About

why do smokers believe quitting is hard

Crossing a road is pretty easy, but only if you do it right. If you try to cross a busy highway, in fog, at night, wearing dark clothes, blindfolded, drunk and walking on your hands, you can make something that is basically pretty easy into something extremely difficult. And so it is with quitting smoking.

Smokers believe that quitting is hard for a couple of reasons: firstly, everyone tells them it is. Smokers are bombarded with messages from other smokers, drug companies and quit smoking ‘experts’ (many of whom have never smoked a cigarette in their lives) that smoking is ‘harder to quit than heroin’. I’ve never been a heroin addict, but I’m guessing that quitting the stuff is no picnic. Who could think of a worse mindset with which to approach a problem?

Secondly, throughout their smoking lives smokers have been told that smoking helps them relax, cope with stress, concentrate, keep them thin and so on. Any smoker who believes these things will retain a desire to smoke in those situations, and will need to use willpower to try to overcome that desire. This creates a conflict; part of them wants to quit, but part still wants to smoke and it is this conflict – not physical withdrawal from nicotine – that creates the symptoms of fear, panic, anxiety and irritability that so many smokers associate with quitting.

Thirdly, smokers are seriously misinformed about nicotine – in particular about how addictive it is and bad withdrawal is.

But despite these horror stories, every so often you come across one of those people that say: “Nah. Quitting smoking was easy.” I am one of those people and I want to share my experience with you.

I started smoking as a nine year-old and for the next twenty-six years never went a day without smoking. By the time I quit I was smoking 40-60 cigarettes a day. I tried to quit smoking many times over many years. I tried the patch, the gum, hypnosis, acupuncture, laser therapy, cold turkey, herbal treatments, homeopathic remedies – you name it, I tried it. I never made it to a single day smoke-free using these methods for the reasons I have already explained above: My expectation was that quitting would be difficult and unpleasant, that I would feel deprived of my pleasure or crutch, and that physical withdrawal was brutal.

As soon as I was able to change these beliefs, it was ridiculously easy to quit.

First, I decided to stop listening to people who found it difficult to quit and start listening to people who had found it easy. There are a surprisingly large number of such people.

Second, I learned how to challenge the beliefs that created the desire to smoke. If smoking relieved stress then why was I so stressed? If the cigarette was an appetite suppressant then why was I 60 lbs overweight as a smoker? If the cigarette aided concentration why weren’t smokers smarter than non-smokers? If the cigarette aids relaxation why aren’t chain smokers the most relaxed people on the planet? By challenging these beliefs I was able to realize that actually there was nothing to give up, apart from illusions I had acquired as a smoker – most of them as a very young smoker.