Like many smokers, I started smoking when I was 14-years-old. It made me cool, or so I thought. Fast forward 35 years and smoking for me had become anything but cool. In California, especially, smoking is considered an unhealthy, environmentally unsound, and decidedly uncool habit--the fashion equivalent of wearing a polyester striped shirt with checkered pants hemmed one inch above the ankle.
Actually, I had quit smoking for about twenty years during the period of time I raised my two daughters. My conscience would not allow me to smoke when I was pregnant, so I was temporarily able to kick the habit for as long as my moral compass dictated. In effect, I was a smoker who had taken a leave of absence from smoking to raise my children. It is possible that my non-smoking status could have remained permanent if my marriage to my children’s father had not become troubled and my then-husband decided to take up smoking in his 40’s. Despite our differences, I foolishly joined him in this self-destructive pursuit and resumed smoking, my subconscious mind assuring me I deserved this “pleasurable” reward because of all the unpleasant relationship stress in our marriage.
Within a few years of my divorce, I was still smoking and had married a man who also smoked. My odds of becoming a permanent non-smoker seemed bleak since my new husband thoroughly enjoyed smoking and was terrible at quitting the few times we made a joint agreement to stop together. Of course, we were relying on such tools as willpower and, in my husband’s case, nicotine patches to become non-smokers, tools that have relatively poor success rates. In fact, my husband continued to smoke close to his normal quantity of cigarettes while wearing the patch, a practice that can lead to nicotine poisoning.
Soon after my marriage, I started training to become a hypnotherapist and hoped this increasingly popular therapeutic process would help me to permanently end my relationship with cigarettes. In several practice sessions with fellow students, I worked on various aspects of my subconscious attachment to cigarettes, but it wasn’t until I had a session with our teacher, Dr. Katherine Zimmerman, that I was finally able to say goodbye forever to my smoking habit.
In this fateful session, Dr. Zimmerman was demonstrating for the class a hypnotherapy process called Parts Therapy, in which the part of me that commanded me to go out and have a cigarette throughout the day--even when I was not in the mood for one---had a Gestalt dialogue with my conscious self, the adult part of me that desperate wanted to quit smoking. Each time Katherine tapped me on the forehead, I would alternate speaking for the part of me who wanted to smoke (who I nicknamed Power) and my adult conscious self who wanted to quit smoking. Power, my 14-year old rogue part, agreed to stop sabotaging me and offered to help me quit smoking by no longer urging me to go out and have a cigarette. Instead, she would remind me to take calming deep breaths and remind me how much better my life was as a permanent non-smoker. Power even agreed to be renamed Freedom, a fitting name for a part who had previously kept me chained to a toxic habit. We decided that Freedom needed to grow up to the age of 30, an age at which she would be mature enough to make healthier choices.
From the moment I came out of trance, I have never again smoked even one cigarette, nor have I had the urge to do so. I have not had to chew on straws, rely on willpower or even steer clear of people who are smoking to resist the urge to smoke, for I have lost that desire completely. Once I removed the part of me that compelled me to smoke, the urge to smoke disappeared, and my desire to help others permanently change their own self-destructive behaviors and belief systems became even more acute.