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  • Writer's pictureMark Thomson

How to stop smoking your life away

Michael smoked at least 30 cigarettes a day for 30 years. Then he tried my three session stop smoking program and hasn’t smoked a cigarette since December, 2020.

Most smokers want to stop – that’s what over half of them said in a 2019 study. They aren’t stupid, they know smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK, that it burns through the money, that it makes their clothes stink, and that it’s off putting to a lot of other people.

But although most smokers want to stop that can be a challenge that requires more than just willpower. Before he saw me Michael had tried to stop, at least six times, because he was worried about his health. He wanted to be fitter, so he could play more sports with the family. He’s a keen football fan with a season ticket and enjoys a kick about in the park. He also disliked the smell of stale smoke on his clothes and breath.

Afterwards he told me: “I feel great mate and I'm not coughing or wheezing. I can smell and taste everything in high definition. You have changed my life. I’ve taken back control and I’m no longer be a slave to the nicotine.”

I understand – I smoked myself

I have a great deal of sympathy for smokers, I smoked up to 20 a day myself for thirty years. But the last 10 years I smoked, I didn’t enjoy it, and I tried to stop several times a year. I become the living embodiment of the old joke; ‘Quitting smoking is the easiest thing I've ever done. I've quit hundreds of times.’

I tried will power, nicotine patches and gum, but finally stopped in October 2002 through mindfulness and hypnosis. It is one of the best things I’ve ever done, and it can be one of the best things you’ve ever done.

It’s amazing how quickly the body can recover when you stop smoking. Within the first three days the level of carbon monoxide in your blood becomes normal, your chances of having a heart attack start to fall, the sense of smell and taste begin to improve, breathing is easier and lung capacity increases.

Within the next few months your circulation improves, lung functioning increases, coughing and sinus congestion decrease, and you have more energy and less shortness of breath. Within the first year your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke has dropped to less than half that of a smoker.

And the improvements in your health and financial wellbeing continue to accumulate.

The habit

When Michael stopped in December 2020, the average price of a pack of 20 was £11.45. So he was burning over 50 £10 notes every month, smelling like an ashtray, and ruining his health. Now the average price is well over £12 and will only keep rising.

Stopping smoking is effectively getting a big pay rise. Michael put some of the extra money towards family holidays, and topped up his pension to help him retire earlier. Today that money could help with the price increases we’re all experiencing.

Michael has a great relationship with his wife, his son and his step sons. “I want to spend more time on this earth with the ones I love” he said, “and to at least reach and enjoy retirement.”

Michael started smoking when he a teenager. He was at college, and other students he became friendly with were smokers. It was all part of socialising and fitting in. “At first it gave me a nicotine rush. Then it just became an addiction I couldn’t stop.”

Michael found none of the techniques he tried worked, and he felt helpless to do anything about it. The problem was Michael saw smoking as a crutch. When stress levels increased, he just had to have a cigarette to help him cope. Ironically, he’s less stressed now he’s stopped.

He used smoking to punctuate his day. For example when he finished a piece of work he went for a cigarette, regardless of how long it took to do the work or how recently he’d a cigarette.

And he took the habit home with him, having to smoke after completing a task at home or after watching a programme on TV.

Groundless fears about stopping

Michael’s fears about stopping are very common. At our first session he told me: “The times which I believe will be hardest when I stop are first thing in the morning and last thing at night, when I’m at work, after food or when drinking alcohol. Also if I am around others that smoke.”

He was worried about substituting food for cigarettes and putting on weight, becoming irritable, having his anxiety and depression return, and simply that he’d fail at it which would make him feel worse.

It turned out his fears were groundless. He was able to quickly stop smoking with no problems about eating extra food, or strong cravings for cigarettes. And regaining control of his life boosted his confidence and self-esteem, he just felt better mentally and physically.

Three session hypnotherapy solution

Hypnotherapy can be an effective solution to help you stop smoking. The reason hypnosis works so well is easy to understand. Smoking, like all habits, is controlled by the subconscious part of the mind. Hypnosis allows us to persuade the most powerful part of your mind, your subconscious, to bring about the changes you want to make.

Most hypnotherapists offer a single session to stop smoking, and that can work very well, if you are motivated enough.

But most of the people who come to me for help to become a non-smoker, feel a little ambivalent about stopping. And that’s understandable, it’s a powerful habit, that the smoker has reinforced 10, 20, 30 even 40 times a day, every day, for many years.

Because Michael was worried about failing, and was honest enough to admit that a part of him wanted to keep smoking, I suggested we do a three-session hypnotherapy program. He’d previously tried a single hypnosis session to stop smoking but admitted he wasn’t very motivated to change at the time. The extra sessions meant I could help increase his motivation to stop and talk directly to his subconscious mind so he could stub out the habit more easily.

I think three sessions is more effective for most people, and that’s substantiated by the research. For me it’s not about making more money as I charge the same price for a three session stop smoking program as I do for a single stop smoking session. After all you have to be motivated for a single session to work, and the price you pay is part of that. Any initial outlay for either approach is quickly recouped by the savings you make from not smoking.

Understanding the habit

So with Michael, the first session was not about stopping. It was about helping him to really understand his habit, and empowering him cope with stress better, because his smoking increased when he was stressed.

Before the second session Michael did some important preparation. I asked him to smoke mindfully. This was to break up the pattern of the habit, and helped him better understand what triggered his smoking. Michael found the number of cigarettes he smoked fell from 30 a day to under 20, and he also started to create and use some replacement habits.

In an email to me he said: “The mindful smoking is a bit hit and miss, although I am smoking less. I no longer come down for a cig before going to sleep and often only have one between finishing my tea and going to bed (about three to four hours).

“My wife has also said she has noticed me saying 'right, I'm going for a know what; no I'm not'. Other times I find myself having a cig and thinking 'how did I get here?'. Basically not even realising I've made a choice to have a cigarette. I have been noticing the taste more and stopping as soon as I am conscious of how bad it tastes.

“The morning and when I have had a drink though have not changed at all. But at least I can identify my weak points.”

Getting the subconscious mind to agree

The night before the second session I asked Michael to get rid of his cigarettes and all smoking equipment like lighters and ashtrays. That’s when he became a non-smoker.

During the session I talked to the part of him that wanted to smoke. The smoking part said he helped to keep Michael calm. He also helped Michael create time to think, so he could operate more effectively. He’d been doing this for many years, but was afraid he’d fail, and was also afraid of failing to stop smoking.

I then talked to the part of Michael that wanted him to become a non-smoker. He said: “I want to be free.” I asked him what he wanted to be free from. “Free from addiction. It does you no good.” He said he had been working with Michael for a few months and wanted the smoking part to ‘back off’.

Eventually after I negotiated with them, they agreed to work together to help Michael stop. I then asked the smoking part if he wanted a new job, and he agreed to become a calming influence for Michael.

Final session

Michael hadn’t smoked since the previous session. The first 48 hours were a little testing, but he found this was by far the easiest way to stop he’d tried. The hypnotherapy helped him to set his mind to do it and it happened.

The last session was about helping him reduce his anxiety, and to reinforce all the helpful suggestions I’d give in the previous sessions around confidence, relaxation, ability to cope with stress, and becoming a non-smoker.

I always offer a free fourth session for up to 12 months after the stop smoking sessions have finished, if the client wants it for any follow up work. Michael didn’t need it and most of my clients don’t.

So what are you waiting for – contact me for your free 30 minute telephone consultation to see how I can help you. Then prepare to regain control, get a massive pay rise, improve your health and stub those ciggies out for good.

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