Monday, June 30, 2008

You CAN'T Quit or You Don't WANT to Quit???

I Can’t versus I don’t want to.

“I can’t quit smoking, it’s too stressful.”
“I can’t quit because I can’t use any medications.”
“It’s hopeless.”
“It’s impossible for me to quit.”

Rita was a middle aged woman that had returned to college. She smoked while she studied at her kitchen table. I suggested that she try studying at the library.
“Oh, I can’t do that!”

Dorothy commented on some of the homework assignments from a Stop Smoking, Stay Quit Workshop:

“I can’t eat oranges because they give me hives, I can’t eat carrots because I don’t like them, I can’t exercise because I don’t have the time and I can’t drink more water because I don’t get bathroom breaks at work.”

“What do you want from me?” I asked.

“I want you to tell me that I can’t quit.” Dorothy said.

I didn’t argue with her but said, “You’re right, you can’t quit.” But if you look at her reasons, what she was really saying is “I don’t want to quit.”
Saying “I Can’t” implies that whatever being asked is impossible to do. None of the homework assignments were impossible to do. There are very few things in life we CAN’T do, but this is usually just an excuse because we don’t WANT to.
It's easier to say, “I can't quit,” because that implies that the smoker is not responsible for the outcome. Once the smoker says “I can quit,” this implies that they are now taking responsibility for their actions.

In a different class, Jack said almost the same thing as Dorothy,

“I can’t eat more fruits and vegetables.”

This time I wanted to fall through the floor because Jack had lost his lower jaw to bone cancer due to smoking. He had no bottom teeth to eat with and was on a totally liquid diet. It was impossible for him to eat more fruits and vegetables.

“But I’m not going to let that stop me. I can do everything else because I want to quit.”

If a smoker believes that he can’t quit, he can’t but usually this means they don’t want to do what it takes to be successful and this usually means that the motivation is not strong enough or is non-existent. It is important to not push a smoker to a step they are not ready for yet. Resistance at this point, may mean that the focus needs to be on motivation instead of moving forward.
“You don’t understand, I can’t afford your class because I can’t afford milk for my children.” This smoker said this to me as she sucked on her cigarette. I didn’t point out to her the insanity of putting the buying of cigarettes before buying milk for her children.
A smoker needs to believe that they can be successful at quitting. By taking small steps instead of leaping forward, the smoker can build the confidence to quit. The process is easier as the smoker changes his beliefs from I can’t to I want to. So one step forward is to decide what you are willing to do--maybe it is something as simple as only smoking outside, or stop smoking in the car. Willingness to try can create success for the next step forward of what the smoker is willing to try until they are willing to stop altogether.

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