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Hidden Meanings Behind "Why Smoke?" and "Why Quit?"

By Fred H. Kelley

High school and college literature classes are preoccupied with the hidden meaning behind the words on the page. Much of the students' time is spent examining what meaning the author was really intending to convey with the story. In fiction, the story is never what it seems.

In our own lives, our motivations and reasons for what we do are not always what they seem. At first glance, why we do things may seem simple. But upon closer examination, our motivations often have hidden purposes and agendas, driven by events and feelings in our lives. Often we are totally unaware of these forces that shape our daily decisions.

The decision to quit smoking is propelled or impeded by two basic questions: "why smoke?" and "why quit?" Answer these questions honestly and you'll make great progress toward quitting. Let's examine each in turn.

WHY SMOKE?
Do you smoke today for the same reason you smoked five years ago, or when you first started smoking? Chances are good that you started smoking for totally different reasons than you smoke now. You started smoking to be cool, or to rebel or to fit in or just because you were curious. Now you would probably say that you smoke to relax or to think clearly or because you are addicted and can't stop.

Take a long hard look at why you smoke NOW. You probably haven't even thought about this. Dig very deep. Think. Examine your emotions as you imagine yourself craving a cigarette and lighting up. What "made you do it?"

Smoking is easier than quitting. Staying where we are is much easier and more comfortable than working on ourselves and moving to a different place. It's hard. It hurts. It takes work. It requires admitting painful things to ourselves.

Quitting smoking means admitting that you have been wrong all the years that you smoked. Quitting means admitting that you harmed yourself. Quitting means that you aren't cool just because you smoke. Quitting means that your parents were right. Quitting means that your husband/wife/kids/co-workers/society was right. Quitting means you wasted THOUSANDS of dollars on cigarettes and insurance. Quitting means that you'll have to learn how to relax naturally. Quitting means losing a "friend." Quitting means giving up your security blanket.

These are some of the hidden meanings behind quitting. Many are painful. They force you to admit you are wrong or are not superman. Most people hate to admit they have weakness. But admitting weakness might be called the first step in most any 12-step addiction recovery program.

Examine why you smoke and you may find that you smoke not to get something, but instead to avoid or flee from something. This type of fear-motivated action (or inaction) is almost always detrimental to health and happiness. Begin to focus on desire- motivated action

This leads us to: WHY QUIT?

The reasons for quitting are voluminous: save money, improve your health, cut your risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and numerous other diseases, smell better, look younger, clean teeth, nice breath, live longer, etc., etc.

Make sure you know exactly what you want to get out of quitting. If cutting your risk of lung cancer is hard to visualize, then focus on something more concrete such as the money you can save. See the hundreds of dollars you'll save stacking up in a big bank vault. See bright clean teeth when you smile. These reasons for quitting should be YOUR reasons for quitting. They should pull you to them like a magnet. Find the magnets that motivate you the most.

One word of warning: Avoid the flipside of the question "why quit?" The flipside is not the question "why smoke?" Instead, it is "why NOT quit?" This is a dangerous question because it leads you down the easy path. Ask yourself "why not quit" and you'll likely answer, "because I can't do it," or "because withdrawal makes me crazy," or "because I can't relax without it," or "because I'm still young," or "because smoking isn't that bad for me," or "because I can quit anytime I want," or "because I only smoke a few," or "because I failed to quit before." These are dead-end answers that will never lead you out of the habit. They are lazy, defeatist, powerless answers. They are answers that allow you to put off quitting until the tomorrow that never comes.

To quit, you must take back control of your life from cigarettes. Take responsibility for your own health and happiness. It is you who puts the cigarettes in your mouth, and it is you who can take them out.

Ask yourself "why quit" and "why smoke" so that you can truly understand why you do what you do. Then begin to pursue the positive reasons that will help you to quit smoking, ON PURPOSE.

Article © Copyright 2001 Fred H. Kelley of QuitSmoking.com.

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