As with any form of romanticism, my first taste of rebellion took place in an all-girls boarding school, under an old oak tree with 3 classmates. And thus began my longest relationship.
What started out casual, turned into an intimate affair. I started doing it alone, risking being caught in the ladies room at 2am. Maybe I wanted to be caught. Im not quite sure. But it was certainly the thrill of it all that kept me trying out different flavors of fulfillment; trial testing until I landed on my old faithful – Marlboro Lights.
Lynx body spray became the default cover up after each session. It took away the stench of defiance. As the years rolled on, defiance became default and smoking became a norm. I became blahzay about the whole tabooness of it all. Now a good 18 years later (yes I just gave away my age), I’m finally almost done with it.
I say almost because over the past few years, I’ve had moments of intention where I make outlandish promises to my family and myself. Somehow though, it never sticks. I get held back by flimsy excuses. “Oh but I just bought a new ZIPPO!”, “I can’t think of a way to repurpose my collection of ashtrays.” and “What would I do with my handmade leather cigarette case if I quit?”.
It’s funny how we latch on to possessions that carries the perception of what it is meant to represent.
Then there were the attempts. The nicotine patches, the self-help books, the friendship pacts of “we’ll kick it together” – never works, one weak link creates a chain reaction and before I knew it, I was back to chain smoking. Then there was the consideration of hypnotherapy with success stories of “After one session, you’ll feel sick when you taste your first puff and then, never again!!” Wow. Honestly, anything that powerful would have side effects. What if it turns me into a non-smoker, and as a counter effect, it turns me straight?! No thanks.
So how have I managed to cut down from a pack a day, to less than 5 sticks a week?
It wasn’t a conscious effort. It wasn’t health related. It just happened. I woke up one day and skipped my usual morning coffee stick. Then it became one whole day, and that day became a week and I’ve been going pretty well since. Sure, I have the occasional puff but I’ve cut down to the point where I don’t even notice when it is missing. I stopped smoking at work, I can go days without feeling the slightest craving and I can light a friend’s cigarette without wanting one in my mouth!
But then something else started happening. My lifestyle began to change. Kicking the stick created a domino effect. Because despite my trumpet fare of “If I can, so can you!”, there was still a trigger – alcohol. So I cut down on my drinking. When that happened, I started seeing less of my bar binging friends. My days were longer from not having to nurse horrid hangovers. I started having more petty cash so I started eating better and shopping more (the desirability of this effect is subjective – but far more fulfilling than burning money for sure!). My choices of dining destinations expanded beyond smoking sections. I started having meaningful and uninterrupted conversations because I didn’t have to dash out for a quick smoke. I started reading more. I was more present at work, in my relationship, at home and social gatherings.
Will I ever kick the habit completely? It’s hard to say. Cold turkey might work for some but I reckon quitting is overrated and wannabe quitters are too hard on themselves. Perhaps it is the pressure we get from society and non-smokers. They think that one stick after a month long is a relapse. They give us guilt trips and stop believing in us. The turning point for me is when I stopped promising other people, and started doing it for me. I have no one to answer to or disappoint but myself. It is my body, my responsibility and I’ll do it at my own pace.
Even if I don’t kick it completely, at least I’m still kicking!