Sunday, November 16, 2008

"A Smokers Story; Trying Hypnosis” part 3 of 3

This is the third of a 3-part article, which is about my battle with smoking. In this posting, I describe why I decided to try hypnosis to quit smoking; how I became aware of the part of me that was responsible for smoking. I describe my hypnosis experience and the amazing results; the complete elimination of my desire to smoke.

"A Smokers Story; Trying Hypnosis” part 3 of 3
- My Last Cigarette -
The last cigarette I ever smoked was on February 6, 1985 at 1:45pm, in front of an office building in Huntington, Long Island, New York.

I looked at the directions on the piece of paper that was on the seat of my car. "Long Island Expressway East to Rt. 110 North, Huntington..." During the hour and a half drive from Staten Island to Huntington, Long Island, I had smoked half a pack of cigarettes. Although I was determined never to smoke again, a part of me was very resistant to this healthy decision. I pulled into the parking lot, parked the car and got out. Pacing and smoking in the parking lot, I was all too aware that it was 1:45 pm and my appointment was at 2:00.

The chill of that February wind was cutting through my parka and I thought how nice it would be, not having to go outside to smoke these cursed things any longer. However, until then, I was going to smoke the hell out of them. As I took my last drag from my last Marlboro Light 100, I felt many emotions all at the same time. These were conflicting emotions. The thoughts going through my head were equally conflicted. I felt that I was about to lose my best friend. My cigarettes were always there for me.

They were consistent in a very inconsistent world.
They always looked the same.
They always smelled the same.
They always tasted the same; I could always rely on them.
When I was nervous, they calmed me.
When I was hungry, they took the edge off my appetite.
When I was stressed, they relaxed me.
When I was bored, they gave me things to do with my hands.
They told people not to mess with me, "I’m a smoker, I’m a tough guy".

Nevertheless, I also knew that these "friends" killed my father, who died of lung cancer after years of smoking. I was intelligent enough to know, that given time, my cigarettes would kill me too. I knew that I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without wheezing. I started each day by coughing for five minutes, until I coughed up the yellow mucus that was stuck deep down in my lungs. I knew that I couldn’t handle this ordeal of trying to stop this habit any longer. I knew that the past year had been the worst year in my life and it was all because of my friend, Mr. Marlboro Light 100’s.

However, most importantly, I knew that I had made a promise to my son Aaron and I had visions of the tears in his eyes. Similar to the tears that welled in my eyes, fourteen years earlier as I saw my father die, after lung cancer ravaged his body.
I could picture Aaron in front of my coffin, the same way I had stood in front of my father's.
I could feel his pain… his anger!
His anger with me, that I continued to smoke while knowing it, was going to kill me.
I could feel his anger at me because I chose my addiction to, my love of tobacco over the love of my family!
The same anger I felt at my father for never listening to me, when I pleaded with him to stop smoking.
The same helplessness I felt, to see the strongest man I knew shrivel up like the cigarettes he smoked.

You might ask, how stupid was it for me to witness my father’s death from lung cancer and still became a three pack a day smoker… how do you explain that. I don’t know if there could be an adequate explanation. It is a testament to the ability of the American Tobacco Companies, who were able to get me to become a three pack a day smoker, after seeing what smoking did to my father.

I decided at that moment that this hypnosis stuff must work... would work! I pictured myself driving home to Staten Island, later that day as an ex-smoker. I would not put my son through what I went through. I would quit today. I exhaled the smoke from my lungs, looked at the filter of that Marlboro Light 100, my "friend"… dropped in on the concrete sidewalk, in front of that office and crushed it under my foot.

As I walked up the stairs to the second floor, I did not know what to expect. I had a basic understanding, that hypnosis works with the part of your mind that makes you smoke. I had no idea how the experience would change my life so profoundly and in so many different ways.
The door to the office was open and I walked in and hung my parkas on the coat rack.

The office waiting room was 15’ X 20’. There were a few chairs and a few coffee tables. As I walked around the office, I noticed that the walls were covered with thank-you letters. Some were type written, some hand written all describing the results of their hypnotic experience. It seemed that Al (the hypnotherapist) did more than help people stop smoking; he used hypnosis for a lot more. Although the majority of thank-you letters were from ex-smokers, there were many letters from professional golf players, nail biters, and stutters, along with articles about hypnosis. The information I read about hypnosis made me even more curious and impressed with the subject of hypnotherapy.

This would be my first experience with hypnosis and the questioning and doubt about the hypnosis process started in earnest. The doubt and concern was caused by a part of my subconscious that I now call the “Smoker Part”. This part began to strongly let its presence known, making me doubt if hypnosis would work for me. The inner voice in my head urged me to stop this useless attempt to quit smoking. It was threatened by this process and would do whatever it could to get me to either stop or fail in my quest to quit smoking. I was quite used to my smoker part. Over the past year, I had tried to quit multiple times and it was this smoker part that consistently pushed me back to smoking. That was its job; keeping me smoking and he did it oh so well.

The office was quiet except for the muffed sound of voices from the other side of a door. Behind that door, Al was hypnotizing another smoker and my smoker part and I knew we were to be next. I had mixed feelings with the decision to quit smoking. The logical, intelligent, reasonable part of my mind wanted me to quit, but the smoker in me still refused to let me become the non-smoker I wanted to be. Then the door opened and a woman walked out, thanking Al for all he had done. Al walked out behind her, saying that a thank-you was nice but a letter for his wall would be even nicer.

Al was about 5’5” and 220 pounds. He had a long scraggly beard and wore a “Harvard” sweatshirt. He introduced himself to me after his previous client left and we went into his back office where I was directed to sit. We spoke for an extended period about hypnosis, smoking, addictions and more. He asked me to sit on a recliner with new age music playing in the background. Then it was time for hypnosis.

I pushed back on the recliner and got into a comfortable position enjoying the softness of the leather, as he began to describe relaxing my body, starting from the top of my head. As Al asked me to relax the muscles in my face, my mind had a different idea; it was not going to oblige. Relaxation was not what it wanted; tension was.

“Who is this guy?” the voice in my head said, referring to the hypnotist.
My smoker part was not going to give up this addiction without a fight. As in the past, it threw up more and more walls, trying to make me ignore the truth; that I wanted to and needed to quit.
“Don’t listen to this weirdo!” My smoker part screamed in my head.
“If he is such a great hypnotist, why doesn’t he hypnotize himself into losing some weight?”
“A real professional!” sarcasm dripping from the voice.
“A sweatshirt?”
“How about a shirt and a tie?”
“What if he is a weirdo? I’m not going to close my eyes!”
The sound of the smoker in my head was drowning out Al’s voice.

Then it got even weirder. Instead of one voice in my head; the smoker telling me to continue to smoke and get out of the office, another voice came into my mind.
“Shhhh…” it said,
“You just spent $350 on this. It worked for Nick. You have an opportunity to end your year from hell, right now… and what about Aaron?”
This new voice calmed me; I stopped fighting and doubting.
“Give Al a chance to help you quit; you know it’s what you really want” it said.
This new voice helped me remember what I truly wanted… to finally and permanently quit smoking.

I finally quieted the smoker part of me, and as soon as I did, I felt a wonderful feeling of confidence and resolve wash over me. This new voice replaced the smoker’s voice. It was the voice of my “Healthy Part”, it was very welcome and I embraced it, listened to it and followed its direction.

I quickly started to feel as if I were falling asleep. The more Al spoke the harder it was for me to keep my eyes open. Although I felt a slight tingling feeling and I was slightly cold, I was very relaxed, my thoughts were drifting but I heard everything being said. I found it curious that Al had said that I could not open my eyes and although I tried to open them, I couldn’t. He said I could not raise my arms and again, I tried but couldn’t. I was beginning to believe that it could…. would work.

Being in hypnosis was not what I had expected it to be. I was expecting a feeling like general anesthesia. I expected to feel… different. I expected…
Actually, I did not really know what to expect.

Very soon, I was totally involved in the visual world Al was describing. He had me see a beautiful beach in the summer. I was alone sitting on a chair looking at the horizon.
He then had me see my future as a smoker and it wasn’t pretty.
After what seemed to be ten minutes (which turned out to be fifty) he said that he was going to bring me out of hypnosis. He said that when he said “five” after counting from “one”, my eyes would open and I would be wide-awake.

Amazingly, on the count of five my eyes did open. The process dumbfounded me. I was also concerned that, although I was relaxed and it felt very good, I actually doubted that I was hypnotized; I had heard everything said. I was expecting hypnosis to be a lot more impressive than it turned out to be. I prayed that it had worked, but I was dreading that it did not.

Driving home after the session ended, I was anxious.“When will the urge hit?” I had never driven by myself, in this car without a cigarette burning. Now I was cruising along the Long Island Expressway Westbound, on my way home and I dared to let myself think…
“Can I really be an ex-smoker!” The thought thrilled and scared me at the same time.
“Can it be this easy?” And it was.
“What if it doesn’t work?”
“What if an urge comes? Does that mean it didn’t work?”
The “What-if’s” were being asked all the way home.

I turned onto the entrance to the Verrazano Bridge and as I did a truck without using his signal, cut me off. As my road rage exploded, I felt my blood pressure jump, I cursed, I did a nasty gesture at him with my middle finger and yet, I found two minutes later, that I was laughing.
I looked at myself in the rearview mirror and realized that for the first time in years, I did not light up a cigarette when I was stressed. The urge just wasn’t there! It was not that I was repulsed by having a cigarette; I just didn’t have the urge!

I was an ex-smoker!

Over the next few days I started noticing the ashes, the burn marks on the seat of my car, the yellow haze on the windshield but most of all I noticed the smell in my car. When I got in the car, I realized what I had been subjecting my wife to. I began to realize how discourteous I was as a smoker. I also allowed myself to dream that I actually was an ex-smoker.

That weekend I cleaned my car and the ex-smoker that I am today, was born. To be honest, I had a few urges for a cigarette over the following weeks, but they were easy to resist and by the end of the month, I can say that I did not even think about smoking again. It has been almost 23 years and I can honestly, easily and confidently say that I will NEVER smoke again.

It was my first experience with hypnosis but far from my last. Again, this was before the Internet and I began to read all I could from the library on the amazing topic of hypnosis; the centuries old process that finally cured me of my tobacco addiction.
Little did I know at that time that in fifteen years, I would be going to hypnotherapy school and start a business called,

HYP4LIFE- Improving Your Life Through Hypnotherapy.
If you are a smoker and would like to quit smoking by using hypnotherapy, call me at
(908) 852-4635

Sunday, November 9, 2008

"A Smokers Story; the Smoker’s Wall" Part 2 of 3

This is the second of a 3-part article, which is about my battle with smoking. In this posting, I describe how the decision to quit was helped by my son. I describe what “The Smoker’s Wall” is and my first attempt to quit smoking. Describing my year from hell as I go through a year of repeatedly trying to quit and continually failing. And how, through a synchronicity, a twist of fate, I learned of hypnosis. How I found a hypnotherapist in Long Island, NY who finally helped me to permanently quit smoking.

"A Smokers Story; the Smoker’s Wall and my Year from Hell" part 2 of 3

A wall forms between a smoker and his loved ones each time they raise the subject of smoking cessation. They want him to quit and be healthy because they love him and even if he knows the dangers associated with continued smoking, the part of his subconscious that is designed to smoke, throws up his "Smoker's Wall". This wall is tall and thick, growing taller and thicker with each plea from a loved one to stop smoking.

My wall was reinforced with each fight over smoking between my wife, Chris and I. She was as aware of the dangers associated with smoking cigarettes as I was, but Chris was a non-smoker, someone who never smoked. My "smoker part" was so strong, that no matter who spoke to me about quitting, Chris, my mother (who quit smoking after my father died), my sister, my son, even if it was my own thoughts about quitting smoking, the wall went up immediately.

That wall is strong, immovable, and impenetrable however, in one loving, unexpected, non-premeditated conversation with my son, in the hallway of our apartment; my smoker's wall came crumbling down. I slowly turned to look at my son; his eyes darted from the cigarette, burning in my cupped hand to my eyes and back again.
"But you smoke, Daddy" he said "and if you get cancer and die, I won’t have anybody to play with". He put his small, soft hands on my cheeks with tears welling up in his perfectly blue eyes, looked into my eyes, shaking his head and said, "Please, Daddy, don’t smoke any more."

I found my "Last Straw". I stubbed out the cigarette I was smoking, took my pack of cigarettes out of my pocket, crushed it into a ball and said,
"For you Aaron, I’m gonna quit, 'cause I love you'".

A smile came across his face as he took my hand and dragged me into our apartment and at that moment I truly felt that I was going to quit.
"Mommy!" he shouted enthusiastically to my wife who had just finished cleaning the dishes in the kitchen,
"Guess what?… Daddy is going to quit smoking! He promised!”
Chris dried her hands and picked up my daughter, Amy who was joining in on the excitement gave me the smile that always made me melt. The whole family was jubilant with my decision to quit. Although I thought I saw a bit of skepticism reflected back to me in the eyes of my wife.

Before Aaron went to sleep that night, he ran over to the recliner I was sitting in and jumped up on my lap. It was late so I picked him up and carried him into his room. Amy was asleep already. As I usually did, I tossed him on his bed as he put his arms up for his "kiss goodnight". As I leaned over him to kiss him on the forehead, he threw his arms around my neck and said, "I love you, Daddy… Remember you promised …no more smoking… OK?"
With a kiss to his forehead, I said, "Promise!" and I meant it!

I closed his door half way and walked into Amy’s room. The stuffed animals seemed to be smiling at me as I quietly kissed my baby daughter goodnight. She was sleeping with her thumb in her mouth and I stood looking down at her. A feeling that every father of a little girl knows, enveloped me. This feeling of love, protection and pride filled me as I thought of not being there for her. I had to be there for my little girl, the way that my wife's dad, who died of a heart attack due to his smoking, was not able to be for his little girl.
Going to sleep that night, many things went through my mind.
“I really HAVE to quit…
I really WANT to quit…
I CAN do it…
I will never smoke again!”
This determination lasted 8 hours, until I was in my car driving to work the next day…

-“My year from Hell”-
I had finally decided to quit smoking but I didn’t know how I would be able to do it. The drive to work the morning after my decision to quit smoking was sheer torture. I was thinking of nothing but smoking and that torture continued for a year. The year was 1984, which was not only a very scary novel, but was also what I called, “My year from hell”. That year I became a professional “quitter”, I must have quit smoking 100 times, I was miserable and I thought the misery would never end.

I was at work at Pathmark one day towards the end of my year from hell and was speaking with Nick, the produce manager. We were both in the same situation, smokers who were married with kids and both desperately wanting to quit. We were both in the break room and as I usually did, took my cigarettes from my pocket and offered Nick one. He refused, saying that he had finally been able to quit!

“What!” I said with a shocked look on my face…
He looked at me and with a smirk and a shrug, quietly said, “Hypnosis”.
“What the hell is Hypnosis?” I said, thinking it could be a way I could finally end this painful year.

“My cousin”, Nick began to say, “smoked for 25 years and just like you and me has been trying to quit for years. He heard from his friend, about a guy, who uses ‘hypnosis’ to help people, like us, quit smoking. He said that he went to this hypnotist and he quit smoking in only one session. I waited a month” he continued, “to see if my cousin would go back to smoking, like you and I always do but he hasn’t smoked in over a month and he even said that he’ll never smoke again! So, I got this guy’s number and got hypnotized! And Ga… I swear to God, I don’t even miss them! I haven’t smoked in almost two weeks, but the real crazy thing is that I really believe I won’t smoke anymore!”

I need to digress here a little…
At the time, I had not even heard of a synchronicity, which is, according to Wikipedia (
“the experience of two or more events which are causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner. The concept does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality. Instead, it maintains that just as events may be grouped by cause, they may also be grouped by their meaning. In order to be synchronistic, the events must be related to one another temporally so as to rule out direct causation.”
Now, what does that mean? A coincidence may be just that, a curious connection between events, a synchronicity is a coincidence that presents itself to you, for a purpose. That said…

My awareness of hypnosis was stirred, I had heard from a very reliable source, my smoking buddy, that he and his cousin were hypnotized to quit smoking, and it worked. So, my thought process was, if it worked for them, it could… hopefully work for me. However, this was well before the internet. Now you just Google, “Hypnosis + smoking” and you have a thousand hits to choose from. Then I looked in the yellow pages and found nothing.

So, when my niece informed me that she was going to a hypnotist in Long Island, to quit her smoking habit, I almost fell off my chair… What a coincidence! (NOT! No such thing as a coincidence… synchronicity yes; coincidence, no. This was the second.)

My mother won a small NY lotto; her ticket had 5 out of 6 numbers and paid $2000. It was the day after I told her about the hypnosis coincidences and she called and said that she knew I didn’t have the $350 for the session and that she was insisting that I should make the appointment and that she would love to pay for it; it would be my belated birthday gift. It was also the third “coincidence” and I was curiously amused by the weirdness of it all.

The next day at work, I went next door to the pizzaria for a coke and a slice and to look at the magazines Pete, the owner had behind the counter. Waiting for my slice to heat up, I flipped open an old Playboy it opened to a page with a quarter page advertisement which read;
“Learn Hypnosis and get all the girls you want!”
I wasn’t interested in “all the girls”, but the word “Hypnosis” seemed to be twice as large as the other words. I could not believe my eyes. This was the fourth time in so many days that I had been hit in the head by this hypnosis stuff! Now I may be a little thick headed sometimes, but even I had to acknowledge that something I didn’t quite understand was behind this.

I called my niece’s hypnotherapist and made an appointment.

The story continues next week…11/16/2008
"A Smokers Story; Trying Hypnosis” part 3 of 3

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"A Smokers Story; the Decision to Quit" part 1 of 3

This is the first of a 3-part article, which is about my battle with smoking. How and why I became a smoker, the causes of my desire to and difficulties with quitting smoking; The frustration and anger dealing with the process of smoking cessation along with my contempt of the American Tobacco Companies. The cause for my final decision to quit smoking.

"A Smokers Story; the Decision to Quit" part 1 of 3

The decision to quit smoking may very well be one of the most important decisions in the life of a smoker. This decision may also be the start of a horribly demanding, miserably frustrating and a very necessary step, if they want live longer. Every smoker who wants to quit, has had an incident, his “last straw”, which causes him to change his mind about the habit of smoking. Suddenly he wants to quit, his decision is not caused by his mother, wife or child, the decision is and can only be made by him, the smoker. If a loved one of a smoker wants him to quit, but the smoker is not committed to the quitting process, it as a forgone conclusion that the smoker will continue to smoke. The most important part of the quitting process starts quite simply with the decision to quit and this decision must come from the smoker him or herself.

I have found from personal experience as an ex-smoker and from the stories related to me by the many smokers I have hypnotized, that there are very common scenarios when a smoker makes that all important decision to quit.

Whether for physical reasons, such as an inability to catch their breath or emotional reasons as wanting to see their children grow, smokers come to a critical juncture in their lives when the decision to quit smoking is made. Some smokers have no problem stopping the habit of smoking. They make the decision, throw their cigarettes away and never look back… but they are in a very small minority. The vast majority of people trying to become healthy by quitting smoking have an incredibly difficult time. They feel deprived and are angry all the time.

If the smoker, after deciding to quit, cannot, the anger he feels may be directed inwardly, towards himself. He feels that he is weak, with no willpower and is continually angry, frustrated and disappointed with himself. When he does try to stop smoking, "Cold Turkey", his anger and frustration increases, becoming redirected towards the world and unfortunately, towards those who love him and who have been asking him to quit. Therefore, with this decision to quit firmly planted in his mind, the smoker who wants to quit is now in for a wonderful journey of anger, frustration and stress 24/7.

If the smoker is a stress smoker, it is doubly hard to quit, since the stress generated by trying to quit only increases. Moreover, because stress had always been dealt with in the past by smoking more cigarettes… Well, you can see the problem. This situation is a smoker's "Catch-22", Damned if you do (quit smoking) and damned if you don't.

- My Story –
In 1983, I was working as a Customer Service Manager at the Pathmark Supermarkets in the Middlesex Mall in South Plainfield, New Jersey. Long story short, I was a three pack a day smoker and after indulging myself for 11 years, I found that, although I was smoking, I truly wanted to quit. I was all too aware of the dangers inherent in smoking; my father died from smoking related lung cancer, yet my addiction was so strong that I could not picture my life without having cigarettes in it. I was married and had two small children, who were the light of my life. As a smoker in a job that I hated, I did not care if my life was shortened by smoking. However, that feeling had changed after my children were born. Now, that I had the strong desire to quit, I found that I could not stop the addiction designed by the American Tobacco Companies to ensnare me (and all smokers) in this life shortening habit. Although I consciously knew how bad smoking was; I saw my father die of lung cancer nine months before I was married, I couldn’t even try. I couldn't imagine in my wildest dreams that I could function without my Marlboro Light 100's.

- My "Last Straw" –
It took twelve years of smoking before I was ready to consider quitting. I would never let my children see me smoke. Although they could smell it on me and could hear the arguments between their mother and I over smoking, they never saw me actually smoke. One evening after dinner, I was having my "after dinner smoke". As was my habit, I went into the hallway of our apartment with my cigarette and ashtray, sat on the step and surrendered to my addiction. As I took a deep drag, filling my lungs with smoke, I heard the doorknob turn and my son, Aaron unexpectedly came into the hallway. Hearing the opening of the door, I transferred my smoke from my right hand to my left cupping it, out of sight by my left leg. My son walked over and sat on the step next to me in a huff. Earlier that day he had been playing with his friend Mike and Mike's grandfather.

"How come Mickey has two Granddaddies and I don’t even have one?" he asked, questioningly tilting his head and looking a little angry. "Lot’s of my friend's talk about their Grandpa's… How come I don’t have a Grandpa, Daddy?” I believe in telling your children the truth, so when he asked the question, my response was truthful and sincere.
“Well, Aaron, both mommy’s daddy and daddy’s daddy died”.
“How did they die", he asked, looking deeply into my eyes, his expression turning from anger to curiosity. I considered a "white lie" to soften how they died and to ignore the obvious similarities between his Grandfathers and his father. I had never lied to him before and thought better about it, deciding, although it would be obvious and painful, the truth was my only option.

I said, looking down at my feet, trying to avoid eye contact,
"Both your Granddad's smoked, and that’s how they got sick and died… Smoking causes a lot of diseases" still looking down at my feet, I felt the gaze of my seven year old burning into the side of my head and I tried not to look at him. I explained how my father smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and how his mother's father, my father-in-law smoked heavily. I tried to rationalize to him and myself about addictions and how self-destructive they can be;
how they cause children to lose their parents;
how grandchildren can grow up never knowing the love of a granddaddy.

The more I explained to Aaron, how he became grandfather less, the more I realized that I needed to quit smoking. The more I tried to rationalize my addiction the less the argument had any validity. The more I avoided eye contact with my son, the joy of my life, my reason for smiling, the more my defenses fell…

The story continues next week…11/9/2008
"A Smokers Story; The Smoker’s Wall" - Part 2 of 3