"Smoking has become a huge habit with you, John. If you analyze it... you smoke anytime except in the shower."

--Geoffrey Knight, clinical hypnotherapist

During my lifetime, there has always been a tasty abundance of fresh and lusty smoke. Always plenty of smoke to go around, and I loved every bit of it. Even as a tot, I was lavished with attention by parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, who wreathed me with blue-gray smoke-filled-pillows of familial love. Okay, I'm exaggerating about the love part, but the smoke was real.

I lit my first cigarette in 1973, and have smoked ever since. However, I didn't hit the big time as a smoker until about 10 years ago. I was staying at my cousin Patty's house when I first moved to Oregon. She checked me out over breakfast one day, and asked why I hadn't lit up yet.

"You call yourself a smoker and you don't smoke first thing in the morning?" she asked, with an accusing glare.

I took her advice and started puffing as soon as I got out of bed, a habit that lasted until just recently. Not long after taking her advice, Patty put her father's pistol in her mouth and blew off the top of her head. I don't think it was related to smoking.

Non-Smokers Are Chumps

I don't blame my family. Most of them are dead of cancer, so who's to blame? I was the one who decided, long ago, that I was a smoker and that's all I was. Like people who have really long hair and never cut it, and it grows until it hangs out of car doors, and gets stuck on other peoples' backpacks on the bus, and blows in your face on the street. They never cut it and eventually become it. Like smoke. That's what I was. If I wasn't smoking, I was about to, and while I smoked, I prepared to have another. I was smoke, through and through.

When I say that I smoked all the time, I mean all the time. Last month, I was smoking more than two packs of Camels a day. I always insisted on smoking no matter where I was. Aboard airplanes, on busses, trains, lobbies, in restaurants, and non-smoking peoples' homes. If somebody really cracked down, I'd either "rush the butt" while pretending to look for an ashtray, or I'd hustle out the door for one or two uninterrupted tubes of tobacco pleasure. The wedding can wait, and so can the movie, the childbirth, the funeral, and the goddamn job. I would oftentimes smoke before, during, and after sex. I smoked in bars, I smoked in cars. I smoked in a box, I smoked with a fox--and I did it for almost 30 years. In fact, just writing this makes me think of having a cigarette. Curiously, though, I don't smoke anymore.

One thing I've always known is that Non-Smokers are all a bunch of pussies. Non-smokers are simpletons with pimples on their puckers that wouldn't smoke if you paid them in platinum underpants. My saving grace is that I'm a Not Smoker. That's what I am now. I'm the same smoker I've always been, I just don't happen to smoke anymore. I'm a Not Smoker, and it's awfully amusing to me. I see people struggling to quit, dying to continue, and going crazy in the meantime. For me, there is no suffering. There are no pangs or insanity brought on by a crippling addiction. I'm simply a Not Smoker, and so not smoking doesn't bother me. Why? Because Geoffrey Knight hypnotized me. He sucked that shit right out of my brain.

Look Deep Into My Eyes...

I met Geoffrey Knight at one of those new age psychic fairs, where everyone has some special power; reading tea leaves, tarot cards, juggling crystal balls, and the like. In the midst of so many luminescent (and I mean that facetiously) beings, Knight impressed me with his fumbling quirky demeanor. He grabbled with his presentation materials, at one point dropping his brochures and pens. I sat in on his lecture on hypnotism. He was soft-spoken with an upper-crusty British accent.

Knight, a former lawyer and investment banker, gave up his professional life when he himself was hypnotized in order to quit smoking. The results so astounded him he quit his career to pursue instructional courses in hypnotherapy, and has since devoted his life to the practice. Knight's speech had about 30 people in attendance. After offering general information on the subject, he "tested" the audience by having us close our eyes and extend our arms, while imagining one hand was heavy and the other was light. When we opened our eyes, there was only one young woman who had a hand near the floor, and another raised to the ceiling. With her permission, Knight placed her into a hypnotic trance, had her make a fist and lock her arm straight, whispering something to her about being invincible, and when he finished, no one from the audience could bend her arm. It was locked tighter than the White House ladies room. When Knight brought the woman out of her trance, he explained the process.

"It's called catalepsy," Knight instructed. "You can see in that little demonstration how quickly, with a good subject, one can induce the hypnotic state. She went very deep, very rapidly. She was a somnambulate."

A "somnambulate" is what Knight calls someone who is easily hypnotized (usually one in ten). "She was the only one in the room. That is what the stage hypnotist does. He will ask a bunch of people to come up on the stage, and give them the same kind of test."

All In the Mind

Suitably impressed, I decided to give Knight's talents a shot and made an appointment to meet at his Southwest Portland office. Knight agreed to take me on as a client and cure me of smoking. Why? Because I no longer enjoy stinking, coughing, and being a slave to multi-unnatural corporations who want to bleed me until I die. That, and I did the math. We're talking almost $3,000 a year for the privilege of smoking cigarettes, and frankly, I need the money for other things.

"Believe it or not," Knight said offhandedly, "this system is used in surgery. For certain hip operations and operations on your backside, you need to be put over a chair and remain in that state." He said people can be trained to do that in hypnosis, and they won't feel pain. They're bent over a chair and remain in that position while the surgery is carried out.

"You don't believe me, do you? Well, it happens, I can assure you."

After going through a list of personal and medical questions, we got down to the meat of the matter. Knight told me hypnotism won't work, unless I want to quit. It's a partnership.

"You will need commitment," he insisted. "One cigarette stuck in your mouth will send you back on the fags. Make damned sure that you don't smoke anything, because you'll go back on the habit, and you'll be back here.

"The power of hypnosis, in a nutshell, happens when you go through that mythological barrier which is called a critical factor, and you switch into the unconscious mind. In hypnosis, the unconscious mind doesn't criticize, and it doesn't judge. It doesn't say, 'This man's giving me suggestions to stop smoking. That's a bloody stupid thing to do.' It will accept them without judgement or criticism. It will stick and remain there. I'm just changing a belief system. That's all that smoking is."

According to Knight, there are three levels of hypnosis: Light, Medium, and Deep. He said people experience "Light" hypnosis every day waking up, or as we are about to fall asleep. "You even go into hypnosis when you make love to your partner, as you drive your car, or daydream on the bus--that is Light hypnosis."

The "Medium" State is just that: in between the other two. "Then there's the Deep State," Knight instructed. "The 'Somnambulistic State,' it's called, named by the Victorians. My job is to get you down to the top of the Deep State. I want you to hear everything I say to you, I want you to be aware that you're sitting in that chair, because all hypnosis is--and I'll repeat and repeat this--is just a deep state of relaxation where your unconscious mind is open."

Knight believes the conscious mind lives in the right hemisphere of the brain, and the unconscious mind resides in the left. That is, unless you're left-handed. Then it's the opposite.

"You're living in your conscious mind over 90 percent of the time," he noted. "It's your logical, rational mind. It's constantly criticizing. We make up to 60 criticisms or judgments per hour in our working day. Even saying, 'Oh, God! That stupid colleague of mine is back again in the room! I wish she would go away!' It's constantly making judgements. 'Look at the funny nose on that chap on the other side of the street.'

"Your unconscious mind is very much more powerful, because it looks after the whole of your body, unconsciously. Like, say for instance, the pituitary gland. It's controlled by the brain and is simply an amazing gland, because it adjusts your body temperature! It's like having a thermostat only the size of a pea!"

What "Goes In" When You Smoke

Knight then read me the following list of cigarette dangers, most of which everyone's heard before (but it's especially cute when he says it).

"Cigarettes contain acetone (paint strippah), DDT (once a wonder pesticide, now banned), hydrogen cyanide (used in the gas chaimbah), formaldehyde (an appalling chemical that embalms bodies, among other things--they use it to bind chip-board together in furniture), and there's also a lot of carbon monoxide, which is a pretty unpleasant gas."

Knight continued, staring me square in the eye. "Now, some facts: One in five people die of smoking in the States. More people die of smoking than road accidents, AIDS, drug abuse, suicide, and alcoholism put together. It helps you get horrible gum disease if you go on smoking, and the serious things, as you know, lung cancer, bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease, and throat cancer. I get people coming to me who are chewing tobacco. I can't believe it. It's a wonderful way of getting cancer of the throat."

Suddenly, Knight jumped up and grabbed a calculator. "Let's see. Two packs a day how many puffs do you think you give a cigarette? Twenty? We're talking about 40 cigarettes plus let's make it 45 a day " He rotated then squared his solar calculator under an electric lamp, pushing buttons as though he were calculating the warranty of my death clock.

"45 times twenty puffs that's 900 puffs a day on an annualized basis that's 32,850 puffs you're taking intakes of nicotine."

He returned to his seat and continued. "You're healing yourself. You've got to take that onboard."

Sniffing Breasts and Drinking Scotch

"I'll be giving your unconscious mind suggestions about giving it up. Quitting. How you can change, desensitizing this so that you can see yourself sitting in a bar, drinking that double scotch, and not even thinking about putting a cigarette in your mouth. Because you're going to find that scotch tastes so much better without the cigarette--and your food. You're also going to be able to smell the skin of your partner. There are a lot of physical, deep-seated things that are going to change within your senses.

"I remember having a chap from Intel who came to me about quitting smoking and he rang me up three weeks later to say he started again. So, I said, 'Come in immediately.' He told me with great glee that he had a new girlfriend. And that he thought he'd fallen in love with her. When we went into hypnosis, I didn't talk about smoking at all. I talked about him kissing the breasts of his new girlfriend, and being able to smell her skin, and taste her skin, as he had never done before. Think about what you're missing!

"That was good enough. He rang me up about four weeks later and said, 'I quit!' I didn't need any more fuel for that word 'commitment.' But you will need that word 'commitment.' You will be tempted."

After a moment's pause, Knight leaned toward me with his hands pressed together. "I'm going to lead you down a staircase," he said. "It's a white marble staircase with ten steps, which take you into a garden of your imagination."

Knight explained that through hypnotic techniques, he intended to disassociate me from my body, and from my conscious mind.

"You'll be going beyond your body and taking yourself off to your garden on the island of Maui or somewhere exotic. Caribbean, Latin America, or it could be just over in Cannon Beach. It doesn't matter. I want you to visualize, go with me, because that's all I'm giving you. Visualizations. Leading you down this staircase, deepening the hypnotic state.

"From your garden, I will use more deepeners, probably three or four, as you continue down, going down. I'll be talking about going down and down, all the time. And that's when I get you to the level that, in my experience, I want you to be at; the top of that deep level or perhaps, the bottom of the middle level."

Knight looked over his notes of my smoking history, glanced back and adjusted his take on me.

"Yes. Probably the deep level. Because you're a hardcore smoker, we'll go down into somnambulistic depth. But the worst time will be the next 72 hours. Get over that hump, and it's plain sailing. You will have no nicotine in your system. Don't believe these bloody drug companies who will sell you patches for three weeks. It's crap! Just pumping more nicotine into you! You get it out of your system very quickly. It's your brain that produces the chemical serotonin that says I feel good,' and 'I feel good without that habit of sticking a fag in my mouth."

Down the Marble Staircase

And then we started.

"I suggest you push the chair back, whatever is comfortable," he said soothingly. "I don't want you to cross any limbs. Just put your hands comfortably on your lap or on the side there, and start with some deep breathing. You're going to take three deep breaths. Deep breaths are an amazingly quick way of relaxing. Much more effective than anything you can think of. Well, maybe a shot of Valium will do it even quicker.

"Now, on this breath, John, fill your lungs and hold it. Hold it as long as you can, and when you blow out, blow out through your mouth and just shut your eyes down. Feel all those negative things that you're blowing out, including that rotten stuff from inside your lungs. And I want you to continue that cycle of nice deep breathing and you'll find that when you go deep down into the hypnotic state, you will breathe shallow just as you do in deep, deep sleep. Because we'll get down to almost that level "

Instead of swinging a pocket watch or flashing mime gloves in my face, Knight put his palm on my forehead, pressed gently, and talked me over to the imaginary marble staircase. By the time I was in the garden, actually far beyond it and wandering up the beach, I realized he had lifted his hand and sat back on the couch to finish the job. That's how it happened. By the time he counted down from five to zero, I had the cure. During the session, I heard every word and feel I could have gotten out of the chair and left anytime I wanted.

And just like that I was awake. I figured thirty minutes had gone by. It had been two hours and forty-five minutes--almost three hours.

It's been five weeks since Knight hypnotized me. It has been five weeks since I smoked a cigarette, or since I have even cared to smoke. I'm now officially a Not Smoker and pretty damned cocky about it. Sure, I'm as surprised as anyone who knew me when I smoked. And now, thanks to a short trip down a marble staircase--I may be more than just smoke after all.

Geoffrey Knight can be contacted at 246-7300, or GJNKnight@cs.com.