Begging and pleading with him for years has not helped my son quit smoking. Purchasing quit smoking aids for him to use has not rescued him from this known killer. While he has always said he really wants to quit, and has quit for weeks or even months at a time, nothing has worked until now when he was willing to go through hypnosis.
My son, Nathan Griffin, admits he started smoking at age 15. Knowing our family has a vast history of heart disease, especially among the males, I have worried about his health and the negative effects tobacco use has had on it and will have in the future.
Psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and sports counselor Tim Loebs, known by some of his clients as the “Mind Magician,” believes you are never too old to quit a bad habit whether it is smoking or a bad golf swing. There is always time for positive change to have a huge impact on quality of life moving forward.
His philosophy mirrors that of Albert Einstein whose quote is posted in his office: “You cannot solve the problem with the same kind of thinking that has created the problem.”
Loebs’ three-steps to quitting program involves a clinical review, a session to resolve and clear objections to success and deal with inner obstacles like cravings and stress, and a quit date that involves hypnosis to provide freedom from smoking forever. Loebs uses a “Stress Buster” deep breathing and relaxation exercise offered through a take-home CD and sends the client home with a recording of their quit day hypnosis session to listen to over time as reinforcement.
A nonsmoking advocate, I was once part of a group in North Carolina called GASP (Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution). It was a valiant effort by some great people throughout a state where tobacco had been king for decades. Fortunately, because of efforts like those of GASP and others, there was positive movement to at least alleviate smoking in public places in a time when many smokers were still refusing to believe medical statistics that proved tobacco and its “deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals” is a killer.
It gratifies me today to know that there are now more former smokers than current smokers, according to data released through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
With such positive news nationwide, I continued to hold out hope that Nathan would find a way to kick the habit. I was encouraged when I heard about Loebs’ program.
Discovering the ‘Mind Magician’
While perusing the Internet one day working on another story, a post mentioning the “Mind Magician” caught my eye. I needed to know more and ended up on www.themindmagician.com reading about a unique stop-smoking clinic with licensed counselor Tim Loebs.
I was especially excited that Loebs’ office is located nearby at the SC Wellness & Fitness Center on Holmestown Road in Surfside Beach. Loebs extensive training equips him to handle the “psychological and emotional issues people bring to the table” during their private individualized sessions.
My hopes were high, I just had to convince my son to go through the program. Nothing had worked, not even the horror stories I shared with him of the painful and early deaths of his grandfather and uncles—all long-time smokers.
A family history of smoking
My dad started smoking at age 9. It was not uncommon in Southern Appalachia to have children use tobacco products. After all, it was big business and helped put food on the table of so many southerners.
Although I never smoked, I grew up in a haze, surrounded by smoking family members. My mother, who never smoked, suffered severe sinus problems until the day my dad stopped smoking in the house. That only happened because my oldest son, an infant at the time, and I were living with my parents when my son developed double pneumonia and the doctor said if I wanted my child to live, to get him out of the smoke-filled house. Dad loved my son and stopped smoking inside. That was a blessing to all of us.
Unfortunately, 30 years ago Sept. 11 my 59-year- old dad died still smoking. He struggled so many times to quit, especially after his first heart attack at age 40. He tried all the methods available at the time but the craving brought on by inhaling toxins over 50 years would not allow him to stop. He even had a doctor back then who still refused to believe smoking was bad for your health tell him smoking was not a problem. He was luckier than his smoking brothers, though, who died suddenly of heart disease at 38 and 40 years old.
On his deathbed, my dad still reached out battling his unquenchable urge for a cigarette. It was heart breaking! Lying in the casket, a little circular spot where his cigarette had hung from his mouth for so many years was obvious. His lips gently parted waiting on that next intoxicating drag from his tiny killer.
Early knowledge of hypnotism
In 1981 I had a brother-in- law who was smoking four packs of cigarettes a day. A young man in his mid-30s, he was already experiencing health problems. He sought out a hypnotist and successfully stopped smoking for 20 years. He recently confided in Nathan and I that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he started smoking again for a while and had to seek help to stop again.
Dewey Bryson, married to my oldest sister, said he probably started smoking at age 12.
“I cannot remember not smoking,” he said of his younger years. He did quit when his first son was born in 1976. He was 30 years old and smoking 2 ½ packs a day. When he took a job transfer, he started smoking again. In 1986, at age 40, he quit again when he went to a hypnotist. He was smoking a pack a day, burning up his money and his health, he said.
His program was a one-time visit that he did not think was working at first. “When I called back, he (the hypnotist) asked me if I was using the signals he gave me. When I got the urge to smoke, I was to touch my right thumb to my middle finger on my right hand. I guess it was a subconscious suggestion. I never smoked cigarettes again. I have smoked some cigars but have had to quit those, too.”
Bryson compared quitting to going to the doctor to get well from an illness. “When he tells you to take your medicine, you have to take it,” said the man with 31 years of success behind him.
Going through the program
On Tuesday, July 19, Nathan and I made our first visit to Tim Loebs office. I went 30 minutes ahead so Loebs could explain the program to me for my article. Then Nathan and I listened together about how the program would work. We both left with a CD that provides a relaxation and breathing exercise and allows the client to get used to Loebs voice. The rest of the sessions were private between Nathan and the counselor.
Loebs explained that a smoking addiction is “not about the substance, it is what we are using it for.”
That is usually some stress-related issue. He also reinforces that the individual is not the problem. Taking a “whole person” approach, he works to get the self-judgement that he says limits our power and ability out of the way.
“I have people say it is harder to get off cigarettes than cocaine,” Loebs said. He explained that the typical smoker takes 10 puffs off one cigarette. Smoking a 20-cigarette pack a day for one year results in some 70,000 repetitions in a year.
“It is almost like you conditioned yourself or hypnotized yourself to be a smoker,” Loebs said. “I have to shift their perspective and get them to understand how to correct what they don’t want.”
Loebs said his program is designed to help people break out of the pattern and shift their identity to the nonsmoker they started out as before something set them into motion to do something as unnatural as smoking.
In his 27 years of using hypnosis as a tool in his practice, Loebs has seen smoking become less and less socially acceptable. His program, unlike some others, is not a one-shot hynosis although that works for some people. Sometimes clients need more than just three visits and he is there to help if they need that support.
“I want to give people more than what they are paying for. I want to teach them that when they have problems, they can apply the same process to other areas of their life,” he said. “It is a way to help people make positive changes in a shorter period of time.”
The program has worked for many clients who have sought Loebs help. Two of them, Betty Bromley of Conway and Greg Galloway of Myrtle Beach, credit Loebs with helping them kick the habit.
A smoker for 40 years, Bromley tried hypnosis once before and immediately regretted leaving her cigarettes at the doctor’s office she said. Two days before her 54 th birthday, she met with Loebs to try again. She said Loebs helped her see that she could have control over her cigarette smoking and she quit smoking that day.
“It never enters my mind,” said the now 63 year old. ”I don’t know what he did other than explained to me why I smoked. I guess it was enough.”
Galloway started smoking at 15. An athletic person, he smoked daily but never a full pack.
“People were amazed that I smoked,” Galloway said. “I had heard about hypnosis and Googled it. I thought I was too strong to be hypnotized but I remembered Tim counting down from 5 and when he woke me up, wow, 35 minutes had passed…I left there not knowing what happened. It’s been over six years. I have never smoked and the cravings are gone,” he said. “I can be around other people smoking and none of it bothers me. It was the best money I ever spent. I would recommend Tim’s treatment to anybody wanting to quit smoking. I didn’t gain weight but food tastes better. I feel like I gained some years for stopping.”
For Nathan, who was facing his 40 th birthday when he started the program, smoking for so long created a craving he could not control. “I feel a need, almost like a hunger that comes over me and it is basically like I could starve to death,” he told Loebs. “I would like to choose to not have that feeling.”
Nathan said he found Loebs counseling “eye opening.”
“He’s focusing on cigarette smoking but at the same time it has a lot to do with who I am, the fiber of my being,” Nathan said after his second session. He said he had a cigarette on Sunday after his Tuesday meeting but did not have any after.
Nathan admits he has not listened to the quit day recording as much as Loebs encouraged him to do.
The recording is designed to help reinforce the nonsmoker identity and serve as a reminder that smoking is not something that he does. He did purchase a pack of cigarettes shortly after his quit date, but he is not smoking.
“Smoking was having a serious impact on my health and I was beginning to see that. It’s been more than a month and I can breathe and taste and smell—probably all too well,” Nathan said with a chuckle.
“He (Loebs) has tried to help me and I think he is very effective in what he does,” Nathan said. “He has a way to help you understand where your problems are. It is more of an empowering thing I guess. Smoking is like a self-punishment. It really is a self-defeating process.”
Most smokers become addicted to nicotine, a drug that is found naturally in tobacco. 2
More people in the United States are addicted to nicotine than to any other drug. Research suggests that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol.
Quitting smoking is hard and may require several attempts. People who stop smoking often start again because of withdrawal symptoms, stress, and weight gain.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms may include: 4,6
- Feeling irritable, angry, or anxious
- Having trouble thinking
- Craving tobacco products
- Feeling hungrier than usual
(Compiled by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/cessation/quitting/index.htm )