“Let’s try to find out why you smoke cigarettes.” “I should tell you right up front, it’s my opinion that smoking is a learned habit.” “What you will experience today is not hocus-pocus, it will be tested clinical hypnotherapy whereby you and I will try to help you quit smoking.” Those were the first three sentences that Dr. Allen spoke to me when I arrived at his clinic. My cigarette package was dutifully waiting on the dashboard of my car anticipating my return, and our next smoking session that I hoped would not happen. Dr. Allen was a Clinical Psychologist at the largest General Hospital in my hometown and he specialized in chemical withdrawal cases. He had developed a sideline quit smoking clinic using hypnotherapy techniques similar to his main drug rehab work. I had found out about this quitting smoking clinic from a patient of his, a brilliant man who unfortunately had nearly succumbed to a drug habit until Dr. Allen brought him back from the dead, in his words, not mine. I was also told that you cannot do anything that you don’t want to do while under hypnosis, so I had better be sure that I really wanted to quit, or the treatment might not be successful. I waited about six months to be sure I was ready and during that time I had watched some friends and relatives suffer from smoking related illnesses which definitely helped in the convincing.
After about a half hour of interviewing me about my habit, the Doctor determined that I smoked because I was under the impression that it was relaxing, when in actual fact the chemicals in smoking acted as a stimulant. He also thought that of the thirty or so cigarettes I was smoking daily, I was in actual fact only enjoying about five or six. He asked if I would be happy only smoking that number if we could not achieve total success, and I said that would be great.
The actual session of hypnosis took about fifteen minutes and the Doctor told me later that I was an ideal subject. I think that was the first and only time in my life that I was categorized as an ideal anything! The treatment involved the Doctor in his quiet and calm demeanor, softly talking to me in his small office that reminded me of a University Professors office, all softer wood tones and collegiate feeling. The office presented an ideal location with a very relaxing atmosphere even before the hypnosis. No strobe lights, no spinning coin or any other contrived tools, just relaxing talk. I was told to think of a meadow with a bubbling brook with shoreline shade trees and green rolling hills in the background with soft white wispy clouds floating overhead. He told me to relax and enjoy the view as if I was there lying on the grass with not a care in the world. After I reached an unbelievable relaxed state Doctor Allen asked me to think of a color that I could think of later when I wanted a smoke and this very relaxed feeling would return to me, negating the needs for a relaxing cigarette ever again.
I left the clinic that day, returned to my car, instinctively wanted a smoke and I said to myself, what the hell, and I thought blue, my trigger color, and bingo, I was so relaxed, I forever after called it my cheap high. The Doctor was right, I did not want a smoke at that time, and very other instance after, the relaxing killed the craving and I became a non- smoker. I never did need those five or six enjoyable smokes. When I returned to my office, the staff thought I was drunk I was so relaxed. The affect of being able to relax myself wore off over a period of about nine months, but I was by then a non-smoker. I can no longer relax by thinking of the color blue, but an interesting side effect of the treatment is that I can make my hands tingle when I think of blue. My hands were hanging over the arms of the chair during hypnosis and fell asleep and it’s this feeling that I can still re-create, many years later! Hypnotherapy works if you really want it to.