I never thought I would give up smoking. When I think about the last twelve months I am more than mildly shocked that I kicked the habit. I began smoking at fourteen. I skipped school and went to the airport with my friends one day, because school was boring and airports are terrifically exciting. They both smoked whereas I had never tried a white coated stick of comfort.
One of the inherent problems of smoking during your youth is you often look about nine and so no one is passing you nicotine over the counter without ID. Thus, enter me. Passing for twenty easily, I naturally got nabbed that day to stock up and buy ten of something that cost just a few pounds or the equivalent price of a meal at dinnertime.
Obviously when I returned, it seemed pertinent for me to try one. A lot of people having their first drag, cough, wretch and pull comical faces. I didn’t. From that first taste, the first tentative hit, I found myself irrevocably hooked.
Roll forward until exactly one year ago today and I had smoked for twenty three years and had a twenty day habit for nineteen of them. I had tried to give up before, last year wasn’t my first attempt and there is evidence to suggest that the more times we attempt to quit, the more likely we will be successful one day. It’s an important thing to consider as often when we fail we treat it as the end of the world or write off the attempt as worthless, but it’s not. We learn things from each round and I think get stronger and more determined over time, so nothing is wasted, everything is gained.
The thing I believe helped me this time is not being ambiguous about smoking any more. During all of those previous attempts, I was never 100% sure I wanted to quit. I could be worried about my health or want to save money or a myriad of other things, but still, deep down want to smoke. It’s a bit like adverts on TV or those awful images on packets of cigarettes. If you are a smoker, they make no difference. The commercials often serve to remind you to light up and the images are far less important than the precious hit of nicotine to our brains and the cognitive dissonance we partake in.
I don’t think giving up is easy, but I don’t think it has been hard as I imagined either. It reminds me of the stories we tell ourselves and that often we become more scared of fear itself than the actual thing we are supposed to be afraid of.
Do I still crave you ask?
I do, but only occasionally. If I am stressed, the first thing I want to do is to stand outside and smoke whilst rain pummels the top of my head but whereas once those cravings felt sticky and impossible, now the are fleeting and manageable.
Have there been any weak moments?
Yes. A few months ago, I became incredibly stressed out one day and left the house to take a walk by the river. As I walked, an idea formulated in my mind about going to the village shop. I tried to ignore it, tried to concentrate on other things, tried to be disciplined, tried to remember my reasons for quitting but found it impossible and ended up at the shop with a blushing face buying a packet of Malboro Reds. I say blushing, because I live in a tiny village and the shopkeeper knows I don’t smoke, knows I gave up, so going in there to buy cigarettes felt embarrassing, but also forbidden and naughty like I was fourteen all over again. Once I had the packet stuffed in my pocket, I went back down to the river, sat on a wooden bench and lit up.
I didn’t remember them as having such a strong chemical flavour, it tasted pretty nasty to be honest. Neither could I smoke without gagging. I may have done well years ago when I took that first delightful drag, but twenty odd years later and I’ve regressed. Additionally, having not smoked for so long, it made me feel light- headed and sick. I thought I would have to crawl home on my hands and knees. Rather than smoke the thing, I crushed it up and chucked it in the bin, and then when I got home, I threw the other nineteen away. Fortunately, the fact I didn’t enjoy it, now gives me the confidence to know I won’t smoke again. Although, I do still crave, fleetingly, I think it’s more nostalgia and a little romanticism, because obviously everything has changed.
Sometimes I still can’t believe I did it. I think this is because l often tell myself I lack staying power and discipline and often throw the towel in when life gets tough. I don’t, but maybe telling myself I do gives me a way out when things don’t go to plan. The one thing I do know is if I can do it, you can root too. It’s not been as hard I imagined once I got past the first few weeks and a few weeks is nothing in the grand scheme of things really.
So, if you are thinking about giving up, I wish you the best of luck. You can do this.
© Henrietta M Ross
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