Not so long ago, gangrene was a fairly common condition in the western world. Gangrene, also known as necrosis, is the localized death of living tissue, usually caused by either serious injury, infection, or lack of oxygen to an area of the body for any number of reasons. Left untreated, gangrene will usually spread to surrounding tissue, and if left untreated long enough, it is often fatal.
Not so long ago, the most common treatment for gangrene was amputation. In other words, if you had gangrene in your leg, the most common treatment for that condition was the surgical removal of that leg. Even now, in the most serious cases, amputations are still a fairly common treatment for this disease.
Hanging On Doesn’t Help
When a doctor tells someone that they’re going to lose one of their legs (or any other part of their body, for that matter), the patient’s reaction is predictable: they’re horrified; they don’t want to lose their leg; it’s been a part of them all their lives. The main challenge for a good doctor at this point is convincing the patient that the leg is no longer useful, and in fact, if the patient insists on keeping it, it will likely kill them.
If the patient can reach the point where they see the leg as something that’s not only useless, but dangerous; something that they need to let go of, their recovery from the operation — and subsequent adjustment to life without the leg — is faster and easier on them than if they continue to see the leg as something useful and harmless that they want to keep.
Learning to Let Go
It’s the same thing with quitting smoking: the more we continue to see smoking as something useful (“it calms me down”, “it picks me up”, “it helps me concentrate”, “it relieves the stress”, etc.) and harmless (“oh, come on; it’s my only bad habit”), the harder it’s going to be to let go of it.
On the other hand, the more we get real about smoking, and see it as something that’s not only useless (for example, the only stress smoking relieves is the stress that smoking creates in the first place) but dangerous (440,000 people die of smoking-related causes every year in America alone). the easier it’s going to be to let go of it.
Don’t Ignore the Negatives
So, you should start looking for all the negatives about smoking (especially as they affect you personally) and write them down in your journal (you are keeping a journal, aren’t you?). Look at the negatives often, and add to the list whenever you think of another one. Things like that cough that won’t go away, the chronic bronchitis, the burn holes in your clothes and furniture, the stink in your house and your car, the expense, the inconvenience, and all the little annoyances that go along with being a smoker in the 21st century.
Question Your Assumptions
And start questioning your rationalizations about the positives of smoking: can it really simultaneously calm you down and pick you up? Does it really help you concentrate? Does it really relieve stress? Really question these rationalizations whenever you find yourself saying them or thinking them (or whenever you hear anyone else saying them): don’t just let them go unchallenged; argue against them. In fact, argue both sides, and decide for yourself which side is more convincing.
If you want to change your life, you have to change your mind. As long as you see smoking as something you want to hold on to, you’ll hold on to it. If you want to let go of it, you have to change the thoughts that keep you holding on.
BTW: While I was researching gangrene for the early part of this post, I ran across a number of articles from authoritative sources (here are three: one from Johns Hopkins, one from Livestrong.com and one from Medscape News) that say that smoking is one of the primary risk factors for gangrene, because of its negative effects on the circulatory system, particularly the vascular system, where it inhibits the free flow of oxygen through the body.