December 28 th (Part II) – Stopping Smoking

As I may have mentioned (!), it has been a year today since my last cigarette; and, whilst, I may not have uncovered the secrets of nicotine abstention, I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping myself on the straight and narrow.

A year ago, life without cigarettes felt unimaginable and totally unappealing; so, if you’re going through the same struggle, here’s a few things that made the impossible, possible –

Step 1: Making the decision.

The fact that smoking was ruining my teeth made step 1 a little easier for me.

It helps to have a tangible reason to stop.

The financial incentive didn’t do it and I didn’t have any emotional guns pointing at my head; but, the mental image of a toothless grin still makes me stomach turn. Plus, the idea of being a smoking 70 year old didn’t hold much appeal -

You can’t wait for an addiction to disappear: it just gets a little harder to shift.

Step 2: A strategy.

I am not great at planning, but there are a few basic steps that made the transition from decision to reality a little easier:

1. Read Allen Carr. I’m not sure that I buy into the Allen Carr method, but he certainly psyches you up. Any lingering doubts that threatened to undermine my resolve were swiftly abandoned with a few words of inspired clarity.

2. Fix a date. December 28th is not a logical date for stopping smoking. December 31st would be a little more conventional and far neater; but, when you’re breaking habits, the more time you have to interrupt the routine before everything else goes back to normal, the better.

December 28thwas the latest post Christmas date that still left me with a few days leeway before normality crashed in. It was also the date where I could stay the night someone else, which is number 3 –

3. Change the scenery. If you smoke at home, the associations are pretty strong and it’s hard to avoid the reminders of what you’re missing. In the days leading up to the 28th, I gradually took my smoking outside; and, on the 28th, I abandoned ship for a few days, leaving behind bowls of potpourri and some safety-latched open windows.

This made it easier, as did the sense of responsibility that I felt to the people who were kind enough to provide me with smoke-free accommodation –

4. Tell people. Doing things out of obligation never really worked for me; but, doing things with other people’s support is important. Ignoring the little voice that told me just how many people’s expectations I’d be letting down when my attempts to quit failed, I set myself a sneaky trap by telling as many people as possible – and then remembering just how supportive they were being when the temptation got particularly high.

5. No other expectations. Giving up smoking is tough. I blanked out a few calendar days and gave myself a bit of a break.

6. Write it down. Before I started, I wrote down the three reasons I was giving up smoking. No elaborate explanations or lengthy logics; just the main motivations: teeth; freedom; now or never. These were a godsend when I started to forget what I was hoping to achieve.

Step 3: Stopping.

Just do it. There is, unfortunately, no other way.

Step 4: The first few smokeless days.

Because the idea of quitting smoking had been too appalling to even try before; and because I was totally used to a cigarette punctuated existence, I couldn’t anticipate the first few smokeless days. As they passed in a kind of blur, it is equally hard to relate them.

I imagine that each person reacts in a different way, but the withdrawal was quite physical for me; and these are some of the things that helped to take the edge of the physical – and emotional – changes:

1. Walking. Pounding the streets seemed to get rid of the frustration.

2. Satsumas. I’m not a fan in normal life but they are great to keep your hands (and your mouth) busy.

3. Sleeping. I did a lot of this at first – and then absolutely none for the next two months. Don’t worry: it rights itself eventually!

4. Cigarette times. Change the routine. For a while, I had a bath instead of a cigarette when I woke up; I did the ironing when I talked on the phone; and, I skipped the post meal coffee along with the post meal fag. You get the idea.

5. Self congratulations. These are important. Every minute was an achievement and every night gave me a buzz of success. Smoking always made me feel a little ashamed; stopping made me really proud.

Step 5: Random cravings.

Up until March, I thought about smoking every day. I didn’t always crave it and I didn’t necessarily miss it, but I noted its absence.

In March, I brought myself a killer leather jacket with the money I would have spent on smoking.

Whilst I still inhale deeply every time I go past a smoker and there are times when I could murder a cigarette, the life of perpetual longing that I envisaged has not been a reality, and life without cigarettes has been proved a possibility –

Good luck!

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