How to Overcome Addiction (Smoking)


I want to quit smoking but I can't. There is no medicine for that. I have tried various methods. Please guide me how can I do that.

—Lokesh, India


Dear Lokesh,

Perhaps you’ve heard this famous and humorous quotation from Mark Twain, the American author: “Quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I’ve done it a hundred times!”

Think back to when you first started smoking. Wasn’t it, in the beginning, difficult? You’d cough and choke; maybe felt a little dizzy, even nauseated? You had to overcome the instinctive distaste for a vile habit in order to establish, with the help of nicotine, the new habit. Habits that you begin you can end. This must be your affirmation: “I started this and I can end it, with God’s power and my will.”

Here’s the thing: don’t overreact with guilt and blame, or even disgust, when you succumb. Calmly pick yourself up and keep trying. It could take a year; years; or a single day. You cannot know when pulling a nail out of a board with the claw of the hammer when that nail is going to fly right out! You have to keep pulling — you see?

When you do succumb to another smoke, keep your mind a little apart and watch yourself. Feel the yucky taste in your mouth; the smoke in your hair and clothes; visualize your lungs getting blacker and blacker. Imagine dying of lung cancer, unable to breathe; great pain in your lungs. Just do this calmly as if watching a movie about the ill effects of smoking. Thus taint your “enjoyment” and compulsion of smoking with the mindfulness of the distasteful aspects of the smoking habit. This should be done very calmly; with little, if any, emotion. Watch yourself like a doctor in a white lab coat observing his specimen smoker from a few feet away. “Hmmm,” he says, “Look at this fellow killing himself slowly. I wonder why he thinks it is enjoyable? Curious, isn’t it, how people behave so against their own better judgment and well-being.”

Another visualization or practice is deep breathing (not while smoking, of course) and wonderful enjoyment of the experience of taking a long full breath. Enjoy the awakening feeling; the energy; the vitality….of fresh air and deep breathing! Do you practice the Energization Exercises given to us by Paramhansa Yogananda? These are excellent and include the “double breath.” Visit and you can learn these things. Visualize yourself as a non-smoker!

Calculate how much a year you spend on your habit. Vow to donate that sum to a worthy person or cause.

Of course, the “Quit Smoking” industry is a billion-dollar one, and who am I to imagine I can teach anyone how to quit?

The story Swami Kriyananda often told about how he gave up smoking at age 22 is a delightful story. I won’t take the time to tell it here, but it is well worth reading in his autobiography, The New Path (click here to read the story). The gist is that on an intuitive level he knew he would give the habit up. Every time he succumbed, he simply told himself, “I haven’t yet succeeded.” His faith in the reality of his ultimate success never left him. And after his final smoke, he carried the remaining pack of cigarettes around for days, offering cigs to his friends. He never once smoked again (except in a dream once).

It is said that we end a bad habit when we know from intuition that we are finished with it. The disassociation of one’s self from a habit must occur on a very deep level: from subconscious to conscious to superconscious. It can take several years of addiction-free-living to know that one has conquered the addiction for good.

Finally, ask for God’s power to unite to your will power to achieve freedom from the delusory enjoyment of this useless, expensive, and harmful habit!

Blessings to you,
Nayaswami Hriman