I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s not something I’m proud of but in order for this story to make sense, I have to admit my worst habit. All of my adult life I have battled with cigarettes. I know, stupid habit, filthy, terrible for your skin if not your health overall. I have gone the route of patches and gum, acupuncture and hypnosis, cold turkey and Chantix.
So now that we know I’m dumb enough to have this monkey on my back we can move ahead with the story. I went to a hypnosis session the other night. The advertisement in the local paper featured a very distinguished looking Russian doctor and “guaranteed” it would work. My first thought was; if I was going to spend $50, I was going to quit. It really comes down to my mindset anyway, right?
The country club function room was dark pine paneled, french doors lead out to a lovely porch overlooking the golf course. I was the first to arrive. A man was setting out sign-up forms and pens on a folding table. He was probably in his late 40’s, a caricature from the TV series, Jersey Shore. He was dressing in black shiny sweat pants, a black v-necked T-shirt and sparkling white sneakers. When he walked, he bounced on his toes like he was warming up for a quick basketball game. His dark hair was swept back in a style reminiscent of the late 1950’s greaser era. I expected he was the front-man for the Russian hypnotist featured in the advertisement. I’m not sure why I thought it was important that the hypnotist be foreign.
Folks started to trickle in, husbands and wives, single middle-aged women, one solitary man. One woman filled out her form and as she was reaching for her wallet she asked Pat, the Italian Stallion from Jersey, if this was the entire fee for the session. “You aren’t going to make us buy CDs or anything are you?” she asked.
Pat launching into a sales pitch in an overly loud and aggressive voice. “What do you spend a month on cigarettes? Why wouldn’t you spend that money on quitting? If you need a CD to reinforce what we are doing here tonight, then you will buy one. If you really don’t want to quit, you can leave right now.” He was bouncing on his toes behind the table looking very intimidating.
She remained calm and started to explain that she had been this route before and just wanted to know what the session involved. Pat became more agitated and aggressive. I walked by the table and the negative energy was so thick it was palatable. “Now you are making others here uncomfortable. Do you want to quit?” he shouted military-fashion.
Needless to say, I didn’t act upon my immediate instinct, which was to leave. We all sat for the first hour while Pat walked us through our “workbooks” explaining how we were killing ourselves and how we could find the strength to quit. I don’t do well with someone yelling at me. I still believed the real hypnotist would emerge from somewhere.
Throughout the evening Pat made snide remarks about how far off the grid we were all living. Things like, “Do you have to, like, go to Boston to find a GNC store?” “Can you even drink the water here?” After giving us a grocery list of herbal remedies and vitamins he cut to the chase. “Instead of going into your health food store and coming home with hundreds of dollars worth of stuff you don’t know how to use, tonight, you can buy the complete package of these products, all nicely wrapped up in pill form, AND you get a free CD.” Bingo! He went in for the kill. “Of course, if you don’t buy these products we really can’t guarantee that you will stay smoke-free because you aren’t following the program.” Seriously? I was so easily duped on this one. And no, I didn’t buy anything.
After a quick cigarette break, (how ironic,) we came back in for the second hour. Pat explained, more like drilled into us, what would happen when we were all put under hypnosis. He wanted everyone to find a stranger to sit next to so those with friends or family there could concentrate on their own trance. I purposely sat next to the man who had come in alone. His clothes reeked of nicotine and his skin had the sallow look of a long-time smoker. Just sitting next to him was enough to reinforce in my mind that I wanted nothing to do with this bad habit any longer. Pat’s booming voice began the hypnosis chant. I tried to just meditate and ignore him. When he got to the part about licking an ashtray, I cracked an eye to see what he was doing. Arms crossed over his gym-membership chest he was sneering at the assembled crowd before him.
The actual hypnosis part of the session lasted less than half an hour. As he was packing up his box of snake oil, smoke and mirrors, Pat requested we all return the Holiday Inn/Courtyard Marriot emblazoned, cheap pens he had handed out at registration. But we did get to keep our workbooks.