Very few people admit they are smokers, even fewer admit they tried to quit and failed. Let me begin by saying that I went through both the above phases. I also realize that as we move into July, the last puff is over eight months behind me. I just planned and quit. Today I give free and impromptu lecture to smokers wherever I find them, like here!
Let me be personal in my tone here. Smoking is not just a physical dependency, it is a mental dependency. I discovered it in this experiment here.It begins as a small adventure, then the man thing and then one moves from stick to pack, and from brand to brand, and once you realize you have company at work or elsewhere, it just appears an impossible to think about quitting. To me, smoking appeared as a wonderful icebreaker with peers, juniors and seniors. While it got me easy company everywhere, I somehow had it me that I am loosing to a habit and winning over this habit would be the real man thing. I just wanted to quit.
I tried all such tricks such as telling myself that I am reducing the number of sticks I consume or the packs I buy every now and then. All lies. Every now and then, all smokers suffer from a sense of guilt, whether they accept or not. Whenever that happened, we would ask each other how many cigarette sticks one consumed, and then understate and feel good about it. I knew that wasn’t the true number. All lies. Who wants to admit failure? And, who wants to admit failure to oneself.
Did I do anything different this time? If so what? Please read on.
Around October of last month, I realized that that the key to success in quitting smoking was to admit defeat to myself. I had started going for walk and when I would come back, I felt I was feeling extremely good. Good till I stepped out and lit a stick. That feeling of freshness would not come back. I wanted that feeling. This want turned out to be an extremely important turning point. I realized, I am loosing that sense of freshness and fitness to a habit, that not just consumes money, but consumed my fitness as well. I also was convinced that I am totally overrun by this habit. I gradually felt I had two urges going in my mind simultaneously. The first was the earlier habit of smoking, and the second one was the urge to quit. I had to decide which one was the ‘man thing’. Looking back, I feel this was the tipping point.
I took Dec 31 as the date I would stop smoking. To be fair, I had seen many such Dec 31st and new year resolutions and none of them work beyond one day. Oct to Dec, I constantly meditated about quitting smoking and about post smoking. And I did that all the time, even as I continued to smoke. Whenever I smoked, I would tell myself I am a defeated soul and then light the stick. I thought about it very intensely and consistently. I kept repeating to myself that I shall not smoke this year. And kept reminding that I had failed all other times I had resolved so, but this time I found my determination growing stronger and stronger as I thought about it.
By December early I remember I was calculating the amount of money I would be saving by not buying cigarette packs or sticks. My smoking frequency did not come down yet, but then the target date was Dec 31. I continued with my walks and started enjoying tremendously. Suddenly, without realizing much, I found my urge to smoke dip very sharply and I felt that the ‘real man thing thought’ is winning. It was such a great feeling. I could stay long hours without a stick. The thought of leaving the house on some flimsy pretext and heading into the nearest shop to buy a cigarette stick just stopped visiting. I started getting a sense of victory, a real feeling.
By Christmas day, I found I had almost stopped smoking. The last cigarette was around 26th or 27th Dec. I did not have to wait till 31st to be completely smokeless. I had a definitive and victorious thought coming up in my mind, a sense of difficult-to-describe elation. My sense of happiness was unbound. I was on annual leave that time, and had good amount of family time. That itself ads to happiness.
First week of new year when I resumed work, I informed my colleagues(smokers and non smokers) that I had left smoking. The non-smokers were welcoming and understandably, the smokers were somewhat sceptical. I started declining invitations for tea breaks, and prefered a cup on my desk. Few days later, my smoker colleagues stopped inviting me. It was a difficult thing for them to believe though.
Post smoking: I found that my interaction with the social group at workplace had reduced significantly. Many folks asked me whether I had been traveling – they were used to seeing me smoking now and then. I told them I am onto this experiment, and only time will tell me whether I win or lose. Folks at work were really understanding and encouraging. But I still did the fear that if I go on coffee break with my previous smoking gang, I would find the urge difficult to resist. Slowly I felt confident and started going with my friends, and stood few feet away from where my smoking peers were puffing. It was a good feel. I felt I had I had something that they did not have!
Post smoking, I had a tremendous boost of appetite – I found myself hungry all the time – even between the meals. For seven or ten days into Jan, I was craving for food all the time. I filled myself with juice whenever possible. While I did not measure, my weight must have gone up by few kgs in those few days. I was also eating more number of chapattis. I found the food tasted better. The coating on my tongue had gone completely. My lips started looking normal. I also felt I slept much better. All this while I did look for backpatting from anyone though. I was doing it for myself.
This is when a real fun happened. My smoker friends could now see that I had succeeded in keeping away so far and was showing no sign of weakness. Some of them, who were so sceptical initially, even commented that I had achieved a great milestone. There was another by product of this – I found that money from my wallet does not move easily – it just stays in there. In effect, I could buy several other things. This was interesting indeed.
I had deep craving for smoking around mid January. I fought it back. It revisted me couple of times in much lesser intensity after that. I fought it back and I don’t feel it anymore. Looking back I realize it has been over eight months. I am confident I have won because I am enjoying this way!
So was my effort so structed from the beginning? No, I did plan it this way. It was only one step at a time and it started with some deep and continuous contemplation. The steps fell one after another, somewhat automatically.
Incidentally, a book called “How to Quit Smoking” lay innocently on my shelf all this while, I had not even touched it. I recently sold it off with old newspapers. My realization is that books and other individuals cannot make you quit smoking. But you can. Plan it out. And do check out Peter Griffin for an alternate approach.