Start off by smoking mindfully. Make at least one or two cigarettes a day your mindful smokes and just smoke — don’t do anything else at the time. Work up all five senses: what can you see, hear, smell, taste and touch? First of all open the pack of cigarettes and have a good sniff. Really smell the tobacco; have a good sniff of what’s inside, smelling the contents. Hold the pack in your hand and run your fingers over it, feeling the smooth covering. Hear the sound of it, the crinkling of the cellophane cover, the sound of the flame igniting the tip of the cigarette, the noise the burning tobacco makes, your inward breath. Taste the flavour of the smoke on your palate. Watch as the smoke disappears into your mouth, imagine it going down your windpipe, down down, into your lungs; imagine the smoke swirling around your lungs as they expand with the inward breath and then notice that as your lungs contract with the outward breath, the smoke travelling back up the windpipe and then becoming visible again as it forms a cloud coming out of your mouth. Do that with the whole cigarette.
Taking the visualisation exercise a step further, imagine, if you can, the nicotine and the other chemicals in the tobacco travelling through the thin walls of your lungs and into the blood stream all the way to your brain where the nicotine receptor sites will bless you for smoking another cigarette and giving them what they want.
That’s all addiction is. Your brain getting what it wants. It’s just a thought; it’s not even a craving. Craving only starts with the first puff (or drink, or any other drug or addictive behaviour). So if you believe the old maxim: ‘my brain tells me lies’, then you’re on your way. Nothing really bad is going to happen if you quit, but your addict brain will fool you into thinking terrible things will happen to you if you don’t smoke or use or drink or . . . fill in the gaps yourself. What’s the worst that could happen if you don’t smoke? You might be a little cranky for a few days, you might cross-addict to food for a while.
The addict brain isn’t choosy about where it gets its goods, so watch out for other things that may come up as alternatives. You might notice that you need to keep putting food in your mouth, or drinking more — use the same techniques and become mindful. Really get those five senses working and simply accept what’s going on.
That’s where Step One comes into the picture. ‘Admitted we were powerless over [nicotine, food, alcohol or other drugs, behaviours like watching porn etc] that our lives had become unmanageable.’ This means that you can’t control the thing you’re addicted to (it generally controls you) and it’s making your life unmanageable (think consequences).
I like to think of powerlessness as being like making a decision to surrender — think old-school armies when one side had lost too many men and they would get out the white flag and wave it so the other side would see that the losing side were beat and couldn’t fight any more. The fighting would then stop.
When we make that decision to stop the fight, it becomes easier to quit whatever it is we’re addicted to. Trying to control the use never worked, right?
Then the second part of Step One is acknowledging the unmanageability which is really the consequences of your using. Maybe the police are involved (not with cigarettes, of course, but definitely a possibility with alcohol or other drugs), or you’ve got a hacking cough that won’t go away or you have shortness of breath, or, god forbit, chest pains. Of course the worst consequence is mortality and yet your denial stops you from even thinking about that. Addict brain overrides rational brain every time until we can really understand the fundamentals of Step One.
Figure out how many cigarettes you smoke a day and do the maths and make a plan for how many you can cut down by each week without your addict brain freaking out and do it gradually. Get a quit buddy and do it together.
Stick to the plan.
Work Step One.