First Person: Key to Quitting Smoking -- for Me at Least -- Was Self-Hypnosis

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First Person: Key to Quitting Smoking -- for Me at Least -- Was Self-Hypnosis
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Smoking and watching TV

Nov. 15 marks this year's Great American Smokeout, when organizations across the country encourage smokers to quit the habit. Yahoo asked former smokers to offer to advice to those trying to stop smoking.

FIRST PERSON | Why I ever started smoking cigarettes in the first place, I'll never know. Maybe it was peer pressure, maybe I thought it was cool or maybe I just wanted to act like an adult.

Whatever the reason, I know now how stupid of a decision it was.

At the ripe old age of 11 years old, I had my first cigarette. By the time I was 13, I was a regular pack-a-day smoker.

Back then, it was easy for kids to get access to cigarettes. I'd buy them from unscrupulous store clerks, steal them from parents or buy them out of cigarette machines at the local laundry mat. Thank goodness it's a lot tougher for kids to get them today.

Smoking cigarettes became easier and easier, and before I knew it, I was hooked. I always knew they were bad for me, but quitting smoking was tougher than anything I had ever done before. About every two to three years, I'd try to quit and it would last for a few months at best. I finally gave up trying to quit in my mid 20s, figuring that I could never beat the habit.

By the time I hit my 30s, my bad habits were catching up with me. By then, I was smoking two packs a day and working construction full-time. Whenever I had to do something really strenuous, I'd get winded and have to take a break to catch my breath. After a pathetic foot-race loss to an uncle who was 20 years my senior, I knew it was time to give it up.

So how did I quit? Did I chew nicotine gum, wear a patch or take medications? Absolutely not. I quit the old-fashioned way. I just stopped smoking.

I used a technique that my grandfather had used years ago to help him quit smoking: self-hypnosis. Every day for an entire month, every time I lit a cigarette, I would tell myself how gross they tasted. I'd repeat the mantra to myself with every cigarette: "These cigarettes taste like crap." Each cigarette soon got less and less flavorful.

By the end of the month, I had a pack of cigarettes that was half full and I was smoking just a few cigarettes a day. In about 45 days, I couldn't even stand the smell of them. I didn't even finish the last pack; I just tossed them in the garbage and never looked back. While not all of us might not be that strong-willed (or easily fooled), everyone can quit if they just put their mind to it.

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