Smokin’ in Paris

My mother has flown home. The kids are back at school, and I am finally settling back into a routine.
I love my routines! I know that towards the end of the school year I long for the mornings when I no longer have to rouse four sleepy heads out of bed, or crack the whip over their homework. But come September, that back to school feeling caresses me with its calming touch.
Why do we like our routines so much? Why is it that if we have an interruption or break in our routine, particularly one which is unexpected, then it can knock us slightly off balance.
A gentler reason for this is simply the support structure of our routine habits. I like to get up half an hour earlier than I need to so that I can have a quiet cup of tea before the day kicks in. If I slightly oversleep, or if one of the kids wakes early and invades that half hour of space, it can put me slightly off kilter. We call this cognitive dissonance. It is that feeling that something is not quite right, that something is missing, even if we cannot quite put our finger on what it is.
Being the pleasure seeking highly complex characters that we are though, this simple ‘habit’ in a cranial environment of mismanaged thinking, can soon take on sinister turns. Habits soon become ‘addictions’, which no longer provide gentle support. Rather they become a crutch, a necessity, the central focus of our being.
Smoking is a habit. Pure and simple. But because smokers attach so much pleasure to their cigarettes, then justification for this filthy, unsociable health damaging habit has become entrenched in addiction myths and psychological compensation. A smoker who habitually smokes at certain times of the day is going to miss those cigarettes if he stops them – but a little bit of conscious persistence and effort, and he will soon break the habit cycle.
I experimented with myself this summer, just so that I could prove a point – Until about 14 years ago I was a hardened packet a day smoker. On a sociable day (and there were many of those as it was pre-kids) then two packets were not unheard of. Then I made the decision that I should give up, and using one session of hypnotherapy I stopped smoking immediately, have never smoked since, and have never wanted to smoke.
Until this summer!
This August I had the fantastic opportunity to spend a few days in Paris with a very dear old university friend of mine, whom I had not seen for 16 years. As a student of French, I used to enjoy many a trip to this gorgeous country, believing myself to be a cool European as I sipped strong black coffees and smoked filterless Gauloises and Camels in busy street cafes.
So in a fit of memory lane, buoyed by a glass or three of ‘du vin rosé’, we headed into the nearest ‘tabac’ (which happened to be run by a Turk) for an illicit packet of Marlborough Lights.
I smoked two cigarettes that night. There is supposedly enough nicotine in two cigarettes to get ‘hooked’ again. But guess what? I woke the next morning with no desire to smoke. No withdrawal symptoms. No cravings. No urge to go out and smoke another 20 cigarettes. No sense that now I had broken the no-smoking behaviour, I may as well go out and start again.
That is because cravings, nicotine addiction, withdrawal symptoms, are concepts fed by mismanaged thinking around someone’s smoking habit.
And the good news is – you can very quickly learn how to better manage your thinking. And once you can better manage your thinking, giving up smoking is really very very easy!

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