Patrick, 39

Smoker / Relationship Problems

I went to see Dr. Barge for relationship problems. I had been sober in AA for over 10 years and generally, I was a happy, functional and productive guy.

 

But the relationship thing… I could not get it right to save my life. I had been married twice already.

 

It was about nine months in when we approached the issue of my smoking. I’d been able to stop drinking but smoking seemed impossible. We decided to try Hypnosis.

 

To the day we started, I never believed it would work.

 

Trance came easy; I almost fell asleep. Not sure what Dr. Barge said, but the first thing I realized was that I no longer even noticed the smell of [other people’s] smoke. This had always been a trigger for me. Then the cigarettes began to taste bad. I found myself lighting fewer and few, and when I did light one, I found myself putting it out before it was finished. I had cut down from about 2-3 packs a day to a little less than one. We agreed to set a “quit date.”

 

As the date approached, I became increasingly nervous and started to have vivid dreams. They were clearly unresolved childhood issues. In one dream, I was at a big family Holiday gathering, probably Christmas or Thanksgiving. When the turkey was brought to the table, everyone became silent because it was the size of a small cornish hen (for one). No one said a word!

 

The other dream was “classic,” according to Dr. Barge but extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing to me. There will not be any details here, thank you very much. But in short, it had to do with my bowel movements and the effect on people in my life.

 

Basically, I grew up in an alcoholic family and never felt there was enough love or attention to go around. We were a large Catholic family and everything revolved around my alcoholic father and his unpredictable scary moods. All of us were afraid of “setting him off.” Because of this, we kept our feelings under tight wrap!

 

I never thought I would admit that I liked psychotherapy but it was fascinating to see how my dreams were informing me of my deeper problems.

 

I had carried these childhood conflicts over into my relationships and my cigarettes had become part of my defense mechanism. It was not pure nicotine addiction. My cigarettes soothed me and I trusted them more than I trusted people. And because I was so fearful of expressing my feelings, I would simply put a cigarette in my mouth when I was afraid I couldn’t keep it shut!

 

Who would have guessed that my smoking habit and relationship problems were so interconnected? Well, I guess Dr. Barge did or at least we figured it out together.

 

I do not smoke anymore. I am not sure, if that is the best news or if it’s my seven year happy marriage. I am grateful for both.

 

 

NOTE: Patient stories are real life stories. The identities are disguised and sometimes, a composite to protect patients. No identity should be assumed with any of these stories.