me. No one would even know that I had smoked – I could still pretend to be in the running to win the bet.

But I still didn’t light up. So what was really stopping me from losing the bet? I didn’t have the tools and insight to completely understand back then why I succeeded, but I do now. In that third week, I changed my focus. I mentally turned around – away from the motivations of pride, fear, winning an insignificant bet – to realizing that I actually had the power to change a deep-seated habit, to quit smoking for good.

I looked at those first two weeks, and saw that if I determined to make a change in a strong habit, then it was up to me. I controlled my actions – the habit did not have to control me. It was as though I woke up! And now I know what it was that I woke up to.

How to…

Solutions Focused Brief Therapy encompasses what this is all about. And Emotional Life Fitness can take you through the simple steps of learning how to incorporate finding solutions for your life – like quitting smoking – without going through the hit-and-miss tactics, some very expensive, that so many people go through today.

So I dare you – actually, I bet you. Take the Emotional Life Fitness challenge. I bet you that if you do, and follow it through, that you will succeed in finding your solutions. If somehow it doesn’t work for you, they’ll refund your money, no questions asked. Actually, as bets go, that’s pretty risk-free.

But I bet I win.

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