Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Five Stages of Grief In The Non-Smoking Section

The Kubler-Ross Model otherwise known as The Five Stages of Grief. How will it apply to those trying to
quit smoking?

The Kubler - Ross Model and Smoking Cessation

Otherwise known as The Five Stages of Grief, this is something you, as someone looking to stop smoking very well may go through. In my book, How To Stop Smoking Without Killing Anyone, you will learn to see smoking for what it is, an incredibly dysfunctional relationship. Have you ever been in a bad relationship and said, "This relationship's going to be the death of me!" Sure it's all tongue in cheek until you throw cancer and emphysema into the mix...

So, let's take a look at The Five Stages of Grief and see how they apply to not smoking any more.

Notice that I will not say "trying" and will not use the term "quit" when talking about not smoking anymore. If you want to know more about that or if that's of any interest to you, then read my book or hit me up on Twitter(@StopDontQuitCom) for an answer to that.

With the shameless plugs out of the way, let's dig in!

Stopping Smoking and Grief

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a book in 1969. The book was called, On Death and Dying. A nice cheerful subject it is! All kidding aside, this book examined what a person with a terminal illness goes through emotionally as they approach the big day (death). She interviewed and researched over 500 patients on their way out and found that they all cope with the inevitable in a very similar way.

This is how she isolated and identified these five stages. Now what's interesting is that while these stages are all common, they are not necessarily going to be chronological. What's important here for us, is recognizing that they exist and then having the self awareness to see where we're at. What stage are we in as we go through the process of not smoking anymore?

"But Dave," you ask, "The Five Stages of Grief are for people who are dying from a terminal illness! What does this have to do with me? I'm just trying to quit smoking!"

Glad you asked! Your first problem is your "trying" and your second problem is you're "trying to quit." Thirdly, odds are really good that smoking will lead to YOUR premature death so you better start coping now!

OK, where was I?

Ultimately, as further research was done and time passed, it became clear that you don't have to be in the midst of a terminal illness or literally in a stage dying to experience this. People experience grief. Period. They have loss, tragedy, break ups, illness, etc. and one way or another people need to find a way to cope with what's happening or with what just happened.

Cope. That's the key word here. defines "cope" as: to struggle or deal, especially on fairly even terms or with some degree of success (usually followed by "with" )

Time for you to stop smoking? Transitioning to the non-smoking section will require some work. Let's examine five things you might go through along the way. Keep in mind you may be in one of these stages now...


Denial ain't just a river in Egypt as they like to say! This may be rather obvious, or not, if you're in denial!

This is for those of you who are in the old, this doesn't apply to me, category. Just because Sammy Davis Jr, Nat King Cole, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, Rod Serling, Jack Webb, Patrick Swayze, and countless other all died of smoking related illness, I'll be fine!

"It won't happen to me, I can quit anytime I want."

Edward R Murrow was 57 when Lung Cancer took him. Do you really want to check out at 57? He was quoted as saying, "I doubt I could spend a half hour without a cigarette with any comfort or ease." He died two days after turning 57.

This is denial folks. As I write this, It's 2012. If you still think you'll be fine, if you still think cancer or other smoking related illnesses doesn't apply to you, you're either Wolverine from the X-Men or in denial. Which one is it?


"Why do I have to stop?" "This is bull$#!7!" "How can something so good be so bad?" "I should be able to smoke any damn where I please!" "Who are you to tell me what I can and can't do with my body?!?!?!"

As you can see, we're transitioning out of denial, starting to recognize that smoking cigarettes actually IS bad for you and that continued use will lead to your early demise. This anger phase my also resurface during withdrawals as well. You want to be extremely aware of this so as not to misdirect the anger in the wrong direction. You wouldn't to unleash on some poor undeserving soul, that's not cool! Think spouse, kids, boss, 285 pound amateur UFC fighter...

In Wikipedia it says this, "Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy."

Two things to consider here. This is about you caring for yourself (finally) and so YOU need to be aware of your anger about stopping and give yourself permission to not only experience the anger but to find a way to filter it into something positive. Otherwise you wind up turning in to Darth Vader. (he needed a breathing apparatus. Coincidence? I think not!)

The other consideration here is the envy. You're going to have a few friends who will continue to smoke. Do not allow yourself to envy their continued self destructive behavior. Instead, strive to make them envy you for having the strength to conquer this addiction.

Believe you me, you have the strength!

What if....?

So when you're getting a handle on the fact that this relationship is "toxic" and that you need to stop or have already stopped and are trying to justify having a cigarette, you start bargaining with yourself and or your higher power.

Examples of this would be:
  • I'd walk a mile for a Camel
  • What if I can get down to just 5 a day?
  • It's been 3 days, let me just have one now and I'll be alright
  • God, if I can keep smoking, I'll go to church more often
  • I'll only smoke at work
  • One last cigarette and that'll be it!
You're postponing. You're trying to weasel out of doing what must be done.

Basically, what's happening here is, "I know I need to quit, but if I could just... [insert tit for tat here]

First of all, stop trying to quit and just stop already, secondly, the word but (not butt) essentially, diminishes everything that came before it and what came before it is usually B.S. anyway.

"I really like you, but..."

See what I mean? The time to stop is now. No deals with the Devil. It didn't work out so well for Robert Johnson or Jerry Garcia and look what it did to poor Keith Richards.

Buckle down and ride the wave. Once you're aware that you may start trying to weasel your way out of it, you will then be able to recognize it, acknowledge it for what it is and then make the choice to move beyond it.

"Forget it man, it's too late, I can't quit, I've tried, it'll never work, it is what it is, if I get the cancer, I get the cancer, at least I died doing what I love... besides, there's nothing really worth living for anyway and I don't really deserve to live a healthy active live anyway. Screw it..."

That's right, it's down in the dumps time. You ever get dumped? Break up? You ever loose someone or something important to you? Of course you have. Dysfunctional or otherwise, you've had a long standing relationship with cigarettes and you are loosing a friend right now. Being sad, missing it, these are quite normal feelings to have and there's no need to fight them right now. Especially, when you have the presence of mind to, again, recognize what's going on right now.

If you got sadness on you, know a few things:
  • Your brain has been chemically altered by nicotine. After a couple days without any, you're body and mind will start returning to normal and that means your brain chemistry will change too, so being a little down right now makes since.
  • You can choose whether or not you are going to allow yourself to wallow or rise up.
  • Do not fight the depression. Fighting depression could very well be why you started smoking in the first place. Recognize that the mere act of stopping is an act of love and you're taking better care of yourself and this is part of a transition. It's not forever.
How To Stop Smoking In Nine Words!


"I'm going to get through this, it's going to be OK."

Freedom is another word I like here. When researching this, I came across an idea that I loved. I found that The 5 Stages of Grief were also being acknowledged as a learning process.

Getting into the non-smoking section is also a learning process. You're learning how to live without nicotine in your life and you're learning new ways to deal with your circumstances other than smoking. You are not only coming to terms with not smoking, but you are learning how to live differently. Even the way you drive home will change. You get to find new ways to function in the car and you have a new route home, meaning you don't need to pop into 7-11 for a pack anymore, you can just go straight home.

This process will have an ebb and flow to it. There will be good moments and some pretty crappy ones too. The key principle here though is to commit to moving forward.

If you're rowing out to sea, you will have to fight the waves first. This will be the hardest part. Then the tide, also difficult, but not impossible at all. Soon you'll have the current to deal with and then you'll have just the ebb and flow of the sea.

Remember this though, you're the one rowing the boat! Take ownership and responsibility for where you row. The current may sway you, your job, your mission, your duty to yourself and to those who love you is to stay on course!

And so it goes... Light yourself up!

What stage are you in?

Do you like the idea that not smoking is a learning process?

Does that it make it even more tangible to you?

Smoking, as you'll see in my book, ultimately is a decision. You chose to start, now choose to stop! Don't quit. Don't "try" to quit.

Your opportunity is to learn to be a non-smoker. Learn to live your life better. Learn to love yourself better. You learned to walk, talk, tie your shoes, use a toilet. You learned to read and write, you learned to drive and at some point you learned that when certain things happen, both good and bad, that a cigarette goes quite well with that.

Now it is time to learn that you don't need a cigarette during those moments, learn that you can function without them, learn that you, not nicotine, controls your world. It's a process. Are you up for it?