June 7th, 2017


Habits and addictions — not always easy to tell apart.  Some habits are bad, some habits are good, and it’s probably the same for addictions.

Both my parents smoked cigarettes.  (Dad smoked a pipe for a while; didn’t take to long to give that one up.)  My grandmother, Boggin, also smoked.  She smoked Kent cigarettes.  There was always a little container of Kents sitting on the marble-top table in the corner of her living room, from which, beginning at the age of fourteen, I would filch a ciggy or two when I visited her (since she lived only two doors from us, that was often).

When you got to drive the car, that was a good time to sneak a smoke.  (Of course, in the beginning you had to hide the fact that you were smoking.)  Or just getting in Boggin’s car (a big Buick) to pretend to be driving.  I once made myself feel ill smoking a minty-flavored mentholated brand; I don’t remember the name of that brand, but the package was a sickly shade of blue-green, the same color as my face after smoking one.

Cigarettes were cheap!  A pack cost 35 cents (that’s $3.15 in 2017 dollars, still cheap, considering).  But it was hard to steal them, and at 14 or 15 years of age, it’s hard to buy them.  Yet I persisted, because by the time I was nearly 16, I’d already developed a healthy malicious habit addiction.

By the age of 16 I could legally buy cigarettes, and could no longer keep my bad habit to myself.  So my mother and I made a pact: we would both quit, go cold turkey.  Dad wasn’t in on the pact; neither was brother Buck, nor Boggin, which made it kinda hard; Mom and both had to admit we couldn’t keep the pledge after three weeks.

I kept on smoking right through college, through meditation and India and ashrams and macrobiotics (Michio Kushi smoked), and all the while I knew I should give it up and would make an effort only to fail because it’s very, very hard to drop that addiction.  I was able to stop drinking for long periods, to stop smoking dope and dropping acid, even to stop masturbating too often — but smoking kept hanging in there.

I haven’t smoked cigarettes for some 40 years now.  How did I stop?

Charles was coming to live with us.  Charles, Avis’s son, who was living in Atlanta at the time, decided he wanted to move to Vermont and live with us.  I knew I would hate myself if I were still smoking cigarettes, that’s no kind of role model.  I tried to go cold turkey; I tried to taper off; no go, that was just not in the cards.

Hypnosis did the trick.  One session, of which I remember nothing (because I was hypnotised, you see), but upon leaving the doctor’s office, I took a pack of Marlboro cigarettes out of my pocket, and placed it in a waste container not far from his office door.  [Yes, I’m sure that was part of the plan, something the psychiatrist could check to make sure the treatment worked.]

I haven’t smoked cigarettes since.  For a couple of weeks, I smoked tons and tons of marijuana (dope), and drank gallons of wine, until it was clear I would kill myself before Charles arrived if I didn’t stop, so I stopped.  It’s easy to stop smoking dope; a little harder to stop it with the wine, also a physical addiction but possible to taper down from.  But without the hypnosis, I would never have bucked the tobacco addiction.


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