I Can't Quit or I Won't Quit

Joel
Joel

1:36 AM - Sep 23, 2000 #1

Joel's Reinforcement Library





I Can't Quit or I Won't Quit

"I don't want to be called on during this clinic. I am quitting smoking, but I don't want to talk about it. Please don't call on me." This request was made by a lady enrolling in one of my clinics over 20 years ago. I said sure. I won't make you talk, but if you feel you would like to interject at anytime, please don't hesitate to. At that she got mad and said, "Maybe I am not making myself clear-I don't want to talk! If you make me talk I will get up and walk out of this room. If you look at me with an inquisitive look on your face, I am leaving! Am I making myself clear?" I was a little shocked by the strength of her statement but I told her I would honor her request. I hoped that during the program she would change her mind and would share her experiences with the group and me but in all honesty, I wasn't counting on it.

There were about 20 other participants in the program. Overall, it was a good group with the exception of two women who sat in back of the room and gabbed constantly. Other participants would turn around and tell the two to be quiet. They would stop talking for a few seconds and then start right up again with just as much enthusiasm as before. Sometimes, when other people were sharing sad, personal experiences, they would be laughing at some humorous story they had shared with each other, totally ignorant of the surrounding happenings.

On the third day of the clinic, a major breakthrough occurred. The two gossips were partying away as usual. There was one young woman, probably early twenties who asked if she could talk first because she had to leave. The two gossips in back still were not listening and kept up with their private conversation. The young woman who had to leave said, "I can't stay, I had a horrible tragedy in my family today, my brother was killed in an accident." Fighting back emotions she continued. "I wasn't even supposed to come tonight, I am supposed to be helping my family making funeral arrangements. But I knew I had to stop by if I was going to continue to not smoke." She had only been off two days now. But not smoking was important to her. The group felt terrible, but were so proud of her, it made what happened in their day seem so trivial. All except the two ladies in the back of the room. They actually heard none of what was happening. When they young woman was telling how close she and her brother were, the two gossips actually broke out laughing. They weren't laughing at the story, they were laughing at something totally different not even aware of what was being discussed in the room. Anyway, the young woman who lost her brother shortly after that excused herself to go back to her family. She said she would keep in touch and thanked the group for all of their support.

A few minutes later I was then relating some story to the group, when all of a sudden the lady who requested anonymity arose and spoke. "Excuse me Joel," she said loudly, interrupting me in the middle of the story. "I wasn't going to say anything this whole program. The first day I told Joel not to call on me. I told him I would walk out if I had to talk. I told him I would leave if he tried to make me talk. I didn't want to burden anyone else with my problems. But today I feel I cannot keep quiet any longer. I must tell my story." The room was quiet.

"I have terminal lung cancer. I am going to die within two months. I am here to quit smoking. I want to make it clear that I am not kidding myself into thinking that if I quit I will save my life. It is too late for me. I am going to die and there is not a **** thing I can do about it. But I am going to quit smoking."

"You may wonder why I am quitting if I am going to die anyway. Well, I have my reasons. When my children were small, they always pestered me about my smoking. I told them over and over to leave me alone, that I wanted to stop but couldn't. I said it so often they stopped begging. But now my children are in their twenties and thirties, and two of them smoke. When I found out about my cancer, I begged them to stop. They replied to me, with pained expressions on their faces, that they want to stop but they can't. I know where they learned that, and I am mad at myself for it. So I am stopping to show them I was wrong. It wasn't that I couldn't stop smoking- it was that I wouldn't! I am off two days now, and I know I will not have another cigarette. I don't know if this will make anybody stop, but I had to prove to my children and to myself that I could quit smoking. And if I could quit, they could quit, anybody could quit."

"I enrolled in the clinic to pick up any tips that would make quitting a little easier and because I was real curious about how people who really were taught the dangers of smoking would react. If I knew then what I know now- well, anyway, I have sat and listened to all of you closely. I feel for each and every one of you and I pray you all make it." Even though I haven't said a word to anyone, I feel close to all of you. Your sharing has helped me. As I said, I wasn't going to talk. But today I have to. Let me tell you why." Then she turned to the two ladies in the back of the room, who actually had stayed quiet during this interlude. Suddenly she flared up, "The only reason I am speaking up now is because you two BITCHES are driving me crazy. You are partying in the back while everyone else is sharing with each other, trying to help save each other's lives. She then related what the young woman had said about her brother's death and how they were laughing at the time, totally unaware of the story. "Will you both do me a favor, just get the **** out of here! Go out and smoke, drop dead for all we care, you are learning and contributing nothing here." They sat there stunned. I had to calm the group down a little, actually quite bit, the atmosphere was quite charged with all that had happened. I kept the two ladies there, and needless to say, that was the last of the gabbing from the back of the room for the entire two-week clinic.

All the people who were there that night were successful at the end of the program. At graduation, the two ladies who had earlier talked only to each other were applauded by all, even the lady with lung cancer. All was forgiven. The girl who lost her brother also came for the graduation, also smoke free and proud. And the lady with lung cancer proudly accepted her diploma and introduced one of her children. He had stopped smoking for over a week at that time. Actually, when the lady with cancer was sharing her story with us, she had not told her family yet that she had even quit smoking. It was a few days later, when she was off a week that she told her son. He, totally amazed said to her that if she could quit smoking, he knew he could and stopped at that moment. She beamed with joy. Six weeks later she succumbed to the cancer. I found out when I called her home just to see how she was doing and got her son on the line. He thanked me for helping her quit at the end. He told me how proud she was that she had quit and how proud he was of her, and how happy she was that he had quit also. He said she never went back to smoking, and I will not either." In the end, they had both given each other a wonderful gift. He was proud her last breath was smoke free- she NEVER TOOK ANOTHER PUFF!

Epilog: I normally say you can't quit for someone else, it has to be for yourself. This incident flies in the face of this comment to some degree. The lady with lung cancer was quitting smoking to save her children from her fate, to some degree undo the lesson that she had taught years earlier. The lesson that she "could not stop." It was that at the time she "would not stop." There is a big difference between these two statements. It holds true for all smokers. The lady in this story proved years later she could quit-too late to save her life, but not to late to save her sons. Next time you hear yourself or someone else say, I cannot stop, understand it is not true. You can quit. Anyone can quit. The trick is not waiting until it is too late.
© Joel Spitzer 1986, 2009
Last edited by Joel on 12:35 AM - Mar 07, 2009, edited 1 time in total.
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Christiana
Christiana

2:07 AM - Sep 23, 2000 #2

Thank you for posting this incredible story, i believe every word of it. This distinction that some of us old timers make, is a sad one. I would bet she wanted to quit but Maybe like me, couldn't find the difference between our wanting to quit, and our addiction saying we can't, and worse yet using our pride to say i won't. I'm sure i got this all mixed up, but there is surely something here to learn from. It's a very meaning full story in and of it self for me. Again i am a thanking you for the post. Christiana
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Joel
Joel

6:57 PM - Dec 07, 2000 #3

I saw a post here this morning with the feeling that it was impossible for the individual to quit smoking. Anyone can quit smoking. It doesn't matter how much or how long they have smoked, quitting is possible. There are people who won't quit, who will die before they will quit but it is not because they couldn't; it is because they wouldn't. Tragic losses, each and every one of them.

Again, if you want to quit smoking, stop delivering nicotine and never take another puff!

Joel
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John (Gold)
John (Gold)

3:16 AM - Jan 03, 2001 #4

Thanks Joel, this is one of my favorites. It gets me deep!
If you haven't yet visited WhyQuit.Com, please do so.
Just click the link below
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SmilingJack
SmilingJack

5:39 AM - Jan 13, 2001 #5

You bet I did (wiping away a tear)...
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sissy2
sissy2

5:47 AM - Jan 13, 2001 #6

WOW!THIS ONE REALLY GOT TO ME.
THANKS,GREAT POST.
SISSY2
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Baarb
Baarb

5:59 AM - Jan 13, 2001 #7

One of the best of the better stories I have read.. Give you something to think about too... Thanks Joel..... This one did bring a tear to my eyes!!!!!
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mela
mela

11:10 PM - Jan 29, 2001 #8

this one is proof that nobody really has an excuse not to quit!!!!! it has certainly added to my strength! mela
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Joel
Joel

11:55 PM - Feb 21, 2001 #9

For Maz. See the reply under "Almost didn't make" it for the relevance here.

Joel
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mirigirl (silver)
mirigirl (silver)

12:10 AM - Feb 22, 2001 #10

Thanks Joel ~ The Truth Continues to Set Me Free! ~ What courage this woman had
Maz
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DesertRat
DesertRat

6:02 AM - Apr 04, 2001 #11

Thanks, Joel. I'm quit for three months now and am trying to be the inspiration for my 30 year old daughter. She's seen me fail several times, and because she emulates so much else of what I've done in my life, she thinks she can keep getting away with smoking for many more years also. She doesn't yet know about her grandmother, I'll tell her tonight. I just pray to God between my mother's cancer and my own firm resolve not to smoke again, that it will help her stop this killing habit before it's too late.
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Joel
Joel

7:43 PM - May 13, 2001 #12

I am bringing this one up as a special Mothers Day tribute to a person from my past who was a special mother. I know she wanted to save her children, I think she would have been happy to know it helped to save other people's children too, even if its over 20 years later.
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SunshineRay
SunshineRay

12:17 AM - May 14, 2001 #13

Powerful story there Joel. Thank you. Yes, the addicted brain sure does try to convince you that you can't quit. It gives alot of reasons even after you have quit! Have to have the right answers to what its saying to you ... and you find them here at Freedom.

sunshineray
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Joel
Joel

5:40 PM - Jul 24, 2001 #14

For Notokes:

By quitting smoking you have done the best thing you can do to undo any example you have set for your children. It is not the primary reason anyone should quit, but it is an important secondary benefit. Keep teaching the lesson that life without smoking is possible. The way to prove this for today, tomorrow and basically forever is now for a day at a time continue to show that you are able to never take another puff!

Joel
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NPannie
NPannie

9:57 PM - Jul 24, 2001 #15

Thank you very, very much for sharing "I can't or I won't quit". I know I can only stay quit if I want it for myself, which I very much want, but the love for a child is a very powerful and wonderful thing. I would attack a bear for my child, and not think twice about it, but if only protecting myself, I would run like crazy! There is strength in love, a strength that helps me every day.
Even though I have only completed 2 weeks of not smoking, I am already experiencing the secondary benefits of quitting - my oldest son is already believing he can quit and my husband is beginning day 2 of not smoking!
The support here has made all the difference in my life, and is now touching the lives of those I am closest to. I can never say "Thank you!" enough times. It feels like everyone here has been my guardian angels!
I'll try not to worry too much about my youngest son, but I will be really happy when he gets his results back on the test on his heart. I will try to concentrate on the good things that are happening now, learn from my mistakes, and then put them behind me.

I'm committed and very happy with my choice to never take another puff!
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Joel
Joel

7:07 PM - Aug 15, 2001 #16

For Threecrows:

Your sister's concern for your quit while being faced with her current life threatening situation made me think of this one.
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Joel
Joel

6:52 PM - Oct 05, 2001 #17

My time here is going to be real limited for the next few days. Just wanted to bring up some of my favorite works. The concept in this one is important. I think our members already here understand how this one applies to themselves--but often think that there are others in their life who can't quit smoking. But the same principle applies to these people too, no matter how indoctrinated they may be. Don't think that others you know can't quit. While it may be true that they won't quit, they could have if they had tried and understood what to do. Who knows, one day they may surprise you like you surprised so many others and quit smoking. For you to keep surprising all the others, and, more importantly, to keep surprising yourself, and, more importantly than that, to keep yourself healthier and living longer--always remember to never take another puff!

Joel
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Rlg(Robin)
Rlg(Robin)

2:07 AM - Oct 24, 2001 #18

What a wonderful story. Thank you Joel.

I wasn't going to impose my quit on anyone in my family i.e. siblings. Because I truly believe quitting has to come from within or it is a recipe to fail.

After reading this story, I had to send it to my mother.

Cheers, Robin
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Joel
Joel

8:34 PM - Feb 02, 2002 #19

In memory of Vivian:

I know the diseases and time frame involved were very different--but the message in the epilog of being able to prove to the rest of the world that quitting is possible often has the ripple effect of teaching those around you and often, those most imprtant to you, that they too can quit. Vivian achieved this when Geo quit, and I suspect this was one of her greatest comforts and joys when she proved to him and everyone else she supported that she was able to never take another puff.

Joel
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Joel
Joel

7:50 PM - Feb 09, 2002 #20

I am attaching a link here to Tessie's First Post. Her parents tried to deliver the same message, as do I suspect many parents when realizing the ultimate price they have paid from smoking. I think all of our members here who have lost loved ones from smoking can use such examples for reinforcing how very important sustaining their own quits can be, and also they should realize that their own quit now may very well be serving as a life saving example for their own family and friends. You can learn valuable lessons from people who died from smoking, and you can also learn a lot from people who saved their own lives by quitting. While you can learn and get valuable insights from either type of person--you would much rather want to be the teacher and the example of the second lesson. To save your own health and likely your own life--show the world and yourself that you are fully capable of implementing your plan to never take another puff!

Joel
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Joel
Joel

7:37 AM - Mar 14, 2002 #21

I thought it seemed appropriate to bring this one up to honor the memory of Diana's father. (See A very sad day, but grateful for my Freedom nonetheless.) I suspect many of us have been touched by such losses. It is nice to know that we are all taking steps here to end this sort of tragic legacy--to pass along the knowledge to your future generations that instead of having to die to quit smoking--you can quit smoking to live--and live healthier, better and longer as long as you always know to never take another puff!

Joel
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childofnite GOLD.ffn
childofnite GOLD.ffn

12:24 PM - Mar 14, 2002 #22

Thank you Joel. ((Joel))

I appreciate what you have done for me more than you will ever know.

I never thought of smoking in any sort of positive light today, only negative. It took my father from me six years ago today, and will quite possibly take my mother from me as well. I'll be damned if it will take me or my future children. It ends with me.

Yqs, Diana
7.5 Months.
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Joel
Joel

8:03 AM - Apr 06, 2003 #23

Excerpt from above:

"I can't stay, I had a horrible tragedy in my family today, my brother was killed in an accident." Fighting back emotions she continued. "I wasn't even supposed to come tonight, I am supposed to be helping my family making funeral arrangements. But I knew I had to stop by if I was going to continue to not smoke." She had only been off two days now. But not smoking was important to her. The group felt terrible, but were so proud of her, it made what happened in their day seem so trivial.

This part of the story alone deserved its own string. People can quit and stay free even at the worst of times. The best way to keep even the worst of times from being even worse is to always remember to never take another puff!

Joel
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Joel
Joel

5:34 AM - Apr 23, 2003 #24

There was some discussion in another string about whether or not a person can quit smoking because he or she is addicted. Addiction to nicotine explains why a person smokes the way he or she smokes. It does not on the other hand excuse a person from smoking.

When a person says that he or she can't quit because he or she is addicted, he or she is wrong. All addiction means to a smoker is that he or she cannot smoke the way he or she wants to. He or she has to smoke in a way that alleviates withdrawal or suffer from the chronic withdrawal state induced from part-time or limited smoking. The woman in this story is a prime example. W

as she addicted to nicotine for years and decades? You bet she was. Did she somehow become unaddicted* when she was diagnosed with lung cancer? No, she was as addicted as she always was. Was it impossible for her to quit because she was addicted? Of course not, she quit smoking so quitting was possible. So the only question is why did she smoke for so long if she was really always able to quit?

The sad answer to that is that she never realized that she was able to quit until the cancer was diagnosed or she didn't feel that she had a good enough reason to quit until then. Sadly, whichever the reason was, using it ended up with her smoking until it was too late to save her life. Fortunately, it was not too late to save her loved ones lives and I hope her story has helped countless people over the past 25 years to save their lives too from her example.

Addiction causes a person to smoke the way he or she smokes. Understanding the addiction gives a person the tools he or she needs to break free from smoking. For once the addiction is understood for what it is the person has the one piece of ammunition to take permanent control of smoking, which is simply understanding to break free and stay free from smoking is to stop delivering nicotine from any source and then to always remember to never take another puff!

Joel

* Look it up in the dictionary. There is no such word as "unaddicted." This is not by accident. I have a post up somewhere about this but can't lay my hands on it at the moment. Hopefully someone will bring it up or if not I will try to track it down later.
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Joel
Joel

10:09 PM - Nov 28, 2003 #25

Here is the link to another post that I think people reading here will benefit from seeing: Lung Cancer, Stage 4
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