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David Shapiro

By David Shapiro

Saturday, October 24, 1998


An unusual way to kick
the smoking habit

PEOPLE spend millions of dollars on nicotine patches to help them quit smoking. The patches got me off the weed, but not in the way intended. Just reading the instructions grossed me out enough to drive me to quit six years ago without wearing a single patch.

I first handled cigarettes as a young teen when I'd wake up early to spike my poor Mom's pack with explosive caps as a practical joke. She'd pour her coffee, light up and take that first satisfying drag. Then her unfiltered Raleigh would go kablooie in her face and I'd laugh devilishly as she chased me around the house with a shoe.

My bachi was that it was a small step from sneaking into her pack to rig an explosion and sneaking in to swipe a few cigarettes to smoke in the garage. I was soon hooked and doomed to nearly 30 years of frustrating addiction.

I got serious about quitting after my dad died what the doctors called a "smoker's death" -- a disabling heart attack, bypass surgery and, finally, a massive stroke.

I first tried a mass hypnosis at the Ilikai. About 50 of us paid $40 apiece to sit for three hours on hard steel chairs as a thickset guy with a mellifluous voice lectured us about the evils of tobacco. Then he hypnotized us and planted suggestions that we should stop smoking. My wife found divinity in the voice and it worked for her. All I could think about was how his jabbering about cigarettes reminded me that I wanted one.

I tried a personal hypnotist -- a $500 proposition. But it was more effective to be put in a trance in the privacy of a doctor's office and I quit.

If only the hypnotist hadn't started bugging me about publicizing his book. I didn't want to get on the bad side of a guy who was putting me under the power of his spell twice a week, but I couldn't shake a nagging suspicion that he was subliminally corrupting my head with suggestions like, "You will fill the newspaper with stories about my book."

Back on the weed, my next stop was a program where they tried to scare you into quitting by passing around charred lung slices of dead smokers.

The woman who ran the program blew it when she explained how she came to understand our compulsion to smoke. "I've never smoked myself," she said, "but I have a shopping compulsion. I can't pass a Liberty House without running in and buying something expensive."

Indeed, she was wearing a lovely $800 outfit and some smart accessories that must have cost many times as much. But I could never take her seriously again.

I had given up until a cardiologist dropped by the office and found me smoking in the lobby. He gave me a mean scolding and had his office send me a sample kit of nicotine patches.

I read the instructions in bed that night and it sickened me how the patch would leech poisonous nicotine into my body day and night. I was appalled at how I would have to keep moving the patch around to avoid skin abrasions.

I know the nicotine patch has worked wonders for many smokers and wouldn't discourage its use by those it helps, but I fell asleep that night disgusted that I had to resort to self-mutilation to quit smoking.

I guess the old hypnosis kicked in. I woke up the next morning with no desire to smoke and the urge never returned. It goes to show that sometimes a little bedtime reading can change your life.



Free nicotine patch kits available



David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at editor@starbulletin.com.

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