Question to self:
“If you were given the option to go back to the time immediately before you lit that very first cigarette with the knowledge you have now. What would you do?”
“I would walk away without lighting up!”
I am pretty confident that every smoker on earth would make that same choice, but whether or not they would is irrelevant. I am not out to preach about the evil effects of smoking and even if I was, I would be wasting my time as everyone has to make their own choices in life. This perhaps could be the biggest challenge for a non smoker to understand when trying to influence a smoker to stop smoking. In the majority of cases you wouldn’t be able to.
From a logical point of view, everyone (including smokers) knows deep down the effect smoking has on your health and your wallet but that is rarely enough to change the mindset of a smoker to want to become a non smoker. The public health warnings and scare campaigns have produced very little results and neither has the nagging from the non smoking family members.
I have smoked for approximately 25 of the 38 years I have been on this planet and I can no longer give you a single good reason or benefit for why I am still smoking. I have made countless attempts at kicking the habit, all of which were rather half hearted and none of which produced the desired result. Why? Well, from my perspective it was because I always felt pressured into stopping by someone else, which produced the opposite result. I have always known deep down that smoking is a waste of time and money but that said I have also spent the past 25 years constantly trying to justify to myself why I smoked and as a master of excuses I became very successful at it!
Even when I was ill with colds or flu I would find a way to force this poison down my lungs despite the fits of coughing that would follow. To someone who has never smoked I realise this sounds like complete and utter lunacy and I agree, but it is important to remember that in my mind I was convinced that I got enjoyment out of it. Never did I admit to the fact I was addicted to nicotine. I had all the arguments for smoking stored in my mind ready for whenever someone would challenge it or try to persuade me to stop.
I suppose an obvious question to ask would be why I started to smoke in the first place? It was never a question of waking up one morning thinking “hmmm I think I am going to be a smoker from now on”.
It was more a case of trying to fit into a specific group at school, but in all honesty the desire started much earlier than that. Not the desire to actually smoke but the desire to fit in and be accepted and again I am at the belief that my need for approval had a big part to play in this. When I was a kid, smoking was socially acceptable and I remember often going to big family parties where cigarettes and cigars were passed around the table in between courses. It was the norm. My Dad smoked, cigarettes initially, then pipe and a lot of people in my extended family smoked. Even more puzzling is the fact that I could go to the shop and buy sweets/candy that were made to look like cigarettes, all wrapped in a pack resembling a pack of cigarettes. I often bought these and spent my time pretending I was smoking!
I smoked my first cigarette (attempted to is a more accurate way of putting it) when I was thirteen. Was it pleasant? No, quite the contrary, it was bloody awful. I was coughing like my lungs were trying to escape my body, which should have been enough warning never to do this again, at least for a normal person. Not for me though, the need to fit into the “cool” crowd at school took priority and so I persevered in my quest to smoke without coughing up all my internal organs and after a while I learned how to smoke. One thing I never fully understood was how everyone talked about the taste and how good the taste was and I am still none the wiser. If there is a taste associated with it, in my view it is pretty awful, probably not that dissimilar to licking the inside of an exhaust pipe of a car.
However, I had to find a way of fitting in so I started to convince myself that smoking was great and that it tasted wonderful, and the journey of self deception began. I became so good at justifying the act of smoking (at least to myself) that I firmly believed that I really enjoyed smoking, that I could control it and quit at anytime should I want to and that the health risks were grossly exaggerated which was backed up by the fact that my great granddad smoked his entire life until he died at age 92! What I did manage to suppress from my memory is that my uncle died of lung cancer when he was 46!
You do not need to remind me how ludicrous this sounds. I am fully aware of it.
Last December I made the rather foolish decision (seemed liked a great idea at the time) to post my intentions to finally quit my addiction to the nicotine monster and asked that people held me accountable. In addition to that I told everyone around me about these intentions to finally escape the claws of smoking. The date had been set; my birthday. My parents had come over from Denmark to spend the weekend with me and D-day fell on the day they were scheduled to fly back to Denmark! The night before, we’d been out for dinner with some friends and knowing this was my last day of smoking (or so I thought) I smoked like my life depended on it.
The next morning I woke up and for the first time, in as long as I can remember, I had to go through the morning without my usual fix. Initially I felt fine and actually didn’t really miss it although there was this strange empty feeling inside of me, similar to feeling hungry but not quite the same.
A few hours later we made our way into town where my parents were going to catch the bus to the airport and I had to go to work. At this point I felt slightly dizzy as if I was overdosing on oxygen!!
I wen to work with only one thing going on in my head..”I want a cigarette, I want a cigarette, I want a cigarette, I want a cigarette, I want a cigarette, I want a cigarette,” and in the end I surrendered to the demands of the little nicotine monster.
On reflection I now realise that announcing my intentions to the world and hoping for the best wasn’t exactly the best strategy. I also realise that I made the decision to stop, not because I wanted to stop but because I was getting increasingly bored and frustrated with hearing the same nagging question; “when are you going to stop?”
Two weeks later I flew to Denmark to celebrate Christmas with my family and during those two weeks I decided that I actually wanted to stop. For the first time I was beginning to see the benefits of stopping without trying to convince myself otherwise. I arrived at the airport where I was picked up by a friend who had kindly offered to drive me to my parents’ place. We stopped at his place for a couple of drinks, which is where I smoked my last cigarette. I gave him the rest of them as well as my lighter. I felt safe in the knowledge that the inhaler and nicotine cartridges I had armed myself with would make the break easier.
For the next eleven days I did not smoke nor did I really use the inhaler much and it was nowhere near the hell I had anticipated. In fact it was quite nice not having to go outside in the freezing cold as I had been used to in the past.
I also enjoyed not feeling guilty because of the disappointing and judgmental looks I usually got whenever I went for a cigarette in the past.
I really wish this is where I would end this, by reporting that I had finally escaped the nicotine prison but I would be lying. I was back on the ciggies shortly after my return to the UK.
However, since then I have spent a huge amount of time trying to understand why I smoke and exactly what I am getting from it.
The good news is; the excuses and reasons I could so easily come up with in the past have disappeared. I cannot come up with a single plausible excuse or explanation for why I am still smoking, believe me I have tried! Secondly, I am becoming much more aware of how I feel both before, during and after I light up and in truth I feel no different after a cigarette than I do before, but most important of all is that for the first time in my life I feel ready and determined to escape and until then I am a happy non smoker who still smokes!!
If anyone knows anything about time travel please let me know. I would really love to go back approximately 25 years…just for a brief moment!