For the first 21 years of my life, my father smoked. He only quit because he had to after undergoing surgery for Peripheral Vascular Disease. The surgery spared his life for 10 years, but he died at the age of 62 from similar circulatory problems.
Before we left to take him to the hospital from which he never returned, he told me that he admittedly had made many mistakes in his life, but that he only regretted one. He said that if you learn from your mistakes then there was a purpose for them and that we should embrace them. But the one mistake that he would always regret and never forgive himself for was what he “put [me] through all those years that he smoked.”
I begged my father to quit smoking for years. He simply didn’t see the point. He would often comment that sure, he believed the claims – if you smoke for a hundred years you’ll die from it! It was his favorite joke.
My father smoked from the age of 14 until he was 52. Once he quit, he couldn’t believe he ever smoked. He hated the smell of smoke after that and couldn’t stand to be around cigarettes. He loved having his taste buds back and would often comment on how the reason he smoked was because he loved the taste, but being able to taste food again was worth giving it up.
I’ve wanted to share my father’s story on this blog for several months now and just had not found the right time. I also have a philosophy on how we can earnestly help those in our lives who do smoke, but hadn’t found a way to express that yet either. Then a couple of weeks ago I had something very interesting happen to me.
I ran into an old friend I went to high school with. She started smoking when we were in high school and despite many attempts to quit, still does. We got on the subject of smoking when she made a comment about not being able to smoke in the restaurant we were in. Then she said, “I guess you like that though, huh?” In a tone from which I knew she was expecting judgment.
As you know, I’m a student of the Abraham-Hicks philosophy. I believe that we are deliberator creators of our own experience and that we can harness the power of the creation process to create anything we want. I have learned that in order to receive what I want, I must not push against what I don’t want. What do I want? I want a healthier world; free of cigarette smoke. Why? Because it seems, based on physical evidence, that one cannot smoke and be healthy. Smoking cigarettes and being healthy are mutually exclusive. Even every smoker I know will openly admit this now. So why do they hold on to it? For two reasons: Addiction, and the joy the get from it. There is a measure of satisfaction and enjoyment that takes place for someone whenever they receive the substance they are addicted to – whether it’s sugar, caffeine or Meth. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. When we say, “Follow Your Bliss,” to some people that’s a cigarette. And I’m not being factitious, that’s the truth.
At one point my friend said to me, “I know it’s a filthy, disgusting habit, and I want to quit, if nothing else but for my kids, but I just can’t.”
Suddenly feeling inspired I asked, “So why do you smoke?”
“Because it relaxes me; it makes me feel better. It helps me calm down. The times I’ve tried to quit I ended up so keyed up, nervous, and cranky that everyone told me to start smoking again, so I did!” (Laughing.) Can you understand that?”
The conversation continued where I explained that I could certainly understand that, as could many people, but that I had never had the urge to smoke. We had a good conversation and I was able to see that she was beginning to understand that my questions were coming purely from a place of curiosity and wanting to help – not judgment. What ended up happening, as a result of our discussion was this.
I suggested to my friend that she try a substitution method for quitting. Although I’ve never smoked, and I’m not a licensed therapist, or licensed anything else for that matter, I do know a thing or two about eliminating bad habits and developing good ones.
At one point in our conversation, she told me that she liked Hershey Kisses. So I suggested that she start out replacing one cigarette per day with a Kiss. Her response was, “I couldn’t do that – I’d have to eat the whole bag!”
So I responded with, “When you smoke a cigarette, you smoke the entire pack?”
“No – that would be too expensive!”
“Okay, so instead of eating the whole bag, you’re going to have one Kiss at a time – just like a cigarette. Start out just replacing one cigarette a day with a Kiss. If you have a bad day, that’s fine, when your willpower comes back, just start over, or start where you left off. It’s totally up to you. And keep in mind, that at the end of this experiment, you might decide to go back to smoking. This is just something you’re going to try, for as long as you can, to see how it goes. If it goes well, I’ll blog about it and make you famous!” (Laughing) Worst case scenario, you decide you like your life the way it is now and you’ve made your peace with it – we should all be so lucky!
Now we’ve learned that there is more to it than that. After a couple of days, I got a call from my friend and she wasn’t having a lot of luck, but she thought maybe I’d have another idea. And I did. (Hence this post!)
It’s not enough to just eat the chocolate. You have to imagine that it’s giving you the same feeling/benefit that smoking that cigarette would give you. What my friend was doing wrong, because I hadn’t thought this through, was thinking something to the effect of, “Okay, this is substitution time. I’m supposed to have my 3rd cigarette of the day but I have to eat a Kiss instead.”
See? Not the most helpful perspective is it? I explained a little more to her about the law of attraction, and that what she should do instead is think, “Okay, this is substitution time. Yay! – I get to eat a Kiss! Oh, how I love chocolate. And that little almond in there is such a joy! Won’t it be fun when I’m completely off of cigarettes and eating 20 Kisses a day instead! Yummmmmm – it tastes so good. So smooth and creamy. I feel so relaxed. Ah. Perfect. That was just the break I needed to calm down, be able to focus and get back to work.” (These thoughts need to take place over about a 10-minute period.) In other words, whatever feeling she gets from smoking the cigarette she needs to conjure up in her mind when she eats the Kiss. Does that make sense?
I talked to my friend again yesterday; she got down to half a pack and then quit altogether because she learned that she didn’t need the cigarettes after all. Is it possible that she wasn’t actually addicted? I’m asking – I honestly don’t know. I would think that an actual addiction would take longer, but then I do know the power of positive thinking and reinforcement. I also know that she had a strong desire to quit and had quit before, so maybe that broke the physical dependency.
I also see a similar trend with her as many of my weight-loss clients. She got excited about her new life and the old one just didn’t work for her any more – that always seems to speed things up. As for staying power, as you know, once you’ve acclimated to a lifestyle you love, you don’t go back.
This brought to mind a theory I’ve been mulling over for quite some time when it comes to non-smokers “dealing” with smokers: Haven’t we been pushing against what we don’t want long enough? Isn’t it time for a different approach?
See, most of the time, when I’m around non-smokers, I hear a lot of resistant comments toward smokers. I want us all to ask ourselves this: Do you really think that calling these people disgusting, filthy, low-class, and degenerate is going to help them? It certainly doesn’t seem to have helped so far.
Perhaps it is time to try LOVE. Not love of cigarettes; love for mankind. Love for the spiritual beings that inhabit all bodies, everywhere. Love for who that person really is, and is becoming and has the potential to become, whether they choose to smoke or not. Throughout the history of this world have we not seen love accomplish a lot more than hate? Isn’t a good movie the one where love triumphs over hatred?
Instead of ridiculing and talking about smokers behind their backs, perhaps we should keep our mouths shut and, whenever you encounter a smoker, try sending good vibes his or her way. Don’t go up and start talking to them about how much you love them despite the fact that they smoke – that will cause resistance in them. It is our resistance that is feeding theirs in the first place. We must break the cycle.
I firmly believe that if we, as a society, would approach this problem with love instead of resistance, the hearts of all people (including smokers) would open and they would begin to heal. That is what it’s about you know – healing. Sure, it’s a habit at this stage, but heal the need and the habit will no longer be required. In the case of addiction, replace the “fix” with a lesser “evil” and then deal with that. I will build my castle one brick at a time. How will I “cure” my friend from eating 20 Kisses a day? Hmmmm – seems like a more manageable problem doesn’t it?
If someone you love smokes, be supportive by allowing the need. Focus on why they want to smoke. Most people nowadays who start smoking do so because there is some benefit that they can identify – weight loss and relaxation are the main two. Why? Why do you want to be thin? Then help this person – earnestly – by helping them find another way. Go jogging with them. Who cares that you don’t need to – do you want them to quit smoking? Help them find a healthy alternative to their underlying desire and then help them execute it. For relaxation – would a daily massage help? So maybe you have to watch the kids and not fuss about the money so that this person can do that.
Most importantly, don’t come at them from any form of a negative angle. Your desire to help must be sincere, and unflappable. If they “mess up,” no problem – we start from where we are and move forward. Also important, it has to be something the other person wants and is ready to do. You can’t change for them, but you can change with them. And no one should change unless they really want to do so. It is so important to love who you are and where you are that I would never ask anyone to change in order to accommodate my or anyone else’s comfort level. But it’s also important to love where you’re going – and I think that’s the rub for most smokers. I know my father would have wanted to be around to see his granddaughter graduate from high school, go to college and become a pharmacist. I know he wished he’d quit much sooner, and never started to beging with. But he didn’t know the consequences when he was 14 – it was 1949!
Back to non-smokers. Don’t “go looking” for opportunities to help smokers – don’t push. If you’re lucky enough to not be around smokers very much, thank the universe for its progress and when you do have an encounter, send good vibes by saying a prayer. Pray for that person’s enlightenment and health. Remember, it’s their choice – be thankful for that, because you have the choice to not smoke. What if it were the other way around?
I’m also not suggesting that you deliberately spend time with anyone whose values do not match your own. I will continue to avoid situations where I know there will be a lot of cigarette smoke – I don’t like the allergy meds! (I end up stopped up and sick for days after an encounter with cigarette smoke and so does my husband – so you can see why we avoid it as much as possible. That’s why I never let my Dad smoke when I was around.)
What I’m suggesting, is that on any subject, no matter how controversial, stop resisting it, because what you resists, persists. The best tactic is to not bring it in to your experience at all if you can help it. But if it shows up, love it, because it’s there for a reason.
And you won’t always get “the love” back, either. Face it, not everyone is into self-improvement or cares about enlightenment. But you shouldn’t continue resistance. For example, there are many smokers on my mother’s side of the family. Needless to say, I don’t attend many family functions. From my mother, I always get to hear their side: “Debra has no right to avoid us because we smoke, after all, her father smoked for most of his life!” (Like I’m responsible for my father’s bad habits – a habit he started 21 years before I was born!)
But to show up at one of these events, where I know (from experience) that they will deliberately blow their cigarette smoke directly into my face just to see what I will do, just to prove my point – well – can you see the resistance in that?
I am better off to stay away, send loving thoughts and prayers, and hope that one day they’ll understand. Maybe they will, maybe they never will, either way, it doesn’t have to affect my experience – my joy – my happiness. And it doesn’t. We all get along and are there for one another when it counts.
Collectively, we can change the world with only our thoughts. So my challenge today goes out to 2 different groups. If you’re a smoker, would you consider lessening your resistance and defending a habit that you know hurts others, and consider finding a way to quit once and for all? Use your thoughts. Follow your intuitive guidance. Ask for help from someone who loves you – tell them exactly how they can help – ask them not to judge. Don’t focus on quitting, focus on living the way you truly want to live.
To all non-smokers: Stop pushing against what you don’t want. Don’t go to a restaurant that allows smoking and sneer at all the smokers. Don’t mumble hateful words beneath your breath as a smoker walks by. Instead, bless them, love them, help them if you are in a position to do so and remember, helping means helping this person from a place of love. If you can’t do that, remove yourself from the situation.
I know this is a very emotionally charged subject for a lot of people. All I’m asking, is that you give LOVE a chance. So don’t e-mail me, unless you’ve tried LOVE, and are genuinely seeking advice.
If you’d like some one-on-one coaching with me on quitting smoking, attend my Wake Up and Create the Life YOU Want Retreat.
Until next time,
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