“It’s not quitting that’s so hard. It’s staying quit.”
This is a sentiment many frustrated patients have expressed to me. In spite of high motivation at the beginning, things can happen to derail the most sincere attempts to put away tobacco for good. Sometimes it can be things in our environment (things like coffee, relaxing, stress), and sometimes it seems to be our own thoughts that can get in the way (i.e. “I’ve given up everything else I enjoy – everyone should be able to have at least one vice!”).
Author Ronald Rogers in his 1992 book “Relapse Traps” offers the following observation: “Once we understand the nature of recovery, the various risks are laid out before our feet like traps along a jungle trail. They’re only dangerous if you can’t see them, or if you fail to take the necessary steps to avoid them. Like those of the jungle, the traps of relapse can be baited to seem quite seductive.”
One trap, then, that we can become aware of is our own basic smoking-related beliefs. These are thoughts about smoking and what smoking means in your life that can become very ingrained over time. So much so, that you may take the truth of these statements for granted without full consideration. Going unchallenged, these beliefs can contribute to the process of relapse – but if, like Rogers suggests, you can challenge the validity of these thoughts, the risk they pose may not be so great.
The following are some common basic smoking-related beliefs:
· Without smoking, I won’t really be myself anymore.
· I need cigarettes to really think and be creative.
· Cigarettes help me stay calm and solve problems.
· Smoking has been one way that I’ve been able to assert my independence.
· It seems that the most interesting people are always the smokers.
People can have many different kinds of basic smoking-related beliefs. You may identify with some of these above or can recall some other thoughts that have settled in your subconscious. Your task, according to Rogers, is to recognize such thoughts as the traps that they are so that they lose their seductive nature. Looking at the list, why not challenge such thoughts with these:
· Smoking does not define me.
· My creativity is not dependent on having a smoke.
· There are many ways that people manage stress, and I can learn them.
· I am a strong and independent person, and I do not need cigarettes to prove that to anyone.
· I am drawn to interesting people, and they can be found all over in unexpected places.
With practice and mindfulness, these thoughts become easier to catch. Consider what smoking-related beliefs you have identified in your journey to becoming an EX. What new phrases or mantras have you developed to counter these old messages?