Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Kicking the butt

Published:Sunday | March 10, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Two weeks ago, we started our journey with Ricadowho, after 20 years, decided to quit smoking to save money and his health.

For one week now, I have been a non-smoker. After more than 20 years of smoking almost 20 cigarettes each day, Dr Johnson has helped me to join the ranks of the non-smokers, and I have no regrets.

But how did I get here? How did I move from lighting up once every hour that I was awake?

First came the decision to stop hurting my wallet and health with smoking. Once the decision was made, the research started on the various methods to end the love affair I have enjoyed for so long.

Internet searches showed me the gum, the patch, a gradual slowing down, the stop-smoking helpline, quitting cold turkey, and hypnosis.

None of these seemed to make sense. You have to understand that I feel incomplete without my cigarettes. It's so comforting to have them in my hand or in my mouth when driving, thinking, drinking, working, after sex, after eating, first thing in the morning and last thing at nights.

I decided going cold turkey was my preferred choice, but I also knew that I was not mentally strong enough to do it alone. It was a godsend when I heard about Dr Rosemarie Johnson.

The Journey

After agreeing to try the programme, I travelled to meet Dr Johnson at her office, hopeful but sceptical. The meeting was set for 4 p.m., so armed with five of my favourite cigarettes, I left my office shortly before three and made my way there. I arrived early enough to sit in the car and kill the last two before it was time to go in for a process that would either save my life or leave me just as I was.

Dr Johnson fit the image I had in my mind - soft-spoken and easy-going, with a presence that immediately made you comfortable. My knowledge of hypnosis was restricted to the movies where someone stands before you with a gold watch or some other shinny object, wave it from side to side and tell you, "You are going to sleep, you are going to sleep. Your eyes are becoming heavy and when I count to 10 you will be asleep." That is usually followed by instructions that you will not remember what you did when you wake up.

Against that background, and you know the movies are always right, I entered the treatment room determined that I was not going to "bark like a dog" no matter what gold pendant this woman waved.

In fact, I had planned to close my eyes and not look at the pendant because I have read enough Mandrake the Magician to know that if you don't look at him, the illusions won't work.

But Dr Johnson quickly destroyed that idea. I would be wide awake and not be made to do anything that I did not want to do.

"If I told you to jump on the table and bark would you do it now?" she asked. I did not reply, but I'm sure the look on my face made it clear what I was thinking - "Why am I wasting my time with this quack when I could be having a smoke with a cold Guinness and giving two six-love this Thursday evening?"

Gradually, the conversation shifted and while I still believed she was a 'quack', the conversation was interesting enough that I did not miss the dominoes which I knew would be in full swing.

"Do you have a physical addiction to cigarettes?" she asked. After giving it some thought, I told her no. Someone who has a physical addition displays this when they go without the addiction for some time. The cocaine addict will start having the shakes if they miss their regular hit. But if I have my family in the car and cannot smoke, there was no physical reaction, just my brain telling me, "Hey, it's time to light up."

Hypnosis

I'm sorry I can't tell you much more of what happened in that first hour as Dr Johnson gave me a lecture on the functions of the brain which, surprisingly, I found interesting and riveting. I say surprisingly because I'm not usually interested in medical mumbo-jumbo.

Then the goodly doctor started to play some soothing instrumental music and asked me to close my eyes and visualise the story she was telling me. She took me on a journey through a forest with the darkest green trees and a beautiful sky overhead. As she continued the story, I remember her saying something to the effect, "You are now fully hypnotised." Please don't hold me to the exact words as, by then, I was completely caught up in the story that she was weaving in my mind.

I do know for sure that at one point I was in a castle that was dirty and dusty with the walls covered by black soot. But it became so beautiful once I cleaned it with my mind's eyes.

Then she played the trump card as she pointed out my loved ones who were around me in the castle. The face of my 23-year-old daughter and my 13-year-old son were plainly visible as was my mother, whose age is unknown. "Make a commitment to them that you will never smoke again!" suggested the doctor and I felt the tears stream down my face as I made that promise.

A short while later, the session was over and a non-smoker was born. I'm not an ex-smoker or a former smoker, I'm a non-smoker. The difference is that once you are an ex-anything you maintain a link with that person or thing, so there is a connection with your ex-wife or your former lover.

But I am a non-smoker, so there is no connection with the cigarettes, and for the past week, I have been around my friends who still smoke and I have not felt the urge to take one.

"You need to avoid di man dem who smoke," declared a concerned friend, but Dr Johnson has already made it clear that my subconscious mind is well past cigarettes so, while I hope my friends will join me on this team, there is no urge to return to their team.

I'm a non-smoker and proud to be so.

Dr Johnson is a licensed clinical psychologist and a quit-smoking specialist who practises in Jamaica and Florida. She has a tenured faculty at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

For the past 21 years, Dr Johnson has dedicated herself to helping her clients and students live empowered lives. However, the slow pace of behavioural change in clients using traditional psychological techniques led her to explore hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming, and mental and emotional release therapy.

Thus, in addition to her PhD in Psychology, Dr Johnson is a certified trainer and master practitioner of neuro-linguistic programming and time empowerment. She is also a hypnotherapist. These techniques allow her to integrate traditional psychology with technologies of the mind and help clients achieve rapid, long-lasting changes in their lives.