Stopping Smoking Can Kill You

Stopping Smoking Can Kill You
by Andres McAlister

I stopped smoking about 24 years ago. My youngest son Felipe was just born. I was smoking about 3 packs a day. There wasn’t a waking minute where I wasn’t smoking, about to light up a cigarette or just finished.

I associated cigarettes with everything: feeling happy, sad, with friends, alone, walking, relaxing, social drinking, coffee, Coca Cola, etc. I would smoke before lunch or after lunch; just about any time was a trigger for me to smoke. Stress at work was a big one as well.

I tried many programs and systems to stop this unhealthy habit. One by the DC Lung Association worked for six months, but the stress level at one point was too much, and I turned to small cigars while I had a long break at school at The University of Maryland. I then slowly but surely raised the number of cigarettes from 0 to more than thirty every day.

Much more than before, as if I had to make up for all those months of not smoking. During a training session at my place of work, I made friends in crime with one of the facilitators, and we would often smoke at our breaks and chatted about the subject. I was at the point where I would start laughing and could not stop coughing, and I like to laugh. It was also controlling me to the point that I would go out to buy cigarettes if I had less than ten remaining.

I was not smoking in the house since my oldest son Andres was born. Their health was really important, so I would smoke outside in a little patio. When it rained I would smoke under a big umbrella that covered the table. Every time there was thunder I would imagine what the announcement would say in the necrological section of the paper: “He was smoking and he died.” People would ask: “Lung cancer?” The reply would come: “No, he was smoking in the patio during a thunderstorm and was hit by lighting. Instant death.” Ha, ha.

Well, at one point I saw my work colleague walking in the street and he said enthusiastically, “I stopped smoking.” He went on to explain that he had found this older man who used hypnosis to help people stop smoking. He was a former Navy officer and psychologist who used hypnosis to help Navy officers and sailors to deal with post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. My colleague said with enthusiasm, “It works and it’s easy and I have no wish to smoke anymore.” He added that it only took four sessions.

Well, I went to see the hypnotist without hesitation. At that point I was desperate to stop; I had had enough of the habit that had been my companion for more than 20 years. The hypnotherapist was an older man sitting in a chair with a high back. His body had adopted the shape of the chair from sitting in it for so many hours. The funny thing was that he would smoke his pipe as he talked to you, like an old sea captain. Well, it took two sessions, and I never once had the urge to smoke again. So different from previous methods I had tried before.

I would search for smokers to test if I had any urge, and nothing. It wouldn’t even bother me that other people smoked. Two more sessions with the hypnotist and he told me how to hypnotize myself as well.

Today, more than twenty years later, I still have not had a cigarette nor have I had the urge to smoke, not once!

I thought, if this works for the most difficult vice to break, I could use it for other things: like working on my relationship. So my wife and I decided to try out for couples’ therapy. We went once and I think we were such a difficult pair, for the first time the old captain jumped off his chair and said to us, very upset, “Don’t you understand that his problem is this and that...” Well, I think we were too much for the old captain. He passed away from a heart attack that weekend. Of course I say this half jokingly, but the point is he could see in one session issues that had taken us months if not a lifetime to figure out. Great guy. I am extremely thankful to him for helping me out, and he is probably one of my two biggest inspirations to learn hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming. I use both with my clients in my coaching career as well as the Sedona Method.

I am also grateful to the mother of my two children for our two legacies, Andres and Felipe.