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President Obama Quits Smoking... And So Can You

President Obama quits smoking and so can you

Doing something with others, takes the pain out of doing without an enjoyable habit you're trying to break.*

First Lady Michelle Obama revealed today that her husband, President Obama, has not smoked in more than a year.  She said that what made it easier for him to do it was that others quit at the same time.

That will come as no surprise to the millions of people who attend Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step programs.

What is there about giving up a habit with others that makes it easier for you to do it?

I have one explanation that comes from my work with suicidal people over the past thirty years.   I have discovered that people who think about and commit suicide do so for a variety of reasons, but one thing that most of them have in common is that at their bleakest moment, they felt despair.

When I think of the word despair, I think of it as “des-pair” and as meaning feeling unpaired in a world in which it feels (usually incorrectly) that everyone else is paired with friends, a loving family, a job they like (or just a job period), good looks, intelligence and at its most basic level with a future.  We call feeling paired with a good future, “hope.”

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This may explain the difference between pain and suffering.  Pain is just pain, but suffering is feeling alone in pain.  And when you can eliminate the aloneness, suffering you can’t live with, becomes pain that you can.

This may also explain what I call the six -lesses of suicidal thinking and/or feeling: hopeless, helpless, worthless, useless, pointless, meaningless.   What they all havee in common is “-less” which means without.  When I did trainings and lectures on the topic of suicide and how to prevent I said the simple answer is to replace the “less=without” with “with.”  When you do that the above six -lesses become: hopeful, with help, worthy, useful, there’s a point, meaningful.  And when people can experience those, suicidality goes away.

Now of course this is not to say that President Obama was anywhere close to suicidal (although many people who are in the “white knuckling” stages of stopping an addiction have hellish and some talk about, “dying for a smoke or drink, etc.”).

So good for you President Obama and thank you for taking better care of yourself.  God only knows that we need you to be as healthy as you can possibly be.

* Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior (Perigee, $13.95)

Mark Goulston, M.D., is the author of the new bestselling book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.

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