'Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times.'
About five weeks ago I stopped smoking tobacco. It was quite easy, involving no real suffering. I know, Mark Twain said 'giving up' was easy, but 'giving up' is doomed to fail, because you're depriving yourself of a source of pleasure. In my view, one of the purposes of being alive is to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh. Generally, if something is pleasurable, I see no reason to deny it to myself on a dubious promise that I may live a little longer. So, my giving-up efforts with tobacco were short-lived, and marked by the misery of the internal civil war brought on by self-denial.
Of course, like Austin Spare, you can make magical use of the stress of giving up. Spare would cast a spell, then place his cigarettes on an 'altar', denying himself that pleasure until he got his result. So, if you're going to put yourself through the pain of self-denial, at least do it in the service of some really worthwhile goal!
This time I stopped, rather than gave up. I used the method of Allen Carr (no, not the toothy TV comic), in his book 'How to Stop Smoking the Easy Way'. (http://allencarr.com/central/). In 40 years of smoking and 13 of attempting to stop, it's the only method I've found that makes sense to me. I didn't manage to sustain the internal civil war of willpower, for the reasons outlined above. Methods based on fear are also non-starters - you only have to stand outside a hospital for a short while to notice that not only visitors but also staff are unmoved enough by the imminence of grisly death to be smoking their lungs out between witnessing terminal sickness. Warnings simply don't work.
Carr's method starts where all the others leave off. He doesn't require you to give up anything. In stead, you stop doing something to yourself that isn't even pleasurable. If you can convince yourself you don't enjoy smoking, you're home and dry.
The first time, I managed it for four and a half years. Then, one night in New York City, it occurred to me that a cigar would go splendidly with my glass of Knob Creek bourbon. My gracious host indicated a temperature-controlled humidor, and before I had time to regret it, I had a perfectly-kept Havana in my hand. Three months later, I was still feeling deprived, and the habit crept back.
It took me three years to get back on top of the situation and stop again. Had I known how easy it would be, I wouldn't have waited so long.
The craving has died down now. The key for me was realising how little I enjoyed it and how short the addiction cycle is: there is virtually no physical addiction - as Carr points out, smokers abstain for 8, 9 or 10 hours every night, between the last fag and the first of the day. The cycle is: smoke, nicotine leaves body, desire resumes, is satisfied briefly, and so on. The entire physiology of nicotine 'addiction' is a cycle of less than an hour in length.
This was really apparent this last time: there really was no physical distress, even on the first day. In the weeks since I stopped, I've had a few moments of craving, especially after a couple of glasses of wine, but it's been easy to believe it when I tell myself I would get nothing but a very short-lived buzz of nausea, numbness and swooping hypoglycaemia, followed by a vague desire for some more.
What keeps the whole habit afloat is what we tell ourselves about what we're feeling in the time between smokes. There is no physiology standing in the way of quitting, which is why substitution with patches or gum or e-cigs is a poor strategy, merely prolonging the agony. And yet substitution is the current medical fashion, and what the NHS bases all advice for would-be quitters on. Medics and policy-makers, arise and read Allen Carr!!!