in my humble opinion

Up in smoke

Posted 11/11/20

Three years ago today, I sat on the edge of my bed at five o’clock in the morning gasping for air, unable to breathe, absolutely sure that I was about to die. Seriously, I did not think I would …

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in my humble opinion

Up in smoke


Three years ago today, I sat on the edge of my bed at five o’clock in the morning gasping for air, unable to breathe, absolutely sure that I was about to die. Seriously, I did not think I would live through the night, and as I petted the dog I apologized profusely to her and whimpered. “If I’m still alive in the morning,” I rasped, “I swear I will never smoke again.”

Stupidly, unwittingly, I had chain-smoked around my dog during her entire life and I wasn’t the only one wheezing. She had difficulty breathing as well, and in that pre-dawn moment, I suddenly realized that it was because of me. Selfishly and without thinking, I had been exposing the Wonder Dog to toxic smoke and hideous chemicals, seemingly without caring for her well-being. I smoked indoors with my faithful service dog always at my feet, and smoked incessantly in the truck as I traversed the Upper Delaware River region, Dharma at my side, all the while breathing in the noxious fumes. “If I don’t care about myself enough to stop” I thought, hunched over on the side of the bed, “I can’t keep doing it to her. It’s not fair to you, girl,” I said, stroking her head and thinking about those with children at home. “It’s just not fair.”

It was in that moment that my life-long habit (I smoked for almost 50 years!) screeched to a halt. I fell asleep somehow, but when I awoke, it all came back to me and I was resolute. “Never again,” I muttered under my labored breath as I leashed her up for a stroll. “Never again.” I didn’t know how I was going to accomplish that goal, but I hit the internet running that same day, searching for assistance. I read about online hypnosis, and something called Neural Linguistic Programming (NLP)—aka “subliminal messaging”—which I discovered was highly touted by some and lambasted as pseudoscience by others.

In a 2018 article for USA Today, Jeff Stibel shared some interesting (IMHO) information: “Back in the late 1990s,” Stibel wrote, “researchers took to a British supermarket and tinkered with the store’s background music. For a two-week period, they played French music and German music on alternating days, and recorded wine sales by country. They found that when French music was played, French wines outsold German wines, and when German music was played, German wines sold better. What’s more,” the article continued “shoppers indicated via questionnaire no awareness they’d been influenced by music.”

Subliminal messaging is similar, except the stimulus in question is undetectable—like an image flashed too quickly for the eyes to see or a sound too low or too scrambled for human ears to hear. But it has an equal impact. “It sounds far-fetched,” Stibel wrote in conclusion “but it’s consistent with what we know about how the brain processes information.”

I came across a British hypnotist named Thomas Hall who employs NLP as a tool for everything from overcoming shyness (yeah, not my problem) to easing chronic pain (hmmm) to smoking cessation (bingo!) and looked at comments from others on Hall’s method.

“Listening to Thomas Hall has helped significantly in eliminating my cravings,” enthused someone identified only as Holly C. “My paranoia of quitting is the constant nagging and debate over cigarettes in my head. Not having that is an amazing freedom. I strongly encourage listening before your quit date.”

Someone identified as “Dbresche” chimed in with these words: “I fell asleep listening to this [NLP] last Thursday. 8 hours and 5 auto-played subliminal hypnosis videos later-- I woke up feeling spaced out to the max, but I haven’t had a cigarette since.”

Thrilled to hear that I might be able to accomplish this seemingly insurmountable feat even while sleeping, I read more. “Reading the comments, everyone says its works,” wrote an unidentified person, “but how do I know this won’t subliminally tell me to rob banks or kill people?”

“Well, that’s a chance we’ll just have to take, right girl? Let’s listen, shall we?” I wheezed to the dog.  And so I did. Every day, I’d find an hour to lie down with the pooch and listen to music that allegedly contained subliminal messages designed to “reprogram” my brain to that of a non-smoker. I made a conscious effort to not smoke that first day, but in the ensuing weeks and months, there was virtually no effort involved. I simply had no desire to smoke. “I’m not sure if NLP really works, or if it’s a placebo effect,” I said to my sister while sharing that I hadn’t smoked a cigarette in more than three months. “Who cares?” She shot back. “You stopped smoking. Isn’t that what counts?” I have not smoked a cigarette since November 11, 2017. My hacking cough is gone, and both my dog and I can breathe. Oh, and as an added bonus, I haven’t robbed a bank or killed anyone. So far.

Note: The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout® takes place on the third Thursday in November: This year, that’s November 19.

The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout® is an annual event that encourages and offers support to smokers to make a plan to quit smoking or to quit smoking on the day of the event. By quitting—even for one day—smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.

To learn more about the Great American Smokeout campaign and to explore event tools, resources and where to get help to quit smoking, visit

Want to check out Thomas Hall and his “Stop Smoking Now” Neural Linguistic Programming sessions? Go to

Fun Fact: “Up in Smoke” is a 1978 American buddy comedy film directed by Lou Adler and starring Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Edie Adams, Strother Martin, Stacy Keach and Tom Skerritt. It is Cheech and Chong’s first feature-length film.

stop smoking, neural linguistic programming, American Cancer Society, self-help, Dharma the Wonder Dog, hypnosis, the Great American Smokeout Thomas Hall, YouTube


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  • gailsiepoo

    What a wonderful story this is. Congratulations to both Jonathan and Dharma! This proves that love truly conquers all.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2020 Report this