Sunday, April 14, 2013

How to quit smoking

I'm taking a mental health break from dredging up the past to make a community announcement. If you're a smoker I just want to say this to you: Quit. Just extinguish that fag in your hands, soak the rest of the pack in a bucket of water and never light up another cigarette again.

Quitting smoking is easy.


OK, I lied. Quitting smoking is one of the hardest addictions I've ever had to give up. It is two years since I've had a cigarette and I know that I will never have another one. When I finally quit it was probably the 100th attempt. There might have even been more failed attempts. Who's counting?

Honestly, I loved smoking. Loved, loved, loved it. I loved sliding a fresh ciggie out of the pack, placing it between my lips, the sizzle of flame from my initialled Zippo lighter against the tip, taking that first inhalation, sucking the smoke back into my lungs - ahhhh - exhale. The taste, the buzz, the ritual. I loved it all.

The first time I learned to inhale I was about 15 years old. Laying on my back along a pier up on Pittwater, with my cousin and best friend, I remember sucking that smoke back and, rather than a cloud escaping my mouth, a long stream of smoke elegantly made its way straight into the night air. I think I knew then this was going to be a long affair.

From then on, while I was still at school, I smoked when I could. All my friends did, except maybe one. We obviously weren't allowed to smoke at school and my parents would have killed me if they'd known I smoked regularly.

Styvos, Kent, B&H Extra Mild, Dunnie Blues, Winnie Blues, back to B&H, Marlboro Gold and finally Marlboro Menthols. I must have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on fags over my 20 year chuffing career.

A packet of ciggies cost about $3.60 when I was a teenager. I remember when I was in boarding school in year 11 and my beloved B&H Extra went up to $5 for a packet of 25. My friends and I were mortified. We had to give up now! But of course we didn't.

I went on to work and became one of the many suited office workers taking breaks to go and feed our addiction on the busy city streets, blowing smoke over innocent people walking by. Of course schooners of beer go hand and hand with a smoke so the love affair became a threesome. Throw in amphetamines just after my 21st birthday and I had scored the trifecta of addictions: ciggies, booze and drugs. Each complemented the other but having a fag was the only one you could do at 8am without being socially outcast or fired!

The first time I gave quitting a good crack was back in early 2003. I was depressed, constantly ill, overweight and generally felt like shit all the time so I decided to go on a health kick. To prepare I got rid of all smoking paraphernalia out of the flat I shared with my sister. I emptied the ashtray of our 1981 Honda Civic, washed it and left it in a cupboard in the flat. I changed all my routines around smoking. I even went a different way to work hoping that by not passing my usual smoking spot out the front of my building I would avoid being triggered.

I stocked up on patches and gum. The patches gave me nightmares. It wasn't pleasant. Because I was on a health kick I also gave up drinking for three months which made it much easier to avoid the fags.

I lasted nine months before I caved and started up again much to the disappointment of my family. That was the year I moved to London and the anxiety and excitement of moving overseas got too much for me. The endless farewell parties also contributed to my weakened resolve.

Five months after I moved to London my mum had to have open heart surgery. My family chose not to tell me until the day after the life saving operation. My mum's last words for them to pass on to me, should she not make it through the procedure, was that she loved me and PLEASE QUIT SMOKING!

Talk about guilt trip! But I got it. Heart disease and cigarettes don't mix. I gave up for the briefest of periods. When I felt like a ciggie I'd have a glass of wine instead. Not really the best strategy looking back. Over the almost four years I lived in London I gave up so many times it is not funny. I read Allen Carr's famous book The Easy Way To Quit Smoking but only lasted a couple of months, if that, before I was back on the darts. I participated in a program through Boots the Chemist that included weekly counselling but got kicked out of that after the first week when I admitted to having a ciggie two days in. There were even times when I smoked while wearing nicotine patches. Crazy!

After The Assault I was smoking well over a pack a day. When I was in the psych hospitals this went up to two packs a day. My lungs ached but still I sucked on. I finally gave up when I fell preggers with Noo. A few years went by and then I would have a few here and there when I went out (which was rarely!) or when I caught up with friends who smoked (there were only two). I didn't want to be a smoking mother but the odd one in secret didn't make me feel too guilty.

In early 2011 I started dating a smoker. As the relationship got more serious so did my smoking. I was buying whole packets! I couldn't believe it. Every time I headed out to balcony to smoke after Noo had gone to bed I felt like a fuckwit. Why was I at this again?

As the relationship began to fizzle so did the fags. I got a chest infection for the first time since getting sober and I was sneaking around like a teenager just to inhale noxious fumes into my lungs. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I quit the relationship and the fags at the same time. Over and out.

I never crave cigarettes now. I see people milling about out the front of office buildings when we walk around town and I pity those people. They stand there in the freezing cold or the blazing sun, eyes cast down on the pavement, nothing but a slave to their addiction and the cigarette manufacturers. Smoking looks dumb too. And really, really ugly. It ages you. Smokers have large pores on their faces and more wrinkles around their lips. I don't need to go through the list of health issues (you know like cancer and death) that smoking cigarettes can cause. We all know them!

Honestly, I have no idea why I did it.

So the only way to quit smoking is simple: Just don't smoke.

Do you smoke? Or have you smoked? How did you finally quit?


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Jeanie said...

I found cold turkey was the only way to go - it certainly stops me from contemplating that social indulgence - never having to go through quitting again keeps me on the straight and narrow!! said...

That's how I did it in the end. Cold turkey. I've heard of people who have been addicted to patches for years after giving up the cigs. Crazy!

Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

by realising how much money I was spending on cigarettes. (blogged about it here )

On Friday, after 2 years since we gave up, we bought a BRAND NEW car and the repayments are exactly what we were spending on cigarettes between us. IN FREAKING SANE!

Kylie Purtell said...

It took three attempts before I managed and the last, successful attempt was cold turkey. I truly believe its the only way. I hated the patches, I would be almost throwing up within the first hour of putting one on, and the horrible, vivid dreams meant I was waking up each morning feeling like I hadn't slept. I think, like with anything, you have to really want to give up smoking mentally. If you're not 100% mentally ready its not gonna happen. And when it does happen you'll know.

claire said...

the naughty social smoker as a youth and when drinking but never a "regular" smoker. It has been probably over 8 years since one has even passed my lips.... Loving the Smoke Free Environment Act 2000, love not coming home from a night out with hair that needs to be washed three times and clothes that need to be aired for a week after washing.

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Electronic cigarettes are also the one of the best ways to quit smoking. I truly believe that electronic cigarettes are the best alternative. I hated the smoke produces by tobacco cigarettes but in electronic cigarettes it doesn’t produce any smoke or ash. It can be used in public places and apart from this available in different flavors and you can also buy best4ecigs-e cigarette starter kit online. Starter kit comes with a manual in which all rules and guidelines are written.

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