Today celebrates the one-week anniversary of my decision to quit smoking.
‘Big whoop’, you might think, ‘One week? Like that’s anything to celebrate! You’re not even out of the woods yet’.
I thought that too for a little while, which is why I was reluctant to mention the quitting anytime before I’d reached the 1-month milestone.
But, fuck it. I don’t feel the urge to smoke anymore, and I’m rather confident that I won’t anytime soon, if ever again. With that in mind I thought I should share some thoughts with you.
I smoked my first cigarette at the age of 16 at a party. I can still remember the moment very distinctly. While I wouldn’t say I was a ‘smoker’ from that moment on, it was the first step in a path of gradually increasing smoking, that ended up having a peak that stretched far longer than I ever wanted it to.
13 years later and I was still doing the exact same thing. That’s tens of thousands of cigarettes, tens of thousands of dollars and tens of thousands of minutes wasted doing little more than imbibing toxic substances, all while being asthmatic and constantly hounded by family to quit – but I didn’t.
Part of me wanted to, but part of me just enjoyed too many of those cigarettes – the first one with a coffee in the morning, the last one late in the evening while incredibly baked. Many of them seemingly still had some kind of worth or pleasure.
Eventually though, we all have those ‘enough is enough’ moments where we try to quit. I’d only done it once before and failed miserably.
So how did I do it? Patches? Hypnotherapy? Some other kind of substitute? No! I did it in perhaps the most old-fashioned way possible, by reading a fucking book. The book is called ‘The Only Way To Stop Smoking Permanently’, by author Allen Carr.
Did I expect the book to work? Not necessarily – but I had seen it work for others, and seen them all be relatively happy with their decision as opposed to the pained expressions you still catch on the faces of people using the willpower method when you light up a cigarette near them.
I read it, I stubbed out my last cigarette, I felt nervous elation and uncertainty about whether or not I could do it.
Here I am a week later, and there’s no looking back.
The decision has brought about changes in my life, definitely – some far more tangible than others. Do I feel I can breathe clearer? I guess so. Has it affected my fitness levels? Not really, I was already on an exercise kick before I did it. So what changed?
MY HANDS – I’m not talking about the staining that some smokers get on their fingers (and which I was lucky enough to avoid for most of it), or the cracked skin between the middle and pointer fingers (which is there). What I’m talking about is the SMELL! The smell of clean hands that don’t reek of nicotine, the ability to smell things through a moustache that isn’t overwhelmed with cigarette smoke, it’s amazing. They say we touch our faces over 1,000 times a day – but I’ve only started noticing recently. Now that I remember how awesome my hands smell I might take it well past the 1,000 mark.
SOCIAL MEDIA – You might think that in the absence of smoking, I might be tempted to fill those now empty 5 minute periods with social media binging or something of the like. If anything I’ve gone the other way. No longer am I sitting out on the back porch for 5 minutes wasting time by smoking something that does nothing for me, and filling that void using social media. I check and use these things even less since I quit smoking, and I personally find that a wonderful thing.
ROUTINE – My biggest concern upon quitting was that my deeply, DEEPLY implanted routines would make avoiding triggers difficult. They’ve been a non-issue. I have my coffee in the morning, and will still often go outside to enjoy the morning air and prepare for the day, so confident in the knowledge I don’t need a smoke that the thought doesn’t even cross my mind. I thought enjoying coffee without a cigarette would be difficult, as the two have been synonymous for me for years. It was not. Another key time for smoking was getting in the car and going for a drive, but doing so in a nice smelling car with the windows up in the cold of winter is surprisingly enjoyable, considering I’ve been a smoker all of my driving life.
420 – Another concern was the use of tobacco to spin marijuana, and the fact that this would probably require me to keep cigarettes around the house, which is not recommended by the book. While I did for the first few days, I felt no temptation. I wouldn’t say I’ve increased consumption of one in the absence of another, either. This was what I conceived as the biggest challenge facing my quitting effort, and it was overcome in the blink of an eye with no stress whatsoever.
All smokers are aware of that anxiety that starts to take hold when we’re nearing the end of a packet and judging things like whether we’ll have enough to get through the night, if we should buy another pack now, if we’re going to be in a situation that requires us to not smoke for an extended period of time, whether new people we meet will be smokers, or if we’ll be spending our 5 minute intervals alone in the cold. We might casually try and claim that ‘no, my smoking doesn’t control me’, but on some level you’re kidding yourself – and on a much smaller, much lower level, you know it.
There will be tests, they will make you nervous, but you’ll never overcome it if you don’t take that first step – and that was the hardest part for me, and probably is for the millions of smokers out there.
There is so much more to say about the psychology of smoking that I’ve learned in the last month, and I’m sure much more will reveal itself to me as time progresses – so there’ll probably be another one of these posts, maybe at the 1 or 2 month mark. Then again, there might never be another – I also don’t want to be one of those pricks that seems to be sitting on a high horse but I will say this;
You can only quit for yourself. People can try and scare you, the government can raise taxes and put horrific but completely ineffective pictures on the packets, venues can kick you outside, society, family and friends can all treat you like a leper for your ‘condition’, but this is only between two people – you and tobacco. The harder people try to push a wedge between you the closer you hold it psychologically, without even realising it.
I can’t judge anyone. I was in the same boat for 13 years. Jumping ship was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done – but it was also one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Edit: If you are a smoker who really wants to quit, but genuinely doubts your mental strength and ability to do it (I was), go and read the book – The Only Way To Stop Smoking Permanently. You don’t have to go to a bookstore, digital editions are now available. Don’t stress, you’re told to continue your smoking habit for the duration of the book – and hopefully by the end of it you’ll understand and be confident enough to stub out that last smoke, and face the future without it.