Dying for a Quit Date

“I probably won’t quit until the day I die,” one old Marine guy grunted during one of our classes. We were talking about setting quit dates. The old guy had tried to quit a “hundred times,” he said, and was now trying it again. He was new to the class.

“How do you know you’re going to quit even after you die?” a lady in the class asked.  The old Marine looked at her somewhat dumbfounded.

“What do you mean?” he said.

“I heard that after you die you still have all of your old habits and all your old desires and everything. You just can’t do anything about them.”

“Oh geez,” the old marine said, or words to that effect, as he slouched back in his chair.

Whether one is free or not of the tobacco habit after one has gone to one’s reward, (the research is still sketchy) it’s nevertheless clear that many smokers have learned to think of their “quit date” as their “death date.”

“I don’t want to set a quit date. I don’t want to even think about it. It’s too scary,” one lady who had been smoking for forty years confessed.
“What’s scary about it?” one of her classmates challenged.

“I don’t even want to think about why it’s scary,” she said. And the class laughed.

Many smokers have set quit dates for smoking and then, as the quit date approached, found themselves more and more anxious, more and more fearful.  For many of these smokers, when the quite date finally arrives, they may actually try to quit but then, encountering the strange jitteryness of not smoking, quickly tell themselves they’re not ready, they’ll quit later, and then, with a sigh of relief, resume their smoking, be it in an hour, a day or a week after their quit date.

Other smokers, of course, set a quit date, and then, simply, quit. (After all, a million smokers a year do succeed in moving beyond the smoking habit.)

What’s the difference? Why can some smokers set a quit date and succeed, while others set a quit date and don’t succeed?  Some smokers, although sincerely wanting to quit, are not even successful about setting a quit date, let alone actually quitting on that date. They don’t even want to think about a quit date.

Here’s the secret: How a smoker thinks about his or her quit date determines whether or nor that quit date will be successful. Thinking about the Quit Date in a fearful, anxious, uptight manner is an habitual way of thinking for many smokers. And it is this habit of thinking that makes the quit date, likewise, fearful, anxious and uptight. This is not the natural way for a human being to feel, so the smoker does something to get back to feeling “natural.” The habit kicks back in.

When a smoker begins to train himself, or herself, to enjoy thinking about his or her quit date, then the reality of the quit date likewise becomes more enjoyable. The secret is in the joy.

When smokers think about quit dates they have set in the past, which did not work, these thoughts are most often thoughts they do not enjoy. To consciously change one’s perspective about previous quit dates, and consciously change one’s perspective about upcoming quit dates, is the most important “ground work” that can be laid for successful quitting. It’s not a matter of what one is going to do or not do at some future date, but rather what one is doing, what one is thinking, right now, in this instant. It’s perfectly fair, and right, and useful to set a quit date, as long as one remembers that it is right now, in this instant– not in the future– that the “work” of changing one’s thoughts, feelings about quitting begins.   It is “right now,” that one dies to the habit of unenjoyable thinking. When that habit is broken, quitting smoking is a snap.

“Yea right,” the old marine harrumphed,  holding on tight to his old unhapppy marine way of thinking.

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