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Mind Games to Help You Overcome the Psychological Addiction to Smoking

Smoking is both a physical and psychological addiction, and getting into the right frame of mind has been key to the success of many former smokers. Here they share some of the "mind games" that helped them to overcome this powerful dependence.

"I pretended the cigarettes were actually an old friend who had died."

"Those first five days were hell on earth. It go a little better as time went on, but very little. I started marking the calendar with 'hours,' then 'days,' and now I mark it by months that have gone by... I pretended the cigarettes were actually a person — an old friend if you will; but this old friend had 'died.' I would not be able to see him again, use him when things got tough, take him with me wherever I went, etc."—Sally M.

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"I always told myself I could have one in ten minutes if I wanted."

"I gave up smoking thirty years ago. I identified that one of my difficulties was that I always needed to know that I had cigs to smoke, and for example, if I ran out just as I was going to bed I would have to go and buy some. So when I determined to give up I bought a pack, taped a box of matches to it and carried it around with me. I always told myself I could have one in ten minutes if I wanted... Three years later I threw the pack away!"—Richard L.

"I had my last cigarette 27 years ago and I am still putting off lighting the next one."

"I had my last cigarette 27 years ago and I am still putting off lighting the next one. Though this was tough the first couple of weeks, it became easier as time went on. I never had said I quit smoking! ... A mind game? Certainly! It was hard work, but I am so grateful I was able to quit — ah, not light the next cigarette."—Rachel F.

"I decided to learn how to be still." "I decided to learn how to be still. I was ever-conscious of my hand placed on my knee when it would otherwise be holding a cigarette as I drove in my car. I was ever-conscious of each turn where I would normally light-up. How I craved the after-dinner smoke with a cup of coffee (and once in a blue moon still think about)! But I will never forget the moment I believed I truly cleared my lungs of those four additional smoking years. I was in my car singing "Come To My Window," by Melissa Etheridge. And I could finally hold the long note."—Cari S.

"One day I had the realization that if I smoked I would soon want another one...

"One day I had the realization that if I smoked I would soon want another cigarette. If I did not smoke, I would soon want another cigarette. I decided if I was going to want another cigarette anyway, it was better to want the cigarette and not smoke than to want it and smoke another one. I also thought, perhaps I will eventually stop wanting one if I stop but not if I continued."—Bebe M.

"One day I had the realization that if I smoked I would soon want another one..."

"When I quit smoking I put half a pack of cigarettes in the kitchen cabinet as an emergency fix if it got to be too much for me, and when I really wanted a smoke I would tell myself I had some in the kitchen if I really needed them. Funny thing is I never did have to smoke one of them. They stayed there for about two months after I had the habit whipped, when I was sure I wasn't going to need them I threw them in the garbage and I still haven't smoked, and that was 9 years and 11 months ago."—Hardy I.

"I found a huge list of what to expect physically and emotionally and what the milestones were."

"The first three days caused some pretty crazy side affects. I had never tried to quit before so I really had no idea about what to expect. I decided I needed to find out what the "typical" side affects were because I was starting to get scared... what if my chest pains really didn't have anything to do with quitting?! So I turned to the web. I found a huge list of what physically/emotionally to expect and what the milestones were. If I made it through the first three days I would be over the physical addiction. After the first three weeks, I would be through the biggest hurdle in the psychological part of the addiction.

"Knowing this information gave me hope that it got better and something to feel proud of when I made it to the next step. I also knew that if I ever started again I would have to go through those first the days of torture again, and if that wasn't incentive I don't know what was."—Lynne F.

"Don't buy any cigarettes yourself, but you still can smoke by borrowing..."

"My experience for quitting smoking is, 'don't buy any cigarettes yourself, but you still can smoke by borrowing from your friends or other people. In a period of time you will find you are too embarrassed to borrow more cigarettes from others, so you can stop smoking."—Jason

"Only smoke standing up."

"One of the tings that really helped me was deciding to only smoke standing up. This ruined a lot of smoking pleasure because I then could not smoke and drive, could not smoke and have a cup of coffee sitting down."—Mariel K.

"I told myself I only needed to do it today."

"I decided to try Nicorette gum and told myself I only needed to do it today. I will try it and if it doesn't work, ok, I will smoke again. That was over 4 years ago. I still tell myself I will only quit for today and allow myself the possibility that I can have a cigarette tomorrow if I want. I just haven't wanted to."—P.R.

" You can create a firm and solid belief about your ability to become a nonsmoker."

"The most important thing about being a nonsmoker is your belief about your commitment. If you are hoping this will work, or if you are going to try to stop smoking, or if you are not sure you can do this, then you will probably fail.

"However, you can create a firm and solid belief about your ability to become a nonsmoker. It is all in the way you talk to yourself and the programming you do to own mind every minute of the day. When you are going to sleep at night, do you say to yourself, 'I don't think I can do this, how will I ever get through one day of no cigarettes tomorrow?' Your mind will dwell on this as you sleep and expand on that feeling and belief. The next day will be a struggle.

"If, when you are going to sleep tonight you say to yourself, 'Tomorrow when I wake up I will feel great and I will feel even better as the day progresses. Every time I take a deep breath I feel relief and strength — knowing that I have what it takes to be a permanent nonsmoker. This is easy for me,' you might just wake up in the morning feeling good and strong because your subconscious mind expanded these thoughts and beliefs in your body."— F.

"When you tell a dog to sit, the dog sits; if you tell a dog 'don't sit,' the dog will still sit..."

"...This approach definitely works! This sums it up best: when you tell a dog to sit, the dog sits; if you tell a dog 'don't sit,' the dog WILL STILL sit. Why? Because the dog is trained to sit when he hears this word regardless of all other words in your sentence including the word 'don't.' So it is the same with people who say to themselves 'I can't smoke,' 'I won't smoke,' 'I don't smoke.' The actual message to their brain is 'I smoke,' in all of those statements mentioned. Therefore, all negative statements have to be excluded from the smoker's vocabulary. Rather one should say 'I am a nonsmoker.' Remove any word from that sentence preceding nonsmoker, and your brain is still hearing nonsmoker. It is being re-trained. This worked wonders for me.

"I also tell myself "NO! FORGET IT" in a stern and authoritative way when I get the urge, and sure enough I actually forget it. Whenever the urge would hit, I trained my mind toward a variety of new habits: reading, prayer, exercising, and cleaning. Inhaling and then holding your breath for 3 seconds and exhaling for 4 seconds is another relaxation technique that I use. In essence you're smoking without the cigarette in your mouth — much healthier."—L.W.

"Putting a picture of my niece and nephew in a pack of cigarettes so that each time I tried to grab one, there was their picture."

"Tricks that helped me were:

  1. Putting a picture of my niece and nephew in a pack of cigarettes so that each time I tried to grab one, there was their picture.
  2. Thinking of how bad it is when you get older by looking at old women and men who are smoking and seeing all their wrinkles.
  3. Also, knowing the ingredients helped a lot. I discussed it with other people to accentuate the nastiness and pretty much convince myself (and I actually convinced other people in the process). The list includes acetone, used to make paint stripper; ammonia, contained in toilet cleaners; butane, a form of lighter fuel; and beta-naphthyl methylether, more commonly known as mothballs. Smokers also take the risk of inhaling hydrogen cyanide, the poison used in gas chambers; methanol, a rocket fuel; arsenic and carbon monoxide, the poisonous gas in car exhausts."

Julie R.

"I promised that if I ever started again the pipe load of tobacco would be the first thing I smoked. Over time the tobacco got hard as a rock."

When I was 24 years old I smoked one pack a day plus a pipe. For Christmas 1964, my wife gave me a new briar pipe. On New Years Eve next, I asked her if she minded if I quit smoking. She said no. I had just packed the pipe. I promised her that if I ever started again the pipe load of tobacco would be the first thing I smoked. Over time the tobacco got hard as a rock. Any time I felt like smoking I would touch the pipe load of hard as a rock tobacco and my desire to light it up went away. Sometimes the temptation was very great but I would not break my promise to my wife. I still have that pipe load of tobacco and I haven't smoked anything in all these years."—Edward M.

"I pictured [the cigarettes I had not smoked] in my mind, eight packets of twenty, neatly stacked on the table."

"I found that for the first few days I was carried by the extraordinary feeling of 'virtue' at actually having stopped lighting up, a feeling that wore off after less than a week. But then, after about five days, I suddenly realized that it was 150 cigarettes that I had not smoked! 150 cigarettes!! I pictured them in my mind, eight packets of twenty, neatly stacked on the table. After ten days, the stack had grown to 15 packets and after one month, it was 900 cigarettes that had not passed through my mouth, throat and lungs! That mental image of the pile of unsmoked cigarettes growing day by day helped me a lot. Today, that pile has grown to almost 230,000 cigarettes that I have spared my system."—Janina

"I opened a pack of smokes and put them on my sun visor in my car ... If I had to smoke I could only smoke from the opened stale package."

"About two weeks before I stopped I opened a pack of smokes and put them on my sun visor in my car and left them there to get stale. As every smoker knows, there is nothing worse then a stale cigarette. So, when I did stop I told myself if I had to smoke I could only smoke from the opened stale package — (trust me, they are bad!) and I could only smoke in my car."—Lori M.

"I learned that you had to eat to live, not live to eat and you didn't have to smoke to live or live to smoke."

"About that same time [that I quit,] I was going to regular Al-Anon and open AA meetings... I learned that you had to eat to live, not live to eat and you didn't have to smoke to live or live to smoke. That made me realize that the control is in the thinking mode, and that if you can change your thinking about why you smoke, it might help me to stay quit. The next thing I heard was that no matter how successful you are in quitting smoking, that one day, and it might be years even, the thought will come into your head that it was okay to have a cigarette or that you needed to have a cigarette. I heard that I did not have to take action on that thought. I heard that I could have the thought and it would probably be a very strong one and it might last a long time, but I did not have to take any action on that thought."—N.B.

"Saying to myself, 'I am a nonsmoker." "I prepared three months ahead reprogramming my identity. Saying to myself "I am a nonsmoker," preparing mentally was very important to my success. 'One day at a time' frame of mind was important. Having supportive people (family and friends) was very important. Knowing that the urge to smoke would go away and staying busy with work and family. Calling it an addiction instead of bad habit, just smoking, etc."—Hattie S.

"I set up little rules. I could only smoke on the hour, and if it got to be five minutes after..."

"I set up little rules. I could only smoke on the hour and if it got to be five minutes after, then I'd missed it. Sounds silly, but it breaks those habits like lighting up after dinner or on the phone. I figured, too, that even if I didn't quit then I had cut back. But it led to my quitting within two months."—Lory R.

"I exhaled into a clean white tissue and watched the tissue turn brown."

"I focused on what a disgusting habit smoking is. I conjured up ugly images in my mind about smoking. Remember those old ads that read "Kissing a smoker is like licking a dirty ashtray"? Well, it worked. I also inhaled smoke from a cigarette and exhaled it into a clean white tissue and watched the tissue turn brown to envision what was happening to my lungs. These strategies helped me to stick to my goal in moments of weakness."—Judith D.

"The 'poor me' part of it is disarmed because it's not that you can't smoke. No one is denying you anything. You simply don't want to."

On Dec. 31, 1994, at 9:15 PM, I smoked my last cigarette. I simply refused to smoke again. In order to disarm myself, I put the remaining cigarettes in the kitchen drawer and told myself I know they're there, and can have one any time I want to, but I'll be damned if I will. My husband quit at the same time, and he put his remaining cigarettes where he knew he could find them, but be damned if he would smoke one. There's something to be said knowing you can, but much more to be said for knowing you won't. The "poor me" part of it is disarmed because it's not that you can't smoke. No one is denying you anything. You simply don't want to."—Judy

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