Mental Conditioning To Resist Cravings - Books, Cards (mental.html)

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[A] Introduction

Below is a description of the books that gave me some mental techniques to resist cravings to smoke. The books also gave me the idea and some of the material for my quit smoking cards.

The cards were the most crucial part of my last and so far successful quit.

You don't need to read this page in order to apply card therapy. The information below is just background information for the interested.

[B] Books

The two books listed below, 'When AA Doesn't Work For You -- Rational Steps To Quitting Alcohol' and 'Rational Recovery, The New Cure For Substance Addiction' are aimed at alcohol and mind - altering drugs, but the techniques are applicable to any addictive substance, including tobacco. Both concentrate on techniques on controlling one's own thinking and quelling one's cravings by remembering and using rational statements. These books provided much of the ideas for the 3 X 5 cards I wrote.

[B1] 'When AA Doesn't Work For You -- Rational Steps To Quitting Alcohol'

by Albert Ellis and Emmett Velten, 1992, Barracade Books Inc. The general class of therapy presented in this book is known as Rational Emotive Therapy (RET). Some techniques presented in this book:

[B1.A] Replace irrational self-talk with rational self-talk

Replace the ABSOLUTE DEMANDS -- 'Must', 'Have To', 'Should', 'Ought', 'Can't Stand', 'Need', etc. with RATIONAL PREFERENCES, DESIRES, WISHES, and WANTS:

Irrational: 'I must have a cigarette now'

Rational: 'I would like to have a cigarette now, but I don't have to have one. And I won't feel all that much better if I do -- it will feel nice, but not all that great. And tomorrow I will regret it deeply'.

[B1.B] ABCD - Activating Events, Beliefs, Consequences, Dispute

A Activating Event: I've had a hard day at work. At last I'm done and outside, so I can light up now. Tomorrow is also going to be bad -- I have a presentation to give at work. I'm nervous and need to relax.

B Beliefs about A (irrational): I need to calm myself down. I need a smoke now. I can't stand not smoking any longer. It is awful that I have to put up with this suffering. Whenever I have a craving this strong, I have to give in to it.

C Consequences: I blow my quit (yet again). Everyone will know soon. I will have to start my quit all over again and repeat all of the suffering that I have endured over the last few hours / days.

D Dispute the irrational beliefs, and replace them with rational beliefs: I don't need a smoke, although one would sure be nice. I can relax by meditating, walking, and / or thinking of something pleasant. It's painful not being able to smoke, but in a few days, I will seldom have serious cravings. Those cravings will be less than the cravings I had as a smoker, when I wasn't able to smoke.

[B1.C] Journal Therapy (or cards)

Whenever you find yourself craving, ask yourself, what is the trigger (activating events)? Write down your thoughts (irrational beliefs that are part of the cravings). Then write down some consequences of giving in. Also, in writing, dispute the irrational beliefs, and replace them with rational beliefs.

[B1.D] Other Techniques

There are several other techniques in this book. For example,

Note: RET techniques can be applied to almost any kind of mental problem, such as procrastination and anxiety. The latter part of the book has a lot on how to use RET to deal with difficult life situation other than addiction.

[B1.E] S.M.A.R.T. - Self Management and Recovery Training

S.M.A.R.T. (Self Management and Recovery Training) is an organization that helps people apply these RET methods to overcoming substance abuse problems and other problems.

[B2] 'Rational Recovery, The New Cure For Substance Addiction'

by Jack Trimpey, 1996, Pocket Books.

An addicted person is fighting a war with himself. It is like a person is of two minds.

One part of the mind is jumping up and down screaming, 'I must have a cigarette now! It will taste so good.' This mind is called 'the beast'. The voice one hears is called the addictive voice. The beast is the primitive survival - oriented part of the brain that demands what it needs -- food, water, air, etc. Unfortunately, in an addicted person, this beast brain also thinks it needs the addictive substance.

The other part of the mind is saying, 'if I have a cigarette, I might relapse back into full time smoking. And a cigarette will only satisfy me momentarily. I will soon want another'. This mind is the 'rational' mind, the part of the mind that reasons things out and makes decisions.

Rational Recovery (RR) consists of training the rational mind to recognize the beast's addictive voice. And how to combat it -- by use of addiction diction, and by realizing that the beast is physically helpless. This consists of a few techniques:

[B2.A] Transposing:

Change 'I' to 'It' -- Instead of thinking 'I want a cigarette now', say 'It wants a cigarette now'. ('It' is the beast). Say 'It wants a cigarette now, but I don't need one, and I prefer to remain smoke - free'. ('I' is the rational mind.)

[B2.B] Change a beast statement to a question.

'Life is meaningless without cigarettes' (?). 'I will feel so much better after a cigarette' (?). 'I will never be able to stop smoking' (?).

[B2.C] Recognize the beast is helpless

The beast brain is not connected to your muscles. Rather, it must convince the rational mind to give in to its wishes. Only the rational mind can plan the trip to the store and move the muscles necessary to drive to the store and buy the cigarettes. If you doubt this, wiggle your finger. Now challenge the beast to wiggle your finger. It can't. This proves that you (your rational mind) has control of your muscles, not the beast.

It has been very comforting for me to realize that the beast can't take direct control of my muscles and force a cigarete into my mouth. Rather, I have to decide first to smoke.

[B2.D] Vertigo

(when flooded with wave after wave of strong urges, and you feel like you are about to cave in), also called an emergency: think about some very unpleasant aspects of the addiction, and / or then think about something else. What works for me is to think 'CAR', for the first letters of Cough, Ash, and Read the cards:

Cough -- imagine coughing in someone's face

Ash -- imagine an ash dropping from a cigarette onto an expensive piece of clothing.

Read the cards -- now read the cards which lists the thoughts, affirmations, and reasons why it would be a bad idea to give in to the urge.

[B2.E] Shifting

-- train oneself to shift from pleasant visions or memories of drinking to seeing the same scene in a different light. Rather than seeing oneself as cool, or fitting in, see oneself as looking like a pathetic hopeless addict huddling outside some building in bad weather getting a fix. See one's face as prematurely aged, wrinkled, and spotted (see Smoker's Face -- An Evident Reason To Quit, by Jane E. Brody, Women's Health Digest, Volume 2, Number 3, reprinted by permission of the New York Times Company, copyright 1996).

[B2.F] A no-nonsense lifelong abstinence commitment -- The 'Big Plan'

This will make your beast very uncomfortable at first. When dealing with the beast, remember to use grammatical transposition (change 'I' to 'It'). If you have trouble with the 'never' part, as in, 'I will never smoke again', remember it is the beast that is having trouble with 'never'. So think, 'It can't live with this plan. It can't tolerate the word 'never'. But I can, and I will!'

Once you fight it out with your beast and convince yourself to quit for your lifetime (try writing down why you never again want to touch one of the nasty things), then the quit process will become much easier, and maybe even almost effortless.

[B2.G] Rational Recovery

Rational Recovery is the organization Jack Trimpey founded to help people to use these techniques to overcome substance abuse problems.

[C] Cards

3 X 5 cards were the most crucial part of my quit process. I made more than 20 of them as I went along. I found that I always calmed myself down and that I *never* gave into an urge when I took the time to read some cards. The only times that I slipped were when I didn't have the cards with me, or when I said to heck with reading the cards. But though I slipped, I fortunately never completely relapsed back into regular smoking. To see the actual cards (somewhat edited and enhanced for clarity) that I used, see Quit Smoking Cards -- Things to Tell Yourself When Strong Cravings Hit and Won't Go Away.

Whenever I had a trigger situation or trigger thoughts that were not already covered by an existing card, I'd write a card to cover that situation or thoughts.

I finally learned that even after several weeks without a slip, just 2 cigarettes would cause increased cravings and enhanced sensitivity to stress for 2 or 3 WEEKS. When I learned this lesson, I really made up my mind not to ever touch a cigarette again.

[C1] Emergency (Vertigo) - Cough Ash Read

See section B2.D above for ideas for this card. Also, on this card are things to calm the mind down, e.g. imagine a beautiful mountain scene. And deep breathe.

[C2] Cards to deal with specific triggers

[C2.A] Examples of Specific Triggers:

(1) On my way home from a meeting or from work

(2) Something especially bad suddenly happens, so why not have 2 cigs?

(3) Why not quit next week, or next month when ...

(4) I've been quit for a week now. So why not have 2 cigs once a week?

[C2.B] Contents Of Trigger Situation Cards:

Generally, on each of the above trigger situation cards,

(1) Briefly list the emergency CAR procedure,

(2) list the bad short-term consequences of giving in.

(3) list some good short-term benefits of NOT giving in.

(4) Write a reminder(s) that even in the very short term, if I do give in, that it won't taste all that great or feel all that great. It will be nice, but not great or euphoric.

(5) Write some RET statements, such as that I would like a cig, but don't need one. (See sections B1.A and B1.B).

Examples of Bad Short Term Consequences:

(1) I will feel depressed shortly after finishing the cig.

(2) I will have to set my meter back to zero.

(3) I will worry that I may never succeed in quitting. Or I will worry that it will be a long time before I succeed, and only after many painful attempts

(4) I will have more and stronger urges now

(5) I will feel weak and vulnerable again to stress

Some good short term consequences of resisting the urge:

(1) I will feel better about myself. Sometimes I even feel exhilarated when I get through a crisis situation without smoking.

(2) I need the feeling of success of stopping smoking

(3) After this crisis trigger situation passes without smoking, I can reward myself, (e.g. after I get home withOUT buying a pack of cigarettes, I can reward myself for 15 minutes by laying on the couch and reading something enjoyable)

(4) I have fewer urges now than when I was smoking (probably applies after day 4)

(5) I enjoy the freedom of not being bound to the cigarette habit

[C3] What It Was Like (The Essay)

I wrote an essay describing what my smoking days were like, particularly during the past 3 years when I was attempting to quit, cut back, or at least not increase my smoking any more. My smoking habit was not a joy during these 3 years. In particular, I found that I often had nicotine cravings because of my attempts to regulate my own smoking, or because of the many situations and places where smoking is not allowed. The essay had the following subheadings:

(1) Constant Deprivation

(2) Constant Obsession With The Problem

(3) Lack of Freedom and Waste of Time

(4) Job Hunting (Coughing At A Job Interview)

(5) Other Irritants (Short Term)

[C4] List Of All The Bad Things About Smoking -- The 'Reasons To Quit List'

This is a list of all the reasons why I want to quit smoking. I particularly focus on several present or near-term reasons to quit. (Long term reasons like 'I will have an increased probability of getting cancer in 20 years' simply don't motivate me much. But I am powerfully motivated by near-term reasons such as the feelings of constant deprivation, wasting lots of time running to the store, gum disease and lectures from my dentists, damage to my self - esteem, cost of cigarettes, cost of insurance, having to avoid stressful activities whenever I was trying to cut back or quit.)

[D] "Just One" Thinking

It is instructive to read what the "Alcoholics Anonymous" book has to say about "just one" thinking. It is amazingly similar to the "just one" syndrome that a smoker deals with in succumbing to one or a few cigarettes. The below is from pp. 23-24 of the "Alcoholics Anonymous" book:
If you ask him why he started on that last bender, the chances are he will offer you any one of a hundred alibis. Sometimes these excuses have a certain plausibility, but none of them really makes sense in the light of the havoc an alcoholic's drinking bout creates. They sound like the philosophy of the man who, having a headache, beats himself on the head with a hammer so that he can't feel the ache.

... There is the obsession that somehow, someday, they will beat the game.

Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.

The almost certain consequences that follow taking even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us. If these thoughts occur, they are hazy and readily supplanted with the old threadbare idea that this time we shall handle ourselves like other people. There is a complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove.

The alcoholic may say to himself in the most casual way, "It won't burn me this time, so here's how!" Or perhaps he doesn't think at all. How often have some of us begun to drink in this nonchalant way, and after the third or fourth, pounded on the bar and said to ourselves, "For God's sake, how did I ever get started again?" Only to have that thought supplanted by "Well, I'll stop with the sixth drink." Or "What's the use anyhow?"

The following is from pp. 34-35 of "Alcoholics Anonymous". The story about Jim trying to make alcohol safe by pouring whiskey into milk is illustrative of the kind of illogical thinking that a smoker has when succumbing to "just one" thinking:
... This is Jim's story:

"... On the way I felt hungry so I stopped at a roadside place where they have a bar. I had no intention of drinking. ... I had eaten there many times during the months I was sober. I sat down at a table and ordered a sandwich and a glass of milk. Still no thought of drinking. I ordered another sandwich and decided to have another glass of milk.

"Suddenly the thought crossed my mind that if I were to put an ounce of whiskey in my milk it couldn't hurt me on a full stomach. I ordered a whiskey and poured it into the milk. I vaguely sensed I was not being any too smart, but felt reassured as I was taking the whiskey on a full stomach. The experiment went so well that I ordered another whiskey and poured it into more milk. That didn't seem to bother me so I tried another."

Thus started one more journey to the asylum for Jim. ... He had much knowledge about himself as an alcoholic. Yet all reasons for not drinking were easily pushed aside in favor of the foolish idea that he could take whiskey if only he mixed it with milk!

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