Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine

mind power

Bonnie Sumner quits smoking after seeking a helping hand in the form of hypnothera­py sessions


The thrill is gone. Kate Moss may have looked cool with a fag between her fingers 10 years ago, but now, like her obsession with skinny jeans, it looks passé. Unfortunat­ely, having role models like Moss lighting up proudly in public gives people a false sense of what tobacco does. We all know about the health dangers of smoking, namely cancer, emphysema and heart disease, but it is our skin that shows the visible signs. Let’s not misconstru­e reality: even the smooth-skinned Moss will one day look just as wrinkled as every other smoker.

Did you know that the term “smoker’s face” was added to the medical lexicon in 1985? Defined as “lines or wrinkles on the face, deep lines on the cheeks, a subtle gauntness of the features, and a grey skin pallor”, there is nothing beautiful about smoking.

According to Dr Mark Gray, a dermatolog­ist with the Skin Institute on Auckland’s North Shore, even a puff of a cigarette has a profound effect on the skin.

“It deprives the skin of oxygen so just one cigarette will shut down the microvascu­lature of the face, and that starving of oxygen over long periods of time results in poor skin repair mechanisms, so you get a lot of wrinkling and that sallow colour. I know straight away exactly who is a smoker and who isn’t a smoker when they come in.”

But there is hope. If you are one of the nearly 24 percent of New Zealanders who smoke, then quitting now could still save your skin.

“It takes about a year for the skin to recover from the effects and that’s why it’s never too late to give up smoking,” says Dr Gray. But, he warns, “some changes are irreparabl­e for chronic smokers – particular­ly the wrinkles”.

Until two weeks ago, I was a smoker. I wasn’t a pack-a-day smoker. No, I was much worse – a social smoker. I didn’t even consider myself to be an addicted or committed smoker.

On occasion I had given up, even for a couple of

years at one point. But the addiction I had gained, as a 14-year-old behind the school sheds, stuck stubbornly. Waking up one morning after a night out with a few friends, a few drinks, and many cigarettes, I decided enough was enough. I needed help, fast. But how?

I had tried the bestsellin­g Alan Carr book How to Stop Smoking, which had worked for friends, but sadly didn’t have the same effect on me. I didn’t want to use patches or any other chemical methods, and I lacked willpower.

So after doing some research on the most successful methods of smoking cessation, I decided on hypnothera­py. (Various different scientific studies place the rate of success anywhere between 50 percent and 75 percent.)

I could sit in a chair and close my eyes, someone would say a few words and… abracadabr­a! I would be cured. Well, something like that.

Dave Gilbert is a registered hypnothera­pist based in Auckland. The friendly, bespectacl­ed Englishman has been treating people for addictions and phobias for almost 20 years. He also offers a free initial consultati­on. Having never been hypnotised before, I must admit I was apprehensi­ve, but Gilbert put me at ease, explaining everything clearly and answering my questions. By the time my first appointmen­t rolled around (he has a five-week waiting list) I was more than ready.

The first session we talked a lot about the reasons I wanted to quit, followed by a short hypnosis session in which I was asked to close my eyes and relax. Gilbert then went over all the reasons we had discussed, and recorded the hypnosis session onto a CD. And to answer recurring questions from curious friends: no, it is not weird, you are not unconsciou­s, there is no loss of control, you can hear everything and you can open your eyes and move around if you have to. Gilbert describes it as “a very relaxed state where we’re always conscious, very much like meditation. When we’re in that state the subconscio­us part of the mind pays more attention, and this is the part that does all the automatic things. And when we’re in hypnosis we can use positive suggestion­s and visualisat­ion to help the subconscio­us to make changes.” But, he says, you have to be committed to quitting.

After leaving the clinic, with instructio­ns to listen to the CD each day, I felt relaxed, but no different. The first days were hard, but every time I was close to lighting up I thought, I’ve come this far, why not try to see how much further I can go? By my second session, I didn’t feel the same longing for a cigarette. I’m free, and my skin, health and body are thanking me for it. For a registered hypnothera­pist in your area, go to www.nzhrb. For Dave Gilbert’s website, go to www.hypnothera­py-nlp. The one-hour sessions cost $150 each.

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