The therapist was old and friendly and spoke in a grandfatherly manner. He explained his method quite simply: He was going to use what he called hypnotic aversion therapy.
I didn’t really buy into the whole hypnotism thing, but I was running out of options. My wife had been clear: It was the cigarettes or her. So I relented.
I snickered a bit when he lit incense and hummed while rubbing my temples but after a while I relaxed. Then he did something I wasn’t expecting.
He handed me a cigarette and asked me to light it and take the biggest drag I could. I wasn’t sure how this was going to help me quit but I also relished one last puff.
I put the cigarette in my mouth, lit it, and breathed in. Immediately my mouth erupted in pain as I felt thousands of insects flooding into my mouth.
Smoldering maggots, fiery spiders, and other blazing nastiness crawled over my blistering tongue and down my throat.
The creatures filled my lungs, burning and biting, nesting and setting the air ablaze. I tried to scream but all that came out were strangled puffs of ash.
My panicked cries died out as my vocal cords turned to charred tangles of meat. Then the world went dark.
I awoke screaming, the fresh air filling my untouched lungs. My therapist smiled and asked me how I felt. I couldn’t answer. I just stared at him wild-eyed, wrote out a check, and left.
For about a week, I was furious but I’ll have to admit, I haven’t touched a cigarette ever since. Then again, I haven’t slept much either.