23 years ago I was sentenced to death and stinky breath for the crime of being stupid. Well, not really but it sounded good. My ongoing battle with cigarettes and smoking is well documented in here. It seems to be a constant theme. “I quit” “no I didn’t” “yes I did” “the cravings are hard”.
I’ve come to realise it’s not the cravings that are hard. At most they make you feel like you’re hungry or you yawn a lot as oxygen starved blood goes on a feeding frenzy. What’s hard is the boredom. Procrastination is nowhere near as easy as it was last week. All I had to do then was sit down and light a cigarette, wait five minutes and the boredom would pass, better have a second cigarette to be safe; in case “boredom” strikes again.
I recently re-read Allen Carr’s Easy Way To Stop Smoking. It’s a good book. And one that made giving up smoking the last time I was successful an anti-climax. I think that was part of the reason I took up again. When I was working from home doing freelance stuff before my last job, I quit smoking. Read the book, smoked the last. For about 3 months I did fine, until I started working again and then I got “bored” and “needed a break”. Any smoker - past or present – will know what those are code for.
So I started smoking again. It was difficult not to. I had the self-destructive behaviour of a suicidal lemming and everyone else in the office smoked. All in all I was an idiot. But the ease with which I’d quit smoking made me think I could have one or two and that would be it. It’s what I did for a while too. Smoked 2 or 3 a day while at work, didn’t bring them home, didn’t smoke at home or on weekends. It was fine, until I did start bringing them home, did start smoking on weekends as my job got harder and more stressful.
I never did find the ability to quit “easy” or “anti climatic” after that. It was a bloody, drag em out, scream it out, punch down fight every time. I’d quit cold turkey without a backwards glance, but now I couldn’t stop if you paid me. It was annoying but I guess I really didn’t fight too hard, or try too hard. That or the time wasn’t right.
Last week I ran out of money. Not a big surprise there, and tried to make the packet last 2 days. Apparently that was border line abusive behaviour in my head. I clocked watched and it was pathetic. I had a conversation with my mother over money – can’t tell you how sick of conversations about money I am but that’s for another post – and I felt like the dirt on the sole of your shoe. She didn’t say anything purposely vindictive, doesn’t matter I still felt like I was scum.
I sat there and thought “Fuck this shit”. I smoked my remaining 3 cigarettes one after the other. Light, smoke to bitter end, put it out; light up, drag, etc. You get the picture. The other day I wrote a post in here about how if I open anything I have to finish it; wine, food, cigarettes, and how I get no enjoyment from them. Friday night as I sucked in the cigarette smoke, felt it burn it’s way down my throat I realised there was no enjoyment here either. It was “relief”. Anyway I sat there and thought, “what exactly is it relieving”. And beyond nicotine I couldn’t come up with an answer.
So when I put that last cigarette out, in the dirty old container with stained brown water from countless cigarette butts, I didn’t make a song or a dance, or a commitment or a blood oath or anything else. I put it out and stopped. I’ve not had one since. Not even a craving. At least not a craving I’ve noticed. No tension, no anything.
Saturday morning I had a minor “OMG I’ll never smoke again and I’ll spend the rest of my life feeling like something is missing” moment. It’s where yesterdays post came from, where I wrote the thought I’d had about either something passing or you’ll pass but either way nothing is forever. As I stood under the house and had a minor moment I thought “Well so be it. If that’s how you want to play the game, do that” and the panic and the fear left.
Late yesterday evening I watered the pot plants out the front of my house. I could smell wafts of jasmine on the air, the smell of wet dirt at my feet. It was pretty exciting. I’ve not had a sense of smell worth a damn in 23 years. I took a huge lungful of “wet dirt smell” and my neighbour lit up a cigarette and all I got was “burning nicotine” instead.
Have you ever seen The Simpsons episode where Artie goes to prison and he was a water bottle that he uses to spritz out the criminals cigarettes. I had a moment, just one, where I was tempted to go get the water bottle from the kitchen and spritz her, but I realised as I was thinking of that, that actually smoking the cigarette, or asking her for one, hadn’t crossed my mind.
My sense of smell is returning. Sporadically, but it’s returning. My sense of taste is also popping up here and there. I’m drinking a class of generic cola we buy from Aldi, and the sugary syrupy taste is cloying in my mouth. It doesn’t taste like I remember it from last week.
My energy is totally all over the shop. One minute I’m like a blow fly with ADD and the next I’m yawning like I’ve not slept in a decade. I guess that will stabilise in time. I think that is what causes smokers to give up quitting. Not so much the nicotine withdrawal, but bombardment of stimuli. Taste, smell, sight, touch, energy. All of it seems sporadic but also heightened.
Call me crazy but the sun seems brighter, the sky bluer and quite frankly everything seems to be turned up to full volume. When you’re used to walking through life in a cloud of acrid grey smoke, seeing life through refreshed and rejuvenating senses can be slightly overwhelming.
I guess the point to this post is if you’re serious about quitting smoking, grab yourself a copy of Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking and remember, the quickest way to stop smoking, is to put out the one you’re puffing on and just not light up another. Read the book, Mr Carr does a much better job of explaining it than I can manage. I’m still stuck in the “holy shit it’s bright out here” moment.