If you or someone you love is a smoker then it’s likely that quitting smoking is the single most important step to improve health and vitality, not to mention avoid serious illness. There’s enough evidence of the health risks associated with smoking that you could easily ask: why does anyone smoke?
The short answer: because it makes you feel good… at least temporarily, and that’s reason enough to keep smoking if you, like 15% of Australian Adults, are a smoker. If choosing to smoke was logical decision nobody would do it, but feeling good never has had much to do with logic!
The crucial thing that's so often not understood and why quitting often doesn’t work is because of the failure to understand and then address the need to feel good in ways other than smoking, and feeling good ideally needs to be established before you stop smoking.
For me when I’m working with someone who wants to quit, I like to discuss and then implement three stages to the process.
Stage One: or the Vitality Project…
If we look at smoking from a vitality perspective, what smoking does is temporarily boost your vitality. Smoking stimulates the production of lung energy or ‘chi’ and in Chinese Medicine the lungs are known the ‘masters of chi’, so smoking temporarily and artificially provides you with an energy boost. As your energy is boosted you may also feel a temporary easing of unwanted symptoms of depleted energy including stress, anxiety, nervousness, depression and tiredness. Avoiding these unwanted symptoms is often at the very forefront of a smokers mind!! As the artificially boosted energy inevitably collapses you begin to feel terrible and your body starts to crave for its next hit and so the cycle of addiction is perpetuated. What’s worse is the continuing to artificially boost the lung chi actually causes a further depletion of real energy, so the long term smoker has very depleted reserves of vitality which therefore has made smoking an even bigger energy crutch.
To break the cycle of addiction the body needs an alternative source of energy, luckily you were born fully equipped with your own power supply, our task is simply to get it back into working order! Initially you need the support of acupuncture and herbs to restore normal function to an exhausted nervous system… this stops your precious vitality being constantly drained. Just like a leaking bucket will continually drip an exhausted nervous system is typically constantly overstimulated. Once the leaks are plugged the next priority is to re-establish the body’s natural ability to generate its own energy. Depending on how depleted you are this can take one to three months. The great thing is you’ll know when this happens because you start to feel good. Not only do you start to have real energy, your mood becomes naturally buoyant, you are naturally much more resilient to stress and and life becomes a whole lot more enjoyable. Once you reach this point you are ready for….
Stage Two: Joining the ranks of the non-smokers
By now life’s a bit easier, smoking is no longer the crutch you relied upon to make yourself feel good, it’s more simply a habit a ritual, something you associate with time out, with socialising and perhaps with your self image. Now the time has come to join the ranks of the non-smokers. This stage is now so much easier because you have addressed the underlying need to smoke, you may still have a want to smoke but that you’re no longer pitting your will power verses your cells cry for energy. It’s now more simply a matter of resolve.
At this point its important to consider the carrot and not just the stick… you have successfully completed the vitality project but there’s much more vitality potential for you once you are no longer both poisoning yourself and depleting your natural energy on a regular basis. So in your resolve include the reasons you would like to have more energy and feel better within yourself, perhaps you’d like more energy to be able to play with your kids, to have the energy to take a class after work in glass bead making or thai cooking?! Make your list of reasons personal, it’s the ‘why’ that will sustain you when your resolve is tested.
When you do quit its important to do it with support especially for the first two weeks because as your body is detoxifying and withdrawing so you’ll have some side effects. These can be easily countered by acupuncture, two or three treatments in the first week, the one or two in the second week. Once you’ve quit, you guessed it…
Stage three: Living Well
By now you feel so much better than you remembered was possible. You have real energy, you’re body is no longer under chronic chemical assault, your immune system is smiling and your nervous system is purring. Remarkably some people make it to this point and take up smoking again!! Most probably they haven’t followed the process I’ve described here and have not established a real foundation for their vitality. They may have just shifted their addiction to cigarettes to nicotine patches or to food and consequently also gained weight. (Either of these options is preferable to smoking but not a great solution!)
So its important to start with a solid foundation of improved vitality and to invest this new found energy into vitality sustaining and enhancing things... in other words things that make you feel happy. Here you have infinite scope, from things that get your energy going like exercise, yoga, tai chai or martial arts, or take up sports you love, or dancing. Or perhaps you need something that transports you into a more creative space such as painting, sculpture, writing or cooking or reading. I would highly recommend you make time for daily relaxation (such as listening to recorded guided relaxations) or learn to meditate as it’s the most effective way to recharge your batteries.
So I hope I have given you some food for thought if you want to quit or if you know someone who does please forward this blog to them and ask for their feedback. If you’d like to share your story or your challenges or your questions please add your comments below. Tell us why you smoke if you're a smoker and whether what I've described here is similar to what you experience.