42 days a non-smoker

15 Jun

Today is day 42 of being a non-smoker \o/

I want to celebrate because it’s a big deal for me. I want to at least mark the occasion, leave some breadcrumbs for curious future me, or —who knows?— for curious wannabe-non-smokers!

I think I’ve got this.

… Unlike three years ago, and ten years before that.

I had smoked for 31 years non-stop.

Since it’s a very different journey for everyone I can’t claim that my experience will work for others. But here are some takeaways and the things that made a big impression on me.

Framing your mind

  • Wanting is the first requirement, but may be insufficient (it’s my 3rd try and each attempt was more in earnest every time, in hindsight —i.e., each *seemed* 100% serious, and yet…)
  • Plan intelligently: set yourself up for success (I was fortunate to be able to time this with nearly a full month off work, and since work-induced stress or frustration ARE among my triggers, I chose thus to make the most of that vacation.)
  • Know your triggers and know that there will be a hard few weeks (as little as one, no more than three —the time it takes the nicotine to entirely leave your body—, and it gets better: the difficulty decreases steadily, it does not plateau.)
  • Know that cravings last only a handful of seconds. You can resist them even if they are potent and numerous. (You’ll get a lot of them at first, then less and less, and after 3 or 4 weeks they’re going to be anecdotal.)
  • Because for many people the monetary commitment is a necessary step, purchase something like nicotine gums or patches, or an electronic cigarette with nicotine or no nicotine fluids, or Allen Carr’s “Easy Way to Stop Smoking” (or all of the above!) My friend Amy gave me the latter 13 years ago (more about it further down), I got gums and patches 3 years ago, and lastly I bought a couple electronic cigarettes in February because they were on sale.
  • Do not trust yourself with emergency cigarettes or tobacco nearby “just in case”. Don’t. Really, just don’t. Since you’re choosing to become a non-smoker, choose whether you finish your current supply or dispose of it, turn the page and start anew!
  • Last, but not least—Adopt constructive language and thoughts: you ain’t giving up smoking, you choose to become a non-smoker —you are becoming a new version of yourself (the problem with “giving up” is that at core it is a deprivation, the problem with “stopping” is that it signals negative behaviour, and the problem with “quitting” is the implied notion of failure.)

There is no doubt whatsoever that for the first several days (or weeks) not smoking is a deprivation, and you are the first to know that smoking is negative behaviour, and you will be tempted to fail by giving in. You know all that perfectly well, so it’s beyond the point to further the negativity and all to your credit, and your mental sanity, to think positively: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Let this constructive language and thinking be your honey.

Look at yourself squarely in the eye

For me, it was the realisation during a particularly long trip that eagerly awaiting layovers and thinking “at long last I’ll be free to smoke [albeit in a horribly cramped and smelly place]” was in fact THE OPPOSITE of freedom. It was SLAVERY.

Once I had discovered this, it was a matter of time before I could do the right thing, but there was in no case any forgetting the discovery.

Allen Carr’s “Easy Way to Stop Smoking”

It’s a great book! I have not finished the book, however. I picked it up exactly three times in the 10+ years it’s been in my possession, and could never finish it. The second time, I didn’t even open it. The third time I went further than the first and I dare say I read enough for it to work.

It’s absolutely tedious prose. But the text is very simple and very, very repetitive.

Its purpose is to get you to acknowledge that since you became a smoker you have convinced yourself that you love it and depend on it.

“I think the most pathetic aspect about smoking is that the enjoyment that the smoker gets from cigarette is the pleasure of trying to get back to the state of peace, tranquility, and confidence that his body had before he became hooked in the first place.”

Allen Carr, “The Easy Way to Stop Smoking”

I stopped after the first third which is the important part where I got it into my head that THERE IS NOTHING TO GIVE UP.

I like to think of myself now as a different version of me.

Three years ago I failed because I was dominated by the notion that I would have nothing to replace smoking with. This time I went further in the book and understood that “nothing” is what you replace it with, and this is all the material you need to work with.

Self-hypnosis and other TEDx pep talks may work too!

I relied early in the journey (in the first two weeks) on listening to a 50-minute self-hypnosis recording by Michael Sealey, (bonus points for his charming Australian accent and deep soothing voice) based on some measure of neuro-linguistic programming (at heart it’s programming yourself by visualising what you want, while in a conducive state of relaxation), and a short TEDx talk by Nasia Davos, an eloquent Greek lady that I felt like I knew, after listening to her two or three times, whose main message is: every time you crave the cigarette, substitute “smoking” by “air” or “water”.

I feel confident

Third time is the charm? Maybe. Along the way there have been signs I have “bookmarked” such as the guilt I felt while not being entirely able/willing to stop smoking while pregnant 14 years ago, my former mother in law —a heavy smoker, like me— who succumbed to cancer a few years ago, my son asking me to stop, my parents and brother years before him, etc.

This time has been and felt different from previous attempts. I may simply have been ripe for it. Or picking up exercising 15 months ago set myself up for that particular success.

It’s been over a month and I feel pretty good about it. My family, friends and colleagues have been extremely supportive of me (love y’all!!). I have become slightly more efficient in my exercising; I have even started again to run and I am still not great at it but way better than last year.

I feel confidence that I am a non smoker, at last.

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