This month marks 10 years since I gave up smoking.
10 years! No one is more surprised about that fact than me, because I was the worlds most committed smoker. I always had a cigarette in my hand. I loved it and I had no intention of giving up any time soon. I thought, sure one day I’d give up, but that was far in the distance. I just enjoyed smoking too much to want to ever contemplate stopping.
But then one day I did. Cold turkey and never looked back.
10 years is a long time and in writing this blog I struggled to actually find any pictures of me with a cigarette in my hand. Life was very different back then. I hadn't quite yet met my husband, I don't think I was even on Facebook. Smartphones were still this brand new shiny concept and I was a heavy smoker.
I began smoking at 16 and cigarettes quickly burrowed their way into every facet of my daily life.
There was that first cigi of the morning with a cup of tea. The hot smoke as it fell down my throat giving me that instant hit I craved.
Next, after I’d arrived at the Luas park and ride, I’d puff on another cigarette on my walk to the platform or as I stood waiting for the tram.
Once I arrived in town, I’d step off the tram, grab a coffee to go and puff on another one before I went into the office.
I didn’t take smoke breaks, but as soon as lunch came around it was cigarettes, coffee and only very occasionally something to eat. Generally I didn’t have lunch.
Back to work. No smoke breaks.
Then out the door at the end of the day and at least one cigarette as I made my way back to the Luas.
Another when I got off before I got in the car. Another when I arrived at home, followed my countless more throughout the night, before I began again the next day.
Smoking was literally hardwired into my life. After meals, any time I sat out in the sun with a coffee or a drink, any time I drank! Socially when I’d be with friends. I’d smoke before I went horse riding, after I’d finished horse riding, in fact it wouldn’t be unusual to see me with a fag in my mouth while in the saddle.
Simply, put, smoking becomes part of your life and that is what makes it so hard to give up. Yes there’s the physical cravings, but once they pass it’s the habitual hardwired nature of it that’s the real killer. Smoking becomes like this weird partner in your life, it’s there when you’re stressed, when you’re happy, when you’re just going about your daily life. It’s everywhere you turn and quitting can seem as impossible as trying to give up eating.
But here’s the thing. It’s not impossible.
If I can quit. ANYONE can quit.
It’s hard, I won’t tell you it’s not. But it is doable. And you don’t need nicotine replacement therapies, you don’t need to be hypnotised, you don’t need to vape. The only thing you need to do to quit, is want to.
Simple, will. That’s it. That’s my secret to quitting cold turkey successfully.
I quit because I made the decision to do so, not because someone else told me to.
Here’s how I did it -
I smoked 20 a day for 10 years. Then one day, I got a very bad chest infection, probably the worst of my life. I can remember hanging over the side of the bed one night struggling to breathe and I said, what am I doing to myself?
The next morning I dragged myself into work and forwent the morning cigi as my throat was on fire. I made my way into town, bought my usual takeaway coffee and walked into St. Stephen's Green and sat on a bench. My hand was on the pack of cigarettes in my bag and for probably 15 minutes I debated with myself, whether or not I would smoke that cigarette. I was feeling so unwell, the thoughts of the hot smoke going into my chest both repulsed and attracted me at the same time.
Then all of a sudden I took my hand off the pack of cigarettes and walked to work. I haven’t smoked a cigarette since.
Because in that moment I made a choice. I decided I wasn’t going to smoke anymore. That was it. Decision made. No going back.
That first week was hard. I won’t lie. The physical cravings were intense at times. Distraction helped. Gum helped, drinking lots of water helped and yes nibbling on snacks helped. But the physical cravings go as quick as they arrive.
After that it’s literally about breaking your habits and that’s what I found hard. But with each day that passed I felt really proud. Before I knew it, I’d made it through my first week of not smoking. Yes I had cravings, yes I felt crap at times, yes there were side effects, but all of those things just compounded my decision to keep going.
Quitting was hard and I would never, ever want to go back to that and when I faced stressful times when my instinct was to smoke, I’d remember just how hard it was to quit and it would shake me back to my senses.
So if you’re reading this, thinking ‘I can’t give up, it’s too hard.’ Let me give you some tough love.
That is complete and utter bullshit!!
The only thing stopping you giving up, is a lack of will on your part. Stop making excuses, stop using nicotine replacement crutches, stop saying you’ll give up one day but never actually do it, stop saying you’ll cut back or you’ll vape instead.
Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
But, look I can’t make the decision for you. To be successful, you have to decide for yourself and the thing you need to grasp is that once you do, you’ve done the hard part – You’ve quit.