I thought smoking sixty cigarettes a day was just about the limit of human endurance until I started to wake up at night to “enjoy” just one more!

I took up smoking when I was fourteen and by the age of sixteen I was a “committed” smoker. Within three years I had managed to ratchet my daily intake of cigarettes to two packs per day, and by the time I was twenty-one, I was up to three packs a day.

Needless to say that over the years I had managed to “quit” a number of times. I often joked how easy it was to quit since I had managed the feat so readily. In reality it wasn’t quitting, it was just a temporary suspension that never lasted more than a few days. I was a bona fide smoker. In fact, I couldn’t imagine life worth living without cigarettes. After all, if I quit how could I ever again enjoy talking on the telephone without the aid and comfort of a smoke? How could I ever enjoy a beer without an accompanying cigarette? Enjoying a delicious meal and relaxing in front of the TV would have been “empty” without the perfect finishing touch, a cigarette. These smoky pleasures permeated every area of my life, all day long and well into the night. I couldn’t "live" without them.

But like every seasoned smoker knows, it’s a life sentence to slavery. Like all smokers I always told myself that I would quit before it was too late, whatever that meant.

As a smoker I loathed this part of my life. I was angry and disgusted that I was so controlled by my dependency on what was such an utterly destructive habit. Then one day I decided that I would finally quit for good, but I also decided that I was definitely not going to try to quit that day. Instead I looked at the psychological bondage that I had tied myself to. Rather than trying to cut back, or stop completely, I actually forced myself to increase my daily intake.

Now remember this was many years ago, when smokers weren’t looked on as the pariahs they are today. Back then you could smoke on airplanes, public transportation, and basically aside from smoking in church, you could smoke anywhere you pleased and nobody gave it a second thought. So when I say I was going to increase my daily intake, I literally began to light one cigarette from the previous. Were there many times that I had just finished a cigarette and didn’t feel like smoking another at that moment? Almost always. But I forced myself to smoke it anyway because if cigarettes are so pleasurable, why would I possibly deprive myself of all the pleasure I could garner?

With each cigarette I smoked I really thought about how much I hated it. I would constantly ask myself just how much I was really enjoying this ordeal. When I had to go to a store at 10:30 at night because I only had one cigarette left, I made sure to ask myself, and to really think about how much sense this was really making.

I began focusing on things like the smell of my clothes, my car, my breath, the yellow nicotine stains, the expense, the dirty ashtrays, and worst of all, I began to admit that this was nothing short of a very humiliating form of slavery.

While thinking in this manner, I was “subconsciously” reprogramming my beliefs that smoking was “pleasurable” and “impossible to quit.” This self-imposed torture of continuous smoking went on for a couple of weeks, and as you can well imagine, it was beginning to seriously effect my immediate health. I was constantly fatigued and felt unwell. I knew that I was going to quit, I knew that I had to quit, but I didn’t know how or when.

Then came the day. I can recall it as clear as if it happened yesterday. I was twenty-seven years old. I awoke one morning and it quite literally felt like someone was standing on my chest. It was a clear and unmistakable sign. The not-too subtle warning was accompanied by that deep knowing. It was one of those life-defining moments. Either I quit smoking or I would never see forty.

The knowing was so complete that when I got out of bed and looked at my pack of cigarettes I calmly threw them in the garbage, got dressed and went to work. I haven’t smoked a cigarette in twenty-three years.

Were there times over the next several weeks when I wanted a cigarette? Yes, but the desire for a cigarette was not nearly as great as my desire not to have one. I could finally see exactly what I was giving up – nothing!

I had changed the way I thought. I was going to start getting, not giving up! I was going to start getting to enjoy my freedom, my independence, my self-esteem, my self-confidence, my money, my time. “Giving up?” If I was giving up anything I was giving up a crippling dependency. I was giving up having to go to a store late at night. I was giving up the endless smell, expense, stress, anxiety, colds, coughing fits, hacking and embarrassment.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I had done over the previous weeks when I was forcing myself to smoke more than I wanted and consciously thinking about what I was doing, I was laying down some very powerful neuron tracks and new ways of thinking.

Were there times in the ensuing weeks and months that I longed for a cigarette? Occasionally. In fact, years later I might be talking on the phone and the thought of “enjoying” a “pleasant cigarette” would pop into my mind, but the thought was fleeting and carried little substance. My freedom meant far more to me than anything else.

To this day, I will still say that my greatest accomplishment was ridding myself of that vile, filthy habit. For a long time I thought that I had broken my smoking slavery through willpower. Today I know that was not at all the case. What I had done was systematically change my thought process. I had slowly but surely began to see my habit and addiction for what it was. When I thought cigarettes were my friends I was completely under their control. When I changed my thinking to realize they were my biggest enemy, I had control. It was then, and only then that I could stop smoking ... permanently!

Now, to underscore my point, even though I used to think that I had quit cold turkey I really hadn’t. Everyone who quits at some point has had their last cigarette. We might think that at that point, they had to quit, cold turkey. Technically this is true, but in reality there was a thought process that preceded that action. In my case there was a particular moment when I said “That’s it, I’ve had it!” but in order to get to that place where I?could leave it behind, I had to spend a couple of weeks changing my deepest beliefs about smoking.

When people seem to change deep habits and addictions “overnight,” seemingly through the use of willpower, if you were to look closer you will likely find that there was much more involved than what appears on the surface. There are always exceptions but in all likelihood they’re too rare to bother with. In fact, if one could manage such major change through the use of willpower, then by rights they should be able to transform themselves into a perfect walking, talking, performing human being overnight. The sad reality is that change through the instantaneous process of willpower has always produced dismal results.

The instantaneous attempts that are most common are fad diets, austerity vows to eliminate debt cold turkey, spur of the moment attempts at quitting smoking or drinking or gambling, or the assumption of a new personality by joining a social community.

There are always a few well-publicized success stories that fuel the belief that overnight change is possible and commonplace. These publicized stories often lead us to believe that if we can’t initiate instantaneous change then we must be deficient in personal force or willpower. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Lasting change, whether that’s the acquisition of a good habit or the elimination of an undesirable habit, always begins with a change in thought – a new way of thinking.

Richard Fast is the author or 29 DAYS ... to a life without cigarettes!

Author's Bio: 

Richard Fast, the author and creator of more than 30 toys, games, puzzles and books, has devoted the past twenty years into the research and development of his 29 DAYS template.

He, like the rest of us, had always been told that if you want to change your life just change your thoughts. But how can we change the way we think?

Richard discovered that we can change our fundamental thoughts into desirable new habits by following the same cognitive procedures that we used to create our existing habits.

Richard’s 29 DAYS template for change uses proven, scientific techniques, technology and online coaching, to guide you through a step-by-step process toward changing your thoughts and acquiring desirable new habits ... permanently.