Get Emotional About It!

Did anybody ever tell you that you should quit “for your health”? What did you think of that idea? I always used to wonder what planet they came from; did they think I was an idiot? Did they think I didn’t know that smoking was bad for my health? Did they think that the thought never occurred to me that I should quit smoking “for my health”?

Then I grew up a little and stopped thinking all those unkind things about people who made that suggestion; they were probably only trying to help (and besides, one of them was my mother). I started to wonder why the fact that smoking was bad for my health had never seemed to be a strong enough reason to actually quit smoking, and I decided that, until I was diagnosed with an advanced case of emphysema in November of 2001, the fact that smoking was bad for my health never seemed quite “real” to me.

Why It Doesn’t Work

Even though I saw how my mother’s health deteriorated from smoking (even after she quit), even though I watched my father struggle with smoking almost until the day he died of cancer, it still wasn’t happening to me (I know that sounds pretty cold, but it’s absolutely true; until I found out that I had emphysema, it wasn’t real for me, because it wasn’t happening to me personally).

And even though being diagnosed with emphysema, not being able to take a deep breath without choking, and listening to the “death rattle” in my lungs every time I tried to lie down on my back scared the hell out of me, there was this little voice inside me (that I now recognize as the “inner junkie”) saying, “Hey, lots of people live with emphysema; maybe if you just cut down a little…”

The Inner Junkie Wants to Keep You In Denial

Of course, my rational side realized — even as the little voice was saying it — that it was just another cop-out; another way to avoid the pain of withdrawal by continuing to let my addiction control my life. And I knew that I had to find a way to drown out the voice of the junkie…

One of the ways that I used to drown out the voice of the junkie was to think of as many reasons as I could that resonated with my emotional side (e.g.; reasons like, “If I quit smoking, I’ll be more attractive”, or, “If I quit smoking, I’ll feel better about myself”, or, “If I quit smoking, I won’t be a social outcast”, etc.) and write them down where I could look at them and add to them.

Get Honest With Yourself

It’s kinda funny: way back when I was a freshman in college, I had a friend whose father had an advanced case of emphysema (this guy had to drag an oxygen tank with him everywhere he went and wear one of those rubber tubes up his nose). The first time I met this friend’s father was when he came to campus to see our departmental recital, and during intermission, I was astounded to see him drag his oxygen tank out to the lobby, turn off the oxygen, take the tube out of his nose, and light a cigarette.

I clearly remember thinking, “What an idiot! He can’t even breathe any more without dragging that oxygen tank around with him, and yet, here he is, smoking like a stack!” (Of course, the irony of my having this thought as I stood there, puffing away on my own cigarette, was lost on me at the time; as the old saying goes, “Youth is wasted on the young…”)

Dig Deep! Get Emotional About It!

Bottom line here is that, yes, smoking is bad for your health, but that’s way too abstract a reason to motivate you to act, and you need to act if you’re going to save your life. Dig deep, find reasons that resonate with you emotionally, and write them down. Then take your list out regularly, go over those reasons, feel the emotion that they create in you, and add as many more reasons as you can think of to it.

What Are Your Reasons?

I’d love to hear what some of your reasons are; why don’t you go ahead and leave one or two (or a whole list) in the comments?

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