A few days ago I wrote about it being 6 months since I returned to Ireland.
Today is another 6 month anniversary. It may not appear as momentous but there is little doubt in my mind that it is far more significant in the longer term. I smoked my last cigarette on August 8th last year.
It’s no coincidence that these 2 milestones are on the same week. While I am well aware of the health benefits of not smoking (and I can only hope that quitting now will minimise the inevitable health impacts later in life) it was not primarily health reasons that caused me to stop. The real motivator for quitting was cold, hard cash. A box of fags in lreland is almost double what it costs in the Netherlands.
I had no job to return to and decided before coming home that there was no way in the world I could justify forking out more than a tenner for a box of smokes.
I started smoking when I was 16. It was the age-old tale of peer pressure and wanting to look and seem cool. For the first 5 years it was a very intermittent habit- being at school and then college meant that financially I was constantly strapped for cash. As a result my habit was not so bad. As adulthood progressed so did my smoking. Moving to the Netherlands in my mid 20s certainly didn’t put any stop to my tobacco intake – it probably exacerbated the problem – seeing it was so very cheap. About 5 years ago I reached the conclusion that something had to be done.
But in typical addict style I rationalised to myself that cutting down was a sufficent means of protecting my health. So I forbade myself from smoking before I got home from work in the evening. I suppose was of a limited benefit. Although I was still getting through a fair number in the evening.
But when my contract at work ended in the new year of 2014/2015 and I knew that 2015 was the year of my triumphant return to the motherland, I started smoking in the morning again.
I can’t think of a single experience in my adult life which did not involve smoking – holidays, exams, work, nights out. Especially nights out.
It’s not like I even enjoyed it that much. It was a habit so ingrained that I would puff away barely concious that I was doing it.
And I was getting a smoker’s cough – this dry, irritating hacking. An itch inside my chest that whooping and spluttering would not clear. . And my colds in the winter were brutal.
I arrived back in Ireland with an unfinished box of Marlboro Lights and a resolution to quit. Whether I would succeed I was uncertain, but I would give it a go.
At lunchtime on Saturday August 8th I smoked my last. And I have not bought or smoked since that point.
The first month was hell. I craved nicotine. About 3 weeks after quitting I read the Alan Carr ‘How to quit smoking’ book – that was an impressive read – I really ought to have read it prior to stopping.
As the weeks turned into months it got easier – I was no longer consumed with craving and irrational rage, I started hacking up this foul looking phlegm about 3 weeks after quitting but that only lasted a couple of days. And the cravings diminished.
On the negative side, when you quit, you eat a lot more. Tobacco is an appetite suppressant. And when you quit, your tastebuds recover meaning food tastes a lot better. Also when you are so used to bringing your hands to your mouth with a cigarette it’s far too easy to substitute the smoke for a biscuit.
So I have gained some weight. Not a massive amount, thankfully. But I notice it.
Plan for 2016 – to return to my smoking weight, while not smoking.
I still don’t I have beaten it. I still get the occasional craving. And the dreams of smoking are among my most vivid.
However I have started so I will finish. I must stay alert and remain a non-smoker.