It’s easy to start the New Year, all high hopes and promises. That well-intentioned vow to “exercise daily” becomes “on the weekend, but I’ll always take the stairs.” Before it’s time to set your clocks ahead you’re back to where you started. Nowhere great.

This year I began the whole thing with a brand new premise:  “What if it’s easy?”  To make that so, I’d have to find a better approach to making changes than struggling through or postponing or both.

I’d met Frank Oden many times through the Venn diagram of the Denver theatre world, sharing a smoke and banter in the parking lot of an opening night party. The last time I ran into him, I remember he told me he’d kicked the habit and become a hypnotherapist specializing in tobacco cessation. “Meh” I thought, taking another drag off a bummed cigarette, “We’ve all got to make a living.” That was years ago.

I’d been a “real” smoker in the earlier days, mingled with bouts of cessation, and then bumming one on occasion which always led to smoking for a month or two before giving it up once again. An ugly cycle, and one my friend was also engaged in. I bummed a Marlboro and told him about this guy I knew who used to smoke like a house on fire, but now did this thing called Hypnosmoke. We wandered through the holiday lights of LoDo, shrouded in smoke and promises. The next day we both signed up for Frank’s New Year’s Day seminar.

We walked into a small meeting room at the Doubletree Inn. Frank was warm and open as he greeted each nervous guest. About 20 of us showed up with the promise we would have smoked our last cigarette before arrival. When we were “met,” Frank began speaking in a relaxed tone that was effortless and organic, not put on for any “hip hypnotist” affect. Expert in his subject and learned in his craft, Frank’s wry humor peppered his story as he gently led us down the garden path of our own addiction, revealing what an absolutely absurd mind game we’d been playing on ourselves. He was logical. He was truthful. And he was an engaging myth-buster speaking to each one of us personally, guiding us back to our power. The class was structured, but not formal as we worked through the different components that hold the human psyche in the clutch of tobacco’s hazy charm.

“No hypnotist can make a person stop smoking, but for me hypnosis was a very effective tool to help me change my perspective about the whole smoking situation and I got rid of that problem forever.”

That was how he phrased it, balancing the power of auto-suggestion and the ingrained synapses of habit to the tipping point.

And then… the state of trance. Lights are dimmed as we are encouraged to settle, give in to the sound of his melodic voice and for what feels like the next 20 minutes, Oden speaks. The positive message is delivered with ease. I felt relaxed and aware, which allowed me to insert my desires for the New Year into the streaming music of the dialogue. I was lulled, though never lost in space.  One hour later, Oden lifted us back into consciousness and we were done.

“Yes you were hypnotized. Whatever you felt, however you heard it, that’s how it was supposed to be for you,” Frank said confidently as we were leaving.

It’s been nearly four months now and lots of trying things have happened. Through the stresses and triggers, I’ve had the occasional thought of a cigarette but haven’t reached for one. Neither has my friend.

Yesterday while running in Wash Park, I ran into a different friend who’d quit last summer.  I asked him how he’d done it and how it was going.
“Oh, fine.” He said. “I went to this guy, he hypnotized me. “ “Frank Oden?” I asked. “Yeah. It was easy. “

Frank Oden’s Hypnosmoke offers group and private sessions for the cessation of tobacco use.

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