Tag Archives: stop smoking story

No Smoke With This Man’s Fire

AS THESE things go, “I’m going to cure the world of smoking” is up there with the world’s best catchphrases.

These words were uttered by Allen Carr on July 15, 1983, the day when he stubbed out his last cigarette.

Convinced he had discovered a method based mainly on the logical reasons smokers need to quit (rather than on the sea of drugs and patches and gums and hypnotists on the market), he would soon coin it Easyway, which would heal millions of their nicotine dependency.

Carr’s second wife Joyce had heard it all before, the muggy reek on his clothes continued evidence of the 100-a-day routine he’d cultivated throughout his working life. That day, she witnessed him have such a fierce coughing fit that a heavy nosebleed ensued.

Traumatized by the event, Carr’s first instinct was to light up. The bleeding intensified. Appalled, Joyce demanded he visit a hypnotherapist who had helped a family friend.

Dubious, but willing to placate his wife, Carr went along and had his eyes opened, not by the treatment but by one statement from the therapist: “Do you realize smoking is just nicotine addiction and if you quit for long enough, you will eventually be free?”

Many variations on this mantra are repeated in Carr’s books and by the ex-smoker therapists who work in his clinics, helping keep the success rate around the 95% mark they proudly boast.

I met Joe Bergin, the man who runs Easyway Scotland, in an Edinburgh cafe two weeks before visiting his group clinic at Ellersly House Hotel in Murrayfield. I realise our 90-minute interview was, for the most part, effectively a mini-session, all the analogies and arguments and persistent talk of “illusions of benefit” and “the smoking trap” all crop up in Carr’s books and the five-hour long therapy sessions. Fair enough, as Bergin describes the Easyway method as his “favorite subject”.

The feeling which smokers are really after, he says, is the natural relaxed state of the non-smoker, believing they can get there only by feeding the nicotine addiction. The craving arises from the feeling when their last nicotine rush starts to leave the system. So, why not just let the rush leave and allow the body eventually to move into this naturally relaxed state? Carr and his captains’ simplest analogy is you wouldn’t wear a pair of tight shoes simply to feel the relief when you take them off.

On the day of the session, Kate Moss has been accused in the press of being a tobacco industry puppet, only too happy to appear in public and before the cameras with an inevitable wet tab hanging from her lips. Bergin tells me while the industry has seemingly taken a hit from the advertising ban, they are still able to pour an estimated £100m a year into various marketing techniques: “The last resort of the movie-maker is to go to a tobacco company and as long as someone is smoking in the movie, that’s fine.”

It’s not about taste. They would smoke camel dung if they could.

As they enter the room where the clinic is being held, it’s immediately obvious to the wannabe non-smokers they have come to the right place. A funeral pyre of cigarette packets and lighters (the God Bless America and Cyprus holiday lighters are Bergin’s favorites) is positioned near the door, a constant reminder as they head outside for a puff during the “comfort breaks” of the filth they are inserting into the body. The atmosphere is quiet as the group gathers. “It’s like a dentist’s waiting room,” notes Bergin. “You’d think I was taking you to the cemetery rather than leading you away from it.”

Sitting on chairs but encouraged to curl up on the floor if they wish, the collective comprises five men and four women, from vocations as varied as the record industry and homeopathy. Bergin promises “no hoopla, no fancy aids or gimmicks” but there is a white board, graphs, a trick-of-the-eye picture of Marilyn Monroe and a fake needle which he produces to simulate a junkie injecting. Later, there is a brief interlude for an eyes-closed relaxation segment. Scribbling on the white board all the standard reasons why and when people smoke (boredom, relaxation, courage, for concentration, to stay slim, with a drink, on the phone) he discounts each one by applying the Easy way tenets.

“It’s not about the taste. A smoker would smoke camel dung if they could.” And after four and a bit hours, the ritual of the last cigarette sends the group out into the cold.

At the end of the session, Bergin asks the group how they feel: “Frightened but confident”, “the worry is staying stopped” and “the penny will drop when I sit down and have a drink tonight” are among the replies. If the statistics are true, only one of this group will be lured back into the smoking trap; but even they will have the opportunity of attending later booster classes after which, if they are still hooked, they’ll be refunded the 220 fee paid for the initial session.

The success-rate statistics are certainly remarkable, particularly considering the outcome of Scotland’s high-profile smoking ban, which came into force in March last year. It’s probably too early to measure fully its impact but figures from Imperial Tobacco show tobacco sales fell by about 5% at the time of the ban. Sales continue to be down by 2% to 3%. A study of bar staff carried out by Dundee University showed an improvement in their respiratory health within two months of the ban. But evidence of long-term cessation is patchy.

And as impressive as Easyway’s statistics are, the method doesn’t work for everyone. Four years ago, 33-year-old IT consultant Katie attended the clinic and booster sessions but has been on and off smoking ever since. “I think the booster sessions are a bit more aggressive because obviously they don’t really want to be holding them; for the therapist, it’s like facing their rejections.

“Things happened in it that annoyed me. I was told I only smoked because it was cool. That didn’t really help.”

Katie is a couple of months into her current quit and insists she is holding out with will-power, a real no-no concept as far as Easyway is concerned.

A fortnight on from the session, I ring 37-year-old events manager Terri who had also previously tried Easyway but is convinced this time around the method will stick.

“I was concerned because I was going out a couple of days after the session for a big rugby night out. But I was pleased with myself because I didn’t even think about smoking at the time. The session made me recognize I wasn’t really missing out on anything.”

After the session, I asked Bergin why he used “we” instead of “you” so much. “You shouldn’t use you’, it’s too accusative.

“I use the we’ because we the smokers’ are brainwashed and even non-smokers have been brainwashed into believing there’s some kind of pleasure in it.”

A few minutes before the session started, I visited the toilet, and a fuzzy version of I Will Survive forces its way out of the hidden speaker system. Coincidence? I think so.

# Burning Ambition: The Inspiring Story of One Man’s Quest to Cure the World of Smoking has just been published by Penguin, priced  1.99.

Easyway Scotland: 0131 449 7858 or see www.easyway scotland. co.uk

By BRIAN DONALDSON, The Herald
Original Publication Date: March 13 2007
Reproduced with the permission of The Herald, Glasgow © Newsquest (Herald & Times) Ltd.

My Daughter Has Dain Bramage

Dain Bramage is what you get when you quit by using the patch, and my daughter’s got it in spades right now.

Please don’t think I’m poking fun at my own daughter! I only know the syndrome because I myself used the patch as directed, and I instantly lost about 80% of my IQ points. The first 2 weeks of my Quit were like being strung out on some kind of mind-numbing drug.

Oh wait – the 21 mg patch is a mind numbing drug!

Thankfully my girl has a good job with a good boss and good people to work with.

I contract my services out, which means if I don’t work, I don’t eat. Quite literally, my whole livelihood was at stake. If I am unproductive I don’t pay bills, I don’t have electricity, I don’t have internet, I don’t have anything unless I have the ability to work and get stuff done.

So here’s what I did.

Advice When Quitting Smoking

I wrote to every single one of my clients. I told them that, to my way of thinking, if I didn’t quit now I’d be smoking until I died, and that day would come too soon for my liking.

I simply appealed to them to stick with me. I warned them that, realistically I could be looking at another 2 months of spotty performance of my duties. I told them I could be snappish or prone to tears. I told them that, even though I knew I could lose my very fragile new business, I still felt I had to go for it.

Every one of them stuck by me. Not one said “I’ll take my business elsewhere.” And, surprisingly, I learned that many of them have first-hand experience with the symptoms that arise when quitting smoking because they smoked in the past as well.

Picture of Swinging GirlI went through a period of slim rations, to be sure. It wasn’t easy in a lot of ways… but in all the ways that count, it has been wonderful. I’ve returned to being a productive professional, and I can say without hesitation that every day beyond that 2 week mark represented a steady improvement in my ability to function professionally.

From Day 9 on, every day was a great place to be. The worst is behind you by that point, so every day is a new discovery of how good it feels to be Quit. You begin encountering all sorts of benefits, without even anticipating them. The day my taste and smell came back… WOW. Then a week later — double wow — MORE taste and scent! No more yellow-stained fingers. My skin improved, my teeth get whiter and whiter and whiter.

It just keeps getting better and you’ve got even more good stuff ahead. Every crave’s voice gets weaker, and every day you feel the freedom more and more. People look at you and say “Did you do something different with your hair?” But you know it’s the wonderful smell of your shampoo they’re noticing.

Somebody looks at you one day and says “What kind of skin care do you use?” because your face is just so… radiant! Somebody else says “Did you take a vacation or something? Been to a tanning salon?” because your skin is much rosier and not so gray anymore. It just unfolds, and it is all so very wonderful, so liberating, and adds so much to your self-respect and self-esteem.

Please set aside your panic and fear and think long and hard about what is important, where to place your priorities. I don’t know what stage of life you’re in, what your quit motivators are, if you’re a kid or a parent or a grandparent like me. All I know is – somebody loves you.

To somebody, you are the sun, the moon, the starlit sky. There is somebody that you’re unaware of who thinks of you every day. There’s somebody who has always loved you. There are many who need you in their lives. People you know, people you went to school with, people you haven’t seen in years.

All of us who are addicted struggle to regain our freedom and learn to live smoke-free. We know we are addicts, and we do understand that recovering from an addiction means a period of detox. It’s part and parcel of what we have done to ourselves by starting to smoke. We help each other through and we survive. Stick with it – because oh MAN is it ever worth it!

Don’t let the whole “dain bramage” syndrome stand in your way. Work will always be there. I hope you will be, too.

~GareK

Be a Bean

The end of the week last week got really busy for me.

I can’t go too long without wanting to write, though. I’ve kept a journal most of my life, and found writing to be particularly therapeutic as I have gone through this journey of discovery I call “My Quit”.

Sometimes I kick myself for not having kept some of the things I wrote over at QuitNet.

I wrote a humor piece on the Quit Farts that I’d love to get back, especially now. For some reason they seem to have returned. Couldn’t be that I’ve increased the fiber in my diet huh?

I read a comment one of you wrote to an earlier post of mine – the comment was about how hard life was for me early on. It got me thinking. It took me a long time, when I was younger, to let go of that kind of self-talk. I’ve wanted to find some way to explain how I’ve grown to think about it and, of course, it was given to me… in the form of an email a friend sent. I want to share it with you now.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She didn’t know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose. In response, her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire until the water in the pots came to a boil…

Cup of Coffee PictureIn the first pot, the mother placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them boil for about twenty minutes, without saying a word. Then she turned off the burners and fished the carrots and eggs out and placed them each in a bowl of their own. Lastly, she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the distraught daughter replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She noted that they were very soft. The mother asked the daughter to break one of the eggs. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked, “Where are you going with all this, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But after sitting through the boiling water, its became hardened inside, even to its core.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they hadn’t been changed. Rather, they had changed the water itself.

“Which are you?” asked the loving Mom. “When adversity visits you, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? Are you the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity wilts, becomes soft and loses its strength? Are you the egg that starts with a malleable heart and a fluid spirit, but changes with the heat and becomes hardened? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside your spirit has become tough with a stiff and hardened heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brought the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the coffee bean’s fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? The brightest future will always be based on a transformed past; you can’t go forward in life until you transform your past failures and heartaches into coffee.

That one email describes best how I learned to transform my past into a positive. What I went through did not kill me and it served only to make me stronger. I can identify with a much wider and more diverse range of people because I have experienced the things that have come along in my life. I survived them, and so I can give people hope who are going through similar events. I can stand proudly and say, you can prevail.

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.

~GareK

The Tie That Binds

If there is a chain to be broken, then there must be links or ties that hold that chain together.

My last two days in Texas with my daughter, I had a startling revelation. It’ll seem so simple to you, as you sit here and read it.

But it was a “No DUH!” moment for me and I don’t mind showing how blind a person can be when they’re emotionally invested in helping somebody quit.

I had taken each of my daughters individually to my hotel during my visit and showed them a video in hopes to get them to see what smoking can and will do to their lives.

I then showed them a pic of Barb in the last few days of her life, and encouraged them to read more by searching the internet for information on her widower and daughter.

Girl In Distress PictureMy youngest quit immediately, and has been smoke-free for three weeks now. My middle girl, who just gave birth to another daughter, told us something exciting two nights before I flew home. She said she’s going to quit — she wants to quit — and here’s the part that opened my eyes…she ended with “…but I’m scared!”

I told you it wouldn’t sound like much. But to me, it was a real wake up call. I smoked for thirty years. Twenty-five of those years or more, I wanted to quit…but I was scared to.

Well, if I’d been scared enough to continue smoking for a quarter of a century, what makes me think anybody else would be any different? LOL!

I realized that what I’d been trying to do was use logic. That’s okay for an unaddicted mind-set. But it isn’t much of a weapon against fear. Fear is such a debilitating emotion.

It causes people to accept abuse in a relationship, even if it kills them, because they’re afraid to try breaking away. It causes people all kinds of grief and miscommunication. And it causes junkie-thinking to be more powerful than logic.

I personify my addiction by giving it the character of “Nicodemon”, not because I think there’s an actual demon inside me but because the addicted mind is so extremely insidious. The best example of that is how the addicted mind, or Nicodemon, uses fear to enslave us.

Now, here’s the neat thing. My middle daughter revealed how she was afraid to quit, and both my youngest daughter and I piped in with “Oh I know, I was too! But it really isn’t as bad as you fear it will be!”

We were so excited to relay that to her, and we babbled on like junior high kids, talking about how we’d braced ourselves for this horrible pain and long term suffering…only to find that we’ve collectively experienced only about forty-five minutes of “hard craving” in all this time.

That’s with me quit for 1 year and 8 weeks, and her quit for 3 weeks…45 minutes of difficult is nothing compared to dying at the age of 41 and leaving your loved ones behind!

The stark reality of the consequences of smoking have got to be more clear and much more persistent than your fear of walking away from smoking. Talk to people who have quit, especially serial quitters, and they will tell you — each quit is different.

Almost every single Quit Keeper I’ve ever talked with state that they have had at least one easy quit, and it was usually one of the first ones. My first quit is my forever quit. I won’t go back. I was blessed with a very, very kind quit, and so was my daughter.

We both know how lucky we are, not only to have had an easy time of it, but simply to have found a way to overcome our fear of trying. If you’re reading this and you have not gotten to that point yet — please, do some research. You’ll learn the same things I did – it isn’t as bad as you think it will be.

Your addicted mind is keeping you enslaved. Fear is the tie that binds most people to their addiction. Those who face their fears usually find that the horrors they feared were so far removed from the reality as to be embarrassing.

How can I have been so afraid of this to have continued to smoke for a quarter century when I really really didn’t want to!?!

Take your life back now, and stare down your fears. Untie those fears that bind you to your addiction. Believe me, it is worth it to be free.

Will the Cycle Be Broken

…be unbroken…

Oh how I pray it will be broken!

To understand my meaning, you need to know a little about me. Who I am, where I am, why I am here.

I’m a 50-something grandmother who finally found a way to overcome this addiction a year and 8 weeks ago.

Growing up, it wasn’t a question of if you would start smoking, but when. The same was true for my mom. I have a picture of her when she was maybe 15 or 16 eating an apple and smoking a sickarette.

She smoked when she was pregnant with me. So when I took my first puff of a sickarette, even though it didn’t taste good and I had to make my body accept the smoke into my lungs…it felt like home.

It had been part of my experience before I ever had a choice in what kinds of things I wanted to experience. My mom smoked around us kids all the time we were growing up, as did our dad and step dad and just about every “cool” person in our world.

Woman SittingMom died when I was 10-ish. She’d been in the hospital for 3 and a half years, and weighed in at about 82 lbs when the cancer finally ended her suffering and claimed her life…

I grew up in foster homes a very confused and emotionally devastated person. Eventually I had kids of my own, and like my mother I smoked while I was pregnant and I smoked around my kids.

Like her, I also became a single mom and, like her, I allowed people to smoke around my kids as a matter of course.

Today I’m in Texas. I’m here because my middle daughter has given birth to my 4th grandbaby. She’s a beautiful and, thankfully, healthy little girl – and she’ll probably smoke when she grows up. My daughter, like her mother, and her mother before her, smoked while she was pregnant.

I prayed so hard when we found out that she was pregnant that our daughter would emulate her big sister. At least my eldest found a way to quit while pregnant, even though she started smoking again after the baby was finished breast feeding. And she doesn’t allow anybody to smoke in the house or car, or in the presence of her children.

She keeps trying to quit… at least she knows it’s important to keep trying. But my middle daughter isn’t there yet. And I don’t know what to do to help her.

I showed both my middle and my youngest daughters the Barb Tarbox video – yes, it’s made a difference. The youngest, who is still single and not yet a mom, is quitting. She’s beginning Week 2 and is using the patch to give her the extra strength to ride out the craves. She’s doing well and I’m proud that she made this decision.

We had a lot of destructive cycles to end, a lot of “life lessons” to learn. I believe I’ve helped the girls learn enough to end the cycle of domestic abuse once and for all.

My mom got beat up a lot by her husbands. There’s no sense in that, and there isn’t a woman in the world who has to put up with that. I think the girls have learned that – their behavior says they have.

So how do I help them beat this addiction, and quit passing it along to the future generations in our family?

~Garek