The Empty Chair

My daughter had an imaginary friend named Stewie when she was younger. Stewie was bald, drove a purple car… and also smoked cigarettes. I wrote about Stewie in an earlier post, appreciating how Ella had made him a real person, complete with his own struggles and bad habits.

Sometimes, in a playful way, I will ask Ella how Stewie is doing. Other times, Ella will volunteer an update about him. 

Last weekend, we were taking a family hike. Our conversation jumped from one topic to another as we descended the mountain. As we approached the parking lot, Ella saw a man leaning against a wooden post and smoking a cigarette.

Noticing this, Ella suddenly said, “Did I ever tell you that Stewie quit smoking?”

“Oh, wow!” I replied. “I didn’t know that. How did he end up doing that?”

“Well, he went to one of your addiction classes where you help people change,” Ella replied. “I reserved a seat for him in each session and finally, one day he decided to show up.”

I smiled. I like how Ella is thinking about change. So often, that’s exactly how it works – you keep a seat open and wait for someone to decide it’s the right time to sit down.

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.