Friday, June 14, 2013

I Was Too Clever to Quit Smoking

One central paradox of the smoker’s life is that, despite swallowing an almost comically flagrant deception, most smokers like to regard themselves as pretty smart people. Step outside any bar or restaurant, nip around the back of a conference room at coffee time, and you’ll see them: a bitter huddle of smarter-than-thou smokers, shooting down society’s sacred cows. Want to know how many people died while exercising last year? Ask a smoker. Think smoking kills you? Think again. Every smoker you meet will tell you about their Aunt Jenny or Uncle Steve who sucked back 90 a day and lived to be 100, and even then died only because their houses fell on them. No delusion or hypocrisy escapes the smoker’s gaze. Except, of course, his own.  


I say this with some authority, because I was one. From the age of 17 to 32, despite herculean effort, I just couldn’t smoke enough to feel smoked out. The smoker in me, apparently the brains of the operation, sneered at my every self-improving effort. 

After I made several pitiable attempts to break free, it became clear that in order to give up smoking, I was going to have to give up being such a smart aleck. And what better way of achieving this than to give in to something I believed I was too smart for? The solution was obvious: I would humble myself through hypnosis. 

My session with Stella Knight (the name she uses professionally, she told me) took place at her home in Norfolk, England, on a white sofa in her bungalow’s front room. To the burbling accompaniment of a CD called “Celestial Sanctity,” Stella started in with her patter.

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