My mom smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for almost 30 years. Then one day she quit – cold turkey – and never had a single symptom of withdrawal. No cravings, no anxiety, irritability or depression. No weight gain, headaches, insomnia – nothing.
After struggling to breathe all weekend with a cold, she decided on Monday, “That’s it. I’m quitting now.” When amazed people would ask how she did it, she’d always respond, “I just decided.”
Her story is uncommon but not unique. My dad’s more common smoking saga involved a struggle with cravings that lasted several years before he could kick the habit.
So, what was the difference? Why was she able to quit quickly, without withdrawal, while he wasn’t? Could it have been that her decision – that firm, mental resolve – actually affected her physical responses?
And why is this such an important health question?
Nearly 450,000 Americans die each year from smoking related illnesses – more than all deaths from HIV/AIDS, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined. In addition to the tragic loss smoking inflicts on individuals and families, it also significantly raises health care costs, with a corresponding negative effect on the health of our entire economy.
One report says there are 45 million smokers in the US. A third of them want to quit, yet it usually takes eight to ten attempts before they are successful. Getting through the first week of withdrawal is considered crucial to overcoming both the psychological dependency on cigarettes and the physical effects of nicotine addiction.
It reminds me of swimming in the ocean. In order to swim regular strokes, you must get past the breaking waves to calmer water. That can be tough. Sometimes there’s an undertow combined with crashing waves. I’ve seen people give up fighting the surf and head back to shore.
But there’s another way. You can dive down and swim out beyond the waves underwater. When you come up on the other side of the breakers, you’ve escaped their fury and are already in swimmable waters.
Many books, articles, products and programs are available with techniques to help people defeat the smoking addiction by understanding and managing withdrawal symptoms. And these have compassionately helped some achieve victory.
Yet, perhaps my Mom’s way offers certain benefits – it’s effective, quick, simple AND she escaped suffering through a withdrawal cycle.
What was it that closed the door on withdrawal and advanced her straight to freedom? I believe it had to do with the firm, finality of the decision she made. To her, it was an irreversible choice. That strong, mental stand was actually powerful enough to eliminate what is considered to be an unavoidable withdrawal cycle.
How is that possible? The same way the placebo effect works. When a placebo is given, the patient’s thinking changes. The positive outcome is not physically caused by the placebo but by a new expectation of good results.
In my mom’s case, the mental change was her own conscious decision. In biblical language, she exercised “dominion” over that addiction.
I’ve experienced quick physical healing, without any recuperation period, by spiritualizing my thinking in prayer. One time I had a severe cold with the full range of symptoms. I made the decision to turn my attention away from my body to God instead. That was a firm resolve.
After ten minutes of focusing on God’s love for me, all cold symptoms vanished without a trace. I went straight from sickness to health with no gradual lessening of symptoms in between. Prayer successfully stopped the usual cold cycle.
It all makes you consider just how much mental authority we may really have over our health.