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Why is quitting so hard?

I get this question a lot in one version or another. It’s a sensible question – quitting something you know is killing you, that’s expensive and messy and inconvenient – that should be easy, right? But somehow it’s not.

The truth is, there are a lot of things that make quitting challenging – the addictive nature of nicotine, the extent to which smoking is associated with all of the things that we do, from eating to relaxing, the fear of withdrawal. But there’s really only one thing that makes quitting hard.

What makes quitting hard is this:The idea that when you quit you’re really giving up something. If you are a long-term smoker, you almost certainly have a deep-seated belief that quitting means that you won’t enjoy life as much (or at all) after you quit. That belief is what makes quitting difficult.

If instead you really had the sense of breaking free – if you expected quitting to feel like you’d just finished paying off a debt, or just completed a difficult task, you would end up approaching quitting with a completely different view. And that different view would give you a completely different way of being around quitting: You would be excited and joyful about the prospect of what was to come.  You wouldn’t be able to help it, that’s just what it would feel like to you.

And guess what? Quitting under those circumstances would actually be easy, despite the challenges associated with it.

I’m planning to spend the next few posts talking about some of the misconceptions around smoking and quitting that feed into the view that quitting means giving something up. It does not, despite your experience that makes it feel like it does. If you can get – at an experiential level – the fact that quitting is NOT about giving anything up, quitting will actually become easy for you.

I invite you to use the comment section to say what you feel you’d have to give up if you quit, and I’ll try to address it in an upcoming post.

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Elizabeth January 7, 2014, 3:51 PM

    The fear of quitting is the fear of the unknown. Will I gain weight? Will I be edgy and cranky at work, which will cause me to lose my job. Those are the two big thoughts in my mind. Not to mention, a cigarette with my coffee or after a meal is relaxing.

  • jassi January 7, 2014, 4:34 PM

    Hard but do able. Nothing is impossible. It is your own believe that can make things easy or hard for you.

  • Joan January 7, 2014, 8:07 PM

    Well, quitting does involve giving something up. Something that was very important to me. I am 6 months quit. I don’t think I’ll go back, but it still seems like I gave something up.

    • Pili Martinez January 8, 2014, 3:59 AM

      I agree eith Joan. Although I’m still smoking I guess the reason I don’t stop IS because I feel like I’d lose my best freind of 35 years. Yes I’m a hard case and part of me is DESPERATE to give up but another part of me panics and freaks at not being able to self medicate with nicotine. I have tried just about everything there is to try. Desperately need to change my thinking so I can stop this torment. HELP

    • Deanna February 1, 2014, 9:43 AM

      Hi Joan,

      Can you say anything about what exactly it is that you feel you gave up? I understand that literally, you gave up the actual act of smoking, but I’m wondering what’s underneath that for you – can you get at what you feel smoking gave you that you have now given up?

  • ursula February 10, 2014, 6:17 AM

    I have tried everything possible to try,and am still smoking..Iam looking for that magic pill or word or?????Ihave 2 daughters don’t smoke..5 grandkids don’t smoke…Help

  • Carole February 11, 2014, 12:46 PM

    There is panic in me the minute I think that this will be my last cigarette. It is a panic that compares to being on top of a tall building and afraid you will fall off. I depend on my cigarettes as a life line. This is crazy I know since it is ending my life line.
    It is so bad that if someone said I will take one of your children if you don’t stop. I would probably have to stop and think about it instead of saying immediately, I will quit! I have even been warned that my lungs are developing lung cancer and I say, oh well even if I quit now I am still doomed so might as well keep on smoking. As you can see, I am impossible!

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