Why a Great Explanation is the best cure for addiction

I’ve never been a smoker, but some family and friends have.

Most have stopped (or want to).

No ‘quit’ method seems to work for everyone, however, the most successful method stands out for an interesting reason.


A Vivid Explanation

Not only is ‘The EasyWay to stop smoking’ considered the most successful; in a world of gum, patches and other ingenious nicotine delivery methods, it’s simply an explanation.

But it works. The EasyWay book by Allen Carr has sold 13 million copies and has raving fans:

  • Sir Anthony Hopkins: “It was such a revelation that instantly I was freed from my addiction.”
  • Ellen DeGeneres: “Everybody who reads the book quits.”
  • Ashton Kutcher: “At the end of the book you take your last smoke and you’re done. I haven’t smoked since.”
  • Sir Richard Branson: “His method removes your dependance while you smoke. It worked for me.”


Clarity first, then change is easy

Allen Carr (2 September 1934 – 29 November 2006) quit smoking after 33 years as a hundred-a-day chain smoker. He claims that two key pieces of information crystallised in his mind just how easy it was to stop.

First, a hypnotherapist told him smoking was “just nicotine addiction” which Allen had never perceived before that moment. Second his son John lent him a medical handbook which explained that the physical withdrawal from nicotine is just like an “empty, insecure feeling”.

From there, he developed an explanation that helped people get clarity about what smoking does (and doesn’t do), and how to walk out of the maze of smoking addiction. He wrote a book and built a course around this explanation.


Debunking the 4 myths

Allen Carr’s explanation takes about 3 hours in his course or the time to read his 200 page book. But here’s a 4 minute video of Allen’s explanation which is built on debunking 4 myths:

  1. Myth: Smokers need willpower to quit. He explains that, contrary to their perception, smokers do not receive a boost from smoking: it only relieves the withdrawal symptoms from the previous cigarette, which in turn creates more withdrawal symptoms once it is finished. He explains that the “relief” smokers feel on lighting a cigarette, the feeling of being “back to normal”, is the feeling experienced by non-smokers all the time. Understanding this dissolves the desire to smoke.
  2. Myth: Smokers choose to smoke. He explains that after the experimental cigarettes it’s the nicotine addiction that traps you. If you’ve ever once tried to stop smoking, you realise it’s not a choice to continue.
  3. Myth: Smokers believe they’ll suffer terrible physical nicotine withdrawal if they quit. He argues that withdrawal is minor, but the belief that you’ll suffer is the cause of the pain and frustration. The withdrawal symptoms are actually created by doubt and fear (uncertainty) in the mind of the ex-smoker, and therefore that stopping smoking is not as traumatic as is commonly assumed, if that doubt and fear can be removed.
  4. Myth: Smokers believe that giving up is hard. But with a clear explanation that leaves no uncertainty in your mind about smoking habit (and what it will be like when you no longer smoke), it’s not that hard.


How can you give Great Explanations?

So what can you take from this example to give better explanations yourself?

Look into the mind of your audience. See if you can identify ideas, beliefs or fears that block clear understanding about a situation or stop them seeing an issue for what it really is. Break this into chunks and explain it!


If you’d like to develop great explanations, consider:

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