When you were getting ready to quit smoking in the past, did you ever find yourself building little “escape hatches” in the back of your mind? I know I did. (If this is your first time quitting, read on: chances are very good that you’ll find yourself building “escape hatches” before you quit, too.)
An escape hatch is simply an excuse that you set up before you quit to allow yourself to escape from your commitment to quitting under certain circumstances. For instance, your escape hatch may be, “I’ll stop smoking as long as I don’t get too crabby,” or, “I’ll quit as long as I don’t have to deal with any super stressful situations,” or, “I’ll stay off the cigarettes as long as I don’t gain weight.”
Whatever it is, you have to recognize that it’s a form of self-sabotage.
Why Do We Do This?
If you read my earlier post about defusing excuses, you may have already spent some time thinking about the excuses you’ve used to relapse in the past and/or the excuses you can see yourself using to relapse in the future.
Presumably, if you did the exercises I suggested in that post, you’ve got a pretty good idea, not only of what your potential excuses for relapse are, but also how you might counteract them if and when they crop up after you quit.
Do You See the Common Thread?
Lots of smokers build their escape hatches around the same excuses that they’ve used before to justify relapse (or the excuses they can see themselves using to justify relapse in the future), and this is no coincidence; the inner junkie puts a lot of time and effort into suggesting these escape hatches, because it knows that they’re the ones most likely to work.
What are Your Escape Hatches?
Spend some serious time thinking about this question. Write your escape hatches down in your journal and think about how you might counteract them with positive statements of your intent to succeed, rather than letting them stand and giving you built-in excuses to fail.
Is It Gaining Weight?
For example, if one of your escape hatches is, “I’ll stay off the cigarettes as long as I don’t gain weight,” you might counteract it by reminding yourself that quitting smoking does not cause weight gain, and telling yourself, “I can quit smoking and maintain my weight,” or even, “I can quit smoking and lose weight at the same time.” (No, really; one of the women I worked with quit smoking and lost over 100 pounds in her first year of being quit. She’s been quit for over 7 years now, and hasn’t gained any of that weight back.)
Is It Dealing with Stress?
Or, if one of your escape hatches is, “I’ll quit smoking as long as I don’t have to deal with any super stressful situations,” you might counteract that by reminding yourself that the only stress smoking relieves is the stress that smoking creates in the first place, and telling yourself, “I can quit smoking and deal with stress in positive ways.” The fact is, everybody has to deal with stress, but only smokers try to deal with it by smoking.
Let’s Talk About It
I think you get the idea. After you spend some time with this, why don’t you come back here and leave a comment telling us one of your escape hatches and how you plan to close it? And if you find one that you can’t think of any way of closing, post that in the comments, too; one of us may be able to suggest something that will work.