I can’t stop smoking. OK! But what about my energy?

It’s 6. 09 AM 24th December 2021; I’m in my office.

In fact, it’s just a place I have created in the living room because my daughters annexed my actual office to make it an artistic creation space. This situation was supposed to be only for two days, and two months later…

The room is full of a relative silence regularly interrupted by the second hand of the clock… I love the sound of time ticking away; it reminds me that nothing really lasts and that every second spent is one more lost: these little seconds are precious!

I like to write in the dark; it gives me the impression of depth in what I express, even if it is probably only a reality that I am creating for myself!

Speaking of the reality that we create for ourselves – it occurred to me to talk about the truths that we forge intimately in our hearts. I should talk about these realities and their impact on our will, especially our “no” mindset.

Here’s why that mindset is dangerous:

Sometimes, we cannot achieve certain things because we are convinced that we will not succeed!

The question is: Are we convinced that we are not getting there because it’s true, or is it easier to think so?

Or, to go further, our unconscious tells us we can’t go beyond specific barriers because:

  • We melt, or
  • We do not want to go beyond those things?

Is that why we hide?

I remember my consultation a few days ago with François, 39 years old. He’s a manager of 3 stores, a guy who never has a second for himself as his work is time-consuming. That situation doesn’t really bother him (these little ones are precious seconds)… And he ends up in my waiting room.

– Hi François, if you’re here, it must be serious!

– Hi Doc! The pharmacist gave me a syrup: I’m on the second bottle… Now I can’t take it anymore; I’ve been coughing for ten days, it’s not working. The cough doesn’t let me sleep, and tomorrow I have to go to Paris for a meeting.

– Ok, I see. We will fix it, no worries. At the same time, as you continue to smoke, the cough may last longer or come back. Remember that tobacco irritates the mucous membranes!

– I know Doc, I have to stop.

– That’s good: it’s you who says it!

– Yes, I know, but, hey, I have already tried everything. It doesn’t work; maybe I can’t do it…

– So you were employed for eight years, then you were laid off. After that, you got up; you set up and started managing three stores. You have I don’t know how many employees; you make strategic decisions, but you can’t manage to stop smoking, right?? Listen, if you want, we can hide our faces, no problem (laughs)…

– (laughs) Doc, you kicked my ass there…

You deserve it cause I know you can stop smoking. However, I think you are subconsciously preventing yourself from getting there! I recognize this syndrome: it kept me from thinking that I could quit smoking for years! It’s a shame, and I wonder what I could do to help you.

It has to come from me, Doc. Maybe I’ll make an appointment with the psychologist I saw a year ago when I had problems with one of the stores; she helped me a lot! But hey, we have to find the time! And then I have to release the pressure a little!

That’s an excellent idea! Come on, I’ll give you a prescription (that’s the bomb), and you’ll be on your feet in a few days. I’m just a doctor, not a magician!

Perfect, thank you, Doc and thank you for the ass-kicking; it is sometimes necessary…

Right, and that’s a supplement that I don’t even charge. Have a safe trip to Paris, and merry Christmas!

Same Doc!

Stop Smoking:

First step: understand why you continue to smoke when you know it is duff!

François was fired and then bounced back.

Now he is the head of three companies (which is fantastic)! However, François has an incredible fear of failure, which stems from past traumatic experiences!

To avoid this fear, he has become almost obsessive in his relationship to work. François imposes on others – and on himself – a constant search for perfection! He leaves little room for chance; this everyday work pumps his energy and keeps him in doubt!

The concept of False Safety Behavior (FSB) explains the mechanisms by which you try to compensate one negative behavior with another. For example, I smoke because it relaxes me when I am stressed!

This study indicated that nearly all smokers use FSB. So, regardless of trait and social anxiety levels, smokers overall engage in these maladaptive attempts to regulate anxiety. [ Smoking and Social Anxiety: The Role of False Safety Behaviors.Julia D. Buckner, Ph.D.1 Cogn Behav Ther. 2020 September ]

That’s not all:

There is a natural tendency to believe – or convince yourself – that you are not affected by this kind of false safety behavior. You persuade yourself that you’re more aware of the situation than your neighbor: this is often false!

You are building a spooky world shaped by your convictions!

Looking at yourself through a regular, non-distorting lens is more constructive, although often more painful! Yet, more than half of current smokers (59%) pointed out that this “loss of a way to deal with stress” is a barrier to quitting. [ Reasons to quit and barriers to quitting smoking in US young adults.Andrea C Villantia,b, Michelle T Bover Manderski . Family Practice, 2016, Vol. 33, No. 2 ]

On the other hand, François focuses on securing his business!

Because of this, he takes very little time for himself: he puts his business before himself and even those close to him! As a result, he lacks an escape!

At the same time, he reduces the opportunities for his personal development because his business matters the most to him.

Smoking is a source of pleasure for François; he sees it as a reward. It is a moment of relaxation that he deserves, given all the sacrifices he makes!

He experiences the “benefits” of smoking almost immediately. Quitting smoking means stopping the feeling of well-being he needs in his crazy days. Here’s what your brain thinks: “changing behavior that makes you feel good: you can’t do it!”

Is it that hard? Or, don’t you want it, deep inside?

In a study, reasons for continuing smoking are, in order of frequency: the pleasure of smoking, physical dependence, tension reduction. [ Prevalence of smoking and reasons for continuing to smoke: a population-based study. Simone Aparecida Vieira Rocha, Andréa Thives de Carvalho Hoepers. J Bras Pneumol. 2019 ].             

Therefore, quitting smoking is not just about nicotine or motivation. All this is undoubtedly important but will work better if you understand the fundamental mechanisms of your relationship to smoking.

Motivation alone is not enough!

Motivation is a momentum that declines, inevitably over time. You need self-awareness to understand what smoking means to you.

Most often, it is automation, aka an automatic behavior! Most often, when you smoke, you don’t really need it; it’s just an incredible urge, URGE! Try to be aware of it and ask yourself: “Do you really want to smoke that cigarette, or is it just automation?”

Try to understand yourself: You get the key; you are the key!

We all know the story of someone who quit smoking because he decided to do so one day. We don’t understand the insidious and deep mechanisms that drove him to this decision.

These mechanisms are specific to him, as are the fundamental reasons for his smoking! Now you have to find your truth, your hidden reason deeply buried deep inside you, your “why can’t I do it; why do I continue to smoke?”

If you don’t know this yet, you should continue to search for the answer by yourself or get professional help. Talking with a professional to find angles different from yours is an exciting option if you feel ready to take the plunge!

Second step:

Act and let yourself be helped

Trying to quit, failing, and relapsing are classic and regular steps in the process. The Prochaska spiral illustrates the evolution towards success in different stages.

If you fail, you don’t start from scratch; you gain experience that will be useful on the next attempt. I recall the anecdote that Edison would have said: “I didn’t fail; I found 1000 solutions that did not work.”

So, deciding to start trying is already the beginning of the solution (albeit far away from it).

It is a germ that will have to be watered and monitored to grow! At this point, you should get assistance or advice; this is where help will be needed! Personalized, interactive guidance has been shown to drive success.

The transtheoretical model postulates that changing your health-related behavior involves progress through six stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. Basic research has generated an empirical rule for at-risk populations: 40% in pre-contemplation, 40% in contemplation, and 20% in preparation. The most promising results for the data were found with individualized and interactive computerized interventions. [ The transtheoretical model of health behavior change. Prochaska JO, Velicer WF. Am J Health Promot. 1997 Sep-Oct ]

The Prochaska Spiral:

My confessions

Why are there such great existential questions, and why are there so many words when everyone knows that tobacco is harmful to health?!

I’ll admit something to you; an article recounting an Italian study stunned me. This study showed that only 3% of smokers quit on their doctor’s advice! [ Why do smokers quit?Gallus S, Muttarak R, Franchi M. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2013 Jan ]

I have experienced a brutal failure!

I was convinced that giving good advice to my patients was the best solution. It was probably my ego that had been damaged. Or was I blinking the truth away? I try to change my approach, no matter what; time will tell if I am right.

Anyway, according to the spiral, I have a better chance of succeeding now that I have experienced failure!

And what about François?

I don’t know; I’ll see when he comes back to see me. I think trying to get him to move on his own is a good option! I don’t know if he will take the time, but I know that I’ll be kicking his ass for as long as it takes – that’s for sure. I won’t give up on the idea of helping him to be healthier. Whether he likes it or not, it is my commitment to myself (yes, my ego has recovered from its knockout).

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